Pharmacist Certification and Course Requirements

Learn about the growing field of pharmacy and the education required to become a pharmacist. Keep reading to see what it takes to become certified in this field and the kinds of courses required to become a pharmacist. Schools offering Pharmacy Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

Becoming a certified pharmacist requires completing a pharmacy doctorate program, meeting residency requirements, and passing an exam. As a pharmacy student, you'll take both lecture-based and lab courses that provide instruction on the chemical components of drugs as well as laws that govern the pharmaceutical industry.

Degree Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.)
Courses Pharmaceutics, therapeutics, molecular genetics and therapy, non-prescription therapy, community pharmacy, geriatric pharmacy
Certification Must pass licensing exam to become board certified

Source: University of Southern California School of Pharmacy

Why Should I Become a Pharmacist?

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) is the national organization for accrediting pharmacy schools. It reports that pharmacy is the third largest health profession in America, and the need for certified pharmacists is growing rapidly, due in part to the rising age of the American population ( People are living longer, the Baby Boom generation is getting older, and their health care needs mean that drug therapy is becoming a more important field.

What Kind of Education Do I Need to Be a Pharmacist?

Before entering a 4-year Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program, you'll complete at least two years of pre-pharmacy study. Courses in math and physical sciences are highly recommended, as are arts and humanities courses that teach communication skills. According to the American Pharmacists Association (, pharmacy students typically study topics like:

  • Naturally occurring drugs
  • Organic and inorganic chemistry
  • Dispensing procedures and law
  • How to educate the public about drug effects
  • Business practices and laws surrounding the operation of a pharmacy

How Do I Become Certified?

The certification process takes place after you complete a Pharm.D. program from an accredited college of pharmacy. You will also be expected to compete a residency or an internship. Then you will be ready to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy ( The AACP offers tutorials and a review guide to help prepare you for your exam.

After passing the NAPLEX, you will have completed the necessary steps to become a certified pharmacist. However, education does not necessarily stop there. Organizations including the AACP offer courses and workshops for the continuing education and recertification of pharmacists after they begin working in the field.

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