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What Undergraduate Degree Is Needed to Become a Pharmacist?

Find out what's needed to begin working as a pharmacist. Research the degrees and licensing needed to be a pharmacist and how you can start down the path towards this career.

Pharmacist: Career Overview

Pharmacists work in a pharmacy providing medicine to patients as prescribed by their doctors and ensuring that patients understand what they're taking and how to use their medicines safely. They must be careful of potential interactions between medications and of other side effects medication may have that are relevant to a patient's physical condition, such as raising blood pressure. Find out more details about this profession in the table below.

Education Required Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
Undergraduate Field of Study Biology, chemistry, or pre-pharmacy
Key Skills Computer proficiency, attention to detail, management skills
Licensure Must pass North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and Multistate Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or its state-mandated equivalent. Pharmacy-based Immunization Delivery certification is needed to administer vaccines.
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 0%
Median Salary (2017)* $126,120

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Should a Pharmacist Study?

There are several options available for those with the eventual goal of becoming a pharmacist. When choosing a university, it could be advantageous to look into whether a Doctor of Pharmacy program is offered before applying. Several universities offer six-year programs which can fast track a student towards their career by combining the bachelor and doctorate levels into one, or pre-pharmacy majors, which are tailored to the school's Pharm.D. program. Otherwise, a degree in biology or chemistry is best for applying to pharmacy programs.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacist?

As with other medical professional jobs, quite a bit of schooling is needed before being allowed to interact with patients. Most undergraduate-level work takes four years, although two- or three-year options do exist which take place at an accelerated rate. The Doctor of Pharmacy program takes four years as well, and can be combined with certain other programs, such as a Master of Business Administration, for those pharmacists looking to own their own business, or a Ph.D., which would allow for the option of participating in pharmaceutical research. When pursued as part of these dual programs, five years is more common.

What Other Requirements Should Pharmacists Meet?

Pharmacists can have a variety of other requirements to meet depending on their specific roles and what they aim to accomplish. A clinical pharmacist, for example, works with patients more directly, often in a hospital or other healthcare institution, and may need to perform at least two years of residency after graduation, much like MDs. Pharmacists who wish to administer vaccines, such as those for the flu or those needed for schools, must receive a Pharmacy-based Immunization Delivery certification from the American Pharmacists Association. Other highly specific certifications, such as oncology or pediatric care, are also available for pharmacists to obtain, typically through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, depending on the needs of their local community.

How Do Pharmacists Stay Informed?

Continuing education after graduation is necessary for all pharmacists, in order to keep up with the latest research and scientific breakthroughs. Pharmacists must educate themselves on new medications and changes to healthcare laws and regulations through seminars and conferences. Professional publications and peer-reviewed journals of pharmacological science are important for maintaining up-to-date knowledge and an awareness of potential changes that may affect a pharmacist's work.

How Well is Pharmacist Doing as a Career?

Pharmacists have a median annual income of $126,120, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2018, making them one of the most well-paid occupations in the U.S. Projected growth in the field is around 0%, which has little to no change; however, growth is expected to accelerate as large segments of the American population approach retirement age and become senior citizens, who typically have more intensive medical needs. The establishment and expansion of online pharmacies will offer some new opportunities at the cost of face-to-face time with patients. Advancements in various fields of medicine are creating pharmaceutical options for treatment where previously none may have existed, leading some people to seek the help of pharmacists who might not have done so before.