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How To Become A Pharmacist

Updated on November 18, 2011

If you are wondering how to become a pharmacist, look no further. You will find all the information you need to make that career choice below.

Like many people, I assumed that all a pharmacist did was hand out pills prescribed by a doctor. That could not be further from the truth. Pharmacists do take prescriptions and fill them to the specifications of the doctor; however, they also check their records to see if the patient is taking another drug that could harm them if taken in combination with the new drug or make the new drug ineffective, they also counsel the patient on the proper use of the drugs and give suggestions about over-the-counter drugs and preparations. Occasionally the pharmacist will compound the drugs but most of the pills, liquids and ointments they sell are pre-packaged by drug companies.

Pharmacists spend most of their time at work on their feet and wear gloves masks and other protective equipment when working with dangerous or sterile products. The average work week is 40 hours; a small percentage of pharmacists work part time.

What Courses Do You Need to Become a Pharmacist?

There are approximately 100 schools in the United States where pharmacy is taught. Some of the schools are parts of larger universities, but some are also self-standing institutions. In order to become a pharmacist you need to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (PharmD); although jobs such as pharmacy technician only require an undergraduate degree.

I’ve chosen to highlight one school of pharmacy for informational purposes.

The Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy is located at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

The qualifications you need to have earned in high school in order to be accepted into the program include 4 years of English, 2 years of a foreign language, 3 years of mathematics, 1 year of biology, 1 year of chemistry and 5 other academic courses such as physics.

The Ernest Mario School program is six years of study; 2 pre-professional years of two semesters and four years of professional courses of two semesters each.  Selected courses include general biology, general chemistry, college-level writing, calculus, humanities courses, psychology, statistics, molecular biology, pharmacology, poison control and practical experience.

Before a graduate becomes a licensed pharmacist they must pass a board examination.  They must choose a specialty and they will be tested on that speciality. The Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties certifies pharmacists in these five specialties; nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, pharmacotherapy (cardiology or infectious disease), and psychiatric pharmacy. The Commission for Certification in Geriatric pharmacy certifies those who want to specialize in geriatrics practice.  And lastly, The American Board of Applied Toxicology certifies those pharmacists specializing in toxicology.

What are the Prospects for Pharmacist Jobs?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, there were 243,000 pharmacist jobs in 2006. Most of them were in drugstores, grocery stores, department stores, or bulk stores. About one quarter of all pharmacists worked in hospitals and a small percentage of all pharmacists worked for mail-order pharmacies, Internet pharmacies, doctor’s offices and the federal government. The job prospects for employment for pharmacists are expected to grow by over 20 percent until 2016, which is better than all other occupations. I found an earnings chart on the Bureau of Labor website:

Pharmacists in department stores $99,050

Pharmacists in grocery stores $95,600

Pharmacists in pharmacies and drug stores $94,640

Pharmacists in general medical and surgical hospitals $93,640

Will Your be a Pharmacist?

If you have the time and the inclination, studying pharmacy can bring you a rewarding and interesting career. Six years is a long time, as long as it takes to become a doctor, but if being a pharmacist is something that really interests you it is well worth the time and effort. And the monetary rewards are not that bad either.

I hope this article answered all your questions on how to become a pharmacist. Good luck if you choose to take that path.


Submit a Comment

  • cost-segregation profile image


    6 years ago from USA

    Yes, Career in Pharmacist is booming because of Starting salary can be anywhere from $75,000 to $150,000 based on location and your knowledge .

    Thanks for sharing nice information of Pharmacist . Vote Up !

  • incomeguru profile image

    Oyewole Folarin 

    7 years ago from Lagos

    You've done well for giving insight into areas like this. Voted up

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    This is really good info. Never realized all that goes into becoming a pharmacist.

  • BeccaHubbardWoods profile image

    Becca Hubbard-Woods 

    8 years ago from Outside your window.

    Thanks for the info. I've been in college for 4 years now and my ultimate goal is to be a pharmacist. This is great information for anyone who wants to choose this career.

  • GeneralHowitzer profile image

    Gener Geminiano 

    8 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

    My fiancee is a Physical Therapist graduate she'll sure going to love this hub though... Bookmarked it... Mam UW...


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