Sign up to our Newsletter

Female pharmacist working with her back turned to the camera

How To Become A Pharmacist

March 23, 2022
image of dots background
IntroductionWhat Is a Pharmacist?How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacist?Steps to Become a PharmacistEducationTop Five Pharmacy ProgramsResidencyLicensingJob Outlook and Salary FAQs: Becoming a PharmacistIs Becoming a Pharmacist Part of Your Plan?

Interested in becoming a pharmacist? We’ve created a handy guide to walk you through the entire process. 

Pharmacists are known for being reliable and trustworthy. It’s a great career path to choose and has a lot of benefits to offer. People depend on pharmacists for all of their medicinal needs, whether it’s a prescription for Adderall or an antibiotic to overcome sickness. Whatever the ailment, you’ll rely on a pharmacist at some point throughout your life.

Without pharmacists, our society would come to a screeching halt. If you want to pursue a career that makes you feel good, one where you’re helping people, consider becoming a pharmacist. 

Is it hard to become a pharmacist? While it’s not the easiest path to take, it’s an incredibly worthwhile endeavor. Once you understand the process, becoming a pharmacist doesn’t seem so daunting. In this article, we’ll discuss all the ways to become a pharmacist, along with some of the best programs and the job outlook. 

image of dots background

What Is A Pharmacist?

Whenever you leave a doctor’s visit, you often have a prescription for the medicine you need to feel better or maintain your good everyday health. A pharmacist prepares the correct medication and dosage prescribed to you. Any medication in excess can have dangerous, and sometimes deadly, effects. 

Pharmacists inform you of the possible side effects associated with your medication. If the medicine makes you drowsy, they’ll remind you to take the medication when you’re safe at home. Sometimes certain medications negate the effects of medications you take regularly. Pharmacists inform people of instances like this to ensure the person stays safe. 

Medicine heals, but it can also cause harm. Part of a pharmacists’ job is to prevent harm from happening. For example, some addictive medications can’t be refilled until your doctor approves them. Pharmacists ensure you don’t receive refills of this medication unless a doctor prescribes it to you. 

Sign up to our Newsletter

How Long Does It Take To Become A Pharmacist?

If you’re wondering how to become a pharmacist, you should first know that the pharmacist education path takes an average of eight years to complete. Typically, a pharmacist program takes four years to complete, and most students pursue a bachelor’s degree beforehand, which generally takes four years to complete. 

A bachelor’s degree isn’t necessarily a requirement for being a pharmacist. If you don’t want a bachelor’s degree, you can take a two-year pre-pharmacy program. A pre-pharmacy program prepares you for a pharmacy program in a shorter amount of time than a bachelor’s degree. Make sure you apply to pharmacy or med schools that allow this option because some schools require a bachelor’s degree. 

Though pharmacists deal primarily with science and math, you can become a pharmacist with any bachelor’s degree. Whether your degree is in biology or English, you’ve shown the ability to perform well in advanced classes. Whatever degree you choose to pursue, make sure you work hard and earn high grades. Remember that you’re competing with other candidates for these programs, and low grades could harm your chances of acceptance. 

Steps To Become A Pharmacist

If you’re worried about how hard it is to become a pharmacist, don’t fret. We want you to succeed, so we’ve outlined all the steps. When you understand the process of becoming a pharmacist, it makes the journey easier to manage. 

1. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree or Partake in a Pre-Pharmacy Program

An advanced degree is the first stage of the pharmacist education path. Pharmacy schools want their students to succeed, and earning a bachelor’s degree or completing a pre-pharmacy program shows you can handle the demands of a pharmacy degree. 

If you choose to pursue a pre-pharmacy program, make sure the pharmacy program you want to apply to allows this as some programs require a bachelor’s degree. 

2. Take the PCAT

Before you can apply to pharmacy school, you’ll need to take the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). This exam analyzes your abilities to perform well in a pharmacy program. This exam consists of:

3. Pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree

Once you’ve earned a bachelor’s degree or completed a pre-pharmacy program, you’ll move on to a pharmacy program. These programs take an average of four years to complete. 

4. Earn Your License

Once you’ve completed the pharmacy program, you must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) to practice pharmacy in the United States. 

5. Pursue a Residency Program

Once you’ve become a licensed pharmacist, you can receive additional training through a residency program. These programs allow you to hone your skills as a pharmacist and gain more experience in your career. 

Education

If you want to give yourself the best chance of acceptance into a pharmacy program, you should earn a bachelor’s degree. You’ll prove to these schools that you can handle the demands of a pharmacy program. You can get into a pharmacy program with any bachelor’s degree so long as you achieve high grades. `

Some people can’t afford to dedicate an additional four years to your learning experience, whether it be your lifestyle or children that prevent you from pursuing further education. There’s still hope! You can pursue a pre-pharmacy program instead of a bachelor’s degree. 

This program takes an average of two years to complete, so you’ll have the chance to become a pharmacist in six years as opposed to eight. Make sure you apply to schools that allow a pre-pharmacy program in place of a bachelor’s degree as some schools require a bachelor’s degree to partake in their pharmacy program. 

Though you don’t need a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry, you should be knowledgeable in these areas since they’re crucial to a pharmacist’s job. Be sure to pursue biology and chemistry in college so you’ll have a strong foundation for your career as a pharmacist.

Top Five Pharmacy Programs

Once you’ve obtained your degree and passed the PCAT, you’ll apply to pharmacy programs. Below you’ll find the top five pharmacy programs in the United States. 

1. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill 

Picture of stone building with large columns
UNC Chapel Hill Wilson Library

Established in 1897, the University of North Carolina -- Chapel Hill stands as one of the oldest pharmacy schools in the United States.  It’s mission statement reads: 

“Developing leaders in pharmacy education, pharmacy practice and pharmaceutical sciences who make a difference in human health worldwide.”

Prerequisites

If you have a bachelor’s degree:

If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree:

The PCAT is optional for admittance to the UNC Chapel Hill pharmacy program. Students must provide two letters of recommendation to apply.

Annual Tuition

Residents: $12,192.32

Non-Residents: $23,755.82

2. University of California – San Francisco 

Landscape photo of tree and buildings in distance
UCSF campus

The University of California – San Francisco receives more research funding than any other pharmacy school in the United States. It’s mission statement reads:

“To improve the health of people everywhere through leading therapeutics-related research, education, and patient care, and public and professional service.”

Prerequisites

The PCAT is also optional for this program.

Annual Tuition

Resident: $53,567

Non-Resident: $65,812

3. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

If you’re interested in attending a small college with plenty of research opportunities, the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor is the school for you. 

Prerequisites

Though the PCAT is optional for admission into the pharmacy program, students need letters of recommendation to apply.

Annual Tuition

Residents: $33,534

Non-Residents: $39,384

3. University of Minnesota

Established in 1892, the University of Minnesota has fostered nearly 7,500 pharmacists in the state. It’s mission statement reads:

“Improve health through innovative education, pioneering research, and interdisciplinary practice development that attends to the diverse needs of the people of Minnesota and the world.”

Prerequisites

The PCAT is optional for students, and the university does not require letters of recommendation. 

Annual Tuition

Residents: $27,86

Non-Residents: $40,800

5. University of Florida

Though this university is ranked #5 in the top pharmacy schools in the United States, the University of Florida ranks #1 in their residency placements. 

Prerequisites

The PCAT is optional for this program, but you must provide two letters of recommendation to apply. 

Annual Tuition

Residents: $23,690

Non-Residents: $36,000

Residency

A residency program after pharmacy school gives you an extra level of training and monitored experience before moving on to becoming a pharmacist. A residency program is not required for licensed pharmacists, but it does give you more practice in the field. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists provides information on residency programs within the United States.

If you’re interested in pursuing a residency program after pharmacy school, you’ll need to make sure you meet the requirements to apply. Requirements may vary from school to school, so you’ll need to learn the requirements of the residency you switch to obtain. 

Licensing

In order to practice pharmacy, you must obtain a license. Similar to medical licenses, pharmacy licenses vary from state to state, and you must have a license in the state you wish to practice. You can find a list of the state licensing requirements for pharmacists here. You’ll also need to pass the NAPLEX to begin your career as a pharmacist. 

Job Outlook and Salary 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook of pharmacists will experience a 2% decline in the upcoming years. Though this seems bleak, job outlooks are cyclical and constantly experience change. Don’t let this discourage you from pursuing your dream.

Pharmacists make an average of $128,710 annually, and there are an average of 322,200 pharmacist jobs available in the United States. If you’re interested in the medical field, but don’t want the stress of medical school, you should consider becoming a pharmacist. You’ll be financially stable and you’ll help people feel better without having to diagnose them.

FAQs: Becoming a Pharmacist

Still have questions about the steps to become a pharmacist? These frequently asked questions can provide the answers you need. 

1. Do I Have to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree?

You can become a pharmacist without a bachelor’s degree. You can either pursue a pre-pharmacy program, or you can choose to take the prerequisite courses of the pharmacy school you wish to attend. 

However, some pharmacy schools require a bachelor’s degree so make sure you know the requirements of your school before you apply. 

2. Do You Need Med School to Become a Pharmacist? 

No, you do not need med school to become a pharmacist. As long as you have your bachelor’s degree or pre-pharmacy diploma and your degree from pharmacy school, you will  be qualified to pursue a career as a pharmacist. 

3. Is the PCAT Mandatory?

Many pharmacy schools make the PCAT optional for prospective students. Requirements vary from school to school, so make sure you research the pharmacy school you want to attend to determine if the PCAT is mandatory. 

4. Is the PCAT Hard?

Though “hard” is relative, most students agree that the PCAT is a difficult exam. This exam consists of Biological Processes, Chemical Processes, Critical Reading, and Quantitative Reasoning. This exam analyzes your ability to perform well in the pharmacy field. 

5. How Do You Study for the PCAT?

In order to pass the PCAT, you’ll want to devote ample study time to each section of the exam. You’ll want to spend at least a minimum of two months studying for the exam, and you’ll want to start as soon as you can. Though some schools make the PCAT optional, you want to ensure your test scores are available before you apply to pharmacy school.

6. What Is the Minimum Accepted PCAT Score?

The PCAT is scored on a scale of 200-600. Students who wish to pass the exam should earn at least a 417-430 in order to gain acceptance to pharmacy school. Though some schools don’t require this exam, taking the exam shows your dedication to the field, and you’ll be able to track your growth as you continue through the program. 

7. Are There Other Pharmacy Careers Besides a Pharmacist?

If you want to work in the pharmacy field but don’t want to become a pharmacist, you could become a pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians prepare new prescriptions and refills as well as take stock of the pharmacy’s inventory. 

In order to become a pharmacy technician, students must at least have a high school diploma or associate’s degree before you complete the certificate program. After the program, you’re expected to pass a certificate exam before you can become a pharmacy technician. 

8. How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacy Tech?

It can take a few months or up to a year to become a pharmacy technician. Most pharmacy techs make an average of $27,000 to $47,000 a year. Though you won’t make as much as a pharmacist, you’ll still have the ability to work with medicine and ensure the health and safety of patients. You won’t have to spend as much time in school, so you can begin your career in pharmacy sooner than those who pursue a doctor of pharmacy degree. 

9. Is Becoming a Pharmacist Worth It? 

Is it hard to become a pharmacist? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely! A pharmacist’s average salary is $128,710 per year, and there are many different pathways you can take with your degree. You can pursue a career in community pharmacy, in-patient or clinical care, long-term care or even academia, just to name a few. 

Is Becoming a Pharmacist Part of Your Plan?

If you’re interested in a career path that makes you feel important and fulfills your desire to help others, consider becoming a pharmacist. It’s a lengthy and difficult process, but it’s worth it. There are eight years worth of requirements for being a pharmacist, and there are many tests you’ll have to take along the way. It won’t be easy, but at the end of it you’ll have a fulfilling career in a well-respected field. 

Now that you know how to become a pharmacist, you’re ready to get started! 

Schedule A Free Consultation

Plan Smart. Execute Strong. Get Into Your Dream School.
Thank you! Your submission has been received and one of our consultants will be in touch soon.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
image of dots background

You May Also Like