How to Become a Pharmacist

Students interested in becoming pharmacists can begin the process as early as high school finishing with the completion of a Doctor of Pharmacy, or a Pharm.D. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for pharmacists will grow this decade. 

High School
To prepare to earn a Pharm. D., students can start in high school by taking courses in math and science. Biology, chemistry, physics and advanced mathematics help prepare students for college courses in these areas. Advanced classes or college preparatory classes can get students ready for the rigors of earning a Pharm. D. as well. 

Undergraduate Education
Becoming a pharmacist does include earning a college degree. Students have several options that they can get into. 

First, students can earn a traditional bachelor of science degree from a four-year institution in a variety of majors before applying to a pharmacy degree program. The requirements of pharmacy degree programs vary so students should consider the school they hope to attend and take courses to meet that school's admission requirements. Common majors for hopeful pharmacists include chemistry or biology, but also come from other majors including communications, business or even English. Do not be discouraged if you already have an unrelated bachelors degree, you are probably able to apply some of your skills to the trade.

Students can also apply to a pharmacy degree program after two years of undergraduate course work, the minimum requirement of college work according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

High school graduates can also apply directly to schools of pharmacy with programs known as "0-6" programs. These provide two years of undergraduate course work followed by the necessary coursework to earn a Pharm.D. These are great for students who know exactly what they want to be when they finish high school and can fast track your career without a doubt.

Pharmacy Degree Programs
The next step to become a pharmacist is to enroll in a pharmacy degree program. These programs include four academic years of instruction specific to the field of pharmacy. There are many different programs out there, in every state and even some online.  Be careful to check for accrediation and decide which actual program is right for you, as many of them are similar.

State Licensing Exams
Similar to state bar association exams or medical license exams, hopeful pharmacists must also take state exams to licenses to practice as a pharmacist in specific states. This exam is something that must be studied for and will require a proper identification to get into. If pharmacists move states, they can apply to transfer their licenses through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.

Pharmacy Residency
Finally, pharmacists have the option of completing residencies in the field. While not required, a residency could open to the door to higher paying or more desirable jobs. It also could be used to gain valuable knowledge in the field and make you a more desired entry level candidate.

Joining the growing field of pharmacists takes education, time and persistance, but will pay off in the end with a stable career!