Pharmacist: How To Become A Pharmacist, Job Outlook & Resources

Pharmacists bridge the gap between doctors who write prescriptions and patients who need medication. They play an important role in the medical field by answering any medicine related questions a patient may have. Pharmacists must also carefully monitor which drugs that each patient is prescribed to help avoid dangerous medicinal combinations.

How To Become A Pharmacist

To become a pharmacist, you must receive a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and the licenses required by the state in which you wish to practice. Earning a Doctor of Pharmacy degree requires about eight years of higher education, experience interning in hospitals and pharmacies, and the completion of several State required exams.

Earn a high school degree

While earning your high school degree, it will be beneficial for you to focus on courses in the field of science. Chemistry and biology will be consistent subjects throughout your pharmaceutical education.

Earn a Bachelor of Science degree

Like your high school coursework, your courses in college will focus mainly on scientific subjects. Many pharmacy schools require that you complete at least two years of pre-pharmacy courses during your undergraduate education.

Take the PCAT (Pharmacy Admission Test)

Your score on the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admissions Test) is used by pharmacy schools to determine if you’re a suitable candidate for their program. Most colleges with a pre-pharmacy program also offer tutoring to help you prepare for the PCAT.

Earn a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree

Once you’re admitted into a pharmacy school, you will begin coursework in pharmacology and ethics, as well as advanced courses in the scientific subjects you studied during your undergraduate education.

Obtain a license

To practice pharmacy in the United States, you will need to take and pass the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination). Most states also require that you pass the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam). Some states, such as California, do not accept the MPJE, and instead offer different exams.


The cost of becoming a pharmacist varies according to the school or schools you choose to attend. State Universities can cost 20,000 – $40,000 a year for both your undergrad and pharmacy school education. Private Universities may charge almost double that. You can also plan to pay around $125 for each the PCAT, NAPLEX, and MPJE

Job Description / Responsibilities

Pharmacists spend a majority of their time filling and dispensing prescription medication and answer any questions that patients may have about their medication. They also discuss the doses and interactions of medicine with physicians.

  • Pharmacies receive medicine in large containers. Pharmacists are responsible for distributing this medication into smaller pill bottles. These bottles are then labeled and dispensed to the patients.
  • Patients will often have questions about their medication. Pharmacists discuss various issues with patients, such as when and how often to take medication, how to minimize potential side effects, and interactions that can occur between different medicines.
  • Pharmacists counsel patients regarding general health beyond prescription medication. They recommend nonprescription medication, vitamins, and natural health remedies. They also give advice on how to avoid becoming ill.
  • Sometimes a prescription may be incorrect. Pharmacists communicate with patients’ doctors to confirm dosages and ensure that the correct medications were prescribed.
  • Submitting insurance claims is a prominent part of the job. Pharmacists ensure that insurance companies cover payments. They also help to resolve coverage denials to ensure that patients get the medication that they need.
  • Assuming the position of pharmacist means taking charge of employees behind the counter. Pharmacy techs and interns report directly to the licensed pharmacists on duty when problems arise.
  • Filling hundreds of prescriptions means that products have to be restocked regularly. Pharmacists often take stock as well as fill out legal reports on the amounts of medicine distributed.
  • In order to maintain safety, most states require that pharmacists renew their licenses every year by completing education courses focused on changes and updates in the world of medicine.
  • Occasionally pharmacists will be required to attend court to give testimony in regards to malpractice lawsuits. These cases usually involve dispensing the wrong medication or giving a prescription to the wrong patient.

Job Outlook

The employment outlook for pharmacists is expected to grow about three percent in the next decade. This growth is slow when compared to the growth average of all occupations, which is seven percent for the next decade.

The predicted growth for pharmacists is especially slow when compared to the predicted growth rate of health treatment practitioners, which is expected to be seventeen percent over the next decade.

The increase in demand for pharmacists can likely be contributed to an aging baby boomer generation. As huge portions of the population continue to age, they will require more medication than younger portions of the population.

Employment opportunities for pharmacists in retail settings is expected to decline, while opportunities in hospitals and clinics is expected to continue to rise.

In recent years, the number of pharmacy schools has risen. This has led to an increase in certified pharmacists, meaning more competition for the available jobs. Pharmacists who have completed a residency program often have an advantage over their competitors.

Work Environment

Currently, the majority of pharmacists are employed at drug stores and stand-alone pharmacies. Other places of employment include hospitals, grocery stores, and department stores.

Four out of five pharmacists work full time, with most working forty hours a week. Some pharmacists, especially those who are self-employed, often work more than fifty hours a week.

Pharmacists spend most of the work day on their feet. The job generally isn’t stressful, but many pharmacies experience rushes of customers during certain times of the day. Another factor of stress could be dealing with annoyed or irate customers.

Safety concerns for pharmacists include the risk of becoming ill after dealing with contagious patients.

Another risk is potentially being injured in the event of a robbery. Pharmacies, being storage places for large amounts of prescription drugs, are sometimes the target of armed robberies.


Here is a list of resources that may be helpful for pharmacists, or for those looking to enter the field of pharmacy.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: This government-run website provides articles on diseases, disease prevention, methods to improve health, and emergency preparation.

  • Epocrates: A catalogue made for health care professionals, Epocrates provides reference information regarding drugs, diseases, and diagnostic tools. The company also offers a variety of mobile applications.

  • Merck Manual: The website for the best-selling medical textbook in the world, Merck Manual offers information on new research, medical techniques, and drugs.

  • S. Pharmacopeia: A nonprofit organization that tests medications, food ingredients, and dietary supplements, and sets standards of quality that are followed around the world. Their website offers information on their testing procedures as well as their findings.

  • CenterWatch Clinical Trials Listing Service: This site offers lists of clinical trials, both industry and government sponsored, as well as information regarding medicines approved by the FDA.

  • American Pharmacists Association: The oldest professional society for pharmacists in the United States. This organization sets standards and policy within the world of pharmacy.

  • MedilinePlus: A database of information gathered from government health agencies and organizations. Provides extensive lists of drugs, patient tutorials, and news regarding recent findings in the field of health.

  • PubMed: A source for citations from science and medical journals, as well as full-text articles from peer-reviewed medical literature. The website is an extension of the National Library of Medicine.

  • S. Food and Drug Administration: The government organization that is the ultimate decider of which medicines are safe enough for the public. Their website provides up to date information about the safety of medicine and health supplements.

  • Virtual Library Pharmacy: A database of pharmaceutical websites. One of the oldest such databases on the web. Unlike its commercial counterparts, this site ran by a group of volunteers, each one providing information from a different area of specialization.


A job as a pharmacist requires a number of skills, some that you may have naturally, and some that will need to be learned and sharpened as you advance in your career.

  • Math and Science: These skills will be learned during you educational training. Dealing with chemical compounds and calculating doses of medicine require that these skills remain honed.
  • Memorization: You’ll be required to maintain a working knowledge of hundreds of drugs and how those drugs interact with one another.
  • Customer Service: A job as a pharmacist is ultimately a job in the service industry. You will be dealing with patients daily, and you will need to be able to handle people who are rude or disrespectful.
  • Computer Proficiency: Prescriptions are often transmitted electronically and medicine databases are housed almost entirely on the web. Pharmacists spend a good deal of time on computers, so to be a pharmacist, you will need to know how to operate one.
  • Attention to Detail: When dispensing lifesaving medication, there is little room for error. It is your responsibility as a pharmacist to ensure that the correct dose is being given to every patient you help.
  • Teaching: You will need to politely explain to patients how to take their medicine, how the medicine will work, and what they should be doing in addition to taking their medication.
  • Active Learning: Most states require pharmacists to complete continuing education courses every year or two. You must be able to stay up to date on current medication and medical techniques.
  • Management: As a pharmacist, you will likely be in charge of motivating and directing the employees that work below you, such as pharmacy technicians.
  • Legal Knowledge: You will need to know state and national legal codes and policies in order to avoid breaking any laws or causing harm to patients.
  • Stress Tolerance: Pharmacies can experience rushes of customers, and you must be able to keep your cool at all times in order to avoid mistakes when filling prescriptions.

Leave a Comment