How to become a pharmacist

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care jobs -- including pharmacist jobs -- are expected to grow over the next decade. Many reasons account for this, such as an aging population living longer and younger people in general being more health-conscious. A growing number of people are likely to be seeking out medical care and prescriptions in the years to come.

Careers in pharmaceuticals can be a prudent choice for those concerned about job security, with six percent growth predicted for this career from through the year 2026. But being a pharmacist means a lot more than wearing a white lab coat and checking for drug interactions. There are a variety of career paths you can take within the field of pharmaceuticals, whether you prefer to work with patients or conduct research.

Types of pharmacists careers

In general, there are a few categories of pharmacists you could aim for a career in :

  • Community pharmacists: Work in retail stores like chain drug stores, or independently owned pharmacies
  • Clinical pharmacists: Employed in hospitals, clinics, and other health care settings
  • Consultant pharmacists: Advise health care facilities or insurance providers on patient medication use or improving pharmacy services
  • Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists: Work in areas such as marketing, sales, or research and development; they may design or conduct clinical drug trials

How to become a pharmacist

In order to work as a pharmacist you will need to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree through an accredited program. The steps to earn this degree may include:

  • Studying biology, chemistry or anatomy for at least two years
  • Earning a qualifying score on the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT)
  • Graduating from a four-year Pharm.D. program; some students start out as a pharmacy tech -- explore the top pharmacy tech degree programs
  • Completing supervised work/internships
  • Passing the North American Pharmacist Licensing Exam, as well as the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam

Some requirements may differ depending on the state in which you wish to practice, so it's important to check with your state health board to find out what the specifics are.

Job duties for pharmacists

As with any position, daily duties might vary based on work environment. For practicing pharmacists, some daily duties might include:

  • Filling patient prescriptions, including calculating dosages and preventing negative drug interactions
  • Educating patients on the proper use of medications
  • Completing insurance forms
  • Billing insurance companies for patient care and working with patients to understand their insurance

Pharmacist salary and career outlook

Again, jobs in health care in general are expected to have faster than average growth. Pharmacists in particular might only have average job growth, but with a changing retail landscape, this could change.

Pay for pharmacists can differ depending on what state they work in, how much experience they have and who their employer is. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) salary data shows that the mean annual salary for pharmacists in the U.S. in 2017 was $121,710. In the same year, the lowest ten percent of pharmacists working averaged an annual wage of $87,420, while the highest ten percent of employed pharmacists earned $159,410 on average. 

For more insight into becoming a pharmacist and for a handy visual guide, read on below. Also, consider starting your pharmacist career path as a pharmacy tech at one of the best schools for pharmacy tech degrees

Article Sources


Article Sources


  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, Pharmacists, accessed July 2018, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291051.htm
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Pharmacists, accessed July 2018 http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm
How to Become a Pharmacist
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