To become a licensed pharmacist, one must meet the requirements of the state in which one works. Each state mandates that different examinations be taken and requires different amounts of practical experience.
The first thing one must accomplish on the road toward licensure is to graduate from an accredited pharmacy school. These pharmacy schools are accredited by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education (ACPE). With two exceptions, no foreign pharmacy schools are accredited in the United States.
The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX®) is required in all states. The NAPLEX is a computer-adaptive test that asks the test taker to use the information he or she learned in pharmacy school to answer questions that are designed to represent everyday situations in a pharmacy.
Most states require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination(MPJE®). The purpose of this test is to determine the test taker’s mastery of pharmacy law. The test taker must sit for an individual exam for each state in which he or she wishes to practice since each exam is specific to an individual state’s laws. The examination is administered in 45 states.
In addition to these exams, some states require a licensure candidate to pass a practical examination. The purpose of this practical examination is to ensure that one can prepare and dispense medications.
All state boards of pharmacy require candidates to complete practical experience in the form of an internship. Most states require 1,500 hours, although some require as few as 80 hours or as many as 2,000 hours. While most state boards accept practical hours accumulated beginning in the first year of pharmacy school, some states demand that these hours be accrued after completion of pharmacy school.
In addition to completion of a PharmD degree and the examinations mentioned previously, many states have an age requirement for licensure. While it would be uncommon for one to have completed the requirements for licensure without having reached this minimum age, if one has concerns, one should check with one’s state board.
For those who wish to become pharmacists, a PharmD degree alone is insufficient for employment as a pharmacist. Because each state has different requirements for licensure, one should research these requirements prior to applying for licensure.