how to become a clinical pharmacist

Becoming a clinical pharmacist in the US or Canada is a dream for many clinical pharmacists worldwide. Now this dream may seem difficult to achieve for some, but it is actually not!

In this article, I am going to walk you through the steps needed to qualify for a clinical pharmacist job in the US and Canada.

First Things First

You probably know by now that to qualify as a clinical pharmacist in the US and/or Canada, you must first qualify as a pharmacist. Clinical pharmacy is a branch of pharmacy that is usually practiced in hospitals but has also branched into community practice.

How To Become A Pharmacist In The US Or Canada?

In order to become a pharmacist in the US or Canada, you need to follow the steps below:

  1. Earn a pharmacy degree: You need to enroll in a pharmacy school and complete a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences. This can be in the US or Canada or worldwide. In the US and Canada, you must take some pre-pharmacy courses prior to enrolling in a pharmacy school.
  2. Get a pharmacist license. If you graduate from an American pharmacy school accredited in the US, you will have to take the North America Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). Then you have to take the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) before you can receive a full pharmacist license. And if you graduate from a Canadian school of pharmacy, you will need to take the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada Qualifying Exam Part I and II (OSCE). Then you need to take the pharmacy jurisprudence exam in the province you are getting licensed in.

However, if you graduate from a foreign pharmacy school (Anywhere else in the world), you will need to take the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Equivalency Exam (FPGEE) first before taking the NAPLEX and MPJE. And if you are applying in Canada, you will need to take the Evaluating Exam, then the Qualifying Exams Part I & II, then the Jurisprudence exam.

Congrats! You have completed the steps above, and now you are a fully licensed pharmacist in the US. What is next?

How To Become A Clinical Pharmacist In The US?

There are a couple of pathways that can help you qualify as a clinical pharmacist in the US.

The first pathway (and probably the easiest) is to enroll in the hospital residency program PGY-1. This is a 1-year training program that will practically train you on all clinical pharmacy aspects. You will have to travel to different hospitals within the State you have applied for residency, and train with different preceptors for one whole year. Of course, you will receive a stipend (about $70,000) during this year of training. So you will not have to pay any fees out of pocket except for your application.

Now, as much as this may sound easy and intriguing, it is not! The residency program is very competitive, and there are only very few positions available at each hospital. That said, it might be impossible for a foreign pharmacist to enroll in a residency program in the US or Canada. Not to mention the fact that applicants need to be actively licensed pharmacists by the time the residency training begins!

So, foreign pharmacists, I hate to bring this bad news to you, but the chances that you can get enrolled in a residency program are slim pickings! I even recommend that you do not even try because the program will accept your money when you pay for the application process, even though they know very well you are not going to be accepted in the residency program! So, save that money for better options! Yes, there are options for you! Keep reading!

The other option to become a clinical pharmacist in the US or Canada is by joining a Postgrad Doctor of Pharmacy degree, or a clinical pharmacy course. Now I know that a few of you have already done an undergrad Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Unfortunately, these programs do not qualify you for a clinical pharmacist position in the US or Canada despite having these programs in both Countries! It is basically business! Pharmacy schools have created a regular bachelor of pharmacy degree and a more expensive undergrad Doctor of Pharmacy degree to make more money out of students. Both grads will not qualify for a clinical pharmacist position in either the US or Canada. Of course, no one would tell you that prior to enrolling!

So, What Do You Do?

So, you can join either a bachelor of pharmacy or an undergrad Doctor of Pharmacy program, then once you graduate, enroll in a postgrad Doctor of Pharmacy program (2-year professional program). Or, you can join an online clinical pharmacy training course. Compared to the pharmacy residency program, a Postgrad Doctor of Pharmacy degree is actually a degree. It consists of didactic courses and a whole year of training in hospitals. So, in my opinion, postgrad Doctor of Pharmacy degrees are actually stronger than a PGY-1 pharmacy residency program. But anyway, this is a good pathway for all pharmacy grads who cannot get into a Pharmacy residency program.

Remember that a Master of pharmacy or pharmacology is not the same. Unless you earn a Masters degree in Clinical Pharmacy.

One more option that can help you get a clinical pharmacist position in the US or Canada is by becoming a pharmacy specialist. The Board of Pharmacy Specialties in the US offers a wide range of pharmacy specialties. You could choose based on your interest and practice.

There’s one problem with this pathway. You cannot apply for a pharmacy specialty exam without at least 3-4 years of experience in the specialty you are applying for. For example, a pharmacist wants to apply for the Cardiology pharmacy specialty exam. They will need to show the Board proof of cardiology pharmacy experience for at least 3-4 years. This should include at least 50% of your daily work time spent in that field, and so on! You can check out all the requirements for the different pharmacy specialties on the Board of Pharmacy Specialties website

A Final Note

Finally, it is important to mention that no matter what pathway you take to become a clinical pharmacist in the US or Canada, you still must sit for interviews and prove that you are actually an excellent clinical pharmacist. Our course in clinical pharmacy teaches you the main aspects of clinical pharmacy practice. We teach you the guidelines of treatments of different disease states. The course also takes you through virtual medical rounds to strengthen your clinical abilities. We also train you on what to expect in a clinical pharmacist interview, and how to prepare for these.


online clinical pharmacy course