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The mortar and pestle is an international symbol of pharmacists and pharmacies.
The mortar and pestle is an international symbol of pharmacists and pharmacies.

Pharmacists are health professionals who practice the art and science of pharmacy. In their traditional role, pharmacists typically take a request for medicines from a prescribing health care provider in the form of a medical prescription and dispense the medication to the patient and counsel them on the proper use and adverse effects of that medication. In this role, pharmacists ensure the safe and effective use of medications. Pharmacists also participate in disease state management, where they optimise and monitor drug therapy – often in collaboration with physicians and/or other health professionals. Pharmacists have many areas of expertise and are a critical source of medical knowledge in clinics, hospitals, and community pharmacies throughout the world.

Pharmacists are sometimes small-business owners, owning the pharmacy in which they practice. They are also very skilled and specialized individuals with specific knowledge that makes them a vital part of any healthcare team. They act as a learned intermediary between patients and physicians to ensure that proper medical therapy is chosen and implemented in the best way possible.

Pharmacists are sometimes referred to as chemists (or dispensing chemists), which sometimes causes confusion with scientists in the field of chemistry. This term is a historical one, since pharmacists originally were required to complete an undergraduate degree in Pharmaceutical Chemistry (PhC) and were known as "Pharmaceutical Chemists".


Qualifications and registration

The basic requirement for pharmacists to be considered for registration is an undergraduate or postgraduate Pharmacy degree from a recognised university. In most countries this involves a four-year course to attain a Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) degree.

In order to practise as a pharmacist, the person must be registered with the relevant statutory body, which governs the registration and practice of pharmacy within the territory of its jurisdiction. There is often a requirement for the pharmacy graduate to have completed a certain number of hours of experience in a pharmacy, under the supervision of a registered pharmacist. The statutory body will usually administer a written and oral examination to the prospective pharmacist prior to registration.

Pharmacists are trained in fields including pharmacology, chemistry, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacy practice (including drug interactions, medicine monitoring, medication management), pharmaceutics, pharmacy law, physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, kinetics, nephrology, hepatology, and compounding medications. Additional curriculum covers basic diagnosis with emphasis on disease state management, therapeutics and prescribing (selecting the most appropriate medication for a given patient).


In Australia, apart from the four-year BPharm course, there is the option of a postgraduate two-year Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) course for those with undergraduate science degree background.

Pharmacists are registered by Pharmacy Boards in individual states such as the Pharmacy Board of New South Wales. In Western Australia, pharmacists are registered by the Pharmaceutical Council of Western Australia. Individual states have differing requirements for pharmacy graduates for registration, but generally graduates are required to complete approximately one year of practice under the supervision of a registered pharmacist. In addition, graduates are required to complete an approved graduate training course for that state, for example the Pharmacist Graduate Training Course (PGTC) offered by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia NSW Branch is required in New South Wales. On meeting these requirements, graduates are eligible to sit the registration examination which may involve both written and oral components.


In Greece, a five-year University course must be completed. This course is offered by the University of Athens [1], the University of Thessaloniki [2] and the University of Patras [3]. The course comprises 4 years of theory and laboratory practice and a 5th year of compulsory, full-time in-service training in a community pharmacy and the pharmaceutical department of a hospital. An additional trimester placement in a pharmaceutical industry is also an option, however it does not count towards the acquisition of the licence to practice. Upon successful completion of the course, a Degree in Pharmacy is awarded.

The pharmacy graduate may pursue a career in the industry after graduation. A career in this field does not require a licence to practise pharmacy. However, pharmacists wishing to open a pharmacy, work in hospitals or in the National Organization of Medicines [4] must first successfully participate in board examinations organized by the Greek Ministry of Health, in order to obtain a License to Practice Pharmacy.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, as with other western nations, a four year BPharm must be completed, followed by an internship at a pharmacy. Pharmacists are registered at the Pharmaceutical Society Of New Zealand. The degree can be taken at University Of Otago in Dunedin and University Of Auckland in Auckland.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, a 4-year BPharm degree must be completed followed by one year of post-registration training. Trinity College, Dublin was the only university offering the BPharm course in the Irish Republic until recently. In 2003 two new Schools of Pharmacy were opened. A Pharmacy department was created at University College, Cork on the southern coast of Ireland as well as another Pharmacy school in the Irish capital, Dublin. (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland)


In Spain, the Degree in Pharmacy (called licenciatura en farmacia) is consisting of 5 years. Last one is divided into two semesters, first one is similar as previous years (theory and laboratory practice) but second one is a full-time in-service training in a community pharmacy or at the pharmaceutical department of a hospital. This estructure is changing by another according to European Higher Education Area's System.

After obtaining degree certificate, there is the chance of opening a pharmacy sitting an examination in order to achieve a licence. There is also the chance of postgraduate programs as Masters and Doctorates and of carrying hospital/industry speciality programs out (FIR or farmacéutico interno-residente, pharmacist intern-resident) by means of an examination like medical specialities (MIR). These specialities are: "Hospital pharmacist", "Clinical microbiology and parasitology", "Clinical biochemistry", "Clinical immunology", "Clinical analysis", "Radiopharmacy", "Galenical and industrial pharmacy" and "Drug and medicines' control and analysis".

There are 15 universities with licenciatura in Pharmacy in Spain, three of them are private universities.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, integration with the European Union has resulted in the BPharm course being superseded by a four-year course for the qualification Master of Pharmacy (MPharm). In Great Britain the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain is responsible for regulation of pharmacy affairs and in Northern Ireland it is the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland. Graduates must complete one year of practical training and pass a registration examination before they can be entered on the register of pharmacists, known as the register of pharmaceutical chemists.

Pharmacists registered in other countries can also register in the UK. Overseas pharmacists are required to undertake the Overseas Pharmacists Assessment Programme (OSPAP), a one year intensive course focused on pharmacy practice in Great Britain. OSPAP authorisation can be given by Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and the course is undertaken either the University of Sunderland, Aston University or the University of Brighton. However, pharmacists that have obtained their qualifications and are registered in other countries of the European Economic Area can register with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain without undergoing additional or pre-registration training.

The term pharmacist is protected in the United Kingdom[5]. It can only be used by individuals that are registered with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

United States

Traditionally in the United States, the bachelor's degree in pharmacy was the first-professional degree for pharmacy practice. However, in 1990, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) mandated that a doctor of pharmacy would be the new first-professional degree. As of the year 2000, all pharmacy schools in the U.S. have discontinued the B.S. Pharm. (Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy) degree program.

Today, individuals seeking to become pharmacists must first complete a pre-pharmacy undergraduate program. This program consists of a minimum of 60-70 semester credit hours (90-100 quarter credit hours) of undergraduate coursework in basic and advanced sciences; however many students go on to complete a four year program (between 120-130 semester credit hours) leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, chemistry, or a similar field. In addition, a high PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) score is required at most colleges and schools of pharmacy.

After admission, a student will complete a four year pharmacy program and will be awarded the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree upon graduation. A pharmacy graduate may choose to complete an optional post-graduate residency (one to three years) or enter directly into pharmacy practice, e.g., community (retail), compounding, consultant (nursing home), hospital, nuclear, etc.

Pharmacy school graduates must complete internship requirements and pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination, or NAPLEX, and an additional state exam before they can acquire a license to practice pharmacy in that state. The NAPLEX was created by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).


Pharmacists are often the first point-of-contact for patients with health inquiries. This means that pharmacists have large roles in the primary healthcare of patients.

These roles include, but are not limited to :

  • clinical medication management
  • specialized monitoring of simple and complex disease states
  • reviewing medication regimens
  • monitoring of treatment regimens
  • general health monitoring
  • compounding medicines
  • general health advice
  • providing specific education to patients about disease states and medications
  • oversight of dispensing medicines on prescription
  • provision of non-prescription medicines
  • counseling and advice on optimal use of medicines
  • advice and treatment of common ailments
  • referral to other health professionals if necessary
  • dosing drugs in renal and hepatic failure
  • pharmacokinetic evaluation
  • education of physicians on medications and their proper use
  • prescribing medications in collaboration with other healthcare professionals
  • providing pharmaceutical information


Practice specialisation

Specialties exist within the pharmacy profession, with the place of occupation being the major differentiator. Specialities include:

  • Academic pharmacist
  • Clinical pharmacist
  • Community pharmacist
  • Compounding pharmacist
  • Consultant pharmacist
  • Drug information pharmacist
  • Home Health pharmacist
  • Hospital pharmacist
  • Industrial pharmacist
  • Locum pharmacist
  • Regulatory-affairs pharmacist
  • Veterinary pharmacist

Specialty Practice accreditation

In the United States, a pharmacist can become certified in recognized specialty practice areas by passing an examination administered by the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties. There are five specialties in which a pharmacist can become Board-certified. The Pharmacotherapy specialty also has two subspecialties, as follows:

  • Nuclear Pharmacy
  • Nutrition Support Pharmacy
  • Oncology Pharmacy
  • Pharmacotherapy
    • Cardiology
    • Infectious disease
  • Psychiatric Pharmacy

Additionally, other certifications are available from smaller credentialing boards, such as the Certified Geriatric Pharmacist (CGP) designation, administered by the Commission for Certification in Geriatric Pharmacy (CCGP).

In Australia, accreditation exists only for certain specialties and is provided by professional bodies for the following:

  • Consultant Pharmacist (AACPA), by the Australian Association of Consultant Pharmacy (AACP)
  • Certified Geriatric Pharmacist (CGP), by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA)

See also

External links

Pharmacy Organizations
Colleges and Schools of Pharmacy
Accreditation, Examination and Licensing
Pharmacy Practice
  • Useful site for practicing pharmacists and Φαρμακοποιός

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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