How do I Become an Apothecary?

Vicki Hogue-Davies

The term "apothecary" is the historical title for a person who prepares and sells medications. It also is the name of a furniture style designed with many small drawers, such as would have been found in an apothecary business to hold medicinal compounds. In modern times, a person who prepares and sells medications usually is called a pharmacist. To become an apothecary, or pharmacist, you will need extensive higher education, including earning a doctor of pharmacy, or PharmD, degree. Licensing exams and licensing also normally are required to become an apothecary.

Pharmacists should check patients' medications to ensure that there won't be any dangerous interactions between them.
Pharmacists should check patients' medications to ensure that there won't be any dangerous interactions between them.

To be eligible for admittance to a pharmacy program, you will need to complete specific pre-pharmacy college coursework, which typically takes two to three years. Coursework does not have to be completed at the same school as the PharmD program. Coursework requirements can vary among programs, so check with programs you are interested in applying to about specific requirements. Pre-pharmacy coursework generally includes study in basic sciences such as chemistry, biology and anatomy. Humanities, English composition and social and behavioral science classes also usually are part of pre-pharmacy coursework.

A PharmD degree is required to become an apothecary.
A PharmD degree is required to become an apothecary.

Along with pre-pharmacy coursework, admissions tests usually are required to gain entry into pharmacy programs. Some undergraduate schools have pre-pharmacy clubs that help prepare students for admission to pharmacy programs. If the school where you plan to complete undergraduate coursework has such a club, joining it can be helpful if you want to become an apothecary.

An apothecary dispenses medications to patients per a doctor's instruction.
An apothecary dispenses medications to patients per a doctor's instruction.

Pharmacy programs normally are designed to produce well-rounded pharmacists with strong expertise in drug therapies as well as good communication skills and business management knowledge. The PharmD program normally takes four years to complete. It includes classroom lessons and time working with licensed pharmacists. Upon completion of the degree, graduates must pass licensing examinations in pharmaceutical knowledge, pharmacy law and other areas. Criminal background checks sometimes are required before licensing, depending on where you live.

Continuing education courses are important for pharmacists.
Continuing education courses are important for pharmacists.

Some graduates of pharmacy programs perform residencies or fellowships to gain experience working in clinical settings or as researchers. To enhance their research qualifications, prospective pharmaceutical researchers might also earn PhD degrees. Pharmacy graduates who are planning to open their own pharmacies might obtain advanced degrees in business administration or related areas.

Those planning to open their own pharmacies might obtain advanced degrees in business administration or related areas.
Those planning to open their own pharmacies might obtain advanced degrees in business administration or related areas.

Continuing education is important for pharmacists. In order to renew their licenses each year, they must take courses to stay up-to-date about new drugs, drug therapies and drug interactions. Besides educational requirements, some of the characteristics that are important if you want to become an apothecary are a highly ethical personality, a detail orientation and strong people skills.

An apothecary may help elderly patients avoid dangerous drug interactions.
An apothecary may help elderly patients avoid dangerous drug interactions.

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