Are you passionate about healthcare, your community, and making a difference in people’s lives? Are you a great communicator, who enjoys sciences, and likes to solve problems? Then pharmacy may be the career for you! If you pursue pharmacy, you’ll be constantly continuing your learning as you advance in your career and adapting to unique situations.
If this sounds exciting to you, then continue reading to discover what you need to do to become a pharmacist in Canada, what pharmacists do, the pros and cons of this career, and your potential career prospects.
What is a pharmacist?
Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who fill prescriptions from doctors and are trained in the proper way to store, use, and provide medicine. Pharmacists provide customers with guidance on how to use medications, information on adverse reactions to the medication, and other medication recommendations. Many pharmacists also work on research and development of new drugs, offering input on trials, production quality, product standards, packaging, and advertising.
How to become a pharmacist in four simple steps
Discover how you can become a pharmacist by following these four steps:
Step one: Education
The first step to becoming a pharmacist is earning the right education. There are two options for an education in pharmacy: an undergraduate-level degree in a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program or a graduate-level degree in a PhD in Pharmacy program. There are 10 different faculties and schools of pharmacy in Canada where you can work towards your degree in pharmacy.
A PharmD program can take four years to complete, but the process for earning the degree at each school is different. Most schools may require that you complete one to two years of a university science program with specific courses before you can enter the pharmacy program. So, you’ll most likely be in school longer than four years. With this degree, you’re on your way to becoming a practicing pharmacist.
If you choose to continue your education in pharmacy, or you’re coming from an undergraduate degree in science, you can also take a PhD program in pharmacy or pharmaceutical sciences. A PhD program will focus more on research, so if a career in drug research and development interests you, this’ll be the program you’ll want to pursue. If you continue to pursue a PhD, expect the degree to take four to six years.
Step two: Take the national board exam
After you’ve completed your education in pharmacy, you’ll need to successfully pass the national board exam through the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC). The PEBC Certificate of Qualification for pharmacists is a licensing requirement for applicants with the required education (whether trained in Canada or elsewhere) in all provinces, except Quebec. If you’ve graduated from a Canadian university undergraduate pharmacy program, you must pass the Qualifying Examination part I and II. If you didn’t graduate from a Canadian school with an undergraduate degree in pharmacy, then you must take the Evaluating Examination before the Qualifying Examination to ensure you have the necessary skills.
Part I of the Qualifying Examination is taken through the computer in one day and consists of multiple-choice questions. Part II of the Qualifying Examination is completed in-person and is an objective structured clinical examination. This means the exam will consist of practical situations in pharmacy where your performance is evaluated. Simulations will often include interactions with people portraying a patient, caregiver, parent, or health professional. Both parts of the Qualifying Examination must be successfully completed within three years of passing one part.
Step three: Gain practical experience
Once you’ve passed the PEBC exams, you’ll need to complete a practical training program. Under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist, you’ll participate in a co-op, internship, or apprenticeship program where you’ll gain valuable, hands-on skills. The requirements for these practical training programs vary depending on the province, but you’ll need to be proficient in English or French. Discover the requirements for your desired province through the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA).
Step four: Obtain a license
To become a pharmacist, you’ll need a license to practice. Depending on which province you want to work in, you’ll need to join the regulatory body in that province or territory. Each province has a different process and requirements for becoming licensed, so check out the provinces you’re interested in.
What do pharmacists do?
As a pharmacist, you can expect to do tasks such as:
- Preparing prescriptions
- Ensuring a patient’s medications won’t interact with each other
- Determining the patient is not at risk for adverse reactions from prescriptions
- Administering vaccines such as flu shots
- Educating patients on how to use medications
- Answering patients’ questions about medications
- Doing basic administrative tasks and record-keeping
What’s the difference between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician?
You may have met your pharmacy technicians at your local pharmacy, but what really makes them different from your pharmacist?
| ||Pharmacist ||Pharmacy Technician
| Education ||Pharmacists need to complete a PharmD program from one of the 10 universities that offer faculties and schools of pharmacy in Canada. PharmD programs take four years to complete plus an additional year or two of university studies. ||Pharmacy technicians typically need to complete a two to three year college program in pharmaceutics.
| National exam ||Pharmacists are required to complete the Qualifying Examination for pharmacists from the PEBC. This exam consists of two parts. ||Pharmacist technicians must complete the PEBC Pharmacy Technician Certificate of Qualification which also includes a two-part Qualifying Examination.
| Licensing ||Pharmacists are required to register in the province you wish to practice. You can explore each province’s requirements with NAPRA. ||Pharmacist technicians are also required to register and fulfill the requirements of their Provincial Regulatory Authority.
| Job responsibilities ||As mentioned above, pharmacists have a greater interaction and communication with customers. They’re able to counsel customers on the usage of medications, and even offer advice to doctors regarding the type and dosage of medication. ||Pharmacy technicians are meant to assist the pharmacist by preparing various prescription medications. They often stock medications, fill prescriptions, answer phone calls, and other clerical work.
Pros and cons of being a pharmacist
As a pharmacist in Canada, you can expect certain benefits and challenges in your career:
Explore the benefits of being a pharmacist:
- Competitive salary
- Variety of workplace options: local pharmacy, hospital, clinic, research laboratory, etc.
- Option for an independent practice
- Flexible schedules
- Work is available across the country
- Roles are expanding for pharmacists
Discover the challenges of being a pharmacist:
- Longer education
- Competitive field
- Limited career advancement
- High-pressure work
- Physically tiring, as you’re on your feet all day
Pharmacy in Canada
Did you know pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals in Canada? The Canadian Pharmacists Association explores just how accessible pharmacists are, as well as the new roles pharmacists are taking on in our communities:
With healthcare becoming a more visible profession in today’s world, pharmacists are becoming pillars in our communities. If you want to begin your career as a pharmacist, explore the Canadian Government’s Job Bank for pharmacist openings. Want to get a better idea of how much a pharmacist can make? Check out the low, average, and high salary expectations of a pharmacist.
Knowing all of this now, do you think a career as a pharmacist is for you?
Start your adventure as a pharmacist today