We Don’t Need No Education: Post–Pharmacy School Options 

Upon successfully earning an RPh or a PharmD degree, many newly minted pharmacists likely exhale deeply, with the belief that the education requirements for a successful career have finally been satisfied. Most students believe that becoming a licensed pharmacist will distinguish them from the pack—allowing them to select their career path at will after paying their dues in an entry-level role. However, several years of practice in a traditional setting can foster malcontent even in the most dedicated pharmacist and may not provide advancement opportunities as anticipated. 

Although there is no correct answer to address this dissatisfaction, many pharmacists who find themselves in this predicament see value in further professional differentiation. However, even after deciding to seek additional credentials, navigating the maze of options and the value they add is nothing short of overwhelming. Because the myriad choices yield distinctly different opportunities, each individual should evaluate every path before pursuing the best match for their goals. 

A-B-C, Easy as 1-2-3:

Certification Programs
The section header is slightly misleading, as the various certificate programs are far from a walk in the park, but the Jackson 5 declined to record any iconic tunes about challenging yet obtainable goals. Although not intellectually easy, obtaining a certification has distinct advantages over other more labor-intensive means of differentiation. The crux of obtaining a certificate hinges on successfully completing an exam that bestows the sought-after credentials upon the candidate. 

Rather than rejoining the ranks of collegiate students, pursuing a certificate program allows for self-study at the discretion of the candidate. Additionally, the examination fees are generally less than $1000 compared with tens of thousands of dollars for tuition. The credentials obtained are certainly less impactful than an additional degree, but the flexibility afforded by the process can certainly justify the effort expended by the certificate holder. A brief discussion of certifications that can be valuable to a specialty pharmacist is found below. »


Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS)

A division of the American Pharmacists Association, BPS offers certifications in 8 areas of pharmacy practice. Eligibility requirements vary from exam to exam, each of which is designed to assure adequate experience to maintain quality applicants. Although any of these certifications would be beneficial for a pharmacist, the Board Certified Oncology Pharmacist (BCOP) best aligns with the specialty pharmacy space. 

To sit for the BCOP exam, candidates must meet the baseline eligibility requirements. In addition to graduating from an accredited pharmacy school and maintaining an active pharmacist license, experience as an oncology pharmacist must be documented. This requirement can be satisfied by:

  • Completion of 4 years of practice experience (postpharmacist licensure), with at least 50% of time spent in oncology pharmacy activities.
  • Completion of a postgraduate year 1 residency plus 2 additional years of practice (postpharmacist licensure) with at least 50% of time spent in oncology pharmacy activities.
  • Completion of a specialty post-graduate year 2 residency in oncology pharmacy.1

Once these requirements have been satisfied, an examination covering content from 4 domains—patient management and therapeutics, research and education, practice administration and development, public health and advocacy—must be completed with a passing grade.

This path is far from easy, but it can distinguish a successful applicant in their career path. According to the 2015 BPS Annual Report, only 1990 pharmacists actively hold BCOP certification.2




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