Becoming a pharmacist is a rewarding career path, but the traditional route of obtaining a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and completing residency hours can be time-consuming and expensive. If you’re interested in working in the pharmacy field but want to skip pharmacy school, there are some alternative options available.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: You can become a pharmacy technician by completing a training program and passing a certification exam. Some states also allow experienced techs to apply for a pharmacy technician license.

However, licensed techs have more limited duties compared to pharmacists.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various ways you can work in pharmacy without attending pharmacy school, including the education and training required for each, potential career paths, and key considerations.

Become a Pharmacy Technician

Complete a Training Program

To become a pharmacist without attending pharmacy school, one option is to become a pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians play a crucial role in the healthcare industry by assisting pharmacists in dispensing medications and providing customer service to patients.

To start your journey as a pharmacy technician, you will need to complete a training program. These programs are offered by vocational schools, community colleges, and online institutions. They typically cover topics such as pharmacy law and ethics, pharmaceutical calculations, medication safety, and pharmacy operations.

By completing a training program, you will gain the necessary knowledge and skills to work in a pharmacy setting.

Earn Pharmacy Technician Certification

After completing a training program, the next step is to earn your pharmacy technician certification. Certification is not always required to work as a pharmacy technician, but it can greatly enhance your job prospects and earning potential.

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) are two organizations that offer certification exams for pharmacy technicians. These exams assess your knowledge and skills in areas such as medication safety, pharmacy laws and regulations, and pharmacy calculations.

By earning your certification, you demonstrate your commitment to the field and showcase your expertise to potential employers.

Obtain State Licensure (If Available)

In some states, pharmacy technicians are required to obtain licensure before they can practice. Licensure requirements vary by state, so it is important to research the specific requirements in your state.

Typically, the requirements include passing a background check, completing a certain number of training hours, and passing a licensure exam. Some states may also require pharmacy technicians to renew their license periodically by completing continuing education courses.

By obtaining state licensure, you ensure that you are practicing legally and meeting the standards set by your state’s board of pharmacy.

Becoming a pharmacy technician can be a great pathway to enter the pharmacy field without attending pharmacy school. It provides an opportunity to gain valuable experience and knowledge while working alongside pharmacists.

Remember to check with your state’s requirements and consider pursuing certification to enhance your career prospects. For more information on becoming a pharmacy technician, you can visit the websites of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association.

Consider a Related Healthcare Role

If you’re interested in becoming a pharmacist without going to pharmacy school, there are several related healthcare roles that you can consider. These roles can provide valuable experience and knowledge in the field, and may even serve as a stepping stone towards a career in pharmacy.

Medical Assistant

One option to consider is becoming a medical assistant. Medical assistants work in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and private practices. They perform both administrative and clinical tasks, assisting physicians and other healthcare professionals in delivering patient care.

By working as a medical assistant, you can gain exposure to the healthcare industry and develop important skills, such as taking patient histories, measuring vital signs, and administering medications under supervision.

Nursing Assistant

Another option is to become a nursing assistant. Nursing assistants, also known as nurse aides or patient care technicians, work closely with registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to provide basic care to patients.

They assist with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and feeding patients, as well as taking vital signs and reporting any changes in patient condition. Working as a nursing assistant can give you firsthand experience in patient care and medication administration.

Other Allied Health Positions

There are also other allied health positions that you can consider. These include roles such as pharmacy technician, medical laboratory technician, and radiologic technologist. While these roles may not directly involve dispensing medications like pharmacists do, they provide valuable exposure to the healthcare field and can enhance your understanding of medications and their effects on patients.

It’s important to note that while these roles can provide valuable experience, they may not qualify you to work as a pharmacist without further education and licensure. Becoming a pharmacist typically requires completion of a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program and passing a licensure exam.

If you’re interested in exploring these healthcare roles further, consider reaching out to local healthcare facilities or educational institutions for more information. Additionally, websites such as Bureau of Labor Statistics and NHS Healthcare Careers can provide valuable insights into these roles and their requirements.

Explore Pharmaceutical Sales

If you are interested in a career in the pharmaceutical industry but don’t want to go to pharmacy school, exploring pharmaceutical sales can be a great option. Pharmaceutical sales representatives play a crucial role in promoting and selling pharmaceutical products to healthcare professionals.

They are the link between pharmaceutical companies and medical providers.

Entry-Level Pharmaceutical Sales

One way to enter the pharmaceutical sales field is by starting at an entry-level position. These positions often require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as biology or chemistry. Entry-level pharmaceutical sales representatives typically receive comprehensive training on the products they will be selling and learn how to build relationships with healthcare professionals.

They may also be responsible for organizing and attending sales meetings and conferences.

It’s important to note that competition for entry-level pharmaceutical sales positions can be fierce. To stand out from the crowd, consider gaining relevant experience through internships or part-time jobs in the healthcare or sales industry.

Additionally, having strong communication and interpersonal skills, as well as a solid understanding of pharmaceutical products, can greatly increase your chances of success in this field.

Medical Science Liaison

Another career path to explore in the pharmaceutical industry is becoming a medical science liaison (MSL). MSLs are scientific experts who act as a bridge between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals.

They are responsible for providing medical and scientific support to healthcare providers, conducting educational programs, and staying up-to-date with the latest research and developments in their therapeutic area.

To become an MSL, a higher level of education, such as a doctorate degree or advanced clinical degree, is often preferred. However, it is not always a strict requirement, and some pharmaceutical companies may hire individuals with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant field, combined with relevant experience.

It’s important to note that the path to becoming an MSL may require additional training and certifications. For example, the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) offers a certification program for MSLs.

This certification can enhance your credibility and marketability in the field.

When considering a career as an MSL, it’s important to have a strong background in scientific research, excellent communication skills, and the ability to effectively present complex scientific information to healthcare professionals.

Exploring pharmaceutical sales, whether through entry-level positions or as a medical science liaison, can be an exciting way to enter the pharmaceutical industry without going to pharmacy school. It offers the opportunity to work closely with healthcare professionals, contribute to the promotion of life-saving medications, and make a positive impact on patient care.

Get a Job in a Pharmacy Setting

If you’re looking to become a pharmacist without going to pharmacy school, one of the best ways to gain experience and knowledge in the field is to get a job in a pharmacy setting. There are several positions within a pharmacy that can provide valuable hands-on experience and insight into the profession.

Pharmacy Clerk

A pharmacy clerk is an entry-level position that involves assisting the pharmacist with various tasks. This may include answering phone calls, taking prescription orders, organizing medication inventory, and providing customer service.

While the role of a pharmacy clerk may not require formal education or certification, it can be a great way to learn about the different medications, pharmacy operations, and customer interactions.

Pharmacy Buyer

A pharmacy buyer is responsible for purchasing medications and supplies for the pharmacy. They work closely with pharmaceutical vendors to ensure that the pharmacy has an adequate supply of medications at the best possible prices.

This role requires strong negotiation skills, attention to detail, and knowledge of pharmaceutical products. While a pharmacy buyer typically requires some experience in the field, it can be a rewarding position for those interested in the business side of pharmacy.

Pharmacy Benefit Manager

A pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) is a third-party administrator that manages prescription drug programs for health insurance plans. They negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to secure lower drug prices and develop formularies that determine which medications are covered by insurance.

While becoming a PBM may require additional education and experience, it can be a lucrative career path for those interested in the intersection of pharmacy and healthcare management.

By getting a job in a pharmacy setting, individuals can gain firsthand experience and knowledge of the pharmacy profession. It provides an opportunity to interact with pharmacists, learn about different medications, and understand the operations of a pharmacy.

While it may not replace the formal education and training required to become a licensed pharmacist, it can be a valuable stepping stone towards a career in pharmacy.

Key Considerations

Becoming a pharmacist without attending pharmacy school is a challenging task, but it is not impossible. Before embarking on this journey, there are several key considerations you need to keep in mind.

Educational Requirements

Pharmacy school typically requires a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree, which is a professional degree that takes around four years to complete. Without a PharmD degree, it may be difficult to find employment as a pharmacist. However, there are alternative pathways available.

One option is to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in a related field such as chemistry or biology. While this degree alone may not qualify you to become a pharmacist, it can serve as a stepping stone towards further education or alternative career options within the pharmaceutical industry.

Alternative Career Paths

If you are passionate about working in the pharmaceutical field but do not wish to attend pharmacy school, there are alternative career paths you can explore. For example, you could consider becoming a pharmacy technician or a pharmaceutical sales representative.

As a pharmacy technician, you would assist pharmacists in dispensing medications, managing inventory, and providing customer service. While this role may not have the same level of responsibility as a pharmacist, it can still be a fulfilling and rewarding career choice.

On the other hand, a pharmaceutical sales representative is responsible for promoting and selling medications to healthcare professionals. This role requires strong communication and sales skills, as well as a solid understanding of pharmaceutical products.

Continuing Education

Regardless of the career path you choose, it is important to stay updated on the latest developments in the pharmaceutical industry. This can be achieved through continuing education programs, professional certifications, and attending industry conferences.

By staying informed and continuously improving your knowledge and skills, you can enhance your career prospects and stay competitive in the field.

Remember, becoming a pharmacist without attending pharmacy school may require additional effort and creativity. It is important to carefully weigh your options and consider the long-term implications before making a decision.


While becoming a licensed pharmacist requires extensive schooling, those interested in the pharmacy field do have alternative options that don’t involve pharmacy school. Careers like pharmacy technician, pharmaceutical sales rep, and pharmacy clerk allow you to work in a pharmacy setting and gain valuable experience.

With proper training and certification, these careers offer the chance to start a rewarding pharmacy career without the time and expense of a PharmD program. Just keep in mind the limitations compared to being a fully licensed pharmacist.

Do thorough research to determine if one of these pharmacy roles is right for your career goals.

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