Pharmacy Specialist Certification: Hype or Hope?


The state of the economy has caused many to reevaluate their careers and has led others to look for ways to make themselves more marketable to potential employers. Although pharmacists have had to worry about the future of their careers less than many other professions, some are still concerned. For those who are concerned, specialty certification is an attractive way to increase one’s knowledge base and provide additional credentials to their resumes.

The training required to become a pharmacist is extensive. Because of this, there really is very little need for pharmacists to become certified in niche areas such as nutrition support, psychiatry, or oncology. The certifications are nice to have as a way of highlighting knowledge in those and other areas but add very little to the existing knowledge base.

While the actual increase in knowledge may be slight, these certifications are still a great way to prove pharmacists have exceptional knowledge and understanding of the specific conditions they will be treating. These certifications are most important for those wishing to serve a niche area. A pharmacist with an oncology certification may stand out more during the hiring process for an oncology clinic than one with no additional certifications. Additionally, many facilities are now encouraging their pharmacists to become certified in specific areas in order to promote the facility.

The specialty certifications are offered by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Exams for certification and recertification are offered once a year at sites across the country and at several international locations. Certifications are offered for the following specialties:

• Ambulatory Care Pharmacy
• Nuclear Pharmacy
• Nutrition Support Pharmacy
• Oncology Pharmacy
• Pharmacotherapy
• Psychiatric Pharmacy

Future of Pharmacology
The standard for becoming a pharmacist has changed over time to reflect new medical practices. At one time someone interested in becoming a pharmacist became an apprentice to one who was already practicing. Later a degree was required, then a doctoral degree. All of these changes in required credentials came about because of advances in the industry. As the industry becomes more advanced in the future with gene therapy and medications that are specifically designed for each individual, it is likely that specialty certifications will become more common and eventually required. Currently, the paradigm model is slowly shifting towards these specialty certifications and will likely continue to do so.

Even if you don’t think they are necessary right now, do you think they will become necessary in the next 10-20 years?


2 comments on “Pharmacy Specialist Certification: Hype or Hope?”

  1. With, as you partially acknowledge, a more and more complex medical environment continuing to evolve, pharmacists are even more deserving of the label, “Drug Expert” then ever. Your take [Tera Tuten] that one who has additional certifications makes them more attractive from a marketing standpoint, is a given but misses the most important point: It is not either Hype or Hope but rather a vital need. Pharmacists are put in or, actively seek positions with more direct drug therapy involvement. For some years now, pharmacists have not only monitored therapy but have actually modified or prescribed additional medications per hospital policy or provider agreements. There is no question, and there are some excellent studies to show, that this process has enhanced patient care, leading to more positive outcomes with fewer risks due to adverse reactions, interactions or dosage discrepancies. With the continuing lack of primary care physicians as just one factor, pharmacists are and will be making more prescriber oriented decisions and this will require additional training and certification and again, will lead to even further gains in patient-positive outcomes.


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