Can a Canadian pharmacist work in the US?

They say the grass is greener on the other side, and many Canadians feel this way about the US. But, if you’re a licensed pharmacist in Canada who wants to move, it helps to know what to expect. So, can Canadian pharmacists work in the US?

Yes, Canadian pharmacists can work in the US. But they’ll have to become certified in the US. The steps for this include degree recognition, getting a work visa, applying to the FPGEC, passing the FPGEE, completing internship hours, passing the NAPLEX exam, and getting licensed by the state board.

Despite the time-consuming and draining process, becoming licensed to practice in the US is great. So, it might be worth the hassle. Here, we discuss the steps for becoming a pharmacy in the US.

How to become a pharmacist in the US as a Canadian

You need to become certified and licensed before working as a pharmacist in the US. Fortunately, the process is mostly straightforward.

1.   Recognition of Equivalence

If you’re moving to the US, you need to ensure that your credentials are recognized in the US. This means that the relevant authorities in America must consider your training and qualification the same as that of a person with those same qualifications in the US. As a Canadian pharmacist, this is most likely going to be so

2.   Obtain Work Visa

If you want to work as a pharmacist in the US, you’ll need a work visa before you leave Canada. This applies when you don’t have a spouse already living in the US. In some cases, immigration might require that you have a job offer from an employer in the US. The Work Visa application might take some time, and you can use the period to find pharmacies in the US that’ll offer employment.

3.   Apply to the FPGEC

You’ll need to be certified in the US by the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee (FPGEC). The Committee assesses an applicant’s fitness to work as a pharmacist in the US. Before you can apply, you’ll need to have graduated from an approved pharmacy program recognized in the US and provide proof of your degree. You also need to have a valid license and be fluent in English. Even though you’re from Canada, you’ll still have to take the online NABP TOEFL test, which tests your comprehension and fluency of English.

Once you’ve submitted your documents, including proof of education, licensing, and passport photographs, to the FPGEC, the Committee will verify the document. This may take several weeks.

4.   Take and Pass the FPGEE

The Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Equivalency Examination (FPGEE) is necessary to become certified. The exam will test and verify that a foreign-trained pharmacist has the training and knowledge equivalent to one trained in the US. The exam includes 250 multiple choice questions that applicants must answer in five and half hours.

The questions are of different categories, including pharmaceutical sciences, clinical sciences, basic biomedical sciences, and behavioural and administrative topics. Candidates can take the exam up to 5 times.

5.   Start Internship

Before you can practice as a pharmacist in the US, you must have interned for a certain number of hours. Record of these internship hours will be submitted to the state board later when applying for a license. So, register with the state board as a pharmacy intern.

6.   Pass the NAPLEX Exam

The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam is necessary to practice in the US. Only those who have a Doctorate of pharmacy can take this exam. So only pharmacists with a Pharm D can become licensed in the US. If you only have a bachelor’s in pharmacy, you’ll need to study for three more years in the US. The NAPLEX exam is valid in all states. Most states require that you have at least 1500 internship hours before taking the exam.

NAPLEX is completely electronic with 225 questions. Your score will be based on only 200 questions, with the rest being trial balloon questions being considered for future exams. But you won’t know which ones are trial balloons. The exam lasts for 6 hours with several forms of questions.

7.   Get Licensed

Passing the FPGEE means that you’re eligible for licensing, but it doesn’t mean you can practice. The next step is to apply for licensing. According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, each state board has its criteria for licensing. So, the licensing requirements for California might not be the same for New York. The state board may also require applicants to pass other examinations. Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia require that candidates take the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). This exam tests the candidate’s knowledge of pharmacy law. The other states of California, Idaho, and Arkansas have their exam designed based on the pharmacy laws in the state. The minimum score in this exam is 75.

Other possible requirements include disclosing disciplinary history or criminal records, agreeing to the state board code of ethics, etc. Due to the variation of requirements, Canadian pharmacists with multiple job offers should get in touch with the boards of pharmacy in various states. Knowing the licensing requirements can help you pick the right offer. After being licensed, getting a license from another state doesn’t usually require extensive retesting. Only California requires the whole testing all over again. In Florida, you don’t have to take the state board exam if you’re applying for a license within 12 years of passing the exam.

There could also be a need to get special licenses if you’re working in a specialized field of pharmacy. Generally, pharmacy has yet to develop as many specialties as medicine, so only a few states have special licenses. For example, Florida requires a radio-pharmacist license for nuclear pharmacists who prepare and dispense radioactive drugs. The state also has special licenses for pharmacists who work as consultants in nursing homes on residents’ medicine.

8.   Get Professional Liability Insurance

Once you’ve passed the state board test, you have the license to practice in the US. You should also get liability insurance, and there are several options for you in this area. The American Pharmacist Association has affiliations with insurance providers, making it easier to get the right protection.

In Conclusion

Becoming a pharmacy in the US is a straightforward but long and winding road. There are multiple exams to pass and requirements to meet. But it’s worthwhile once you have your license.

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