How to Become a Pharmacist in the U.S. – For Non-U.S. Citizens

How to Become a Pharmacist in the U.S. – For Non-U.S. Citizens

Becoming a U.S. citizen is difficult, but it is even more difficult to become a pharmacist in the U.S. It’s a highly competitive industry, perhaps because the U.S. is one of the driving forces that is pushing the global pharmacy profession forward. And, pharmacists in the U.S. are among the highest paid pharmacists in the world, earning an average salary of around $120,950, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.

If that’s not convincing enough, there are tons of benefits of becoming a pharmacist in the U.S., including:

  • Many opportunities for continuing education
  • The ability to practice in a variety of clinical settings
  • A strong community of pharmacy professionals
  • A salary that will provide a good standard of living

If you are considering becoming a pharmacist in the U.S., here’s some information that will help you achieve your goal. You might want to bookmark this page so you can refer to it as you progress on your journey.

Two Tracks

If you are interested in practicing pharmacy in the U.S., there are two tracks that you can consider. The first is to attend a pharmacy school in the U.S. that accepts international students. The second track is to attend pharmacy school in another country and obtain special certification that allows you to practice in the U.S.

Requirements For U.S. Pharmacy Students

Students at U.S. pharmacy schools must meet certain requirements in order to practice pharmacy in the U.S. These requirements, listed in logical order, include:

            Becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy

The Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree program requires at least two years of undergraduate study and four academic years of graduate study. Generally speaking, non-U.S. pharmacy students must meet the same admission requirements as U.S. students, including prerequisites and standardized tests.

Most U.S. pharmacy schools require that applicants apply through the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS). You can check the PharmCAS website to find out which schools accept applications from non-U.S. students.

            Passing the NAPLEX

The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) is a 185-question exam administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). It assesses a pharmacist’s ability to provide safe, effective, accurate and competent pharmacotherapy.

You must have a Pharm.D. degree to sit for the NAPLEX. If you graduate from a U.S. pharmacy school, you must pass the NAPLEX in order to become licensed to practice pharmacy in the U.S.

Obtaining a State Board License

Each U.S. state has a board of pharmacy that sets requirements that a prospective pharmacist must meet before they can be licensed to practice pharmacy. In addition to passing the NAPLEX and obtaining a Pharm.D. degree, pharmacists must also apply for licensure to practice in a specific state.

Although requirements vary for each state, some states require that pharmacists pass a state law examination such as the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE), submit a criminal background check and/or make an appearance before the board of pharmacy.

Requirements for Graduates of Non-U.S. Pharmacy Schools

Graduates of non-U.S. pharmacy schools can practice pharmacy in the U.S., but they must obtain their Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee (FPGEC) Certification in order to become licensed by a state board of pharmacy. Non-U.S. pharmacists must apply to the NABP in order to be considered for the FPGEC, which reviews foreign education and licensure/registration.


In order to apply for the FPGEC Certification, you must be a graduate of a recognized or accredited school of pharmacy and provide documentation showing that you are licensed or registered to practice pharmacy in a foreign country. You must also meet educational requirements.


You will be required to provide an official application, which will include Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE) such as transcripts, proof of degree and translation of non-English documents.


There are two examinations that you must pass to obtain your FPGEC Certification:

Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Equivalency Examination (FPGEE)

The exam contains 250 questions on basic biomedical sciences, pharmaceutical sciences, social, behavioral and administrative pharmacy sciences and clinical science. You must receive a scaled score of 75 of higher in order to pass. The test is offered twice per year.

Test of English as a Foreign Language Internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT)

The TOEFL iBT can be taken at an approved testing center and focuses on reading, listening, speaking and writing English. FPGEC candidates can take the TOEFL iBT at any time during the certification process.


FPGEC approval has several steps, including:

  • Initial evaluation of application and supporting documentation – 6 weeks
  • Evaluation of additional documentation or re-evaluation of documentation – 6 weeks
  • Approval to take FPGEE (testing offered twice a year – once in the spring and once in the fall)
  • Retrieving FPGEE scores – 8 weeks after testing
  • Final Evaluation (after providing all documentation and passing FPGEE and TOEFL iBT) – Up to 10 weeks

International mail time and testing schedules can also affect this timeline. FPGEC applicants also must apply for licensure from their state board of pharmacy before they are able to practice in the U.S.


NABP customer service can assist by providing basic information, processing payments, updating addresses and resending correspondence. NABP customer service can be reached at or 1-847-391-4406.

Only the FPGEC can answer specific questions about the application process, candidate files and disputes. Questions will only be accepted in writing and can be sent to NABP, Attn: FPGEC, 1600 Feehanville Drive, Mount Prospect, IL, 60056, USA or by fax at 1-847-391-4502.