It’s that time of the year again… graduation and licensing time! It’s so weird to think that all of my 6th year friends are about to graduate, because I remember all of the excitement and confusion of graduation and licensing like it was yesterday. I’ve had a few friends ask me to clarify the whole licensure process, and I am more than happy to oblige, because it took me forever to wrap my head around everything that goes into becoming a pharmacist. So in this post, I did my best to lay everything out logically and give you guys some tips to help out the process. Again, like everything else that I pen on this blog, my thoughts are by no means the gold standard… just friendly advice from one formerly confused Eutectic to another.
First things first: definitions and clarifications.
- NAPLEX: North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination. This is the board exam that tests your therapeutic knowledge. There is only one NAPLEX, and once you take it and pass it, you’re done! You don’t have to take it again. You can use your one score on the NAPLEX to apply for pharmacy licensure in any state in the U.S.
- MPJE: Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination. This is the law exam that tests your knowledge of a specific state’s pharmacy laws. You have to take the MPJE for every state that you apply for pharmacist licensure in, because every state’s pharmacy laws are different.
- Score transfer: this is when you have your NAPLEX score sent to multiple states immediately or soon after you take the NAPLEX. You can sign up to score transfer at the time you fill out your pharmacist application (there should be a checkbox on the application that allows you to indicate your desire to score transfer), or you can choose to score transfer within 90 days of taking the NAPLEX through the NABP website. Each state that you score transfer to is considered to be your “home state” for your pharmacist license, and each score transferred license is independent from one another, meaning that you can let one of your licenses expire without it affecting the status of your other score transferred licenses. Remember, you only have 90 days after taking the NAPLEX to score transfer, otherwise you have to reciprocate.
- Reciprocation: this is when you duplicate your license from your home state into another state. A reciprocated license is dependent on your home state license, which means that you cannot let your home state license expire or else all of your reciprocated licenses will be invalid. Reciprocation can be done at any time during your pharmacy career.
Now that we’ve got the basics down, time to talk about the actual application process. I’m a visual person. And so of course, I made a diagram to illustrate (click to enlarge):
A couple of things to note:
- You can sign up for an account with NABP and pay for the NAPLEX and MPJE NOW (step #1). In fact, I would highly encourage you to get this step out of the way now so that NABP can send you your ATT faster once everything else is in place. You sign up for an account under the link on the NABP homepage that says “CPE Monitor” or better yet, I can provide you with the link here. And yes, you have to pay for the test before you are OK-ed to even take the test. This bit me in the butt big time last year.
- The basics of a pharmacist licensure application are a 1) general application, 2) background/criminal check (usually necessitating fingerprinting), and 3) verification of pharmacy intern hours (saying you have enough real-life practice in pharmacy settings to be on your own). At STLCOP, I know that the registrar’s office will fill out as much of your MO or IL pharmacist application as possible (step #4), especially in regards to verfying your intern hours (because your intern hours will most likely be earned through your experiences at STLCOP). STLCOP will then send your application to the BOP once it is complete (because you cannot send in the form until you physically graduate), but if you are applying for licensure in a state other than MO or IL, you will have to find the application, get fingerprinted, and submit forms for intern hour verification on your own.
- Like I mentioned previously, if you are applying for licensure in another state besides MO or IL, you will need to visit that state’s BOP website and do your own research regarding their requirements for pharmacist licensure (the only steps that may change are steps #3 and #4, and you may need to fill out more paperwork/add more steps). Again, to reiterate, most states need the following:
- A completed application (plus or minus a photo)
- Verification of your pharmacist intern hours; which may be able to be verified through the registrar’s office at school, or may necessitate an official form from the MO BOP (Warning!!! The MO BOP allows pharmacist applicants to earn their intern hours through IPPE/APPE experiences during school… STLCOP actually provides us with enough experiences to satisfy the intern hour requirement for MO licensure. However, some states require that you earn intern hours outside of a school of pharmacy in order to qualify for licensure, and this is something you need to check on and fill out more paperwork for).
- Background check which usually necessitates fingerprinting. If you are an out-of-state applicant, you may have to request fingerprint cards from your desired BOP and get physically fingerprinted with ink at a police station (as opposed to being electronically fingerprinted)… this is something you definitely want to check on.
- The faster you get your ATT, the faster you can sign up for a testing date and center (step #7), and this is kind of a big deal because the testing center in St. Louis fills up fast since both STLCOP students and SIUE students are all wanting to sign up at the same center. If there are no more dates, you’ll have to travel to another testing center to take your exams, and this may be in another state necessitating an overnight stay at a hotel. So get things in quickly!
Some words of advice:
- Becoming a pharmacist is expensive. The NAPLEX is $485, each MPJE you take is $200, and the pharmacist applications range anywhere from $100-$250 depending on the state. Score transferring is $75 per state, and reciprocation is ~$350. So make sure you have all your finances in order.
- A wise, wise pharmacist advised me to score transfer my NAPLEX score to any state that I felt that I might end up practicing in. While each score transfer is $75, that money is a small price to pay in comparison to having to reciprocate at ~$350 for one state if I ended up having to practice there. In my case, I became licensed in TN for residency and decided to score transfer to TX (because I’m Texan, of course), CA, and CO. It was actually a really, really, really good thing I score transferred because: 1) TN has a “privilege tax” of $400 that pharmacists have to pay each year to practice in TN. If I hadn’t score transferred, I would have had to reciprocate my TN license, and therefore I would have to keep my TN license active forever and pay $400 per year to a state that I wasn’t even practicing in; and 2) Although I didn’t know I would end up getting a PGY2 in California, the weird thing about CA is that CA doesn’t allow pharmacists to reciprocate their license into the state. If you want to be licensed in CA and you didn’t score transfer at the beginning, you have to retake the NAPLEX ($485!!!) and start from scratch (as if you just graduated from school). Needless to say that would be a pain in the bootay. So for $75, I decided it was worth it to score transfer to CA on the off chance I moved there (I guess I have ESP, haha).
- When you score transfer, each state will hold on to your score for a pre-specified amount of time (usually 1-2 years). This means you have anywhere from 1-2 years (depending on the state) to send in an application and pass the MPJE for that state. Check each state’s BOP website to see how long they will hold on to your score.
- If you are applying for licensure in a state other than MO or IL, remember that it never hurts to call that state’s BOP to verify anything you are confused about or want to double check. For example, when I was applying for licensure in TN, the TN BOP website said that it required applicants to earn intern hours outside of a school of pharmacy. Dilemma: I hadn’t earned any intern hours outside of STLCOP. I called the TN BOP, and lo and behold, that stipulation only applied to students graduating from a TN school of pharmacy. I was in the clear!
- If you are applying for licensure out of state, you will more than likely need a part of your form notarized. DAN STIFFLER IS A NOTARY, AND HE HAS AN OFFICE ON THE FIRST FLOOR OF JONES. This makes your life much, much easier because you don’t have to make a trip to the bank or find somewhere to get your documents notarized. Dan’s office is in the same group of offices as the registrars, and if you have no idea where that is, just ask Jim Heil at the front desk. Jim knows everything. And sorry for increasing your workload, Dan.
And honestly, that’s all there is to the application process! As always, if you have specific questions, feel free to drop me a line. I’m not an expert in all things Board of Pharmacy related, but at the very least I may be able to point you in the right direction.
Hope you guys are having a good week!
P.S. I put links to all of my posts about applying for residency together under the “Applying for a Residency” tab at the top of my blog. Now they’re all together.