Top Certifications and Designations to Enhance Your Pharmacy Career

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Winter 2017
Volume 11
Issue 1

When signing up for the pharmacy profession, one also signs up to be a life-long learner.

When signing up for the pharmacy profession, one also signs up to be a life-long learner. The good news is that there are now many different methods for learning beyond the classroom, such as online courses (MOOCs), podcasts, articles, e-books, and conferences. Some of the hottest areas for pharmacists to continually educate and reeducate themselves are the following:

  • Board Certifications
  • Certifications
  • Certificate Programs and
  • Professional Designations

There are now more than 200 professional certifications or designations that a pharmacist can earn! Read on to learn more about these newer areas in which pharmacists can expand their knowledge.

Board Certifications

Pharmacists can expand their knowledge in a specific area. The traditional Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) certifications came long after board certifications in medicine. However, the choices of certifications for pharmacists reach far beyond BPS board certifications.

Examples of specific areas include ambulatory care, critical care, nuclear, nutrition support, oncology, pediatric, pharmacotherapy and psychiatric pharmacy. The BPS purports that there are currently “more than 21,000 pharmacists worldwide who are BPS board certified.”1 Each board certification requires different eligibility parameters, so it is important to read and understand what is needed in terms of years of professional experience, training, formal education, and continuing education in order to obtain a board certification. Many also require recertification after a given period, as well.


As another option for pharmacists, these tend to be attached to didactic lectures and an examination, but they may only include an examination. Certifications can be quite similar in rigor to board certifications, but they typically do not have a recertification examination component associated with them once you earn the certification or credential; however, continuing education hours may be part of the ongoing process of remaining up-to-date in the field of certification.

Examples include an Accredited Health Care Fraud Investigator certification from the National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association,2 or a Certified Health Data Analyst certification from the American Health Information Management Association.3 Pharmacists who enjoy the fields of wellness and fitness can explore one of several certifications offered by the American College of Sports Medicine,4 whereas those interested in medical coding or billing should consider a certification through the AAPC.5


These are earned following the completion of shorter courses which may or may not require an examination at the end. These courses tend to be dense, with many of them taking place over a single week. They are often run through professional societies or universities.

Finding examples of certificate programs can be as simple as googling your favorite topic or university. A search of one of my own alma maters, Indiana University, and “health care certificate” revealed several programs, including an Innovation and Implementation Science Graduate Certificate Program and a Clinical Research Graduate Certificate.6

Professional Designations

These are awarded following the completion of a program in a special field. The programs are similar to those required to earn a certificate, but they tend to be based on short courses with didactic lectures and an examination.

I earned my first professional designation—a Professional, Academy of Healthcare Management certification—in 2016. To achieve this designation, I had to work through more than 20 modules online before taking an examination.

There is also second level of professional designation known as a fellow. However, becoming a fellow isn’t an accomplishment that a pharmacist can earn overnight; many fellow designations are bestowed upon individuals for their lifetime body of work in a field—in our case, in pharmacy.

Fellows are often designated either by professional societies, including the American College of Clinical Pharmacy and the American Pharmacists Association, or by state pharmacy associations such as the Arizona Pharmacists Association.

Whether you are on day one as a new pharmacist, midcareer, or seeing the retirement light at the end of the career tunnel, new and different ways exist to continue learning and growing as pharmacists. In addition to formal degree-bearing education, consider these newer concepts in furthering your professional study of pharmacy practice!

Erin Albert, MBA, PharmD, JD, PAHM, is a health outcomes pharmacist/fellowship director with Myers and Stauffer, an attorney, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster with Pharmacy Podcast, and career development coach. More on her at her website,


  • Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) website. Accessed November 27, 2016.
  • National Healthcare Anti-Fraud Association (NHCAA) website. Accessed November 27, 2016.
  • American Health Information Management Association (AHiMA) website. Accessed November 27, 2016.
  • American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) website. Accessed November 27, 2016.
  • American Academcy of Professional Coders (AAPC) website. Accessed December 4, 2016.
  • Indiana University website. Accessed November 27, 2016.

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