Should Pharmacist Board Certification Be Required?

Should pharmacist board certification be required or is passing the NAPLEX enough?

I received an email the other day from a fellow colleague stating that their employer was requiring them to become board certified in geriatrics (BCGP). I have heard of other situations where this is happening as well. It begs the question: Should pharmacist board certification be required for certain positions?

Before giving my opinion, I want to fully disclose that we sell study materials for many of these exams. I have followed pharmacist board certifications for over a decade now and have always felt that this was eventually going to be a requirement for many clinical positions. At a minimum, it is an easy way for employers to give preference to candidates when reviewing applications for clinical positions.

In my own personal career, I saw the value of obtaining board certification. I do not have a residency on my resume but have worked in clinical settings since obtaining licensure as a pharmacist over a decade ago. I always felt like I needed to have something extra to demonstrate my competency in clinical areas. BCPS and BCGP certifications allowed me to get job interviews that I don’t think I would’ve gotten without obtaining the credentials. In addition to that, I learned a lot in my preparations for these exams. In my case, I do not believe I would have received an interview for a clinical position without those certifications.

While I think that having a board certification(s) is going to make you more marketable for clinical jobs, let’s get back to the original question; Should board certification be required? If so, what instances should it be required?

My Take – Should Pharmacist Board Certification Be Required?

I’m not an advocate for blanket mandates of pharmacist board certification. The reason we have the NAPLEX is to ensure that pharmacy students have a baseline competency in our expertise. For certain specialized clinical positions, I definitely think an argument can be made to mandate pharmacist board certification and I understand why certain employers do it.

A few years ago, a study was published by APHA (2020) and it was basically an even split of 51% to 49% of whether employers prefer/require board certification. Community/retail pharmacy positions are much less likely to place any emphasis on pharmacist board certification for traditional dispensing pharmacy roles. The majority of employers associated with clinical work did place an emphasis on getting board certified.

My Advice

If you want to work in clinical pharmacy positions and aren’t nearing retirement, you will likely have to obtain a board certification at some point in your career. It is not a mandate for most positions yet, but I feel like this is slowly creeping into the clinical pharmacy world. Even if it isn’t required, many feel pressure from their board-certified colleagues or feel their resume may be lacking if they would like to change positions. If you are inclined to have a more clinical role (or continue working in a clinical role) in the profession of pharmacy, I would encourage you to work on board certification sooner rather than later as I occasionally hear of pharmacists who are given a deadline by their employer to complete and pass their board certification exam. With historically low pass rates (50-60% for some exams), it can take candidates numerous tries to pass these difficult exams.

What do you think? Should pharmacist board certification be required?

If you are looking for more information on a specific certification (BCPS, BCACP, BCMTMS, BCGP), I’ve laid out the latest information for 2023 right here.


  1. Ty C

    Totally agree with the certifications but with that should come compensation as well and often that is not the case unfortunately we continue to get asked to get more and more certifications and do more and more work WITHOUT being compensated appropriately. Examples nursing ladders are a similar concept that seemingly has no issues with increased pay as you progress but I’m not seeing that with pharmacy, just more asks.

    • Eric Christianson

      It is a fair point. I’ve heard of some getting pay raises with certification, but more often than not, it has not come with pay raises. You are probably more likely to get the pay raise you desire by taking a different position and negotiating salary with a new job offer while having the certification on your resume. At a minimum, I always encourage candidates to ask their employer to provide a stipend for study materials and the day off to take the exam. Hopefully most employers are supportive of employees that are seeking self-improvement.

  2. Jack Grider

    I have recently retired but I feel that the time is here for these certifications for clinical positions and even retail type certification for retail pharmacists at some point.

    • Eric Christianson

      Thanks for the comment Jack!

  3. Blu

    Hi Eric,
    I have my BCGP but am not sure what I am supposed to be doing with it. I pay my dues, but am I supposed to be getting CEs in geriatrics and from whom? Sorry, I got my BCGP shortly before the pandemic and have not really used it. I feel like it has not really done much for me and thought about not paying the dues but my friends tell me the test is hard to pass so that would be a waste. Is BPS supposed to be providing some continuing ed for us? I don’t feel like they do anything.

    • Eric Christianson

      Thanks for the comment! I view the certifications as more of a security blanket if/when considering a job transition. I have retaken the exam at the time my certification ended and have passed both times. I’ve found I focus more and remember more clinical information when I know there is a test coming up. It is not necessary to do the CE if you retake a shorter recertification exam. Many who do not like taking tests will look to pay and go for the CE route. Hope that helps!

  4. Bill Jones

    Board certification should not be required. Pharmacists pride themselves as being evidence-based. I have searched for articles showing that a board certified pharmacist results in a better outcome than a pharmacist who is not board certified and there is nothing. Until there is evidence that being board certified positively impacts the covenantal relationship pharmacists have with patients, there should not be a requirement. Taking a two-dimensional exam does not make one better at caring for patients. It shows diligence in working to pass the test and that is a positive in hiring someone. I would venture to say the same is true of completing a residency. It shows a level of commitment and dedication to themselves that has value.

    Should someone who is board certified be paid more? I disagree with that also. Passing the test without evidence that patients are better served should not result in compensation.

    • Eric Christianson

      Thanks for the comment! Maybe someone will undertake your idea and study the patient outcome benefits of board certification compared to not having it. Maybe there are other studies in different professions? From a personal/anecdotal point of view, I definitely learned clinical information in my time preparing for these exams. Good discussion.

      • Bill Jones

        learning a lot is not the same as improving outcomes. I know it is hard work and costs money. I have talked to many who have said they did not recertify because of the lack of perceived value and the costs.

        I think there is a huge conflict of interest on the part of ASHP and ACCP to sell the study materials and then promote that board certification is required.

        • Eric Christianson

          Hi Bill, thanks for the message. As I mentioned in my article, I absolutely have a conflict of interest as well but would also state that I sought board certification well prior to creating and selling any study materials. I had people reach out asking me what and how I studied and passed the exams. From that, I realized that there was need for something different. I try to find the balance between keeping the price down and receiving payment for the thousands of hours myself and others have put in over the last 8-10 years of creating content because I know a lot of people have student loans like I did. ASHP and ACCP are in the same boat as far as the conflict of interest.

          I would highly suspect that ASHP and ACCP generate the most amount of revenue from all the CE that is required for each recertification period. I and many others have elected to forgo the CE route and retake the exam for recertification. I don’t know that for sure, but I have received a fair number of emails from people over the years about where to get the CE and I don’t think pharmacists have many other viable options for the recertification CE.

          As for the value, it definitely got me an interview earlier in my career that I do not feel I would’ve gotten without board certification. I would agree that there isn’t much value UNTIL you get let go or want to move on from your job which was the case for me. It’s hard to predict the future. Clinical pharmacy jobs in my experience are not always the most stable positions within organizations and if you need a way out or are forced out, having the certification in place is not a guarantee, but it is going to help your chances.

  5. Jim Farrell

    I align my thoughts along the same lines as Eric.
    In my particular instance, being within a rapidly dwindling pool of BSPharm only pharmacists, I found myself needing stand out from a rapidly growing field of candidates for various positions within a large health care system in Western North Carolina. Like Eric, I had no residency, but I did have many years of experience. While looking over required prerequisites for various positions, it was obvious that being board certified was often required, but not always required. So I took the plunge and obtained BCGP at age 65, a true geriatric, geratric pharmacist. LOL
    Should board certification be required – at his time I would say no. However, as a caveat, those seeking a more clinical type situation, they should see the value of board certification. Presently and primarily across the chain retail pharmacy arena, there is more and more displeasure among pharmacists with their role in this setting. This displeasure is pushing pharmacists out of chain retail and into other roles. I see board certificaton as a means to an end, providing opportunities to pharmacists to stand out from a crowd and to be noticied
    As others have pointed out, increased compensation is often not seen when board certfied. I find it hard to place value on job satisfaction. The sum totality of the value of personal happiness for many is compensation enough.

    • Eric Christianson

      Thank for the comment Jim!

  6. Andy

    I do not believe it should be required. We are all “board certified” when we pass NAPLEX and board certification is just another way to take more $$ out of you and give you even less of a life outside of profession. I am big advocate on keeping up but not to the point of giving up my hobbies and interests outside of profession . Pharmacy is not my life .
    Another issue is compensation and opportunities. There isn’t much of that . We are not paid like physicians and even NPs make more than us now in certain settings.
    You are also doing exact same job before and after certification . Nothing changes.
    When everyone follows instead of thinking for themselves, this is the situation .
    You have pharmacists unhappy in their jobs , no life other than work, comparing themselves against their peers. Result is not a happy one.
    Most of us are stuck in their jobs without any upward movement other than management.

  7. Amy

    BPS requires experience in the specialty before a pharmacist can sit for the exam. Employers requiring certification for a job are benefiting from the experience other employers offered without providing that experience from their payroll. At the very least, there is a disconnect between employers and BPS when experience is required but employers don’t want to provide experience to those who aren’t certified.

  8. Joan

    Given the current trend to expand pharmacist scope, I am in favour of certification. I don’t see it as mandatory, more like with physicians, pursuing a specialty. I recently got my MTM. Like Jim, I am in my 60’s, so another geriatric pharmacist?! I think that the role of the pharmacist will be mostly patient care in the future. Let’s face it, automating dispensing is already here. I feel that I can benefit my patients by ensuring that they are getting the most benefit from their meds.

  9. Dr. Lee

    Mandatory or no mandatory, a board specialty could definitely offer more chances for the individuals who had one, depending on their personal goal. I started as RPh with BS Pharm at a retail pharmacy in CA, then earned PharmD (it took me 5 years while working full time), then obtained BCGP when I moved to a long term care pharmacy. About 2 years later, I was given a chance to work as a clinical pharmacist at a community health center with a lot of limits. I figured I needed to show what I could do in addition to what they expected (which was almost non-existent), so I obtained BC-ADM for myself and DSMES Accreditation for the company. After another 2 years of working hard with DM patients, the company finally started to recognize what clinical pharmacists could do, and expanded my privileges. Now I do have prescribing authority (staffs and patients are calling me Dr. Lee), payors started to cover prescriptions I order (after struggling for 4 years), I chair P&T committee, I supervise clinic medication management, and the company recently hired another clinical pharmacist with a prospect to further expand the department. In conclusion, I do not believe it should be a mandatory, but it can definitely enhance the scope of pharmacist’s practice.


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Written By Eric Christianson

July 12, 2023

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