Redda Talhouni is a pharmD graduate from the University of Jordan, making her way through the pharmaceutical world one jargon at a time. When not, she is sharing her muses on thelastsixyears.wordpress.com
So you decided to get your US pharmacy license after you graduated from a foreign school, huh?
GOOD NEWS: it’s not an impossible task!
GREAT NEWS: continue reading for a step by step plan of how to do so!
The only bad news: Say goodbye to your region’s cuisine because this process will take a year or two to complete. I don’t know about you but bidding farewell to Arabic hummus was one of my most difficult accomplishments.
I’m Redda, a recent pharmD graduate from the University of Jordan; currently in the process of getting the US pharmaceutical licensure in the state of Virginia. At the moment, I am an intern at a retail pharmacy and have yet to take the NAPLEX but these are the steps I’ve taken so far, and will work on through.
Obtaining your license requires completing 3 main steps.
The order of these steps depends on the state you’re in, so always make sure to check your state’s board of pharmacy website.
Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Evaluation Committee Certification (FPGEC):
When you ask fellow foreign licensure hunters, this certification is always hyped up to be the defining step. You’re left thinking, if I pass this, it will all be easy sailing from here. And while that is true to an extent, it is not the hardest step. That being said, it is the most tedious, time consuming and expensive step (around $2000) you’ll take.
To get your FPGEC Certification, you need to
- Qualify for the FPGEC Certification: Applying for qualification requires a lot of papers to be submitted, applications to fill out and registration fees to be paid. And, for the most part, all of the paperwork is done via snail mail. One would assume this step would have been more developed in the 21st century, America?! To make matters worse, once you submit your application, waiting for a response on qualification has no time range.
Applications are processed on a first-come-first-serve basis. In the meantime, you better open those pharmacy books, because now you have to…
- Pass the Foreign Pharmacist Graduate Evaluation Exam(FPGEE) and Test Of English as a Foreign Language internet-Based Test (TOEFL iBT) exams: Studying for these can be quite overwhelming. Luckily, if you head over to Facebook, there are plenty of FPGEE and Toefl iBt support groups that can help you out in every way imaginable.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, once your qualification papers come through, you will have to reserve a seat at the nearest testing center and, depending on how early/late you sent your registration code, you may have to go out of state for the day.
To reiterate: Getting the FPGEC Certification is a long process. Even waiting on the results is approximately another 2 months. My last piece of advice when it comes to dealing with the FPGEC Certification process is to have patience and be flexible. Once you’re done, it’ll feel like a huge weight has been lifted.
Personally, this is the hardest step and, quite frankly, another long process. After your FPGEC Certification is mailed to you, you have to register with your state’s board as a “pharmacy intern”, pay the according fee and then complete a good chunk of hours of pharmaceutical internship. The VA Board requires 1500hrs which, if calculated for 40hrs/week, is exactly 37.5 weeks i.e around 10 months of training.
Anyone who has ever been a student knows how difficult it is to find an internship, let alone a paid one. In addition, various states don’t even count your hours working as a technician.
Here are a few pointers I’ve learned that will help you get an internship:
- Don’t quit your day job: Just because you have the FPGEC Certification doesn’t mean retail pharmacies are waiting with arms wide open In fact, a lot of them will offer you an unpaid internship. If you run out of options, you can always try and work some internship hours after your day job. Yes, this will take longer to complete, but it’s a step in the right direction.
- Work as a technician: Yes, it won’t count as part of your internship, but getting into the healthcare system is a very important step. If you start as a technician, your supervisor may promote you to intern once your certification comes through. Keep in mind that most states require you to take a technician test to qualify for the position.
- Apply, apply, apply and call, call, call: Start by applying online to every opening possible, but don’t forget to follow through with a phone call or even an in-person visit. In pharmacies, things are always changing. A lot of the times, you’ll find a spot has opened up just as you called, or the pharmacists in charge can give you valuable pointers and tips on who to call next. When you apply, make sure to talk to privately-owned pharmacies first. Chances of them hiring a foreign graduate are higher than chain pharmacies.
This step isn’t based on how well you memorize and recall information. Don’t be hard on yourself if it takes a good while to work out your hours, you’ll get there eventually. And when you do so, it’s time to start planning ahead, for the next and final step is a major key.
The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE) are required from foreign and US pharmacy graduates by the boards of pharmacy to assess your pharmaceutical practice competence. The first reviews your pharmaceutical knowledge with scenario based questions, while the latter tests you on pharmacy law with “questions that are specific to the federal law and state laws of the jurisdictions in which candidates are seeking licensure”.
The NAPLEX/MPJE exams have a similar registration and preparation process to the FPGEE, albeit somewhat simpler and cheaper (around $900). I haven’t reached this stage yet, so all I know of it is what I’ve read and asked about i.e they’re pharmacy exams. You’ve come a long way in your pharmaceutical career to be put off by the final two steps, especially when the last step is not a new concept it’s basically studying and answering questions, with almost a year of preparation.
The way I plan on tackling these exams is to find the best source material: ask online groups for tips, and plan a study guide around my day-to-day routine. Don’t start preparing the minute you find an internship; take a month or two to establish a proper routine and then go at it. Study at your own leisure, only two more exams left and you’ll be a licensed pharmacist!
One issue you may be wondering about is the conditions of getting a work visa and, unfortunately, I won’t be able to help with that but I will repeat my earlier tip:
- Look for the online support groups. There are plenty, and they answer many of your inquiries!
Overall, on the lucky chance that you manage to work through these steps efficiently with no hitch in your plan, it will probably take a year or two to complete. If takes longer, welcome the delays. Remember to enjoy the unplanned moments in life and move towards your goal with determination and malleability.
DISCLAIMER: This is based on my own experiences in the state of Virginia. What I deem difficult/easy might not be the same to you. Although the essential information of each step is the same for us all, hopefully your journey will pass easier than mine.