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Psychiatric pharmacy is one of six specialties recognized by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties in the United States. Practicing as a board-certified psychiatric pharmacist requires earning and maintaining specialized certification. Although you don't necessarily require certification to work as a pharmacist in mental health, employers prefer pharmacists with proven knowledge in psychiatric medicine. Pharmacists in psychiatric settings tend to earn more than general pharmacists, a fact partially explained by their extra qualifications.
Psychiatric pharmacists are part of health care teams that develop treatment plans for people affected by mental illness. They're responsible for monitoring patient responses to drugs and adjusting dosages as necessary. Some work in drug-abuse rehabilitation centers, while others work in mental health hospitals. According to 2010 information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists in general made between $82,090 and $138,620 per year in 2010, with the average salary at $109,380. The average pay for pharmacists in mental retardation, mental health and substance-abuse facilities was about 10 percent higher at $122,380. Assuming uniformly higher salaries across the pay scale, psychiatric pharmacists would earn between $90,000 and $150,000.
To maximize your earning potential as a psychiatric pharmacist, consider a region where pay is higher for pharmacists. As of 2010, Maine, California and Alaska were the top-paying states for pharmacists. Pharmacists is Maine earned $121,470 on average. Californian and Alaskan pharmacists weren't far behind, netting average annual salaries between $118,000 and $119,000.
To become certified as a psychiatric pharmacist, you need to be a licensed professional and a graduate of an accredited pharmacy program. Most applicants have doctoral degrees, although you might have a different degree if you were educated in a different country or if you graduated with a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree. Pharmacists generally need four years of practice with 50 percent of the time spent in psychiatric pharmacy. A residency in psychiatric pharmacy, along with one year of work experience with 50 percent of the time spent in psychiatric pharmacy also meets the work experience requirement. Applicants then must pass the Psychiatric Pharmacy Specialty Certification Examination. To register for the exam and apply for the specialty, visit the Board of Pharmacy Specialties' website.
Certification lasts for seven years, after which credential-holders must complete a recertification examination. Alternatively, certified pharmacists can bypass the test by completing 100 continuing education credits through the College of Psychiatric and Neurological Pharmacists. Each year, certified pharmacists must pay an administration fee of $100. Recertification costs $400, regardless of whether you choose to take the exam or meet requirements through continuing education seminars, courses and recertification training.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Pharmacists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2010, Pharmacists
- College of Psychiatric and Neurological Pharmacists: Frequently Asked Questions About Board Certification
- Board of Pharmacy Specialties: Psychiatric Pharmacy
- College of Psychiatric and Neurological Pharmacists: Residency Training Opportunities in Psychiatric Pharmacy
A professional writer since 2006, Colleen Reinhart has held positions in technical writing and marketing. She also writes lifestyle, health and business articles. She holds a Bachelor of Arts and Business degree from the University of Waterloo, and a Master's degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Toronto.