Are board of pharmacy specialty certifications worth it for pharmacists?

The Board of Pharmacy Specialty (BPS) certifications are considered to be the mark of achievement for pharmacists in specific clinical specialities. State pharmacy laws do not mandate the obtainment of these certifications to practice pharmacy, but they are preferred and desired by most employers and even patients.

The organization that oversees these certifications, the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS), was created in 1976 and has certified over 21,000 worthy pharmacists in their desired specialties (2). BPS is an independent, non-partisan organization that objectively tests and certifies interested pharmacists.

BPS certification is considered an important statement of an individual’s competence. Certified pharmacists are viewed as the most qualified to deliver a high-level of healthcare(2). There are currently eight specialties that BPS offers: ambulatory care pharmacy, critical care pharmacy, nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, pediatric pharmacy, pharmacotherapy, and psychiatric pharmacy.

In order to adequately prepare for each exam, candidates should become familiar with the current content outline for their specialty that is posted on the BPS website ( Candidates should also thoroughly study any relevant textbooks, journal articles, and other texts that are referenced in the content outline or related to the content outline. For each application, the fee at this time for first-time American and Canadian applicants is $600 U.S. dollars. The fee is $685 U.S. dollars for first-time non-American and non-Canadian applicants. For candidates who have failed a specialization examination within the past year, reduced fee of $300 U.S. dollars is available(2).

The final score of the exam will determine whether the candidate passed or failed and ultimately, whether they receive the certification or not. The minimum passing score is 500 and the maximum score is 800. A candidate’s report will be sent electronically about 60 days after the close of their testing window. Candidates can access these scores by logging in to their MyBPS account.

Candidates considering tackling their BPS certification examinations should be serious and dedicated to putting in the required time and effort. At the very minimum, two months should be devoted to studying for the exam(1);  however, more time for preparation. may be needed to successfully pass the exam. Unfortunately, the exams are quite expensive so a no-nonsense approach is necessary when studying and preparing for them.  There are specific windows for registering and taking the exam each year, so be sure to check the BPS website for more information.

Some argue that the outcome of board certification is not worth the extreme effort needed in order to successfully receive certification. Yet patients seem to greatly value BPS certified pharmacists with 95% of patients rating board certification important or very important(3). As patients demand a higher level of quality care, board certified pharmacists may become more and more necessary.

There are many other benefits that are part of successfully receiving a BPS certification. Most employers look for certified pharmacists during the hiring process since these certifications create greater employer confidence(1). The extra knowledge that candidates must learn in order to receive a BPS certification almost guarantees a higher level of patient care and a higher percentage of positive outcomes.

Certified candidates have more opportunities for growth since they are capable of taking on collaborative drug therapy management positions(1). They may have a higher level of competence and current updated knowledge than other candidates that have not received a BPS certification. This, in turn, allows for more opportunity for promotions through avenues such as prescriptive authority, monetary compensation, and management roles.

Other health care professionals highly regard certified pharmacists, which often leads to other professional opportunities. Overall, these candidates are highly recognized in the pharmacy profession and individuals that receive these certifications are often considered a step above other pharmacists.

1. American journal of health-system pharmacy: AJHP: official journal of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists react-text: 50 67(14):1146, 1150-1 /react-text react-text: 53  ·  /react-text react-text: 54 July 2010.

2. Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS). “Fall 2016 Candidate’s Guide”.

3. Haines, Stuart T. “Does Board Certification Really Matter?” Pharmacotherapy 34.8 (2014): 799-801. Web.

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