To become employed as a pharmacist in Canada, you require a university degree in pharmacy and a period of supervised practical training. And because community and hospital pharmacists belong to a regulated profession, you will require a license from the province or territory where you plan to reside. You can only call yourself a pharmacist or practice the profession if you are licensed as a full member in one of the provincial/territorial bodies. These bodies are represented by the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA).
If you plan to continue your pharmacist career in Canada, it’s wise to research the profession before you move to Canada. This will ensure that you meet the requirements, or understand the steps you must take to meet job requirements.
Before You Move to Canada
When you take the time to research the field of pharmacy in Canada, you can pave the way to your career success. Start with this information so that you can take charge of your career. These are some steps that you can take before you move to Canada to improve your chances of practicing as a pharmacist when you arrive:
- Attend the Job Search Strategies and Techniques in Canada webinar to learn about the labour market and job trends.
- Contact the pharmacy regulatory association (see links below: Section 5) in the province where you’ll settle in Canada. Find out about the:
- Procedures you must follow and the cost and time required to obtain a license to practice pharmacy
- Licensing steps you can take before and after you immigrate.
- Contact the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC) to have your qualifications assessed and determine if you’re eligible to take the PEBC Qualifying Exam. If you’re immigrating to Quebec, contact the Ordre des pharmaciens du Quebec.
- Assess your language skills by taking an online self-assessment on the Canadian Language Benchmarks website.
- Improve your language skills and enroll in language classes in your home country and continue them after you move to Canada. You’ll need to prove your English or French (depending on your destination province) language competency or be tested.
- Gather and organize your official education, work and identity documents while still in your home country. Check with your provincial or territorial regulatory body to find out what documents you will need and verify if they need to be translated. You may need to use a professional translation service in Canada.
1. Understanding Pharmacy Job Requirements
It’s important to research how pharmacy in Canada is practiced and to become familiar with provincial laws and legislation where you’ll settle.
As well, Understanding the broader requirements of job market trends and trends specific to the pharmacy profession will place you in a strong position to achieve your career goals. The National Occupational Classification is a good place to start. Using the 5-digit pharmacists NOC code 31120, you can begin to understand the main duties, example titles, and employment requirements.
Another tip is to know the name of your job in Canada. This information will help you when you begin your job search.
2. Employment for Pharmacists in Canada
Combined with using the NOC 31120, you can do further research to gather detailed information about working as a pharmacist in Canada. Vital information provided by the Government of Canada’s Job Bank outlines factors such as pharmacist wages, job prospects, requirements and more. Since job prospects can vary across Canada, it’s essential to identify where the prospects are good and use the information to inform your important settlement decisions.
Credential Recognition for Pharmacists
One of the first things to do before you arrive is to find out the specific requirements to work as a pharmacist in Canada. You can start by contacting the regulatory body for pharmacists in the province or territory where you intend to settle in Canada. They will advise you about the process, the documents you require, and the assessment fees. Alternatively, you may contact the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA). NAPRA serves as the national voice for the province and territory regulatory bodies.
It’s also important to become fully aware of the licensure procedure and what the regulatory body will expect of you. For example, regardless of your education or experience, you need to have a license in Canada to practice as a pharmacist.
You will have to successfully complete the PEPC evaluating exam, in addition to a two-part qualifying exam.
Information on the evaluating and qualifying examinations can be obtained from PEBC.
- You need to gain practical experience in a Canadian pharmacy workplace to get your pharmacist license. The provincial/territorial regulatory body will determine the period of time for the structured practical training under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist that you require.
- If you’re immigrating to Quebec, you have to follow the requirements set by the Ordre des pharmaciens du Quebec.
Credential Assessment Services
If you plan to attend college or university to upgrade your skills, contact the school to find out what steps to take and what credential assessment agency you should use.
To find more organizations and agencies providing credential evaluation, assessment and qualification recognition services click here.
Best Locations and Prospects for Pharmacists in Canada
It’s vital to gather as much information as possible about job prospects, especially since labour market conditions for 2019-2028 indicate that pharmacists are expected to face labour surplus conditions. However, you will discover provinces and regions where the demand for pharmacists is good such as Calgary and Edmonton in Alberta, and Hamilton, Ottawa, and Windsor in Ontario.
Major Employers for Pharmacy Jobs in Canada
The number of employers of pharmacists across Canada has also risen over the years as the population continues to age. The majority of pharmacists in Canada work in the retail trade sector and health care. Pharmacists can be employed by drugstores, hospitals and pharmaceutical firms, but some are self-employed and own their own pharmacies.
There is a whole new range of career opportunities in homecare operations as well as in grocery stores, big-box retail stores, health management organizations, and government and third-party insurance payers. Pharmacists also find employment in the biotech, insurance and pharmaceutical industries (such as in research, marketing or sales).
You can visit Canada’s Best Diversity Employers website to check for pharmaceutical or healthcare firms that you might be interested in. This special designation recognizes Canada’s best employers for diversity, inclusion, and equity.
3. Upgrading Your Skills to Meet Pharmacy Job Requirements
In addition to accreditation, another part of your journey to becoming a pharmacist in Canada is to upgrade your skills. You can upgrade your skills through bridging programs or other courses and workshops.
As a pharmacist, you must continually update your knowledge and skills on new pharmaceutical procedures and practices. You can benefit from ongoing learning and professional growth through continuing education courses and seminars.
Skills Upgrading for Pharmacists
You may have strong technical skills, but often that is not enough to get a job or maintain it afterward. As a pharmacist, you are expected to have an interest in helping people. Other vital skills include strong communication and problem-solving skills, and you must understand:
- Biochemical mechanisms of action of drugs
- Drug uses and therapeutic roles
- Side effects and potential interactions.
Language Training for Pharmacists
You may need more training or skills upgrading, especially with regard to your soft skills.
Pharmacy requires advanced reading, writing, and speaking language ability. Having strong skills in one or both of Canada’s official languages – English or French – is extremely important for your future in Canada. Whether you choose to focus on learning or improving English or French will depend on which of the two languages most people speak in the area where you intend to live.
You may be eligible for Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program. Otherwise, you can find other free or affordable classes in English as a Second Language (ESL) or French as a Second Language (FSL) classes through school boards or settlement agencies.
There are even language courses to teach you professional terminology, such as job-specific language training and Occupation Specific Language Training (OSLT) in Ontario. And if you already speak one of Canada’s two official languages at a high level, learning the other one is a good option, as it may offer you better employment opportunities.
If you intend to be self-employed you may require advanced business skills as well as financial resources to establish and maintain the practice.
Bridging programs are a good way to transition from your international experience and training to the Canadian workplace. Many colleges, universities, and immigrant-serving agencies offer pharmacy-related bridging programs or workshops. You may be eligible for one. Do some research to find a program that’s suitable for you.
Bredin Centre for Learning
A tuition-based program that helps internationally-trained pharmacists to acquire a license to practice pharmacy in Alberta. Upon successful completion of examinations required for licensure, graduates are fully prepared to launch their careers within the Alberta pharmacy workforce and the greater community.
University of British Columbia
This program is run twice yearly, in spring and fall. This program is designed for internationally-trained pharmacists to achieve the competencies for practice in Canada, and for Canadian-trained pharmacists to re-enter pharmacy practice in British Columbia after a prolonged absence or provide updates on core competencies for practicing pharmacists.
University of Toronto
This program helps internationally-trained pharmacists meet Canadian practice standards. The program includes practical courses, opportunities for mentoring, and licensing exam preparation.
Many immigrants take further education after coming to Canada. Some want to change careers or enhance their careers with a Ph.D. or MBA. Read more about the benefits of higher education in Canada.
4. Job Search Techniques for Pharmacists
The Canadian job market is competitive, so you need to prepare and understand what steps to take to gain employment. As well, finding a job in Canada may be very different than in your home country.
You have to be registered to work as a pharmacist in the province or territory where you intend to settle.
You must look for jobs in the region where you will be registered. Therefore, take your time to research job requirements in that region and develop a plan to find work.
There are many ways to search for jobs in the pharmacy sector.
- Broaden your search and include alternative careers.
- Seek out a mentor in the pharmacy sector who could share their insights and advice, and possibly introduce you to their professional network.
- Join pharmacy or healthcare job-finding or networking clubs through immigrant-serving agencies.
- Attend pharmacy or healthcare job fairs and regularly check the employment sections of your local newspapers.
- Some pharmacy colleges or associations may maintain a job bank or suggest a commercial job site. As well, hospitals and other health institutions generally post vacancies on their websites.
Immigrant Settlement Agencies
Finding a pharmacist job in Canada may be different than in your home country. You may need help to find job vacancies, update your resume, write cover letters, prepare for interviews, and understand what Canadian employers look for.
Most settlement agencies offer free job search services that can reduce the stress and anxiety of navigating your job search.
Click the link to find immigrant services in your area.
Writing Your Resume
As the Canadian job market is competitive, you must stand out from other applicants. With the right resume, you’ll be able to continue your pharmacist career in Canada.
Resume Writing Tips:
Have a solid objective on your resume to help your prospective employer know what kind of career you’re looking for. If you’re licensed, state that in your objective. For example, write, “Licensed pharmacist with three years of professional study.”
Include any internships and volunteer placements you had or currently have in Canada. Also mention the name and city of the pharmacy college you attended, along with your degree and courses, such as compounding or ambulatory care. Also, mention the Canadian province where you got your license.
Step away from just describing what you did and where. Start by thinking about what value you add to your current or previous organization. How did you help them reduce medication errors, or potentially save money? Did you develop any new programs or projects that changed the way your department did things? Don’t be afraid to give specifics.
Action words best describe your work experience. For example, write, “Dispensed and compound prescriptions, informed patients of dosing information and directions for use and interacted with XYZ and other insurance providers regarding billing or reimbursement issues.”
Make a list of skills that are relevant to your pharmacy career. List your most relevant skills at the top. You may include skills such as distributing prescription drugs, compounding and counselling patients. If you have any pharmaceutical specialties, add them (i.e. acute/critical care, ICU, retail, nuclear pharmaceuticals). For an online resume, you should include keywords relative to your pharmacist career. This can help employers find you on the Internet.
Interview Techniques for Pharmacists
Pharmacy is one of the most unique job types available. As the job market is competitive, you need to practice answering common pharmacy interview questions.
It is rare that you’ll be asked technical questions, as your interviewer may assume that you have the knowledge necessary to handle your pharmacy job, otherwise you wouldn’t have completed your degree. Brushing up on your technical knowledge before your interview may be a good idea. However, you should practice responding to basic interview questions, as well as common questions that an interviewer may ask you.
Here are some sample pharmacist job interview questions to help you prepare for your next interview.
- Why did you decide to pursue a career in pharmacy?
- Here is a case describing a common drug interaction. How would you resolve the problem?
- How do you spot drug-seeking behaviour?
- How do you combine business requirements with the pharmacy profession?
While the job outlook looks positive for pharmacists, landing that next opportunity – especially for newcomers like you – requires extra effort and outreach.
Informational interviewing can be viewed as a way to put your communication skills, research skills and time management talents to work for your own benefit.
An informational interview is a brief (20–30-minute) meeting that you schedule with a person who is currently working as a pharmacist to learn more about the industry in Canada.
You should not try to get a job during an informational interview but rather find out more about the field. Doing so can help you to assess what skills, knowledge, or experience you may need and which ones are highly valued and in demand. An informational interview with a contact from your network can be an excellent source of career information. In addition to basic information about the industry, someone who works in the industry can provide their first-hand experiences and impressions.
- Make a list of the pharmacies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, public health agencies, and others, as desired, that operate in your area.
- Use your resources including professional organizations, LinkedIn, and other networking tools to identify organization insiders, such as pharmaceutical recruiters, health unit coordinators, etc.
- Create 5 – 10 open-ended questions that you would like to know more about.
Networking is an essential tool that may give you job leads, offer you advice and information about a particular firm or industry, and introduce you to others so that you can expand your network. As many job vacancies are not advertised, you must make connections with practicing pharmacists and others in your field.
Good places to network include pharmaceutical conferences, associations, or places where people meet to share information and build professional relationships.
LinkedIn is another essential professional tool for networking. It is great to connect with former colleagues and employers, search for companies and jobs, and get introductions and recommendations. You can also connect with people in the pharmaceutical sector and join related professional groups.
But remember, that it takes time to grow the ties you establish through networking. Nothing will happen overnight and you need to be patient.
5. Pharmacy Associations in Canada
The following associations provide information about licensure and certification and offer professional development, education, and networking opportunities.
Provincial and Territorial Pharmacist Regulatory Bodies
Newfoundland and Labrador
Prince Edward Island
Professional immigrant networks are organized, volunteer-run member-based associations or networks created by and for immigrant professionals that seek to:
- Create a forum to contribute to and enrich their respective communities
- Provide opportunities for their members to find meaningful employment and achieve their professional goals.
Activities of these networks include networking events, mentoring, information sessions, professional development opportunities such as workshops, speaker events and training and connections to employment opportunities.
isans: Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia: isans helps newcomer professionals with their full economic and social integration in the province of Nova Scotia.
For information, tools, free webinars, and more visit our Finding a Job in Canada resource page. Get the help you need to achieve your career goals in Canada!