To become a nuclear pharmacist, it is necessary to attend pharmacy school and receive special training in the safe handling of radioactive materials. After meeting training requirements, an exam is given to qualify for a license to work as a pharmacist. Applicants can pursue additional certifications specifically in the field of nuclear pharmacy, as it is a recognized sub-specialty of pharmacy in some nations, though these certifications may not be required to work in this field. Individual regions have their own regulations and it is important to check on regional laws while preparing to become a nuclear pharmacist.
Colleges and universities, particularly those with medical schools, may have schools of pharmacy attached. Pharmacy students typically need an undergraduate degree and can pursue a master's or PhD in pharmacy, depending on the school and their interests. In some cases, it is possible to enter an accelerated BA/MA program, where an undergraduate student starts working on a pharmacy degree immediately, rather than waiting. MD/MA programs are also available in some regions.
In pharmacy school, students learn about how to compound, dispense, and handle a variety of medications safely. A student who wants to become a nuclear pharmacist may be able to take some courses in the handling of radioactive material directly at the school while working towards a degree. Another option is to take a fellowship in this area, to develop skills by working in a pharmacy or research facility. Students who plan to pursue formal board certification in nuclear pharmacy need to fulfill an hours requirement set by a certifying body.
After graduation, a pharmacy license can be applied for. A licensing test is typically administered by a government agency or regulatory body to allow applicants to demonstrate competency. With this certification, nuclear pharmacy fellowships and training programs may be applied for to access the hours required to become a nuclear pharmacist. Students who do not want to pursue formal certification, or those studying in regions where it is not a separate board specialty, may want to check with regulators to determine if they need any specific training to handle radioactive materials in a pharmaceutical context.
The training includes discussions on the therapeutic uses of radioactive materials and the safe handling of such materials in a pharmacy. Nuclear medicine is a constantly evolving specialty. Once someone has become a nuclear pharmacist, it may be necessary to keep up with the field through continuing education offered by professional organizations, academic institutions, and trade journals. This is critical to protect the health and safety of patients and health care providers.