Psychiatric pharmacists require comprehensive knowledge not only in psychiatry and neurology but also proficiency in clinical problem solving, interprofessionalism, and communication with empathy for the patient population they serve.

The road to becoming a psychiatric pharmacist can have multiple paths after graduation from an ACPE-accredited Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program. Psychiatric pharmacy specialization can be earned through post-graduate residency training, clinical experience, or a combination of the two. Pharmacy school graduates may complete a pharmacy practice post-graduate year 1 (PGY1) residency. These residencies build upon knowledge, skills, and abilities gained from a PharmD program. PGY1 residencies enhance general competencies in managing medication-use systems and support optimal medication therapy outcomes for patients with a broad range of disease states. The residency directory includes PGY1 programs with directors who are members of CPNP.

Psychiatric pharmacy post-graduate year 2 (PGY2) residencies further build upon knowledge and skills learned during a PGY1. They provide experience in integrating pharmacy services with the comprehensive needs of individual practice settings and provide in-depth experiences leading to advanced practice skills and knowledge. PGY2 residencies can offer experiences in a wide variety of clinical settings including, but not limited to, acute hospitalization, geriatric psychiatry, adolescent psychiatry, substance abuse, and assertive community treatment. The residency directory includes PGY2 programs with directors who are members of CPNP.

In addition to residencies, neuropsychiatric fellowships available throughout the United States offer unique opportunities in various disease states, pharmacogenomics, and industry. Qualified psychiatric pharmacists also have the opportunity to gain board certification in psychiatric pharmacy (BCPP). Certified BCPPs undergo periodic evaluation to verify their knowledge and skills are maintained. Psychiatric pharmacists continuously learn by keeping up to date on new literature and guidelines while relying on organizations like CPNP to share best practices and maintain a sense of community with other psychiatric pharmacists.  The fellowship provides information on positions precepted by CPNP members.

Although these are typical training paths to becoming a psychiatric pharmacist, every journey is unique. For more information, see the eligibility requirements for the BPS Board Certified Psychiatric Pharmacist program.

Why Become a BCPP?

There are so many reasons to contemplate sitting for the Board Certified Psychiatric Pharmacist (BCPP) exam, but here are the top three reasons.

1. Job satisfaction.

Having BCPP certification can take your responsibilities and contributions at work to the next level. Board certification showcases your expertise to colleagues, physicians, supervisors, and trainees and signifies your dedication to the field. This can lead to fostering trusting relationships with your team and also open doors to autonomy with patient care as well additional opportunities in academic settings. Some positions may only consider BCPP applicants which is a reason in and of itself to become certified. In addition, in order to be a residency program director for a PGY2 psychiatric program, BCPP designation is required. Lastly, while it shouldn’t be the driving factor, being board certified can lead to an increase in compensation from your organization. 

2. Prevent complacency.

We shouldn’t take the route of “I’m okay with what I know.” Psychiatric pharmacy is constantly changing as new literature emerges and we understand more about psychopharmacology and pathophysiology of mental health conditions. In light of this and advances in drug development, it’s important to engage in continuing professional development to keep up with practice. One of the ways to recertify for BCPP involves completing 100 hours of continuing education through CPNP every 7 years. This ensures that you are staying refreshed and engaging in learning opportunities that also count towards your mandatory hours for licensure. Maintaining your BCPP certification also keeps you up-to-date on psychiatric topics that you may be less comfortable with while also keeping you at the cutting-edge related to disease states you see on a routine basis. 

3. Model professionalism.

It is prudent to demonstrate and promote the significance of life-long learning to the next generation of pharmacists and our peers. In addition, practice is changing and more and more pharmacists are completing post-graduate training and obtaining board certification in their respective specialties. Therefore, the psychiatric pharmacist should not only value BCPP recognition as a way of advocating psychiatric pharmacy, it should also be a standard of practice for our field. 

The First Steps

With all of these benefits of becoming a board certified psychiatric pharmacist (and more!), you may be ready to get started.

  1. Review the official certification details maintained by BPS, including eligibility.
  2. Complete the BCPP Prep Series to confirm that you are ready to sit for the exam.
  3. Return to BPS to register for the spring or fall exam.