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Pharmacy Internships: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Practice

Published on: Sep 19, 2023
By: Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS
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In the dynamic world of healthcare, the importance of practical experience cannot be overstated. As a crucial component of the healthcare system, pharmacy relies on the seamless integration of clinical knowledge and practical skills. This is where pharmacy internships play a pivotal role. Pharmacy internships bridge classroom learning and real-world practice, providing aspiring pharmacists with invaluable opportunities to refine their skills, gain exposure to diverse patient populations, and develop a deeper understanding of the healthcare landscape.

In this article, we will explore the significance of pharmacy internships, their benefits, and how they contribute to the growth of future pharmacists.

Understanding Pharmacy Internships

Pharmacy internships are structured experiential learning programs designed to give pharmacy students a taste of their future profession. These internships can be found in various settings, including community pharmacies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, research institutions, and regulatory agencies. The goal is to allow pharmacy interns to apply classroom knowledge in a real-world environment under the supervision of licensed pharmacists. These positions are paid, and the pharmacy internship learning experience supplements the didactic learning experience in the classroom.  Often, a well-thought-out pharmacy internship experience will lead to job offers and serve as a gateway to your career as a pharmacist.  

The Benefits of Pharmacy Internships

1. Hands-On Skill Development

One of the primary advantages of pharmacy internships is the hands-on skill development they offer. While classroom education provides a solid foundation, it is through practical experience that students learn the nuances of medication dispensing, compounding, drug interactions, and patient counseling. Pharmacy interns better understand drug therapies and their effects on different patient populations, helping them become well-rounded future practitioners.

2. Patient Interaction and Communication Skills

Interacting with patients is a fundamental aspect of a pharmacist's role. Internships allow students to engage directly with patients, enhancing their communication skills and empathy. Learning to address patient concerns, educate them about medications, and provide clear instructions contributes to effective healthcare delivery. Simulations in the pharmacy school curriculum fall way short of this real-world experience. 

3. Exposure to Diverse Healthcare Settings

Pharmacy is a versatile field with opportunities in various healthcare settings. Internships allow students to explore different environments, such as community pharmacies, hospitals, and research institutions. This exposure enables them to make informed career choices by experiencing the daily operations and challenges of each setting. Many students seek a pharmacy intern opportunity that aligns with their future career goals.

4. Networking and Mentorship

Internships provide a platform for students to build professional networks and establish valuable mentor-mentee relationships with experienced pharmacists. These connections can offer insights into the industry, career guidance, and potential job opportunities upon graduation. An internship is truly a long-term job interview.

5. Application of Regulatory Knowledge

Pharmacy practice is tightly regulated to ensure patient safety and compliance with laws. Interns learn about pharmacy regulations and laws, understanding how these principles are applied in practice. This knowledge is crucial for ensuring ethical and legal practice as future pharmacists. Many pharmacies are more comfortable taking the law portion of the licensure exam than other students who did not work as pharmacy interns throughout their schooling.

6. Contribution to Research and Innovation

Pharmaceutical research and innovation are at the forefront of improving patient care. Interns in research-focused settings can contribute to groundbreaking research projects, clinical trials, and the development of new drugs. This exposure fosters an appreciation for the scientific advancements shaping the field. These interns gain valuable experiences that are noticed by industry fellowship programs.

The Role of Pharmacy Internships in Professional Growth

The transition from student to licensed pharmacist requires more than academic excellence; it demands practical experience and a deep understanding of the healthcare system and its complexities. Pharmacy internships play a pivotal role in facilitating this transition by:

1. Building Confidence

Internships instill confidence in students, allowing them to apply classroom knowledge in real-world scenarios. This confidence extends to decision-making, critical thinking, and handling unexpected situations—a necessity for a successful pharmacy career.

2. Skill Refinement

Interns receive constructive feedback from preceptors and licensed pharmacists who oversee their training. This feedback helps interns identify their strengths and areas for improvement, enabling them to refine their skills before entering the workforce independently.

3. Professional Identity

Exposure to different aspects of pharmacy during internships helps students shape their professional identity. They can discover where their passions lie—patient care, research, drug development, or management—and tailor their career paths accordingly.

4. Applying Classroom Knowledge

Internships bring textbook concepts to life. Students see how theoretical knowledge translates into real patient care, making classroom education more relevant and impactful.


In conclusion, pharmacy internships are vital to academic learning and professional practice. They empower students to refine their skills, engage with patients, and explore the diverse facets of pharmacy. Through internships, students gain practical experience, develop essential communication skills, and establish crucial professional connections. These experiences contribute to future pharmacists' growth and enhance the overall quality of patient care and pharmaceutical practice. As the healthcare landscape continues to evolve, pharmacy internships remain essential in preparing the next generation of pharmacists for success.


  1. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. (2021). Experiential education. Exploring the difference, advancing pharmacy practice. https://www.aacp.org/resources/student-center

  2. Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. (2021). Pharmacy Accreditation Standards. https://www.acpe-accredit.org/pharmd-program-accreditation/

  3. Medina, M. S., Plaza, C. M., Stowe, C. D., Robinson, E. T., DeLander, G., Beck, D. E., ... & Skoy, E. T. (2013). Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy Education (CAPE) educational outcomes 2013. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 77(8), 162. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3806946/

  4. Tofade, T., Elsner, J., & Haines, S. T. (2013). Best practice strategies for effective use of questions as a teaching tool. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 77(7), 155. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3776909/

portrait of Jim Herbst PharmD

Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS is an advanced patient care pharmacist at a nationally ranked pediatric acute care teaching hospital.  Dr Herbst received his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Ohio State University in 2012.  He started his clinical career as an inpatient patient care pharmacist covering the neurology and complex care services, before transitioning to a pediatric neurology ambulatory care clinic in 2019. 

Dr Herbst's areas of interest in pediatric neurology include treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy, infantile spasms, the ketogenic diet, and neuroimmunology.  He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed pharmacy and neurology journals, including Neurology, Epilepsia, and the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.  Dr Herbst is board certified as a pediatric pharmacy specialist.

Opinions and information published by the author here on PharmDDegree.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.

Education: Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), The Ohio State University
Knowledge: Advanced Patient Care Pharmacy, Neurology, Epilepsia