If you’re fresh out of pharmacy school and ready to start your career, you’ll need to check off a few boxes first. Whether you’re joining a pharmacy team for the first time or jumping right into the world of ownership, you’ll need to meet certain licensing requirements to start your practice.

Pharmacy licenses certify you have the knowledge, skills, and capabilities to treat your patients and maintain the highest level of clinical care.

They also ensure you meet legal requirements, maintain compliance, and have ongoing resources for your pharmacy practice. There are both national and state-specific pharmacy licenses. Depending on where you live and what your practice looks like, you may have to obtain several types of pharmacy licenses.

Read on to learn about some of the essential pharmacy licenses you’ll need to start your practice and how to apply for them.

1. State pharmacy license

When you think of licensing, you probably think of your state pharmacy license first. 

This license is the end-all, be-all of pharmacy licensing, giving you the rights and responsibilities you need to treat patients in your state, according to standards set by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

More than a legal prerequisite, though, your pharmacy license ensures you stay up-to-date on pharmacy operations, clinical advancements, and more. Every state pharmacy board has different requirements, so find out what yours requires.

To learn more about your state board of pharmacy and what it can do for you, read our blog, “How the Board of Pharmacy Can Help Your Practice.”

2. National Provider Identification (NPI) number

The National Provider Identifier (NPI) is a 10-digit identification number assigned to healthcare providers — including pharmacists — by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

An NPI number helps you identify other providers, share important healthcare information with those providers, and streamline electronic transactions. It also helps CMS monitor your transactions and ensure regulatory compliance.

On the operations side, your NPI simplifies administrative processes, facilitates billing and claims processing, and enhances the efficiency of electronic health records (EHR) systems.

You can apply for your NPI number here.

3. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) number

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) number is a unique identifier assigned to pharmacists who are authorized to prescribe and handle controlled substances.

DEA numbers play an important role in regulating and monitoring the distribution of prescription drugs with the potential for abuse.

Providers — including physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, and dentists — are assigned a DEA number to track controlled substances they’ve prescribed or dispensed. The DEA tracks those prescriptions to mitigate misprescribing and misuse.

 You can fill out a DEA number application on the administration’s website.

4. NCPDP Provider Identification Number

Established by the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP), the NCPDP Provider Identification number is a communication tool pharmacies use to contact third-party payors and contracting entities, like insurance companies, PBMs, and PSAOs.

The NCPDP Provider Identification number is used by pharmacies to submit records for electronic prescribing, claims processing, and medication management to third parties. It is used by third parties to issue billing statements and reimburse pharmacies for their services.

By extension, the NCPDP Provider Identification number helps pharmacies maintain efficiency, accuracy, and interoperability with third parties.

Apply for your NCPDP Provider Identification number here.

5. Medicare Provider Enrollment

Medicare Provider Enrollment allows pharmacists to offer services and receive reimbursement from the Medicare program for the care provided to eligible beneficiaries, especially those 65 and older.

Once you enroll, you get official recognition from CMS, enabling you to participate directly in the Medicare network.

This affiliation allows you to bill Medicare for covered services and get timely reimbursement for those services. In turn, it allows you to better serve aging and disabled populations in your community.

You can enroll as a Medicare Provider here. Upon completing enrollment, you will receive a Provider Transaction Access Number (PTAN).

6. State-Specific Licenses

Aside from the aforementioned licenses, your state pharmacy board may require you to have other licenses before you can start your practice. 

Some states, for instance, require pharmacists to get immunization certifications through the American Pharmacists Association (APhA). Others require pharmacists to obtain accreditation from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

Research state-specific requirements and, if necessary, complete those requirements to get the appropriate licenses. If you aren’t sure which requirements your state has in place, consult with a regulatory expert.

These experts can help you adhere to all legal regulations, maintain compliance, and check off all of the necessary boxes. In effect, they can help you ensure you have everything you need to start your pharmacy practice.


As new pharmacists prepare to get behind the bench for the first time, it’s essential they have the proper pharmacy licenses to get started.

While there are some standard pharmacy licenses, like the ones above, there are also many state-specific and specialty-specific licenses you may need to get, as well.

Do your research, talk to established pharmacists, and work with regulatory experts to get all of the pharmacy licenses you need to start your business.

Whether you’re starting your practice or starting your own business, don’t forget about licensing. For more information on starting a pharmacy, visit our page, How to Open a Pharmacy.