Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions.
What they do
Pharmacists also may conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, oversee the medications given to patients, and provide advice on healthy lifestyles.
They typically do the following:
- Fill prescriptions, verifying instructions from physicians on the proper amounts of medication to give to patients
- Check whether prescriptions will interact negatively with other drugs that a patient is taking or any medical conditions the patient has
- Instruct patients on how and when to take a prescribed medicine and inform them about potential side effects from taking the medicine
- Give flu shots and, in most states, other vaccinations
- Advise patients about general health topics, such as diet, exercise, and managing stress, and on other issues, such as what equipment or supplies would be best to treat a health problem
- Complete insurance forms and work with insurance companies to ensure that patients get the medicines they need
- Oversee the work of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in training (interns)
- Keep records and do other administrative tasks
- Teach other healthcare practitioners about proper medication therapies for patients
Some pharmacists who own their pharmacy or manage a chain pharmacy spend time on business activities, such as inventory management. With most drugs, pharmacists use standard dosages from pharmaceutical companies. However, some pharmacists create customized medications by mixing ingredients themselves, a process known as compounding.
The following are examples of types of pharmacists:
Community pharmacists work in retail stores such as chain drug stores or independently owned pharmacies. They dispense medications to patients and answer any questions that patients may have about prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or any health concerns that the patient may have. They also may provide some primary care services such as giving flu shots.
Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings. They spend little time dispensing prescriptions. Instead, they are involved in direct patient care. Clinical pharmacists may go on rounds in a hospital with a physician or healthcare team. They recommend medications to give to patients and oversee the dosage and timing of the delivery of those medications. They also may conduct some medical tests and offer advice to patients. For example, pharmacists working in a diabetes clinic may counsel patients on how and when to take medications, suggest healthy food choices, and monitor patients’ blood sugar.
Consultant pharmacists advise healthcare facilities or insurance providers on patient medication use or improving pharmacy services. They also may give advice directly to patients, such as helping seniors manage their prescriptions.
Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists work in areas such as marketing, sales, or research and development. They may design or conduct clinical drug trials and help to develop new drugs. They may also help to establish safety regulations and ensure quality control for drugs.
Some pharmacists work for the government and the military. In most settings, they spend much of the workday on their feet. Most pharmacists work full time. Because many pharmacies are open at all hours, some pharmacists work nights and weekends.
How to become a Pharmacist
Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy program. They must also be licensed, which requires passing licensure and law exams.
Prospective pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, a postgraduate professional degree. In August 2017, there were 128 Doctor of Pharmacy programs fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).
Admissions requirements vary by program, however, all Pharm.D. programs require applicants to take postsecondary courses such as chemistry, biology, and physics. Most programs require at least 2 years of undergraduate study, although some require a bachelor’s degree. Most programs also require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
Pharm.D. programs usually take 4 years to finish, although some programs offer a 3-year option. Some schools admit high school graduates into a 6-year program. A Pharm.D. program includes courses in chemistry, pharmacology, and medical ethics. Students also complete supervised work experiences, sometimes referred to as internships, in different settings such as hospitals and retail pharmacies.
Some pharmacists who own their own pharmacy may choose to get a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) in addition to their Pharm.D. degree. Others may get a degree in public health.
Pharmacists also must take continuing education courses throughout their career to keep up with the latest advances in pharmacological science.
Following graduation from a Pharm.D. program, pharmacists seeking an advanced position, such as a clinical pharmacy or research job, may need to complete a 1- to 2-year residency. Pharmacists who choose to complete the 2-year residency option receive additional training in a specialty area such as internal medicine or geriatric care.
All states license pharmacists. After they finish the Pharm.D. program, prospective pharmacists must pass two exams to get a license. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) tests pharmacy skills and knowledge. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or a state-specific test on pharmacy law is also required. Applicants also must complete a number of hours as an intern, which varies by state.
Pharmacists who administer vaccinations and immunizations need to be certified in most states. States typically use the American Pharmacists Association’s Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery program as a qualification for certification.
Pharmacists also may choose to earn a certification to show their advanced level of knowledge in a certain area. For instance, a pharmacist may become a Certified Diabetes Educator, a qualification offered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators, or earn certification in a specialty area, such as nutrition or oncology, from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Certifications from both organizations require pharmacists to have varying degrees of work experience, to pass an exam, and pay a fee.
The median annual wage for pharmacists was $128,090 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $88,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $162,900.
Employment of pharmacists is projected to decline 3 percent from 2019 to 2029.
Many pharmacists work in in retail pharmacies and drug stores, which are expected to lose jobs as more people fill their prescriptions via mail order and online. In addition, fewer of these workers are expected to be needed as pharmacy technicians increasingly perform tasks previously done by pharmacists, such as collecting patient information, preparing some types of medications, and verifying the work of other technicians.
Similar Job Titles
Clinical Pharmacist; Hospital Pharmacist; Outpatient Pharmacy Manager; Pharmacist; Pharmacist in Charge (PIC); Pharmacist in Charge, Owner (PIC, Owner); Pharmacy Informaticist; Registered Pharmacist; Staff Pharmacist; Staff Pharmacist, Hospital
Medical Scientist (except Epidemiologists), Health Specialties Teacher-Postsecondary, Nursing Instructor and Teacher-Postsecondary
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
- American Association of Diabetes Educators
- American College of Clinical Pharmacy
- American Pharmacists Association
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
- National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
- National Association of Chain Drug Stores
- National Community Pharmacists Association
- The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists
Magazines and Publications
- S. Pharmacist Journal
- Student Pharmacist Magazine
- Pharmacy Times Magazine
- Pharmacy Today Magazine
- Pharmacy Practice News Magazine
Whenever a doctor writes a prescription for a drug or treatment, a pharmacist is the person who measures out the medication and makes sure a patient knows how to take it safely. And while filling a prescription often means a visit to the local drug store or grocery store, pharmacists also work in hospitals. Typically, pharmacists spend most of the day standing at a counter, preparing and dispensing medication. They may also personalize or “compound” the medication, though that is now less common than it used to be. Pharmacists are knowledgeable about medication ingredients and how they might interact with other medications. This is a profession that requires careful attention to detail. Making a mistake and dispensing the wrong medicine could have life-threatening consequences. Pharmacists also maintain patient records, inventory their supplies, and keep up registries of controlled drugs. Some pharmacists conduct research to develop new drugs. Most work full-time, and since the timing of medications can be crucial, they may work nights and weekends. If you want to become a pharmacist, you’ll need to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, then pass two licensure exams. For some, the demanding education and ongoing learning needed to stay current might be a hard pill to swallow, but knowing you help people get the medications they need to be healthy, can help the medicine go down.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org