Pharmacists dispense drugs prescribed by doctors and they also provide information to customers regarding side effects and the usage of drugs. They have knowledge about the laws that regulate the manufacturing and sales of drugs. A pharmacist also has knowledge about the composition of medicines and how drugs interact with each other.
Most pharmacists work in community pharmacies. Pharmacy technicians often assist pharmacists with dispensing medications. Some pharmacists focus on dispensing drugs, whereas others oversee an entire store.
Some pharmacists specialize in particular drug therapy areas including oncology, geriatric pharmacy and nuclear pharmacy. A number of pharmacists are involved in research for pharmaceutical manufacturers, whereas others work in marketing and sales.
Some sample job titles are staff pharmacist, registered pharmacist, clinical pharmacist and hospital pharmacist.
- Review prescriptions to make sure they are accurate
- Order, inspect, store and dispense drugs
- Provide information about side effects of drugs to their customers
- Accurately measure and pack medicines
- Educate customers on how to take medications
- Assess the identity, purity and strength of medications
- Plan, implement and maintain procedures for mixing, packaging and labeling pharmaceuticals according to legal requirements and policy
- Provide advice to customers on choosing medication brands and healthcare supplies
- Consult with other healthcare professionals in order to plan, monitor and evaluate the effectiveness and quality of drugs and drug regimens
- Maintain records of the drugs
Pharmacists work in clean and well-ventilated settings. Many pharmacists stand for a large portion of their working day. Most pharmacists work 40 hour per work. Some pharmacists work part-time. They may work at night and during the weekends and holidays. Consultant pharmacists may travel to healthcare facilities in order to monitor patients' drug therapies. In addition, a pharmacist should have good interpersonal skills and scientific aptitude. They also need to be detailed oriented.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 17 percent employment growth for pharmacists from 2008 to 2018 which is faster than the average for all occupations. The growing number of middle-aged and senior citizens will increase the demand for pharmacists.
In 2008 the median annual earnings of wage and salary pharmacists was $106,410. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $131,440.
Pharmacists working for chain drugstores may move up to pharmacy supervisor or store manager positions. Those working in hospitals may advance into supervisor or administrative positions. Some pharmacists become owners or part-owners of independent pharmacies.
Education, Certification, and Licensing
Pharmacists are required to have a Pharm.D. degree from an accredited college or school of pharmacy. In order for applicants to be eligible for a Pharm.D. program they must have completed at least two years of specific professional study. This requirement usually includes courses in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, social sciences and the humanities. Pharm.D. programs typically take four years to finish. In addition to classroom learning, students spend time working with licensed pharmacists in a variety of practice settings.
Although not specifically required, most candidates have completed three or more years at a college or university before entering a Pharm.D program. Some Pharm.D. graduates receive additional training via a one or two year residency program or a fellowship. Residency programs are often required for pharmacists that want to work in a clinical setting. Pharmacy fellowships are designed to prepare individuals for working in a specialized area of pharmacy such as research or clinical practice.
Every state requires a license to practice pharmacy. Typically, to acquire a license, a candidate must earn a Pharm.D. degree from a college of pharmacy that has been approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. They must also pass a series of examinations.
All states require a candidate to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam. The majority of states also require candidates to take the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam which focuses on pharmacy law. The states that do not require candidates to take the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam have their own pharmacy law exam.
Every jurisdiction requires candidates to have gained a specified number of hours of experience in a practice setting before they can obtain a license. In addition, every state allows licensure for graduates of foreign pharmacy schools.
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
- American Pharmacists Association
The primary employers are community pharmacies, hospitals, nursing home pharmacies and the pharmaceutical industry.