Pharmacists distribute drugs prescribed by physicians and other health
practitioners and provide information to patients about medications and their
use. They advise physicians and other health practitioners on the selection,
dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications. Pharmacists also monitor
the health and progress of patients in response to drug therapy to ensure the
safe and effective use of medication. Pharmacists must understand the use,
clinical effects, and composition of drugs, including their chemical,
biological, and physical properties. Compounding—the actual mixing of
ingredients to form powders, tablets, capsules, ointments, and solutions—is a
small part of a pharmacist’s practice, because most medicines are produced by
pharmaceutical companies in a standard dosage and drug delivery form. Most
pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a retail drug-store, or in a
health care facility, such as a hospital, nursing home, mental health
institution, or neighborhood health clinic.
Pharmacists in community and retail pharmacies counsel patients and answer
questions about prescription drugs, including questions regarding possible side
effects or interactions among various drugs. They provide information about
over-the-counter drugs and make recommendations after talking with the patient.
They also may give advice about the patient’s diet, exercise, or stress
management or about durable medical equipment and home health care supplies. In
addition, they also may complete third-party insurance forms and other
paper-work. Those who own or manage community pharmacies may sell
non-health-related merchandise, hire and supervise personnel, and oversee the
general operation of the pharmacy. Some community pharmacists provide
specialized services to help patients manage conditions such as diabetes,
asthma, smoking cessation, or high blood pressure. Some community pharmacists
also are trained to administer vaccinations.
Pharmacists in health care facilities dispense medications and advise the
medical staff on the selection and effects of drugs. They may make sterile
solutions to be administered intravenously. They also assess, plan, and monitor
drug programs or regimens. Pharmacists counsel hospital-ized patients on the use
of drugs and on their use at home when the patients are discharged. Pharmacists
also may evaluate drug-use patterns and outcomes for patients in hospitals or
managed care organizations.
Pharmacists who work in home health care monitor drug therapy and prepare
infusions—solutions that are injected into patients—and other medications for
use in the home.
Some pharmacists specialize in specific drug therapy areas, such as
intravenous nutrition support, oncology (cancer), nuclear pharmacy (used for
chemotherapy), geriatric pharmacy, and psychopharmaco-therapy (the treatment of
mental disorders by means of drugs).
Most pharmacists keep confidential computerized records of patients’ drug
therapies to prevent harmful drug interactions. Pharmacists are responsible for
the accuracy of every prescription that is filled, but they often rely upon
pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides to assist them in the dispensing
process. Thus, the pharmacist may delegate prescription-filling and
administrative tasks and supervise their completion. Pharmacists also frequently
oversee pharmacy students serving as interns in preparation for graduation and
Increasingly, pharmacists are pursuing nontraditional pharmacy work. Some are
involved in research for pharmaceutical manufacturers, developing new drugs and
therapies and testing their effects on people. Others work in marketing or
sales, providing expertise to clients on a drug’s use, effectiveness, and
possible side effects. Some pharmacists work for health insurance companies,
developing pharmacy benefit packages and carrying out cost-benefit analyses on
certain drugs. Other pharmacists work for the government, public health care
services, the armed services, and pharmacy associations. Finally, some
pharmacists are employed full time or part time as college faculty, teaching
classes and performing research in a wide range of areas.
Pharmacists work in clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated areas. Many
pharmacists spend most of their workday on their feet. When working with sterile
or dangerous pharmaceutical products, pharmacists wear gloves and masks and work
with other special protective equipment. Many community and hospital pharmacies
are open for extended hours or around the clock, so pharmacists may work nights,
weekends, and holidays. Consultant pharmacists may travel to nursing homes or
other facilities to monitor patients’ drug therapy.
About 21 percent of pharmacists worked part time in 2004. Most full-time
salaried pharmacists worked approximately 40 hours a week. Some, including many
self-employed pharmacists, worked more than 50 hours a week.
Pharmacists held about 230,000 jobs in 2004. About 61 percent work in
community pharmacies that are either independently owned or part of a drugstore
chain, grocery store, department store, or mass merchandiser. Most community
pharmacists are salaried employees, but some are self-employed owners. About 24
percent of salaried pharmacists work in hospitals. Others work in clinics,
mail-order pharmacies, pharmaceutical wholesalers, home health care agencies, or
the federal government.
A license to practice pharmacy is required in all states, the District of
Columbia, and all U.S. territories. To obtain a license, the prospective
pharmacist must graduate from a college of pharmacy that is accredited by the
Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and pass an examination. All
states require the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), which
tests pharmacy skills and knowledge, and 43 states and the District of Columbia
require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), which tests pharmacy
law. Both exams are administered by the National Association of Boards of
Pharmacy. Pharmacists in the eight states that do not require the MJPE must pass
a state-specific exam that is similar to the MJPE. In addition to the NAPLEX and
MPJE, some states require additional exams unique to their state. All states
except California currently grant a license without extensive reexamination to
qualified pharmacists who already are licensed by another state. In Florida,
reexamination is not required if a pharmacist has passed the NAPLEX and MPJE
within 12 years of his or her application for a license transfer. Many
pharmacists are licensed to practice in more than one state. Most states require
continuing education for license renewal. Persons interested in a career as a
pharmacist should check with individual state boards of pharmacy for details on
examination requirements, license renewal requirements, and license transfer
In 2004, 89 colleges of pharmacy were accredited to confer degrees by the
Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Pharmacy programs grant the
degree of Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), which requires at least 6 years of
postsecondary study and the passing of a state board of pharmacy’s licensure
examination. Courses offered at colleges of pharmacy are designed to teach
students about all aspects of drug therapy. In addition, schools teach students
how to communicate with patients and other health care providers about drug
information and patient care. Students also learn professional ethics, how to
develop and manage medication distribution systems, and concepts of public
health. In addition to receiving classroom instruction, students in Pharm.D.
programs spend about one-fourth of their time learning in a variety of pharmacy
practice settings under the supervision of licensed pharmacists. The Pharm.D.
degree has replaced the Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm.) degree, which is no
longer being awarded.
The Pharm.D. is a 4-year program that requires at least 2 years of college study
prior to admittance, although most applicants have completed 3 years. Entry
requirements usually include courses in mathematics and natural sciences, such
as chemistry, biology, and physics, as well as courses in the humanities and
social sciences. Approximately two-thirds of all colleges require applicants to
take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
In 2003, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) launched the
Pharmacy College Application Service, also known as PharmCAS, for students who
are interested in applying to schools and colleges of pharmacy. This centralized
service allows applicants to use a single Web-based application and one set of
transcripts to apply to multiple schools of pharmacy. A total of 43 schools
participated in 2003.
In the 2003–04 academic year, 67 colleges of pharmacy awarded the
master-of-science degree or the Ph.D. degree. Both degrees are awarded after the
completion of a Pharm.D. degree and are designed for those who want more
laboratory and research experience. Many master’s and Ph.D. degree holders do
research for a drug company or teach at a university. Other options for pharmacy
graduates who are interested in further training include 1-year or 2-year
residency programs or fellow-ships. Pharmacy residencies are postgraduate
training programs in pharmacy practice and usually require the completion of a
research study. There currently are more than 700 residency training programs
nationwide. Pharmacy fellowships are highly individualized programs that are
designed to prepare participants to work in a specialized area of pharmacy, such
clinical practice or research laboratories. Some pharmacists who run their own
pharmacy obtain a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). Others may
obtain a degree in public administration or public health.
Areas of graduate study include pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical chemistry
(physical and chemical properties of drugs and dosage forms), pharmacology
(effects of drugs on the body), toxicology and pharmacy administration.
Prospective pharmacists should have scientific aptitude, good communication
skills, and a desire to help others. They also must be conscientious and pay
close attention to detail, because the decisions they make affect human lives.
In community pharmacies, pharmacists usually begin at the staff level. In
independent pharmacies, after they gain experience and secure the necessary
capital, some become owners or part owners of pharmacies. Pharmacists in chain
drugstores may be promoted to pharmacy supervisor or manager at the store level,
then to manager at the district or regional level, and later to an executive
position within the chain’s headquarters.
Hospital pharmacists may advance to supervisory or administrative positions.
Pharmacists in the pharmaceutical industry may advance in marketing, sales,
research, quality control, production, packaging, or other areas.
Very good employment opportunities are expected for pharmacists over the
2004–14 period because the number of job openings created by employment growth
and the need to replace pharmacists who leave the occupation or retire are
expected to exceed the number of degrees granted in pharmacy. Enrollments in
pharmacy programs are rising as more students are attracted by high salaries and
good job prospects. Despite this increase in enrollments, job openings should
still be more numerous than those seeking employment.
Employment of pharmacists is expected to grow faster than the average for all
occupations through the year 2014, because of the increasing demand for
pharmaceuticals, particularly from the growing elderly population. The
increasing numbers of middle-aged and elderly people—who use more prescription
drugs than younger people—will continue to spur demand for pharmacists in all
employment settings. Other factors likely to increase the demand for pharmacists
include scientific advances that will make more drug products available, new
developments in genome research and medication distribution systems,
increasingly sophisticated consumers seeking more information about drugs, and
coverage of prescription drugs by a greater number of health insurance plans and
Community pharmacies are taking steps to manage an increasing volume of
prescriptions. Automation of drug dispensing and greater employment of pharmacy
technicians and pharmacy aides will help these establishments to dispense more
With its emphasis on cost control, managed care encourages the use of lower cost
prescription drug distributors, such as mail-order firms and online pharmacies,
for purchases of certain medications. Prescriptions ordered through the mail and
via the Internet are filled in a central location and shipped to the patient at
a lower cost. Mail-order and online pharmacies typically use automated
technology to dispense medication and employ fewer pharmacists. If the
utilization of mail-order pharmacies increases rapidly, job growth among
pharmacists could be limited.
Employment of pharmacists will not grow as fast in hospitals as in other
industries, because hospitals are reducing inpatient stays, down-sizing, and
consolidating departments. The number of outpatient surgeries is increasing, so
more patients are being discharged and purchasing their medications through
retail, supermarket, or mail-order pharmacies, rather than through hospitals. An
aging population means that more pharmacy services will be required in nursing
homes, assisted-living facilities, and home care settings. The most rapid job
growth among pharmacists is expected in these 3 settings.
New opportunities are emerging for pharmacists in managed care organizations
where they analyze trends and patterns in medication use, and in
pharmacoeconomics—the cost and benefit analysis of different drug therapies.
Opportunities also are emerging for pharmacists trained in research and disease
management—the development of new methods for curing and controlling diseases.
Pharmacists also are finding jobs in research and development and in sales and
marketing for pharmaceutical manufacturing firms. Biotechnology breakthroughs
will increase the potential for drugs to treat diseases and expand opportunities
for pharmacists to conduct research and sell medications. In addition,
pharmacists are finding employment opportunities in pharmacy informatics, which
uses information technology to improve patient care.
Job opportunities for pharmacists in patient care will arise as cost-conscious
insurers and health systems continue to emphasize the role of pharmacists in
primary and preventive health care. Health insurance companies realize that the
expense of using medication to treat diseases and various health conditions
often is considerably less than the costs for patients whose conditions go
untreated. Pharmacists also can reduce the expenses resulting from unexpected
complications due to allergic reactions or interactions among medications.
Median annual wage and salary earnings of pharmacists in May 2004 were
$84,900. The middle 50 percent earned between $75,720 and $94,850 a year. The
lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,200, and the highest 10 percent earned
more than $109,850 a year. Median annual earnings in the industries employing
the largest numbers of pharmacists in May 2004 were: Department stores, $86,720;
Grocery stores, $85,680; Health and personal care stores, $85,380; General
medical and surgical hospitals, $84,560; Other general merchandise stores,
Additional Pharmacists resources are presented in the paperback version of
Health Care Job Explosion! 4th edition by Dennis V. Damp for this
occupational group. Resources include Job Ads, Job Hotlines, Job Fairs,
Placement services, Associations, Books, Directories and Internet (Web) Sites.
Your local library may have this book in their reference section or you can
purchase a copy for $19.95 plus shipping with all major credit cards from our
toll free service at 1-800-782-7424 (Orders Only). Also available at all major
bookstores. Also explore jobs at VA hospitals and other
federal government employment options.
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) - 1426 Prince St.,
Alexandria, VA 22314; 703/739-2330. (http://www.aacp.org,
email@example.com) Student page has article on
“Is Pharmacy for You?”, listing of pharmacy colleges and schools, and financial
American Pharmacists Association (APhA) - 2215 Constitution Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20037; 202/628-4410; 800/237-2742. (www.aphanet.org,
practicing pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, student pharmacists, and
pharmacy technicians. The pharmacist.com career center has job listings, a
résumé service, information about the Employment Exchange job fair that is held
in conjunction with the association’s annual convention, job seeker support, and
a Career Pathway Evaluation Program.
National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) - 100 Daingerfield Road,
Alexandria, VA 22314; 703/683-8200, 800/544-7447. (http://www.ncpanet.org)
Organization of independent pharmacists and owners of independent pharmacies.
Student section has career guide, information on scholarships and student loans,
and a program of virtual mentors for learning about pharmacy ownership.
Pharmacy Times - 241 Forsgate Drive, Jamesburg, N.J. 08831; 732/656-1140. (http://www.pharmacytimes.com)
The web site has continuing education, free subscriptions for students, career
information and classified job ads, as well as a link to the
AbsolutelyHealthCare job site.
Resume Writing Service - Professionally package your health care resume
for entry level, standard, and executive positions.
Health Care Jobs, Pharmacist Jobs, Medical Jobs, Nursing Jobs