Pharmacy Career Path

PharmacistCareer

A pharmacist’s primary role, of course, is to review instructions from physicians and then dispense medications accordingly. But they also offer expertise in the safe use of those prescriptions, can advise on over-the-counter and vitamin options, can provide health screenings, vaccinations, and just overall help people live healthier lifestyles.

If you are interested in a career as a pharmacist, this comprehensive page provides all the information you will need about careers as a pharmacist, including a career overview, career path options, videos about becoming a pharmacist and working as a pharmacist, and a salary information.

 

Pharmacy Career Path

Pharmacist Career Overview

What is a pharmacist and what do pharmacists do? How do you become a pharmacist? This article outlines the career responsibilities, pros and cons of being a pharmacist, and educational requirements.

There is a lot more to being a pharmacist than many people realize, including the administrative work, the long work hours, and the patient interaction. Pharmacists don’t select or prescribe medication, but their role is crucial. They use their knowledge to ensure the drugs prescribed for a patient do not have unwanted interactions, the dosage and administration are correct, and the prescription is appropriately and accurately packaged. They educate the patient on how to take the medication, recognize reactions and avoid problems.

 

Pharmacy School Tips

One thing standing between you and your pharmacy career is graduate school — specifically, pharmacy school, where you will need to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm.D.). The course of study is for two years of undergraduate college coursework and then four years of pharmacy school. The Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) is required for admission to pharmacy school.

 

This tip sheet will help demystify the process and provide additional resources to walk through the process and get accepted into a pharmacy program so you can begin pursuing your dream career as a pharmacist. The number of pharmacy graduates ballooned almost 85 percent in the decade between 2003 and 2014 and it’s expected to keep growing. But competition is high for slots at pharmacy school.

 

Career Paths and Types of Pharmacists

When people think of a career as a pharmacist, they often envision the person behind the counter at the drug store or hospital pharmacy. However, there are many different paths pharmacists can take besides retail pharmacy (working in a drug store). Learn more about the types of pharmacists’ careers including nuclear pharmacists, clinical pharmacists, pharmaceutical benefit managers, and more.

 

Salary for Pharmacists

This salary chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has many useful facts, figures, and maps showing how much pharmacists are making in different areas of the country.

 

The pharmacist salary page at Payscale.com depicts the compensation levels for pharmacists from year one through twenty-plus years. Pharmacists have very competitive starting salaries, but you may notice that they don’t show much growth in earnings as years pass. Twenty years later, they’re earning about $20,000 more than starting pharmacists. Again, the income for pharmacists is strong, and they are among the higher-earning health professionals, but don’t expect your salary to grow by leaps and bounds.

Career Paths Available in Pharmacy

 

You will have many options if you want to pursue a career in pharmacy. It’s common to think of a pharmacist as the person who is behind the counter when you go to fill a prescription at the drug store or grocery store. While retail pharmacy is a common career choice for pharmacists, there are many other options available in pharmacy for those who have completed their doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree and the necessary licensure requirements.

Although there are a variety of practice settings, pharmacists’ compensation range remains relatively consistent across all of these employment options, with minor variations according to hours worked and call requirements.

Pharmacy Career Pathways | Pharmacy is Right for Me

Retail Pharmacy Careers

Retail pharmacists dispense medications at drug stores or grocery stores. While the pay and benefits are excellent, the hours can be tough in retail pharmacy jobs, due to the fact that most stores are now open 24 hours, seven days a week. If you plan to work in a retail pharmacy setting, be prepared to work at least every other weekend. Most retail stores employ two full-time pharmacists who work a shift-based schedule of 12-hour shifts alternating two days on and two days off.

 
 

Clinical Pharmacy Careers

Clinical pharmacists work in a hospital as part of a medical care team. They typically do rounds on patients with a physician and help to determine which medications and doses would be most effective for each patient. The Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties offers certification in nuclear pharmacy, nutrition support pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, pharmacotherapy, and psychiatric pharmacy. Certifications are also offered by other organizations, such as the American Association of Poison Control Centers.1

Long-Term Care Careers

Long-term care facilities provide an ongoing car to elderly or incapacitated individuals who are not in need of acute medical care, but who are unable to care for themselves. Pharmacists who work in long-term care homes are sometimes referred to as “closed-door pharmacists,” meaning they do not directly interact with patients. On a scale of 1-10, long-term care pharmacists rated the amount of time that they spent interacting with patients as a 3.9 in a survey created by the American Pharmacists Association.2

Typically, nurses deliver drugs to each patient’s room from a cart which is stocked by the pharmacist on staff at the facility. The pharmacist is responsible for stocking and organizing the contents of the cart, dose by dose, with the prescription and over-the-counter medications for each patient. This is typically done twice per day. The pharmacist remains on call for the rest of the day, including overnight.

A role in long-term care would not be ideal for a pharmacist who really thrives on interacting with patients.

Nuclear Pharmacy Careers

Nuclear pharmacists are responsible for measuring and delivering the radioactive materials which are used in digital imaging (MRICT, etc.) and other procedures in medical offices and hospitals. Due to the nature of the radioactive materials and how they are handled, nuclear pharmacists are typically required to start each workday very early, sometimes pre-dawn, as the radioactive materials must be delivered within a few hours of their use, or they lose their effectiveness.3 If you’re not an early riser, nuclear pharmacy jobs might not be the best option for you.

 

Home Infusion and Chemotherapy Careers

These pharmacists are responsible for accurately mixing chemotherapy drugs for cancer patients, antibiotics to treat infections and medications for patients who have gastrointestinal problems. The pharmacist works as part of a multidisciplinary team with a home health nurse.

 

Pharmaceutical Benefit Management Careers

These pharmacists develop and maintain the formulary, contract with pharmacies, negotiate for discounts and rebates with drug manufacturers, process and pay prescription drug claims, and help members better control their prescription costs.4 There are not as many jobs available for pharmacists at pharmaceutical benefit management companies as there are in more traditional pharmacy roles, but such corporate jobs could provide a viable option for pharmacists who are seeking a change from retail or clinical pharmacy jobs.

 

Contract, Temporary, or Hourly Pharmacy Careers

Still can’t decide which pharmacy career is best for you? You might want to work on a contract basis until you figure out where you’d like to work long-term. Contract work entails shift-based work, on an as-needed basis.

 

Contract pharmacy careers offer a great deal of flexibility and versatility in the schedule, which is great if you’re trying to work around extenuating circumstances or a busy family.

 

As a contractor, you can experience different types of employers and work settings first-hand prior to committing to long-term or permanent employment.

Other Industry Careers for Pharmacists

Finally, there is always the option of going into an “industry” career or non-clinical career for those with a background and degree in Pharmacy. Some non-clinical industry job options include those in regulatory affairs, medical sales, and medical writing.

Pharmacists

Pharmacist Career, Salary and Education Information

 What They Do: Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions.

Work Environment: Pharmacists work in pharmacies, including those in drug, general merchandise, and grocery stores. Pharmacists also work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

How to Become One: Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), a 4-year professional degree. Pharmacists must also be licensed, which requires passing two exams.

Salary: The median annual wage for pharmacists is $126,120.

Job Outlook: Employment of pharmacists is projected to show little or no change over the next ten years. Employment in retail pharmacies will be affected by increasing sales via mail order pharmacy operations and online pharmacies.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a Pharmacist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following Pharmacist jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Pharmacist Jobs

  • Clinical Pharmacist- Resource Pharmacist – Northshore University HealthSystem – Glenview, ILPosition Overview We are currently seeking a Clinical Pharmacist for our Inpatient Pharmacy located at Glenbrook Hospital in Glenview, IL. This is a resource position and is limited benefits eligible
  • Pharmacist – CHRISTUS Health – Alexandria, LADescription The Clinical Pharmacist shall provide the necessary pharmaceutical services needed to facilitate the physician in the treatment of the patient. Requirements Requirements: * 2 years …
  • Ambulatory Care Pharmacist – CHRISTUS Health – Tyler, TXDescription The Ambulatory Care Clinical Pharmacist will provide direct patient care at a designated CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic location as part of a pharmacist -run anticoagulation and primary care …

What Pharmacists Do

Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. They also may conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, oversee the medications given to patients, and provide advice on healthy lifestyles.

Duties of Pharmacists

Pharmacists 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 as college professors. They may teach pharmacy students or conduct research. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

 Work Environment for Pharmacists

Pharmacists hold about 314,300 jobs. The largest employers of pharmacists are as follows:

Pharmacies and drug stores 43%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 26%
Food and beverage stores 8%
General merchandise stores 6%

Some pharmacists work for the government and the military. In most settings, they spend much of the workday on their feet.

Pharmacist Work Schedules

Most pharmacists work full time. Because many pharmacies are open at all hours, some pharmacists work nights and weekends.

What Does a Pharmacist Do?

Pharmacists dispense prescription medication along with key information, such as side effects, contraindications with other medicines, and a range of other concerns. They also walk customers through their physicians’ dosage and usage instructions to ensure medications are safely and effectively consumed.

Tasks pharmacists typically perform include:

    • Dispensing or supervising the dispensation of medications and related supplies, according to physicians’ prescriptions
    • Reviewing prescriptions for accuracy
    • Checking for drug interactions
    • Compounding medications and preparing special solutions
    • Counseling patients regarding appropriate use of medications
    • Overseeing daily ordering, as well as automatic refills
    • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals to plan, monitor, review, and evaluate patient effectiveness
    • Recommending drug therapy changes when appropriate
 
  • Ensuring the pharmacy complies with all local, state, and federal regulations
  • Educating patients and staff on drug therapies
 

Pharmacist Salary

A pharmacist’s salary is based on education and level of experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017, pharmacists earned the following salary:

  • Median annual salary: $124,170 ($59.70/hour)
  • Top 10% annual salary: $159,410 ($76.64/hour)
  • Bottom 10% annual salary: $87,420 ($42.03/hour)

Education Requirements & Qualifications

Those interested in becoming a pharmacist must have the following education and certifications:

  • Training: 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 one- to two-year residency. Pharmacists who choose to complete the two-year residency option receive additional training in a specialty area such as internal medicine or geriatric care.
  • Licensing: Each U.S. state licenses pharmacists and has its own set of requirements. All applicants must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). Most states also require graduates to pass a pharmacy law test known as the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). Also, pharmacists who administer vaccinations and immunizations need to be certified in most states.
 

Pharmacist Skills & Competencies

Those interested in becoming a pharmacist should possess the following skills:

  • Reading comprehension: The ability to understand written information.
  • Active listening: The ability to understand customers, medical staff, and coworkers.
  • Verbal communication: The ability to provide clear and concise instructions for administering medication to patients, caretakers, and other healthcare workers.
  • Critical thinking: The ability to solve problems and weigh the merits of different possible solutions.
  • Attention to detail: The ability to carry out tasks with granular precision.
  • Physical stamina: The ability to spend the majority of your shift standing up.
  • Compassion: The ability to provide friendly consultations, vaccinations, and service.
 

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017, employment of pharmacists is expected to continue to grow 6% to 2026. This increase is partly due to the medical needs of aging baby boomers, increases in chronic diseases such as diabetes, and scientific advances in new medications.

Work Environment

Some pharmacists work for the government and the military, while others work for private companies. Pharmacists spend a great deal of time working indoors, standing on their feet.

Work Schedule

Most pharmacists work full-time, however, one in five may work part-time shifts. Because many pharmacies are open at all hours, some pharmacists work nights and weekends.

Comparing Similar Jobs

People interested in a career as a pharmacist should also consider the following career paths. Here’s a list of similar jobs, along with their median annual salary:

  • Biochemist and biophysicist: $91,000
  • Medical scientist: $82,080
  • Pharmacy technician: $31,750
  • Physician and surgeon: $208,000
  • Registered nurse: $70,000
 

Apply

Look at resources such as Indeed, Monster, and CareerBuilder for the latest job postings. These sites also provide other helpful resources such as resume and cover letter writing tips, as well as interview techniques.

Networking

Join organizations to meet other members and gain additional information. The American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) provides an extensive listing of key organizations that provide educational, networking, and career opportunities for members.

  Description Median Annual Wage (2016) Minimum Required Education/Training
Pharmacy Technician Helps pharmacists prepare prescription medications for customers $30,920 6 Months to 2 Years of Formal Training or On-the-Job Training
Audiologist Diagnoses hearing and balance problems $75,980 Doctor of Audiology Degree
Optician Fits eyeglasses and contact lenses based on optometrists’ and ophthalmologists’ prescriptions $35,530 On-the-Job Training
Speech Pathologist Provides therapy to people who have speech disorders $74,680 Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology

12 Things You Need to Know Before Working in a Pharmacy

Beginning a new career is exciting. It’s a fresh start. It’s a time of growth and learning. It’s your opportunity to make a better life for you and your family. And if you are considering a career in a healthcare environment, you’ll be engaging in work that helps people make better lives for themselves as well.

“Working in the pharmacy is a great way to be a part of the medical field and help others without dealing with blood and other body fluids,” says Amanda Vickery, R. Ph. and faculty at the Rasmussen College School of Health Sciences. If you are at all interested in the field of healthcare, then you should definitely take a look at the pharmacy side of things.

But before you start down the path toward any career, there are a few things you should know. You want to understand the education requirements required, the work setting and the expectations involved. It’s helpful to have an idea of the salary potential and career outlook as well.

To give you a sneak peek of what it’s really like working in a pharmacy, we compiled a master list of the top things you should know beforehand. This way, if you do decide to work in a pharmacy, whether as a pharmacy tech or pharmacist, you’ll know just what to expect.

What you need to know before working in a pharmacy

This list combines government data and professional insight to provide you with a behind-the-scenes look of working in a pharmacy. Keep reading to determine if this work environment appeals to you!

1. Pharmacy hours may be irregular

Many pharmacies are open at all hours. This can mean irregular schedules and night shifts for some pharmacy workers. Especially early on, technicians may be assigned late or even overnight shifts. However, as you increase your experience and move up the ranks, you’ll likely gain more autonomy over your schedule.

2. A pharm tech career can lead to becoming a pharmacist

A pharm tech certification can be just the beginning of your career path. Earning certification helps legitimize your knowledge of the field and prepares you for the rigorous education requirements of becoming a full-fledged pharmacist. If you are interested in pharmacy work, a pharm tech certification can be the perfect entry-level option.

Another plus is that it can keep you up to date with advancements in medical technology and terminology.

3. You can work in a wide variety of settings

Whatever your primary picture for a pharmacy is, you probably haven’t considered all the options. But the different kinds of pharmacy career options available make a great situation for a wide variety of personality types. If you’d prefer not to face customers all day, for example, you can find employment in a pharmacy where customer interaction is kept to a minimum.

“The variety of work environments suits people with a variety of personalities,” Vickery says. “Those who are outgoing and enjoy customer service may prefer working in a retail pharmacy. Hospital pharmacy and mail order pharmacy are great choices for pharmacy technicians who do not care as much for customer service.”

There are also long-term care facility pharmacies, home care pharmacies and more. For a closer look at what kind of pharmacies are out there.

4. The median salary for a pharmacy technician is $31,750 per year*

The median annual salary for pharm techs is over $30,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They also report the top 10 percent of earners brought in nearly $47,000 per year. Higher pharm tech salaries are typically found in ambulatory healthcare services and hospitals.*

5. Pharm tech careers are on the rise

With an aging population and a growing number of individuals needing both medical and pharmaceutical care, the pharmacy industry is certainly not slowing down anytime soon. The BLS predicts employment of pharmacy technicians will grow 12 percent through 2026, which is a rate higher than the average occupation.*

A large number of aging baby boomers is a huge factor, but the BLS also mentions new research and developments in medicine that result in pharmaceutical treatments for diseases that were previously untreatable. The more sickness and disease we can treat, the more pharmacies will be in demand.

6. There are requirements you’ll have to meet

Requirements for pharmacy technicians will vary depending on the state you live in, but generally they’ll include:

  • Obtaining a high school diploma or GED
  • Passing a criminal background check
  • Completing a formal education or training progam
  • Continuing education hours to maintain good standing
  • Passing a certification exam

7. You’ll need excellent communication skills

Both technicians and pharmacists must be willing and able to interact with coworkers and customers in a professional manner. Vickery says pharm techs working in retail settings absolutely need some customer service skill. Customers may have questions about their prescription, over-the-counter drugs or supplements that will need to be referred to the pharmacist.

Even if you work in a nonpatient-facing pharmacy, your communication abilities and professional demeanor with physicians, insurance professionals and other pharmacy employees is vital for your success and for patient safety.

8. You must pay attention to the details

Working in a pharmacy means you’re providing critical medications for individuals. This means your actions could literally mean life or death for patients. “Accuracy is very important,” Vickery says. “Making sure the patient receives the correct medication in the right dosage and that all calculations are performed correctly requires adequate training and great attention to detail.”

Vickery says one of the most challenging parts of the job is to stay accurate while working very quickly. It’s important to keep perspective on how crucial your work is, no matter how busy it gets.

9. The pharmacist is there to ensure accuracy

If you are working as a pharm tech, the little details matter, but you won’t be alone. Pharmacists are there to check those details and ensure that all medications are filled properly.

“Remember that the pharmacist is there to answer your questions, to catch errors and to counsel the patients regarding their medications,” Vickery says.

Obviously that’s somewhat of a relief, but remember, pharmacists have important work to do and can’t spend all of their time fixing errors you may have made. Getting it right the first time is a valuable ability.

10. Math skills come in handy

Your math teacher was right—you will use that stuff in the real world! Both pharmacists and pharm techs utilize math abilities on a daily basis to ensure they have the right dosage and measurements and chemistry knowledge to ensure that compounds are mixed correctly for your patients.

11. You’ll want to know a thing or two about insurance

There’s also an insurance and billing side to the pharm tech career. “I was surprised by how complex that insurance billing can be in a retail pharmacy,” Vickery says. “Resolving any insurance rejections is an important part of the pharmacy technician’s job.”

12. You’ll spend most of the work day on your feet

You’ll want to get comfortable shoes if you decide to work in a pharmacy, because you’ll be on the move. Whether you’re checking inventory, filling prescriptions or interacting with customers, there’s not a lot of downtime. You should expect to be standing most of the day—so be prepared.

Picture yourself working in a pharmacy?

Working in a pharmacy is a wonderful way to contribute to the growing healthcare field and make a positive impact on your career. Not only are you helping others achieve better health and quality of life, but you are also entrusted with the critical role of providing them with the means to do so.

Now that you know you’re up for the challenge of working in a pharmacy, you’re probably wondering more about pharmacy careers and what the job duties are like.

10 Reasons Why Pharmacists Have Great Jobs

The days of signing bonuses immediately after graduation may be over, but we still have a great job in comparison to MANY career fields.

I believe that pharmacists really do have great profession. Here are 10 reasons why:

Diverse career options

Pharmacists have the ability to choose a career path that is a good fit for them. From research, to clinical, to retail, pharmacists have the flexibility to train for and pursue the career that most closely meshes with their area of interest, work preferences, and schedule.

You can’t be placed in 1 box forever in pharmacy. You can transition into another field. If you don’t like your job, change it. The only person who stops you from getting out of your job is you.

Flexibility

Because of the diverse career options mentioned above, pharmacists can pursue jobs that help them achieve a work-life balance. Since pharmacists are in demand around the clock, it is possible to find work for any shift. For pharmacists with young kids, there are many second shift, weekend, or part-time options. Need to do the 9-5 thing? A job in a clinical setting or research lab might be right for you.

Job growth potential

Forbes states in its article that the number of pharmacy jobs is expected to increase 14% by 2022. This doesn’t just mean more jobs—it means more opportunities for advancement. Whether you are in pharmacy school or already working in the profession, this is good news.

Salary

According to Forbes, the average salary for a pharmacist is $116,700. Many pharmacy graduates are saddled with crushing student loan debt, but this is still good money. And the career options and flexibility mentioned above sweeten the deal.

Money shouldn’t be our end goal in life. However, it’s a really nice salary to receive immediately out of college. There are FEW professions that create graduates who make $100,000 immediately after graduation.

Availability of online resources

A wealth of online resources are available to pharmacists, making it easy to connect with others in the profession, find information, and keep up with the latest news and research. Professional organizations, such as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, have a strong online presence and offer everything from continuing education to mentorship programs.

Close-knit community

Despite what we’ve all heard about the vast number of pharmacy graduates, the pharmacy community is really quite small. Chances are that in most areas, everybody in the profession knows most everybody else. And good reputations travel extremely fast, which makes it easier to find jobs.

Availability of mentors

I have found that pharmacists are some of the most helpful people on the planet. Most are glad to share their knowledge with students or recent graduates.  If you are willing to put in the work, I guarantee you that you will be able to find a pharmacy mentor who can help guide you along your career path.

Respected profession

While medical doctors consistently top lists of the most-respected professions, I believe that pharmacists are up there, too. Like physicians, pharmacists have an advanced degree and are experts at helping people stay healthy. We study the tough stuff, like chemistry and calculus, and we have a huge amount of responsibility for our patients.

Autonomy on the job

In most work environments, pharmacists have a lot of autonomy to manage their work and time. This is not to say that there won’t be some crazy moments in the average workday, but a pharmacist has the ability to determine how to best set their priorities and serve their patients.

Ability to help people

We all know that helping people has “feel-good” benefits. Pharmacists are lucky enough to directly help people on a daily basis.  It’s true that some patients can be difficult and few show their appreciation, but every once in a while, you will make a big impact—and maybe save someone’s life. For me, that is what makes being a pharmacist the best profession of all.

The pharmacy profession has so many available options available. I know dozens of pharmacists who hated their jobs in retail, hospital, clinical, managed care, research, academia, but they didn’t settle with their “awful jobs.” Instead, they pushed themselves to network, receive certifications, and achieve accomplishments that attracted new opportunities in completely different pharmacy fields.

The only person who determines whether you have a great job or a lame job is you. Every day, you determine what kind of career, life, and day you will have. I encourage you to look on the bright side of our profession.

pharmacy career guide

Pharmacists are experts in safe and effective drug treatment. They can work in healthcare settings, making sure people are prescribed appropriate medicines, or in industry – for example, developing and manufacturing new drugs.

How to become a pharmacist

To become a pharmacist you need:

  • Science subjects in your A levels, Scottish Highers or IB – to get you onto a pharmacy degree. University entry requirements vary, but a typical course might ask for chemistry plus at least one out of biology, maths or physics. A few courses will accept biology instead of chemistry, or consider psychology as an alternative ‘second’ subject. For Scottish Highers, you may also need English, require a greater number of science subjects and could need Advanced Highers. Depending on the university, generally A or B grades are required.
  • A pharmacy degree accredited by the General Pharmaceutical Council. These typically last four years and combine science theory and practice. A few universities run five-year courses that include a year’s worth of work placement experience that counts as your pre-registration training year (see below). You’ll receive an MPharm qualification.
  • To complete a pre-registration training year. This is a year of paid work immediately after your university degree, during which you’ll be supervised by an experienced pharmacist and receive on-the-job training. Your pre-registration year could be in a community pharmacy, a hospital setting, with a drug company (industry) or a combination of two of these. You’ll also need to pass two exams set by the General Pharmaceutical Council, known as the registration assessment, and complete some paperwork (such as declaring any criminal convictions or health conditions that could affect your work).
  • To register with the General Pharmaceutical Council. This shows future employers that you are fully qualified.

Different types of jobs for pharmacists

As a pharmacist there are a number of different job roles to choose from. Some of the main options include:

  • Hospital pharmacist. You’ll work for a hospital carrying out tasks such as making sure patients get the right medicines in an appropriate dose and format, advising and training other staff, buying in medicines and testing their quality, and making up any medications that can’t be bought in ready made. See our Q&A with a hospital pharmacist below to find out more.
  • Community pharmacist. Community pharmacists work in local pharmacy stores, or in pharmacies located within supermarkets or GP surgeries. You’ll advise customers, supervise staff, prepare prescriptions and help run the business.
  • Industrial pharmacist. A career in industrial pharmacy can involve creating new drugs, overseeing their manufacture and/or certifying that they meet the relevant quality standards. You could also move into a more business-focused role.

Becoming a pharmacy technician

If you don’t fancy going to university, you could become a pharmacy technician, assisting a pharmacist under their direction. You’ll typically need GCSEs or National 4s to follow this route.

To register as a qualified pharmacy technician you’ll need to work in a pharmacy setting for at least two years as a pre-registration pharmacy technician and take qualifications approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council to assess your skills and knowledge. There are City & Guilds, BTECs, NVQs and SVQs available.

Q&A with a hospital pharmacist

TARGETcareers spoke to a hospital pharmacist to find out more about this career. She’s a senior clinical pharmacist on the surgical emergency ward.

How did you get into a career as a pharmacist?

To study pharmacy at university I took maths, physics and chemistry at A level, though most pharmacy students have studied biology.

What does your work as a pharmacist involve?

Each sector of pharmacy is slightly different but the main aim is to ensure safe and effective medication use. In the hospital setting I review patients who are admitted to hospital and check their medication history. I ensure all the regular medicines they were taking prior to admission are prescribed (if appropriate), and ensure new medicines prescribed are done so correctly and do not interact with other medicines. I also try to ensure patients are discharged from hospital in a timely manner, counselling patients on their new medicines and ensuring they know how to take them.

I provide advice to and often liaise with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to ensure patients are receiving the best care. I also teach others about medicines, including junior pharmacy staff.

I am involved in reviewing medication incidents – I look at why it might have happened when something has gone wrong and if there are things we can do to prevent the errors happening again, such as extra teaching needed or processes to review and change. I also write procedures and protocols to ensure safe and proper use of medicines in the clinical ward area.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love working in a busy hospital environment within the multi-disciplinary team, including with surgeons, doctors, nurses and other pharmacists. I am constantly learning new things and being challenged in my daily role. I value being able to help patients and ensure they are receiving the best care in regard to drug therapy and have the information they need to take medicines safely on the ward and at home. I also love teaching and writing guidelines – so there is something to suit every pharmacist’s strengths and preferences!

What skills or personal qualities do you need to be a good pharmacist?

In addition to the specialist knowledge and practical skills learned through training, a pharmacist is someone who has an eye for detail, is a good team player, has good time management and communication skills, and someone who wants to ensure the best for every patient.

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Medicine degrees and beyond

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types of careers in pharmacy

Do you know how many possible career paths exist for pharmacy graduates?

Having a career in pharmacy isn’t just about dispensing medicines in a corner pharmacy or working as a scientist in a research laboratory. There are so many more opportunities that can provide pharmacy graduates with an exciting and rewarding career!

Appealing to anyone interested in health care, pharmacy often goes hand in hand with other health branches like medicine, public health, psychology, and business. And did you know that many people looking at pharmacy programs may also qualify to study medicine or dentistry?

What careers can Pharmacy lead to?

Top ideas for your pharmacy career

  • Community pharmacist. …
  • Hospital pharmacist. …
  • Consultant pharmacist. …
  • Non-dispensing (general practice) pharmacist. …
  • Researcher / academic. …
  • Pharmaceutical industry / clinical trials. …
  • Locum pharmacist. …
  • Aged care pharmacist.

what other jobs can i do with a pharmacy degree

As well as working as a community or hospital pharmacist, pharmacy graduates can also find opportunities in academia, the pharmaceutical industry and with regulatory bodies

Job options

Jobs directly related to your degree include:

Jobs where your degree would be useful include:

Remember that many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so don’t restrict your thinking to the jobs listed here.

What Can You Do With a Pharmacy Degree? | Careers in Pharmacy

alternative careers for pharmacists

If you have a degree in pharmacology, you can explore many careers outside of becoming a pharmacist. While a career as a pharmacist can provide you with many benefits, other careers in this field allow you to use your degree in various ways. Knowing your career options and what these jobs entail can help you make a more strategic career decision. In this article, we define the role of a pharmacist, list 23 alternative career for pharmacists and provide you with tips for a career in pharmacology.

Alternative jobs for pharmacists

Many jobs in pharmacology involve a variety of duties and a lucrative salary. Knowing the daily duties of these jobs can help you determine whether you want to pursue them. Here are 12 jobs where pharmacists can apply their skills:

1. Pharmaceutical research technician

National average salary: $40,248 per year

Primary duties: Pharmaceutical research technicians assist doctors, veterinarians or scientists with the research and development of new or existing medications. They often supervise experiments, document laboratory results, maintain records and test for different compounds. Pharmaceutical research technicians also ensure a clean lab environment.

2. Laboratory technician

National average salary: $49,793 per year

Primary duties: A laboratory technician is a person who performs various procedures in a laboratory setting. They maintain equipment, ensure a clean workspace and help lead scientists with different experiments. Laboratory technicians also analyze samples and conduct laboratory testing based on standard procedures.

Related: Learn About Being a Lab Technician

3. Medical science liaison

National average salary: $66,167 per year

Primary duties: Medical science liaisons act as scientific peers in the medical community. They ensure a product gets used properly and provide scientific expertise to their colleagues. Medical science liaisons also maintain communication and relationships with academic researchers, attend conferences and engage in discussions on drug therapies and diseases.

4. Clinical research coordinator

National average salary: $68,881 per year

Primary duties: Clinical research coordinators administer clinical trials under the supervision of a clinical research manager. They manage and conduct clinical trials, gather data, let participants know about a study’s objective and administer questionnaires.

Related: Learn How To Become a Clinical Research Coordinator

5. Medical writer

National average salary: $70,844 per year

Primary duties: A medical writer creates scientific papers such as research- or drug-related documents and literature or content for medical or healthcare websites. They write and edit their medical writing deliverables and work alongside scientists or doctors.

6. Pharmaceutical sales representative

National average salary: $75,327 per year

Primary duties: Pharmaceutical sales representatives sell their company’s pharmaceutical products. They educate medical professionals on these products and on how these drugs, devices and treatments can meet their patients’ needs. Pharmaceutical sales representatives also help medical professionals see how their products differ from that of their competitors.

7. Medical representative

National average salary: $77,813 per year

Primary duties: Medical representatives sell their company’s various products including its pharmaceutical drugs or medical equipment. They travel to different locations and contact potential customers at healthcare facilities like hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. Medical representatives often arrange appointments with hospital medical teams to share their company’s products.

8. Clinical research associate

National average salary: $97,140 per year

Primary duties: A clinical research associate manages clinical trials and studies related to pharmaceutical and biotechnological products, drugs and procedures. They perform research to ensure the safety of these products on the market.

9. Research scientist

National average salary: $107,617 per year

Primary duties: Research scientists design and analyze information in laboratory investigations, trials and experiments. They plan and conduct experiments, write grant proposals, complete funding applications and work alongside team members and support staff.

10. Regulatory affairs manager

National average salary: $107,783 per year

Primary duties: Regulatory affairs managers ensure companies remain compliant with rules and regulations set by different regulatory agencies. They oversee the regulation process, create procedures to verify compliance and coordinate company inspections.

ALTERNATIVE CAREER PATHS FOR PHARMACISTS: A Pharmacists guide to Careers  Outside of the NHS eBook : careers, alternativepharmacist: Amazon.co.uk:  Books

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