Pharmacists dispense drugs and medicines prescribed by physicians and dentists, advise on the use and proper dosage of prescription and nonprescription medicines, and work in research and marketing positions. Many pharmacists own their own businesses.
The majority of pharmacists work in community pharmacies (drugstores). These range from one-person operations to large retail establishments employing a staff of pharmacists.
Hospitals and clinics employ pharmacists to dispense drugs and medication to patients, advise the medical staff on the selection and effects of drugs, buy medical supplies, and prepare sterile solutions. In some hospitals, pharmacists also teach nursing classes.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers employ pharmacists in research and development and in sales positions. Drug wholesalers also employ them as sales and technical representatives.
The federal government employs pharmacists in hospitals and clinics of the Veterans Administration and the U.S. Public Health Service; in the Department of Defense; the Food and Drug Administration; the Department of Health, Education and Welfare; and in the Drug Enforcement Administration. State and local health agencies also employ pharmacists.
Many community and hospital pharmacists also do consulting work for nursing homes and other health facilities that do not employ a full-time pharmacist.
Places of Employment and Working Conditions
Just about every community has a drugstore employing at least one pharmacist. Most job opportunities, however, are in larger cities and densely populated metropolitan areas. National drugstore chains, such as CVS Pharmacy, are huge employers of pharmacists.
Pharmacists average about a 44-hour workweek; those who also do consulting work, on average, an additional 15 hours a week. Pharmacists in community pharmacies work longer hours—including evenings and weekends—than those employed by hospitals and other health care institutions, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and drug wholesalers. Some community and hospital pharmacies are open around-the-clock; pharmacists employed by them may have to work nights, weekends, and holidays.
Qualifications, Education, and Training
Prospective pharmacists need an interest in medicine and should have orderliness and accuracy, business ability, honesty and integrity.
Biology and chemistry courses along with some business courses should be taken in high school.
At least five years of study beyond high school are necessary to earn a degree in pharmacy. A few colleges admit pharmacy students immediately following high school, but most require one or two years of pre-pharmacy college study in mathematics, basic sciences, humanities, and social sciences.
Seventy-four colleges of pharmacy are accredited by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education. Most of these schools award a bachelor of science (B.S.) or a bachelor of pharmacy (B.Pharm) degree upon completion of the required course of study. About one-third of the schools also offer an advanced degree program leading to a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. A few schools offer only the Pharm.D. degree.
A Pharm.D. degree or a master's or Ph.D. degree in pharmacy or a related field is usually required for research, teaching, and administrative positions.
Pharmacists are usually required to serve an internship under the supervision of a registered pharmacist before they can obtain a license to practice. All states require a license and an applicant must usually have: 1) graduated from an accredited pharmacy college; 2) passed a state board of examination; and 3) had a specified amount of practical experience or internship. Many pharmacists are licensed to practice in more than one state, and most states will grant a license without examination to a qualified pharmacist licensed by another state.
Potential and Advancement
Many pharmacists in salaried positions advance by opening their own community pharmacies. Those employed by chain drugstores may advance to management positions or executive-level jobs within the company. Hospital pharmacists may advance to director of pharmacy service or to other administrative positions.
Pharmacists employed by the pharmaceutical industry have the widest latitude of advancement possibilities because they can advance in management, sales, research, quality control, advertising, production, or packaging. There will be fewer job opportunities, however, with manufacturers than in other areas of pharmacy.
Additional Sources of Information
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy 1727 King Street Alexandria, VA 22314
- American Society of Hospital Pharmacists 7272 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814
- National Association of Boards of Pharmacy 1600 Feehanville Dr Mount Prospect, IL 60056