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Pharmacist Job Description, Career as a Pharmacist, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Advanced degree

Salary: Median—$84,900 per year

Employment Outlook: Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Pharmacists are health practitioners who specialize in dispensing drugs prescribed by physicians and providing information to patients about their side effects and use. Pharmacists must understand the composition of medicines, as well as the laws that regulate their manufacture and sale. They order and store medicines, keeping them safe, pure, and effective. They are required by law to maintain records of the drugs they handle.

Most pharmacists work in community pharmacies. Some of these retail stores, which are owned either by the pharmacists themselves or by drugstore chains, sell only medical and sickroom supplies; others carry a wide range of items, from health supplies to laundry detergent and stationery. Some pharmacists concentrate on the dispensing of drugs, while others manage entire stores, creating combined pharmacy and business careers.

Some pharmacists work in hospital or nursing home pharmacies. They buy, inspect, store, and distribute drugs. They often keep drug information libraries and advise the medical and nursing staffs about new drugs.

Other pharmacists work in the pharmaceutical industry, which includes companies that research, manufacture, or sell medicines. Pharmacists are also employed Pharmacists work in pharmacies, hospitals, or nursing homes, dispensing drugs that require a doctor's prescription. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.) by government agencies and as teachers in colleges and universities. A small number work in specialized areas, such as writing or editing books, articles, or advertisements about drugs.

Education and Training Requirements

Pharmacists must have at least six years of education beyond high school. After two or three years of college, students enter four-year programs that result in pharmacy degrees. Entry requirements usually include courses in mathematics, natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences. About two-thirds of all colleges of pharmacy require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test. Students may go on to earn master's degrees or doctorates in specialty areas of pharmacy.

All states expect pharmacists to be licensed. Requirements include degrees from colleges of pharmacy accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and examinations.

Getting the Job

Most pharmacists begin their careers as employees in community or hospital pharmacies. Placement services of colleges of pharmacy usually have information about job openings. Graduates can also apply directly to pharmacies or to firms that make medicines. Professional associations can help graduates get jobs or open pharmacies of their own.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Advancement depends on many factors, including location, type of work, business skill, and ambition. About sixty percent of all pharmacists work in community pharmacies. Some open their own pharmacies. Those who work for chain-owned drugstores can become managers, while those employed by hospitals can become directors of pharmacy services. Pharmacists working for drug manufacturers can move into executive positions. Some pharmacists become administrators in government agencies, teachers, or researchers.

The employment of pharmacists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2014. The demand for pharmacists—because of general employment growth or because of retirements—should exceed the number of new graduates.

Working Conditions

Pharmacists work in clean, pleasant surroundings. Most salaried employees work about forty hours per week, while self-employed pharmacists work about fifty hours per week. They often work evening and weekend hours. Some pharmacists work part time.

Pharmacists are usually on their feet for long hours. They should be in good health and be able to communicate with other professionals as well as with the public. They must be responsible people who can do careful, detailed, and confidential work. Management skills are also an asset.

Earnings and Benefits

Earnings vary depending on experience, skill, and place of employment. In 2004 the median annual salary of pharmacists was $84,900 per year. Owners of pharmacies, managers of chain drugstores, and high-level administrators often earned much more.

Where to Go for More Information

American Pharmacists Association
2215 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20037-2985
(800) 237-2742

National Association of Chain Drug Stores
413 N. Lee St.
PO Box 1417-D49
Alexandria, VA 22313-1480
(703) 549-3001

Self-employed pharmacists must provide their own benefits. Benefits for salaried pharmacists generally include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine