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Retail Pharmacist: Employment Info & Requirements

Retail pharmacists dispense medications in independent and chain drug stores, grocery stores, department stores and other general merchandise retail stores. Read the following information to learn about the education requirements, necessary skills, salary and employment outlook for this career.

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Career Definition

Retail pharmacists receive orders for medication, dispense prescriptions and advise patients on the proper use of medication. Retail pharmacists are responsible for measuring and providing the proper dosages and types of medicine to patients according to their prescriptions. The American Pharmacists' Association,, estimates that retail pharmacists spend about five percent of their time stocking shelves, ordering supplies and completing other office management tasks.

How to Become a Retail Pharmacist

Required Education

Retail pharmacists have completed at least two to three years of college coursework in biology, chemistry and related topics before entering Pharm.D. degree programs. Retail pharmacists have then earned licenses and Pharm.D. degrees through accredited programs. Some retail pharmacists have master's or doctorate degrees in specific fields of pharmacy, such as pharmacology, pharmaceutics, pharmaceutical chemistry or pharmacy administration. All retail pharmacists are licensed, requiring passing a series of exams after finishing their educations.

Skills Required

Retail pharmacists work with the general public, and they must have good customer service skills. In order to properly assess drug effects and interactions, retail pharmacists are analytical and scientific in their thinking. The confidential nature of retail pharmacy requires discretion and respect for patients' privacy.

Career and Economic Outlook

As the number of prescription drugs and their use increase, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,, expects that jobs for retail pharmacists will increase quickly. The mean annual wage for retail pharmacists working in grocery stores was $111,040, pharmacists in department stores earned $113,290 and retail pharmacists working in other general merchandise stores made $122,810 on average in 2012,

Alternate Career Options

Pharmacy Technician

For those who are interested in pharmacy careers but wish to enter the workforce more quickly, this career might be a good fit. In some states, high school graduates can learn the needed skills while supervised by a pharmacist. In other locations, a formal training program and qualifying exam will be required. These technicians who help to dispense prescriptions in both hospitals and retail pharmacies earned a mean annual salary of $30,430 in 2012, according to the BLS. From 2010-2020, the BLS projected much faster than average employment growth of 32% for pharmacy technicians.

Medical Scientist

A Ph.D. in a life science, a medical degree, or both are often held by these scientists who conduct research to improve the state of human health. In 2010, the BLS predicted much faster than average job expansion of 36% for these professionals, through 2020. Medical scientists, not including epidemiologists, earned an average of $87,830 in 2012, per the BLS.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics