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Pharmacist Vs. Doctor

Pharmacists and doctors both provide important healthcare services to patients. Their work environment and general duties can differ widely, however. Read on to compare these healthcare careers.

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Comparing Pharmacists to Doctors

Doctors see patients, diagnose their medical conditions and determine the appropriate course of treatment for them. Pharmacists may also provide some basic medical care for people by doing things like giving flu shots or doing general health tests, but their primary duties involve ensuring people have the right prescription medication they're supposed to use and that they know how to take their medication properly.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Pharmacists Doctoral degree $122,230 6%
Doctors Medical degree $190,490 (family and general practitioners) 16% (family and general practitioners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Pharmacists vs. Doctors

Most people commonly associate pharmacists with drugs. While pharmacists do put together orders of prescriptions, they also perform other tasks related to their clients' health care. They may be responsible for giving people immunizations and some work in clinics or hospitals where they perform medical tests on patients. One thing that both pharmacists and doctors commonly do is to provide general health information, such as dietary advice. Doctors see patients who are getting check-ups or who have been ill or injured. They determine if there are medical issues with the patient and prescribe appropriate treatment for their patients.

Pharmacists

Many pharmacists work in drug stores or other retail environments, while others work in hospitals. Their hours vary because it's common for some pharmacies to be open 24 hours a day. They may provide general medical advice to the customers they see and are responsible for ensuring that each customer has the right medication that they were prescribed and understands how to take it. Those who work in hospitals may have additional responsibilities and help determine what medications should be prescribed. Pharmacists are required to have a doctoral degree in pharmacy and they must be licensed. Some positions require pharmacists to also complete a residency.

Job responsibilities of a pharmacist include:

  • Providing general health advice about issues such as stress
  • Supervising pharmacy technicians and interns
  • Confirming prescriptions
  • Completing paperwork for insurance companies
  • Identifying any potential complications from medications prescribed

Doctors

Doctors provide direct medical treatment to their patients. This may involve assessing an injury to determine how to ensure it heals properly or assessing test results to diagnose a patient with an illness or disease. It's most common for doctors to work in a doctor's office, medical clinic or hospital, and they may work during the day, night or weekends. To become a doctor it's necessary to earn a medical degree and a medical license. They are also required to fulfill the residency requirements for their area of specialty in order to complete their qualifications.

Job responsibilities of a doctor include:

  • Questioning patients about their health and symptoms
  • Updating patient files
  • Referring patients for tests or assessment by a specialist
  • Informing patients of a diagnosis
  • Explaining treatment options to patients

Related Careers

Individuals thinking about a career as a pharmacist may also be interested in becoming a medical scientist, since medical scientists can help produce vaccines and other treatments for medical issues. Aspiring doctors may also be interested in considering a career as a physician assistant or medical assistant.

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