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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.

Career Definition for a Retail Pharmacist

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.

Education Two to three years of undergraduate courses before entering a Pharm.D. program
Job Skills Customer service, analytical and scientific thinking, discretion
Median Salary (2017)* $125,850 (in food and beverage stores), $123,670 (in pharmacies/drugstores), $128,610 (in general merchandise stores)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 6% for all pharmacists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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 doctoral 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

Job growth for pharmacists is expected to be slower than average at 6% for the 2016-2026 decade, reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Pharmacy graduates should expect to face competition for job positions. The median annual wage for retail pharmacists working in food and beverage stores was $125,850, while pharmacists in general merchandise stores earned a median of $128,610 and retail pharmacists working in dedicated pharmacies and drugstores made $123,670 in 2017.

Alternate Career Options

You might want to look into these alternative career options related to healthcare and medicine:

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 median annual salary of $31,750 in 2017, according to the BLS. From 2016-2026, the BLS projected faster-than-average employment growth of 12% for pharmacy technicians.

Medical Scientist

A Ph.D. in life science, a medical degree or both are often held by these scientists who conduct research to improve the state of human health. In 2017, the BLS predicted faster-than-average job expansion of 13% for these professionals, through 2026. Medical scientists, not including epidemiologists, earned a median salary of $82,090 in 2017, per the BLS.


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