Pharmacist Vs. Nurse

The priorities of pharmacists and nurses center on treatment for injuries, disease and illnesses, but their job duties are very different. Likewise, their degree requirements, salaries, and career outlooks differ.

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Comparing Pharmacists to Nurses

Given the depth and breadth of the healthcare industry, it is no surprise that both pharmacists and nurses work in various units and facilities, like hospitals and clinics. The main tasks of each are very different from one another, however, especially since some pharmacists can work behind the scenes all day in a hospital and never see a patient, whereas most nurses work directly with patients.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Pharmacists Doctoral Degree $122,230 6%
Nurses Bachelor's Degree $68,450 (registered nurses) 15% (registered nurses)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Clinical and Hospital Pharmacy
  • Clinical and Industrial Drug Development
  • Medicinal and Pharmaceutical Chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Economics
  • Pharmaceutics and Drug Design
  • Pharmacognosy
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Responsibilities of Pharmacists vs. Nurses

Much of the treatment in the healthcare field relies on medications, and both pharmacists and nurses are charged with correctly dispensing the proper medications in the right dosages. Pharmacists, however, do not necessarily work directly with patients, though they may answer a patient's questions regarding the risks and reactions of their prescriptions. Nurses focus on the daily care of injured and ill individuals, going well beyond handing out medications.


Experts in medications and the chemical reactions they cause, both in a person's body and with one another, pharmacists offer patients detailed information about their prescriptions. Warning patients of possible side effects and answering questions regarding dosage are key responsibilities for these professionals, whether they run their own pharmacy or work in a large, franchise pharmacy. They may also give patients immunizations for the flu and other illnesses. Some pharmacists work in research and development and contribute to the formulation of new drugs.

Job responsibilities of a pharmacist include:

  • Answering patient questions about what medical equipment to purchase, such as diabetes testers
  • Creating a means for packaging and labeling medications, ensuring the required information, such as dosage and patient information, is present
  • Monitoring the safe disposal of outdated or improper medications
  • Leading a team of pharmacy technicians and prioritizing which prescriptions to fill first


Emergency rooms, mental health facilities, and neonatal units are just some of the places nurses practice their patient care. In a hospital, they are responsible for using blood pressure cuffs, scales, and other medical equipment to take and record a person's vital signs. They may also monitor brain activity and dialysis machines. Additionally, when working triage, it can be their responsibility to examine a patient's wounds and decide which ones to care for first, tending to the most life threatening.

Job responsibilities of a nurse include:

  • Providing patients advice on proper diet and exercise
  • Listening to and recording a patient's symptoms
  • Assisting doctors and technicians during diagnostic tests
  • Supporting a patient and their families during emotional moments

Related Careers

If a job as a pharmacist interests you, it may be beneficial to also look into a career as a biochemist, since both of these positions involve understanding chemical reactions. If, however, you're curious about a career as a nurse, you may research a job as a physician assistant as well, since both focus on caring for patients.

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