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Pharmacist Career Info, Duties and Employment Options

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a pharmacist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and state licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

A pharmacist is a highly trained healthcare professional. They may work in drugstores and hospitals where they prepare and dispense medications, as well as provide instructions and precautions about the medications, to patients.

Essential Information

Pharmacists work in healthcare facilities, drugstores and hospitals, providing prescription drugs and medication advice to patients. Pharmacists can also work outside of retail pharmacy in the public sector or in a specialty, such as distribution of medications, pharmaceutical development or patient education. To become a pharmacist, students must complete a doctoral program, including supervised work experiences, and gain state licensure.

Required Education Doctor of Pharmacy
Other Requirements State license
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3%
Average Salary (2015)* $119,270 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Pharmacist Career Information and Job Duties

About two thirds of pharmacists work in a retail setting and fill prescriptions for patients and customers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (www.bls.gov). Pharmacists prepare and dispense medications, ensuring that patients receive proper instructions for administering the medications, as well as warning of any precautions a patient should take or of any diet or health restrictions based on the medication. Most medications are created in a pharmaceutical factory, but some pharmacists still create some medications in house at a compounding pharmacy. Specialized pharmacists have additional job duties.

State Licensure

Pharmacists need to obtain a state license. To apply for a state license, a student must possess a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.) degree from a school accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (www.acpe-accredit.org). Additionally, each state requires pharmacists to complete several examinations, including the North American Pharmacist Licensure examination. A law test supplements the licensure exams to ensure that a pharmacist is familiar with all the state and federal laws associated with being a pharmacist. All states require a minimum amount of work experience in a practice-related setting.

Employment Options

Choosing a specialization within pharmaceutical studies can open up career options outside the medication distribution role. Working in a specific drug therapy area like oncology or psychiatric pharmacy allows a pharmacist to become a specialist in that area. Pharmacists interested in performing research can become a pharmaceutical researcher and develop new drugs along with running controlled test groups for these new drugs.

Pharmacists can become teachers at a college and share their knowledge of pharmaceutical studies with students. Health insurance companies provide employment opportunities for pharmacists, hiring these workers to analyze research findings on certain drugs. Private industries may hire pharmacists to market drugs.

Pharmacists are licensed by the state. Licensing requirements include completing a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, passing several examinations, and gaining work experience in a practice-related field. Pharmacists can also find career opportunities in pharmaceutical research, postsecondary education, or heath insurance.


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