What you need to know
Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. They also may conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, oversee the medications given to patients, and provide advice on healthy lifestyles.
Pharmacists work in pharmacies, including those in drug, general merchandise, and grocery stores. They also work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Some of the things a pharmacist might do:
- Fill prescriptions, verifying instructions from physicians on the proper amounts of medication to give to patients
- Check whether prescriptions will interact negatively with other drugs that a patient is taking or any medical conditions the patient has
- Instruct patients on how and when to take a prescribed medicine and inform them about potential side effects from taking the medicine
- Give flu shots and, in most states, other vaccinations
- Advise patients about general health topics, such as diet, exercise, and managing stress, and on other issues, such as what equipment or supplies would be best to treat a health problem
- Complete insurance forms and work with insurance companies to ensure that patients get the medicines they need
- Oversee the work of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in training (interns)
- Keep records and do other administrative tasks
- Teach other healthcare practitioners about proper medication therapies for patients
- Analytical skills: Pharmacists must provide safe medications efficiently. To do this, they must be able to evaluate a patient’s needs and the prescriber’s orders and have extensive knowledge of the effects and appropriate circumstances for giving out a specific medication.
- Communication skills: Pharmacists frequently offer advice to patients. They might need to explain how to take medicine, for example, and what its side effects are. They also need to offer clear direction to pharmacy technicians and interns.
- Computer skills: Pharmacists need computer skills in order to use any electronic health record (EHR) systems that their organization has adopted.
- Detail oriented: Pharmacists are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the prescriptions they fill. They must be able to find the information that they need to make decisions about what medications are appropriate for each patient because improper use of medication can pose serious health risks.
- Managerial skills: Pharmacists—particularly those who run a retail pharmacy—must have good managerial skills, including the ability to manage inventory and oversee a staff.
The average pay for pharmacists in the United States ranges from $85,210 to $164,980 as of May 2020.
The specific pay depends on factors such as level of experience, education and training, geographic location, and specific industry.
Employment of pharmacists is projected to decline 3 percent from 2019 to 2029.
However, demand is projected to increase for pharmacists in a variety of healthcare settings, including hospitals and clinics.
These facilities will need more pharmacists to oversee the medications given to patients and to provide patient care, doing tasks such as testing a patient’s blood sugar or cholesterol.
Prospective pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, a postgraduate professional degree.
Admissions requirements vary by program, however, all Pharm.D. programs require applicants to take postsecondary courses such as chemistry, biology, and physics. Most programs require at least 2 years of undergraduate study, although some require a bachelor’s degree. Most programs also require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
A Pharm.D. program includes courses in chemistry, pharmacology, and medical ethics. Students also complete supervised work experiences, sometimes referred to as internships, in different settings such as hospitals and retail pharmacies.