Pharmacists ensure the safest and most effective use of medication to treat illness and medical conditions. To be a Pharmacist, you need to be strong in science and math and have good people skills.

Description of health care career information and the daily work:

Pharmacists dispense prescribed drugs, educate patients and consumers about the use of medications and their side effects, and monitor the health and progress of patients in response to drug therapy. As a Pharmacist, you would advise and educate physicians and other health care practitioners about all aspects of drugs including the appropriate selection of drug treatment for the condition, the dosage, the interaction with other drugs and possible side effects.

While much of what a Pharmacist does has stayed the same over the last decade, other aspects of the job have changed. Since pharmaceutical companies often deliver drugs in standard doses and forms, there is less need of the pharmacist to “compound” or physically mix ingredients to make tablets, capsules and solutions. But even with a more standard format, the pharmacist is still required to understand the chemical, biological and physical properties of a wide range of drugs, including what effects these drugs have on those who take them. Patients rely on Pharmacists to give them important information about they kinds of drugs they need and how to use them properly.

Many Pharmacist work in “retail” pharmacies which are located within large drugstore chains or grocery stores. They may also work in an independent pharmacy, or within a hospital or nursing home. Increasingly, Pharmacists are hired to dispense medicine through an on-line pharmacy.

Pharmacists who work in a retail setting often counsel and advise patients who come into the drug store to have their prescriptions filled. They may offer guidance about the prescription itself, or they may discuss other health related topics with the consumer such as diet, stress management, asthma or high blood pressure. As a pharmacist, you would also need to know about “over the counter” drugs (medicine that that does not need a prescription) and make recommendations about their use. Another aspect of working in retail pharmacy is handling the paperwork associated with insurance payments and billing. Most often Pharmacy Technicians handle these responsibilities under the supervision of the Pharmacist.

Those pharmacists who work in hospitals, community health centers or other medical facilities communicate with the medical staff and patients within the facility. They counsel patients on their drug treatment plan while in the hospital and may need to adjust the medication when they are discharged and sent home.

No matter what setting Pharmacists work in, they must keep detailed and accurate computer records of an individual’s drug treatment history. One small mistake in dispensing the wrong medication or dose may result in serious harm to a patient or consumer!

Pharmacists wear gloves and masks when working with potentially hazardous materials. They spend the majority of time on their feet as they dispense medications, talk with patients and consumers and keep computerized records. The work environment can be very fast paced, espeically in a large retail pharmacy.

The work hours for Pharmacists vary. Many retail pharmacies are open 24 hours, seven days a week, which means that as a Pharmacist you may work nights, weekends and holidays. Hospital pharmacies may be open to patients less hours in the week, but may still require a work schedule outside of a Monday-Friday, 9-5 shift. In a research or sales environment, the hours follow a more typical work week.

Education Requirements, Licensure/Certification:

A Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) is necessary to work as a Pharmacist. The Doctor of Pharmacy is a six year program. Two years of college study are required before entrance to the program, or a minimum of six years of schooling to earn the degree. The Pharm D. degree has replaced the Bachelor of Pharmacy degree, which will no longer be awarded starting in January, 2006. An internship under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist is also a requirement of the degree.

In the first two years as a pharmacology student, you are required to take courses in calculus, chemistry, biology, physics, statistics, ethics and other foundation subjects. The third, fourth and fifth years focus on degree-specific classes such as pharmacology, virology, clinical toxicology, medicinal chemistry, disease state management, pharmacy law and practice management. In the final year, students participate in advanced experiential rotations in a variety of clinical settings including inpatient medicine, ambulatory care, community pharmacy and institutional pharmacy.

Upon graduation from an accredited college of Pharmacy, you must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam and the Multi-State Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (both administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy) to become licensed and work as a pharmacist.

If you are thinking about applying to a Doctor of Pharmacy program, your high school courses should be loaded with mathematics and science such as chemistry, biology and biochemistry.


The full-time median annual earning for Pharmacists nationally in 2002 was $77,050. The salary is slightly higher in pharmacies located within retail stores. It is slightly lower within general medicine and surgical hospitals.

Career Path and/or Opportunities for Growth:

The pharmacy field is experiencing tremendous growth because the number of degrees being granted in pharmacy is less than the number of job openings that are being created. In addition, the increase in an aging population, the development of new drugs for managing disease, the growing demand for information about drugs are all factors in the growth of this field.

New opportunities are opening up for Pharmacists in many areas. Managed care organizations are using pharmacists to analyze patterns of medication use in among their patients. Research in biotechnology is on the rise as more drugs are being developed to treat disease. Pharmaceutical companies are expanding their areas of research and development as new technologies emerge and the demand for pharmacists increases.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pharmacy jobs are one of the top 10 fastest growing careers in health care.

Professional Associations:

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

American Pharmacists Association

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists