What do pharmacists do?
Pharmacists ensure that patients receive appropriate medications by reviewing prescriptions to make sure there are no harmful drug interactions and ensure dosages are safe and effective. They dispense medications based on prescription orders, counsel patients on their medications, advise physicians on prescribing optimal medications, compound medications that are not available from drug manufacturers, and administer immunizations.
What are the different career opportunities that exist and what do they do in the different settings?
Pharmacists work in many different settings and their day-to-day activities can vary significantly by setting. Pharmacists can work in retail, hospital, industry, and clinical settings.
- Community Pharmacists: Community pharmacists work in retail pharmacies and are involved in reviewing prescriptions, dispensing medications, counseling patients about medications, and administering immunizations.
- Hospital Pharmacists: Hospital pharmacists review medication orders placed by the medical team before drugs are administered to patients to ensure there are no adverse interactions and that drug dosing is appropriate based on a patient’s kidney function, body weight, and lab results. Hospital pharmacists also compound intravenous medications using sterile techniques, dispense medications, and answer questions from physicians regarding medications.
- Clinical Pharmacists: Clinical pharmacists are involved in direct patient care and can work in both inpatient and outpatient settings. In the inpatient setting, clinical pharmacists round daily with the healthcare team, sharing their expertise on drug therapy management. They monitor and recommend adjustment of medications and advise physicians on optimal drug therapy. In the outpatient setting, pharmacists help patients manage diseases, such as diabetes, and adjust medications to help get diseases under control.
- Industry Pharmacists: Pharmacists working in the pharmaceutical industry setting are involved in marketing, sales, education, and research and development for pharmaceutical companies.
- Consultant Pharmacists: Consultant pharmacists provide advice on medication use to medical institutions, including nursing homes. A consultant pharmacist typically is involved in reviewing patients’ medication regimens, particularly in the nursing home setting, where monthly medication reviews help ensure the residents receive appropriate medication therapy.
How long does it take to become a pharmacist? What are the educational and licensing requirements to become a pharmacist?
Pharmacists complete four years of pharmacy school, following completion of undergraduate prerequisite courses. College of Pharmacy graduates receive the Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which is required for licensure as a pharmacist. Graduates are required to pass two or three licensure exams, depending on the state where the pharmacist is entering practice.
Can one specialize? Is there more education required to do so?
Yes! Pharmacists interested in specializing can complete residency or fellowship training in their area of interest. For example, pharmacists can become specialists in infectious diseases, geriatrics, pediatrics, internal medicine, cardiology, critical care, ambulatory care, and more.
What skills and personalities are needed to be successful?
A successful pharmacist has good communication skills, a passion for helping others, and the ability to pay attention to detail.
What is the average salary range of a pharmacist? Are pharmacists in high demand?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for pharmacists in 2017 was $124,170. Pharmacists are in high demand, with demand projected to increase by 6 percent from 2016 to 2026.
Is there flexibility in hours and days pharmacists work?
Yes, pharmacists are needed around-the-clock and work arrangements can vary from full-time day or evening shifts to part time or per diem work for pharmacists seeking a better work-life balance.
To learn more about the many career opportunities available in the pharmacy field, click here.
Dr. Michelle Jakubovics received her PharmD from Touro College of Pharmacy in 2013, where she is Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, and her Bachelor of Science in Biology from Touro College in 2009. After earning her PharmD degree, she completed pharmacy practice and internal medicine pharmacy residencies at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center in Brooklyn, where she serves as a clinical pharmacist in internal medicine and as Internal Medicine Pharmacy Residency Program Director.