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What Are the Job Duties of a Pharmacist?

If you excel at the sciences, enjoy helping people, and have excellent attention to detail, you might be interested in a career as a pharmacist. Read on to learn more about common job duties of a pharmacist and the educational requirements you'll need to meet for licensing.

Career Overview

A pharmacist is a specialist who collaborates with physicians and other health care workers to provide medication to patients. As a pharmacist, you must be knowledgeable about medications, their common uses, possible side effects, and interactions. Your day-to-day tasks may include supervising a pharmacy department, providing counseling and health advice to patients, or performing research. You might specialize in dispensing one particular kind of medication, such as drugs for cancer treatments.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Work Environment Pharmacies, hospitals, grocery and department stores
Key Skills Managerial, communication, and computer skills
Professional Certification Required for pharmacists who administer vaccines and immunizations
Similar Occupations Pharmacy technicians, medical scientists, physicians and registered nurses

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Academic and Licensing Requirements

In order to work as a licensed pharmacist, you must first earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from a school program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Some of the courses you may take include physics, chemistry, natural sciences, biology, and calculus. You could also learn how to interact with patients and spend up to a year working under the supervision of licensed pharmacists.

Once you complete your degree, you must pass several tests to obtain a license to practice. The first step toward licensing in all 50 states is to pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). This 185-question exam ensures you have a thorough understanding of pharmaceuticals and pharmacy skills (www.napb.net). Many states also require that you take the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam, which tests your understanding of laws and regulations concerning medication distribution. Each state may have additional exams and requirements set by the state board of pharmacy.

Dispensing and Monitoring Medication

Once employed, your primary duty as a pharmacist is to dispense medications that are prescribed by a physician. You'll also be responsible for informing doctors about a patient's medication history, monitoring treatment programs, administering drug therapies, and providing instructions on the correct usage of prescription medicine. While dispensing and monitoring a patient's medication, you must be aware of and protect patient privacy.

Counseling Patients

Another important aspect of your job may include counseling patients about health concerns, such as diet, exercise, stress management, and home health care supplies. You may assist patients with questions, such as possible side effects and proper dosages for over-the-counter and prescription medications. You may also provide information on topics, such as how to quit smoking, or give advice for managing chronic conditions, like diabetes and asthma.

Research and Other Pharmacy Specializations

Some pharmacists work as pharmaceutical researchers, performing research experiments to develop and test pharmaceuticals. . If you enjoy the idea of teaching the subject and working in academia, you might consider pursuing a career as a professor at a school of pharmacy to conduct research. Several programs offer options to specialize in certain pharmaceutical areas, including the following:

  • Nuclear pharmacy
  • Geriatric pharmacy
  • Oncology
  • Intravenous nutrition support
  • Psychiatric pharmacy

Employment and Salary Outlook Information

Job availability for pharmacists is expected to increase by 6% between 2016 and 2026, a rate estimated about the same as the national average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). In May 2018, the same source indicated that the median salary earned by pharmacists was $126,120 a year. Pharmacists working for outpatient care centers earned the most with an average of $137,530 annually in 2018, per the BLS.