Pharmacists Career Information
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Significant Points· Pharmacists are becoming more involved in drug therapy decisionmaking
and patient counseling.
· A license is required; one must serve an internship under a licensed pharmacist, graduate from an accredited college of pharmacy, and pass a State examination.
· Very good employment opportunities are expected.
· Earnings are very high, but some pharmacists work long hours, nights, weekends, and holidays.
Nature of the WorkPharmacists dispense drugs prescribed by
physicians and other health practitioners and provide information to patients
about medications and their use. They advise physicians and other health practitioners
on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications. Pharmacists
must understand the use; clinical effects; and composition of drugs, including
their chemical, biological, and physical properties.
Compounding—the actual mixing of ingredients to form powders, tablets, capsules,
ointments, and solutions—is only a small part of a pharmacist's practice, because
most medicines are produced by pharmaceutical companies in a standard dosage
and drug delivery form. Most pharmacists work either in a community setting,
such as a retail drug store, or in a hospital or clinic.
Pharmacists in community or retail pharmacies counsel patients and answer questions about prescription drugs, such as those about possible adverse reactions or interactions. They provide information about over-the-counter drugs and make recommendations after asking a series of health questions, such as whether the customer is taking any other medications. They also give advice about durable medical equipment and home healthcare supplies. They also may complete third-party insurance forms and other paperwork. Those who own or manage community pharmacies may sell nonhealth-related merchandise, hire and supervise personnel, and oversee the general operation of the pharmacy. Some community pharmacists provide specialized services to help patients manage conditions such as diabetes, asthma, smoking cessation, or high blood pressure.
Pharmacists in hospitals and clinics dispense medications and advise the medical staff on the selection and effects of drugs. They may make sterile solutions and buy medical supplies. They also assess, plan, and monitor drug programs or regimens. They counsel patients on the use of drugs while in the hospital, and on their use at home when the patients are discharged. Pharmacists also may evaluate drug use patterns and outcomes for patients in hospitals or managed care organizations.
Pharmacists who work in home healthcare monitor drug therapy and prepare infusions—solutions that are injected into patients—and other medications for use in the home.
Most pharmacists keep confidential computerized records of patients' drug therapies to ensure that harmful drug interactions do not occur. They frequently teach pharmacy students serving as interns in preparation for graduation and licensure.
Some pharmacists specialize in specific drug therapy areas, such as intravenous nutrition support, oncology (cancer), nuclear pharmacy (used for chemotherapy), and pharmacotherapy (the treatment of mental disorders with drugs).
Pharmacists are responsible for the accuracy of every prescription that is filled, but they often rely upon pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides to assist them. Thus, the pharmacist may delegate prescription-filling and administrative tasks and supervise their completion.
Working ConditionsPharmacists usually work in clean, well-lighted,
and well-ventilated areas. Many pharmacists spend most of their workday on their
feet. When working with sterile or potentially dangerous pharmaceutical products,
pharmacists wear gloves and masks and work with other special protective equipment. Many community and hospital pharmacies are open for
extended hours or around the clock, so pharmacists may work evenings, nights,
weekends, and holidays. Consultant pharmacists may travel to nursing homes or
other facilities to monitor patient's drug therapy.
About 1 out of 7 pharmacists worked part time in 2000. Most full-time salaried pharmacists worked about 40 hours a week. Some, including many self-employed pharmacists, worked more than 50 hours a week.
Pharmacists held about 230,000 jobs in 2009. About 61 percent work in community pharmacies that are either independently owned or part of a drugstore chain, grocery store, department store, or mass merchandiser. Most community pharmacists are salaried employees, but some are self-employed owners. About 24 percent of salaried pharmacists work in hospitals. Others work in clinics, mail-order pharmacies, pharmaceutical wholesalers, home health care agencies, or the Federal Government.
Training, Qualifications, Adv.A license to practice pharmacy is required
in all States, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. To obtain a license,
one must serve an internship under a licensed pharmacist, graduate from an accredited
college of pharmacy, and pass a State examination. All States, except California
and Florida, currently grant a license without extensive re-examination to qualified
pharmacists already licensed by another State; one should check with State boards
of pharmacy for details. Many pharmacists are licensed to practice in more than
one State. States may require continuing education for license renewal.
In 2000, 82 colleges of pharmacy were accredited to confer degrees by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education. Pharmacy programs grant the degree of Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), which requires at least 6 years of postsecondary study and the passing of the licensure examination of a State board of pharmacy. The Pharm.D. is a 4-year program that requires at least 2 years of college study prior to admittance. This degree has replaced the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree, which will cease to be awarded after 2005.
Colleges of pharmacy require at least 2 years of college-level prepharmacy education. Entry requirements usually include mathematics and natural sciences, such as chemistry, biology, and physics, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences. Some colleges require the applicant to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test.
All colleges of pharmacy offer courses in pharmacy practice, designed to teach students to dispense prescriptions and to communicate with patients and other health professionals. Such courses also strengthen students' understanding of professional ethics and allow them to practice management responsibilities. Pharmacists' training increasingly emphasizes direct patient care, as well as consultative services to other health professionals.
In the 2000-01 academic year, 64 colleges of pharmacy awarded the master of science degree or the Ph.D. degree. Both the master's and Ph.D. degrees are awarded after completion of a Pharm.D. degree. These degrees are designed for those who want more laboratory and research experience. Many master's and Ph.D. holders work in research for a drug company or teach at a university. Other options for pharmacy graduates who are interested in further training include 1- or 2-year residency programs or fellowships. Pharmacy residencies are postgraduate training programs in pharmacy practice. Pharmacy fellowships are highly individualized programs designed to prepare participants to work in research laboratories. Some pharmacists who run their own pharmacy obtain a master's degree in business administration (MBA).
Areas of graduate study include pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical chemistry (physical and chemical properties of drugs and dosage forms), pharmacology (effects of drugs on the body), and pharmacy administration.
Prospective pharmacists should have scientific aptitude, good communication skills, and a desire to help others. They also must be conscientious and pay close attention to detail, because the decisions they make affect human lives.
In community pharmacies, pharmacists usually begin at the staff level. After they gain experience and secure the necessary capital, some become owners or part owners of pharmacies. Pharmacists in chain drug stores may be promoted to pharmacy supervisor or manager at the store level, then to manager at the district or regional level, and later to an executive position within the chain's headquarters.
Hospital pharmacists may advance to supervisory or administrative positions. Pharmacists in the pharmaceutical industry may advance in marketing, sales, research, quality control, production, packaging, or other areas.
Job OutlookVery good employment opportunities are expected for pharmacists over the 2000-10 period because the number of degrees granted in pharmacy are not expected to be as numerous as the number of job openings created by employment growth and the need to replace pharmacists who retire or otherwise leave the occupation.
Employment of pharmacists is expected to
Retail pharmacies are taking steps to increase their prescription volume to make up for declining dispensing fees. Automation of drug dispensing and greater use of pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides will help them to dispense more prescriptions. The number of community pharmacists needed in the future will depend on the rate of expansion of chain drug stores and the willingness of insurers to reimburse pharmacists for providing clinical services to patients taking prescription medications. With its emphasis on cost control, managed care encourages growth of lower cost prescription drug distributors, such as mail-order firms, for certain medications. Faster than average employment growth is expected in retail pharmacies.
Employment in hospitals is expected to grow about as fast as average, as hospitals reduce inpatient stays, downsize, and consolidate departments. Pharmacy services are shifting to long-term, ambulatory, and home care settings, where opportunities for pharmacists will be best. New opportunities are emerging for pharmacists in managed-care organizations, where they may analyze trends and patterns in medication use for their populations of patients, and for pharmacists trained in research, disease management, and pharmacoeconomics—determining the costs and benefits of different drug therapies.
Cost-conscious insurers and health systems may continue to emphasize the role of pharmacists in primary and preventive health services. They realize that the expense of using medication to treat diseases and conditions often is considerably less than the potential costs for patients whose conditions go untreated. Pharmacists also can reduce the expenses resulting from unexpected complications due to allergic reactions or medication interactions.
Median annual wage and salary earnings of pharmacists in May 2009 were $84,900. The middle 50 percent earned between $75,720 and $94,850 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $61,200, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $109,850 a year. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of pharmacists in May 2009 were:
|Health and personal care stores||85,380|
|General medical and surgical hospitals||84,560|
|Other general merchandise stores||84,170|
For information on pharmacy as a career, preprofessional and professional requirements, programs offered by colleges of pharmacy, and student financial aid, contact: General information on careers in pharmacy is available from: Information on the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) is available from: State licensure requirements are available from each State’s board of pharmacy. Information on specific college entrance requirements, curriculums, and financial aid is available from any college of pharmacy.
Sources of Additional Information
For information on pharmacy as a career, preprofessional and professional requirements, programs offered by colleges of pharmacy, and student financial aid, contact:
General information on careers in pharmacy is available from:
Information on the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) is available from:
State licensure requirements are available from each State’s board of pharmacy. Information on specific college entrance requirements, curriculums, and financial aid is available from any college of pharmacy.