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Working as a Pharmacist

Have you ever dreamed of being a legal drug dealer? Well, that's probably not going to happen anytime soon, but becoming a pharmacist is the next best thing. Pharmacists are in charge of filling prescription medications for patients, while being able to explain how to use those medications properly. In general, they work in pharmacies which can be found in drug, general merchandise and general stores.

What Does a Pharmacist Do

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.

Duties

Pharmacists typically do the following:

  • 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 they may experience 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

Some pharmacists who own their pharmacy or manage a chain pharmacy spend time on business activities, such as inventory management. Pharmacists also must take continuing education courses throughout their career to keep up with the latest advances in pharmacological science.

With most drugs, pharmacists use standard dosages from pharmaceutical companies. However, some pharmacists create customized medications by mixing ingredients themselves, a process known as compounding.

The following are examples of types of pharmacists:

Community pharmacists work in retail stores such as chain drug stores or independently owned pharmacies. They dispense medications to patients and answer any questions that patients may have about prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or any health concerns that the patient may have. They also may provide some primary care services such as giving flu shots.

Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings. They spend little time dispensing prescriptions. Instead, they are involved in direct patient care. Clinical pharmacists may go on rounds in a hospital with a physician or healthcare team. They recommend medications to give to patients and oversee the dosage and timing of the delivery of those medications. They also may conduct some medical tests and offer advice to patients. For example, pharmacists working in a diabetes clinic may counsel patients on how and when to take medications, suggest healthy food choices, and monitor patients’ blood sugar.

Consultant pharmacists advise healthcare facilities or insurance providers on patient medication use or improving pharmacy services. They also may give advice directly to patients, such as helping seniors manage their prescriptions.

Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists work in areas such as marketing, sales, or research and development. They may design or conduct clinical drug trials and help to develop new drugs. They may also help to establish safety regulations and ensure quality control for drugs.

Some pharmacists work as college professors. They may teach pharmacy students or conduct research. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

How To Become a Pharmacist

Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy program. They must also be licensed, which requires passing licensure and law exams.

Education

Prospective pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, a postgraduate professional degree. In July 2014, there were 130 Doctor of Pharmacy programs fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

Admissions requirements vary by program, however, all Doctor of Pharmacy programs require applicants to take postsecondary courses such as chemistry, biology, and anatomy. 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).

Pharm.D. programs usually take 4 years to finish, although some programs offer a 3-year option. Some schools admit high school graduates into a 6-year program. 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.

Some pharmacists who own their own pharmacy may choose to get a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) in addition to their Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Others may get a degree in public health.

Training

Following graduation from a Pharm.D. program, pharmacists seeking an advanced position, such as a clinical pharmacy or research job, may need to complete a 1- to 2-year residency. Pharmacists who choose to complete the 2-year residency option receive additional training in a specialty area such as internal medicine or geriatric care.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states license pharmacists. After they finish the Pharm.D. program, prospective pharmacists must pass two exams to get a license. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) tests pharmacy skills and knowledge. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or a state-specific test on pharmacy law is also required. Applicants also must complete a number of hours as an intern, which varies by state.

Pharmacists who administer vaccinations and immunizations need to be certified in most states. States typically use the American Pharmacists Association’s Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery program as a qualification for certification.

Pharmacists also may choose to earn a certification to show their advanced level of knowledge in a certain area. For instance, a pharmacist may become a Certified Diabetes Educator, a qualification offered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators, or earn certification in a specialty area, such as nutrition or oncology, from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Certifications from both organizations require varying degrees of work experience, as well as passing an exam and paying a fee.

Important Qualities

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 a 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 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.

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Average Salary$121,237
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Pharmacist Jobs

Pharmacist Career Paths

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Average Salary for a Pharmacist

Pharmacists in America make an average salary of $121,237 per year or $58 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $138,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $106,000 per year.
Average Salary
$121,237

Best Paying Cities

Average Salary
Salary Range132k - 208k$166k$166,321
Salary Range117k - 194k$151k$150,822
Salary Range113k - 188k$147k$146,754
Salary Range101k - 189k$139k$138,831
Salary Range103k - 180k$137k$136,830
Salary Range101k - 178k$135k$134,527
$87k
$208k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyCompanyStart DateSalary
Pharmacist (Resident) Pgy1
Pharmacist (Resident) Pgy1
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$88,32410/30/2020
$88,324
Pharmacist (Resident) Pgy1
Pharmacist (Resident) Pgy1
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$88,32410/30/2020
$88,324
Drug/Penicillin Allergy Pharmacist
Drug/Penicillin Allergy Pharmacist
Oregon Health & Science University
Oregon Health & Science University
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$72,94210/30/2020
$72,942
Pharmacist (Resident) Pgy1
Pharmacist (Resident) Pgy1
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$88,32410/30/2020
$88,324
Pharmacist (Resident) Pgy1
Pharmacist (Resident) Pgy1
Indian Health Service
Indian Health Service
10/30/2020
10/30/2020
$88,32410/30/2020
$88,324
See More Recent Salaries

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Pharmacist Demographics

Gender

female

53.3%

male

40.7%

unknown

5.9%

Ethnicity

White

67.1%

Asian

19.2%

Black or African American

6.9%

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

35.8%

Arabic

7.9%

French

7.4%
See More Demographics

Pharmacist Education

Majors

Degrees

Bachelors

37.6%

Doctorate

37.2%

Masters

9.3%

Top Colleges for Pharmacists

1. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI

Tuition and fees
$15,262
Enrollment
30,079

2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC

Tuition and fees
$8,987
Enrollment
18,946

3. University of California, Irvine

Irvine, CA

Tuition and fees
$13,700
Enrollment
29,722

4. University of Southern California

Los Angeles, CA

Tuition and fees
$56,225
Enrollment
19,548

5. Northeastern University

Boston, MA

Tuition and fees
$51,522
Enrollment
13,760

6. University of Wisconsin - Madison

Madison, WI

Tuition and fees
$10,555
Enrollment
30,360

7. University of California - Davis

Davis, CA

Tuition and fees
$14,402
Enrollment
30,698

8. University of Washington

Seattle, WA

Tuition and fees
$11,207
Enrollment
30,905

9. SUNY Stony Brook

Stony Brook, NY

Tuition and fees
$9,625
Enrollment
17,407

10. University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Minneapolis, MN

Tuition and fees
$14,760
Enrollment
31,451
See More Education Info

Entry Level Jobs For Becoming A Pharmacist

Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For a Pharmacist

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 25.7% of pharmacists listed pharmacy staff on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and technical skills are important as well.

  • Pharmacy Staff, 25.7%
  • Drug Therapy, 10.0%
  • Customer Service, 6.8%
  • Inventory Management, 5.4%
  • Patient Prescriptions, 5.2%
  • Other Skills, 46.9%
  • See All Pharmacist Skills

Best States For a Pharmacist

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a pharmacist. The best states for people in this position are California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Pharmacists make the most in California with an average salary of $159,855. Whereas in Nevada and Oregon, they would average $154,620 and $153,572, respectively. While pharmacists would only make an average of $146,328 in Washington, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Nevada

Total Pharmacist Jobs:
203
Highest 10% Earn:
$231,000
Location Quotient:
1.21
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Arizona

Total Pharmacist Jobs:
576
Highest 10% Earn:
$220,000
Location Quotient:
1.29
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. Oregon

Total Pharmacist Jobs:
318
Highest 10% Earn:
$229,000
Location Quotient:
1.05
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Pharmacist Resumes

Designing and figuring out what to include on your resume can be tough, not to mention time-consuming. That's why we put together a guide that is designed to help you craft the perfect resume for becoming a pharmacist. If you're needing extra inspiration, take a look through our selection of templates that are specific to your job.

At Zippia, we went through countless pharmacist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

Learn How To Write a Pharmacist Resume

At Zippia, we went through countless pharmacist resumes and compiled some information about how best to optimize them. Here are some suggestions based on what we found, divided by the individual sections of the resume itself.

View Detailed Information

How Do Pharmacist Rate Their Jobs?

Zippia Official Logo

4.0

4.0

What do you like the most about working as Pharmacist?

Pay is fair for a starting pharmacist (CVS). The technicians are alright. 401K Helping people (and I really mean it). Show More

What do you NOT like?

Typical pharmacist complaints like tired legs, stress, etc. Terrible work-life balance. You make a good amount of money, sure, but there's a point where money doesn't bring happiness like it used to. Show More

Zippia Official Logo

5.0

my review.June 2019

5.0

Zippia Official Logomy review.June 2019

What do you like the most about working as Pharmacist?

it helps a lot. i really needed this. Show More

What do you NOT like?

i like everything. theres nothing i dont like. Show More

Zippia Official Logo

2.0

Pharmacist : Not a Very Good career choiceApril 2019

2.0

Zippia Official LogoPharmacist : Not a Very Good career choiceApril 2019

What do you like the most about working as Pharmacist?

The ability to make a difference in someones Health and Wellness Show More

What do you NOT like?

Inability to balance Life and Work and Family Show More

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Top Pharmacist Employers

We've made finding a great employer to work for easy by doing the hard work for you. We looked into employers that employ pharmacists and discovered their number of pharmacist opportunities and average salary. Through our research, we concluded that CVS Health was the best, especially with an average salary of $48,240. Rite Aid follows up with an average salary of $42,108, and then comes Walgreen Co with an average of $42,678. In addition, we know most people would rather work from home. So instead of having to change careers, we identified the best employers for remote work as a pharmacist. The employers include Molina Healthcare, Delmarva Foundation, and Far Government, Inc.

1. CVS Health
4.8
Avg. Salary: 
$48,240
Pharmacists Hired: 
5,641+
2. Rite Aid
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$42,108
Pharmacists Hired: 
4,234+
3. Walgreen Co
4.2
Avg. Salary: 
$42,678
Pharmacists Hired: 
2,178+
4. Walmart
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$33,061
Pharmacists Hired: 
1,092+
5. CVS HLDGS
4.7
Avg. Salary: 
$54,967
Pharmacists Hired: 
304+
6. Kroger
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$29,845
Pharmacists Hired: 
235+

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Recently Added Pharmacist Jobs