Pharmacists job description: In addition to filling prescriptions, pharmacists counsel patients on how to use prescription and over-the-counter medications, home healthcare supplies and medical equipment. They also consult with doctors about medication therapy. Pharmacists may help patients with stress management, exercise or diet, and provide advice concerning high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes or smoking cessation.
Most pharmacists keep computerized records of patients’ medications to prevent harmful drug interactions. They often train students serving as interns and oversee pharmacy technicians who help them dispense medications. Pharmacists may also complete third-party insurance forms, hire and supervise personnel, and perform other management duties in the pharmacy.
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A number of pharmacists are employed directly by hospitals or other healthcare facilities, and work closely with doctors and medical personnel in selecting drugs and managing their effects. They sometimes make sterile solutions to be administered intravenously or evaluate drug regimens or programs. Before patients are discharged, pharmacists may advise them on the use of their drugs.
Some pharmacists specialize in various drug therapy areas, such as geriatric pharmacy, psychiatric pharmacy, nuclear pharmacy, oncology or intravenous nutrition. Others may be involved in formulating new medications and testing their effects in research jobs for pharmaceutical manufacturers. Sales and marketing companies also employ pharmacists because of their knowledge of the effectiveness and side effects of certain drugs. Health insurance companies often hire pharmacists to determine the cost-benefit of certain drugs or develop pharmacy benefit packages. Others work for the government, the armed services, public healthcare services or managed care organizations, and consultant pharmacists may travel to nursing homes or other healthcare facilities to monitor patients’ drug therapies. Finally, pharmacists are sometimes employed as college faculty, where they teach classes and perform research in many different areas.
Pharmacists Job Summary
- Some pharmacists are required to work holidays, nights and weekends; however, they are compensated with high salaries.
- Pharmacists are becoming more active in planning drug therapy programs and in counseling patients.
- Pharmacists are required to graduate from an accredited college of pharmacy and pass examinations to be licensed.
- Excellent job opportunities are expected for pharmacists.
Work Environment for Pharmacists
Pharmacists work in clean and well-lit areas, and may be required to be on their feet for most of their workday. At times, they must wear protective equipment if they are working with dangerous or sterile products. Most pharmacists work a 40-hour week, but 12% worked more than 50 hours a week in 2008, and 19% worked part-time.
How to Becoming a Pharmacists: Education and Licensing
A Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree from an accredited college or school of pharmacy must be earned by pharmacists trained in the United States. This degree has replaced the Bachelor of Pharmacy degree. Candidates for a PharmD must first complete at least two years of professional courses in humanities, social sciences and mathematics as well as natural sciences, such as physics, biology and chemistry. Although it is not a requirement, most students must have finished three or more years at an accredited college or university before entering a PharmD degree program.
It generally takes four years to complete a PharmD program, including time working with licensed pharmacists in various settings. Students learn all aspects of medicine therapy as well as how to best explain patient care and drug information with healthcare providers. Business management, concepts of public health, and professional ethics are courses that pharmacy students usually take.
Some PharmD graduates continue their education through one-year or two-year fellowships or residency programs, which are training programs in pharmacy practice often requiring the pharmacist to complete a research project. These types of programs are usually required for candidate wants to work in a specialized area of pharmacy, such as research laboratories or clinical practice. In addition, pharmacists who own their own pharmacy may complete a master's degree in business administration or a degree in public health or public administration.
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All states plus the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico require that pharmacists be licensed. After earning a PharmD, the pharmacist must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), which tests pharmacy knowledge and skills, as well as an exam on pharmacy law. The candidate must have a certain number of hours of experience in a pharmacy setting before the license is awarded.
Students wishing to go into pharmacy should have a desire to help others, good interpersonal skills and scientific aptitude. They must also be able to pay close attention to detail since their decisions affect peoples’ lives.
Pharmacists Employment Figures, Job Projections, and Salary Data
Pharmacists held about 267,860 jobs in May, 2009, according to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Most pharmacists worked for health and personal care stores or hospitals. Other employers included grocery stores, department stores and other general merchandise stores.
The BLS expects employment in this field to grow 17% between 2008 and 2018, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Growing middle-aged and elderly populations require more prescription drugs, creating an increased need for pharmacists.
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BLS reports indicate that the median annual salary for pharmacists was $109,180 as of May 2009. The middle 50% of pharmacists make between $95,780 and $123,330, while the lowest 10% had an income at or below $79,270. The highest 10% made upwards of $134,290 annually.