This article will provide an overview of what is involved in a pharmacist career. We will discuss what pharmacists do and their typical work environments, as well as the extensive and highly specialized undergraduate and graduate educational requirements for anyone seeking a pharmacist career. Finally, we’ll discuss current earnings for pharmacists, and their job prospects, future projections when it comes to earnings and employment, and the trends that are driving these projections. Only the person considering becoming a pharmacist can make the final decision as to whether or not it’s an appropriate career for them, but this brief article will provide the basic information needed to understand what’s involved. It should be pointed out that, because of rapidly aging population of the US, this is one health care profession that will be increasingly in demand over the coming years.
Pharmacists are the medical professionals who distribute prescription drugs to patients for their health needs. Because access to prescription drugs is tightly controlled, extensive record keeping is part of the job, and so are security protocols. Most pharmacists don’t actually fill bottles and jars with pills and other medications; those tasks are normally done by pharmacy technicians. However, the pharmacist must oversee and diligently check all their work, as he or she is the one who is legally responsible for the drugs patients receive from pharmacies, and mistakes can have severe consequences, including lawsuits and loss of license.
Another important aspect of a pharmacist career is considering the interactions between all drugs the patient is taking before filling a prescription. Pharmacists also spend time counseling patients on general questions about health and medications, and may also advise doctors on which drug would be most appropriate for a patient. While some pharmacists work in hospitals, most work in stand alone drug stores (often national chain stores), or on-site pharmacies in grocery stores. Because of the increasing popularity of these stores, many of which are open around the clock, pharmacists’ work hours are increasingly falling outside the traditional 9-5 routine. Many pharmacists work evening and weekend shifts, and most work well over 40 hours a week. A few pharmacists work in laboratories and for pharmaceutical companies, either in research or sales.
After high school, it normally takes eight years of education to qualify for a pharmacist career. Colleges and universities used to grant a Bachelor’s of Pharmacy degree, but that is now obsolete, and a doctorate in pharmacy, or Pharm.D, is now required. Most universities offering a Pharm.D program theoretically will admit a student who has only two years of college study, but the vast majority of successful applicants to pharmaceutical programs have earned a bachelor’s degree before applying. It’s also necessary to achieve a high score on the Pharmacy College Admissions Test, or PCAT. After graduating from an accredited Pharm.D program, the prospective pharmacist must also pass the extremely difficult NAPLEX test, which stands for North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam.
Pharmacist salaries are in the top percentiles of incomes in the United States. The median income for all pharmacists in America is approximately $110,000 a year, with the majority earning between $95,000 and $125,000 annually. These figures should continue to rise, according to official government projections, which state that for the next several years, there will not enough qualified pharmacists graduating to fill the expected demand. A pharmacist career requires a lot of dedication and sacrifice, but the rewards are great, and it should be one of the best occupations for the foreseeable future.