A career as a pharmacist

June 30, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Students pose in lab coats outside the hospital in Iringa, Tanzania. There are few industries across the globe that are as influential as the pharmaceutical industry. Medicines are the driving force in many treatments, and countless billions have been invested to develop and disseminate these pharmaceuticals to those patients who can benefit from them the most. The pharmacist is one of the key players within the pharmaceutical industry, but you don’t need to work for a big pharmaceutical company to have a rewarding and lucrative career as a pharmacist. This brief guide will provide you with a starting point to explore a career as a pharmacist. 



What are the day-to-day responsibilities of a pharmacist?

This is a patient-heavy position that requires you to be on your feet and paying close attention to detail.  Pharmacists fill prescriptions that have been ordered by doctors for their patients.  Your primary role is to fill those requests and to do so with the utmost commitment to patient safety. You’ll ask and be asked lots of questions about taking medications on a daily basis, so clear communication is key.  Patients must understand why and how to take their medicines, and part of your job will be to help them do so effectively and safely. You’ll need to check for drug interactions if your patient is taking multiple medicines, and you’ll need to be aware of any insurance fraud issues that might arise. Pharmaceuticals are highly monitored by the government, so be prepared to have the highest standard of ethics among all medical professionals. 

Additionally, customers purchasing over-the-counter medications, like allergy medication, cold medicine, vitamins, and supplements, will ask you for advice. Your knowledge about how these medicines interact with prescribed medications is critical to patient safety.

Inventory of the pharmacy will also fall under your domain, so a keen attention to detail and drug monitoring is necessary for government regulations and for maintaining sufficient stock for the patients who come to you. 

Your work location can vary, but often the daily duties of the pharmacist do not. Most pharmacists work in retail chain drugstores or independent pharmacies; you can also work in a hospital, in a pharmaceutical company, or in a local clinic. There is room for advancement if you choose to move up beyond the entry-level pharmacist position to a more supervisory role.

What education and training do you need to become a pharmacist?

Pharmacy is an interesting field that requires an extended amount of training that can be completed in a fast track schedule. To enter pharmacy school, you must take the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), which can be done as early as the high school level, but it typically taken during the first two years of undergraduate study. All licensed pharmacists must earn a PharmD degree, which can be done in six years (two years of undergraduate work and four years of graduate work), although most pharmacists take eight years to receive their degree (four years of undergraduate work and four years of graduate work). As a part of your pharmacist training, you will also complete clinical rotations, and ultimately take a state and national licensing exam. At the end of this long road, you’ll earn a starting salary near $100,000.

Is pharmacy the right field for me?

A career as a pharmacist is the perfect marriage between the sciences and direct patient contact. If you enjoy chemistry, like teaching others, and want to make a difference in patient care, then consider becoming a pharmacist!