A license is required; the prospective pharmacist must graduate
from an accredited college of pharmacy and pass a State examination.
Pharmacists distribute 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 also monitor
the health and progress of patients in response to drug therapy
to ensure the safe and effective use of medication. 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
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 in a community
setting, such as a retail drugstore, or in a health care facility,
such as a hospital, nursing home, mental health institution,
or neighborhood health clinic.
Pharmacists in community and retail pharmacies counsel patients
and answer questions about prescription drugs, including questions
regarding possible side effects or interactions among various
drugs. They provide information about over-the-counter drugs
and make recommendations after talking with the patient. They
also may give advice about the patient’s diet, exercise, or
stress management or about durable medical equipment and home
health care supplies. In addition, they also may complete
third-party insurance forms and other paperwork. Those who
own or manage community pharmacies may sell non-health-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. Some community pharmacists also are trained to administer
Pharmacists in health care facilities dispense medications
and advise the medical staff on the selection and effects
of drugs. They may make sterile solutions to be administered
intravenously. They also assess, plan, and monitor drug programs
or regimens. Pharmacists counsel hospitalized patients on
the use of drugs 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 health care monitor drug therapy
and prepare infusions—solutions that are injected into patients—and
other medications for use in the home.
Some pharmacists specialize in specific drug therapy areas,
such as intravenous nutrition support, oncology (cancer),
nuclear pharmacy (used for chemotherapy), geriatric pharmacy,
and psychopharmacotherapy (the treatment of mental disorders
by means of drugs).
Most pharmacists keep confidential computerized records of
patients’ drug therapies to prevent harmful drug interactions.
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 in the dispensing process.
Thus, the pharmacist may delegate prescription-filling and
administrative tasks and supervise their completion. Pharmacists
also frequently oversee pharmacy students serving as interns
in preparation for graduation and licensure.
Increasingly, pharmacists are pursuing nontraditional pharmacy
work. Some are involved in research for pharmaceutical manufacturers,
developing new drugs and therapies and testing their effects
on people. Others work in marketing or sales, providing expertise
to clients on a drug’s use, effectiveness, and possible side
effects. Some pharmacists work for health insurance companies,
developing pharmacy benefit packages and carrying out cost-benefit
analyses on certain drugs. Other pharmacists work for the
government, public health care services, the armed services,
and pharmacy associations. Finally, some pharmacists are employed
full time or part time as college faculty, teaching classes
and performing research in a wide range of areas.
Pharmacists work in clean, well-lighted, and well-ventilated
areas. Many pharmacists spend most of their workday on their
feet. When working with sterile or 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 nights, weekends, and holidays. Consultant
pharmacists may travel to nursing homes or other facilities
to monitor patients’ drug therapy.
About 21 percent of pharmacists worked part time in 2004.
Most full-time salaried pharmacists worked approximately 40
hours a week. Some, including many self-employed pharmacists,
worked more than 50 hours a week.
|Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
A license to practice pharmacy is required in all States,
the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories. To obtain
a license, the prospective pharmacist must graduate from a
college of pharmacy that is accredited by the Accreditation
Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and pass an examination.
All States require the North American Pharmacist Licensure
Exam (NAPLEX), which tests pharmacy skills and knowledge,
and 43 states and the District of Columbia require the Multistate
Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), which tests pharmacy law.
Both exams are administered by the National Association of
Boards of Pharmacy. Pharmacists in the eight states that do
not require the MJPE must pass a state-specific exam that
is similar to the MJPE. In addition to the NAPLEX and MPJE,
some States require additional exams unique to their State.
All States except California currently grant a license without
extensive reexamination to qualified pharmacists who already
are licensed by another State. In Florida, reexamination is
not required if a pharmacist has passed the NAPLEX and MPJE
within 12 years of his or her application for a license transfer.
Many pharmacists are licensed to practice in more than one
State. Most States require continuing education for license
renewal. Persons interested in a career as a pharmacist should
check with individual State boards of pharmacy for details
on examination requirements, license renewal requirements,
and license transfer procedures.
In 2004, 89 colleges of pharmacy were accredited to confer
degrees by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy 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 a State board of pharmacy’s licensure examination.
Courses offered at colleges of pharmacy are designed to teach
students about all aspects of drug therapy. In addition, schools
teach students how to communicate with patients and other
health care providers about drug information and patient care.
Students also learn professional ethics, how to develop and
manage medication distribution systems, and concepts of public
health. In addition to receiving classroom instruction, students
in Pharm.D. programs spend about one-forth of their time learning
in a variety of pharmacy practice settings under the supervision
of licensed pharmacists. The Pharm.D. degree has replaced
the Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm.) degree, which is no longer
The Pharm.D. is a 4-year program that requires at least 2
years of college study prior to admittance, although most
applicants have completed 3 years. Entry requirements usually
include courses in mathematics and natural sciences, such
as chemistry, biology, and physics, as well as courses in
the humanities and social sciences. Approximately two-thirds
of all colleges require applicants to take the Pharmacy College
Admissions Test (PCAT).
In 2003, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
(AACP) launched the Pharmacy College Application Service,
known as PharmCAS, for students who are interested in applying
to schools and colleges of pharmacy. This centralized service
allows applicants to use a single Web-based application and
one set of transcripts to apply to multiple schools of pharmacy.
A total of 43 schools participated in 2003.
In the 2003–04 academic year, 67 colleges of pharmacy awarded
the master-of-science degree or the Ph.D. degree. Both degrees
are awarded after the completion of a Pharm.D. degree and
are designed for those who want more laboratory and research
experience. Many master’s and Ph.D. degree holders do research
for a drug company or teach at a university. Other options
for pharmacy graduates who are interested in further training
include 1-year or 2-year residency programs or fellowships.
Pharmacy residencies are postgraduate training programs in
pharmacy practice and usually require the completion of a
research study. There currently are more than 700 residency
training programs nationwide. Pharmacy fellowships are highly
individualized programs that are designed to prepare participants
to work in a specialized area of pharmacy, such clinical practice
or research laboratories. Some pharmacists who run their own
pharmacy obtain a master’s degree in business administration
(MBA). Others may obtain a degree in public administration
or public health.
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), toxicology
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. In independent pharmacies, after they gain experience
and secure the necessary capital, some become owners or part
owners of pharmacies. Pharmacists in chain drugstores 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.
Pharmacists held about 230,000 jobs in 2004. 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.
Very good employment opportunities are expected for pharmacists
over the 2004–14 period because the number of job openings
created by employment growth and the need to replace pharmacists
who leave the occupation or retire are expected to exceed
the number of degrees granted in pharmacy. Enrollments in
pharmacy programs are rising as more students are attracted
by high salaries and good job prospects. Despite this increase
in enrollments, job openings should still be more numerous
than those seeking employment.
Employment of pharmacists is expected to grow faster than
the average for all occupations through the year 2014, because
of the increasing demand for pharmaceuticals, particularly
from the growing elderly population. The increasing numbers
of middle-aged and elderly people—who use more prescription
drugs than younger people—will continue to spur demand for
pharmacists in all employment settings. Other factors likely
to increase the demand for pharmacists include scientific
advances that will make more drug products available, new
developments in genome research and medication distribution
systems, increasingly sophisticated consumers seeking more
information about drugs, and coverage of prescription drugs
by a greater number of health insurance plans and Medicare.
Community pharmacies are taking steps to manage an increasing
volume of prescriptions. Automation of drug dispensing and
greater employment of pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides
will help these establishments to dispense more prescriptions.
With its empha.sis on cost control, managed care encourages
the use of lower cost prescription drug distributors, such
as mail-order firms and online pharmacies, for purchases of
certain medications. Prescriptions ordered through the mail
and via the Internet are filled in a central location and
shipped to the patient at a lower cost. Mail-order and online
pharmacies typically use automated technology to dispense
medication and employ fewer pharmacists. If the utilization
of mail-order pharmacies increases rapidly, job growth among
pharmacists could be limited.
Employment of pharmacists will not grow as fast in hospitals
as in other industries, because hospitals are reducing inpatient
stays, downsizing, and consolidating departments. The number
of outpatient surgeries is increasing, so more patients are
being discharged and purchasing their medications through
retail, supermarket, or mail-order pharmacies, rather than
through hospitals. An aging population means that more pharmacy
services will be required in nursing homes, assisted-living
facilities, and home care settings. The most rapid job growth
among pharmacists is expected in these 3 settings.
New opportunities are emerging for pharmacists in managed
care organizations where they analyze trends and patterns
in medication use, and in pharmacoeconomics—the cost and benefit
analysis of different drug therapies. Opportunities also are
emerging for pharmacists trained in research and disease management—the
development of new methods for curing and controlling diseases.
Pharmacists also are finding jobs in research and development
and in sales and marketing for pharmaceutical manufacturing
firms. New breakthroughs in biotechnology will increase the
potential for drugs to treat diseases and expand the opportunities
for pharmacists to conduct research and sell medications.
In addition, pharmacists are finding employment opportunities
in pharmacy informatics, which uses information technology
to improve patient care.
Job opportunities for pharmacists in patient care will arise
as cost-conscious insurers and health systems continue to
emphasize the role of pharmacists in primary and preventive
health care. Health insurance companies realize that the expense
of using medication to treat diseases and various health conditions
often is considerably less than the costs for patients whose
conditions go untreated. Pharmacists also can reduce the expenses
resulting from unexpected complications due to allergic reactions
or interactions among medications.
Median annual wage and salary earnings of pharmacists in
May 2004 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 2004 were:
|Health and personal care stores
|General medical and surgical hospitals
|Other general merchandise stores
Pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides also work in pharmacies.
Persons in other professions who may work with pharmaceutical
compounds include biological scientists, medical scientists,
and chemists and materials scientists. Increasingly, pharmacists
are involved in patient care and therapy, work that they have
in common with physicians and surgeons.
|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:
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, 1426 Prince
St., Alexandria, VA 22314. Internet: http://www.aacp.org/
General information on careers in pharmacy is available from:
- Professional Resources for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians - The resources found in these pages area intended to provide a quick reference for pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and other professionals.
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 7272 Wisconsin
Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814. Internet: http://www.ashp.org/
- National Association of Chain Drug Stores, 413 N. Lee
St., P.O. Box 1417-D49, Alexandria, VA 22313-1480. Internet:
- Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, 100 North Pitt St.,
Suite 400, Alexandria, VA 22314. Internet: http://www.amcp.org/
- American Pharmacists Association, 2215 Constitution Ave.
N.W., Washington, DC 20037-2985. Internet: http://www.aphanet.org/
Information on the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam
(NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE)
is available from:
- National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 1600 Feehanville
Dr., Mount Prospect, IL 60056. Internet: http://www.nabp.net/
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.
- Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics,
U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,