Resource Guide for Careers in Pharmacy

The health profession that ties chemical sciences and health sciences together is called pharmacy and those that practice the science of pharmacy are called pharmacists. The main goal of a pharmacist is to ensure that pharmaceutical drugs are used safely and effectively, but the role of a pharmacist also includes much more. Pharmacists are specially trained to properly dispense medication, provide drug information, review drugs for effectiveness and safety, and to perform clinical services. In a nutshell, a pharmacist is an expert on drug therapy that can provide patients with medication to promote good health. The Pharmacy field is divided into three disciplines: Pharmacy practice, Medicinal chemistry/Pharmacognosy, and Pharmaceutics, of which the lines between each discipline can be blurred.

Nature of work

Pharmacists take various roles to ensure their patients obtain good health. The primary role of a pharmacist is to dispense medications as prescribed by a healthcare professional. But there is more to this field as pharmacists are also there to advise patients and other health care providers on drug side effects, dosages, interactions, and specific medicine selection. Pharmacists also take charge of a person’s pharmaceutical care, monitoring a patient’s progress to make sure their medication is safe and effective, as well as looking for additional drugs that can improve the patient’s outcome. When a person is injured they often visit a pharmacy first, where a Pharmacist can provide first aid information, recommend bandages and dressings, suggest medications, and provide referrals to physicians. A Pharmacist is a great resource for advice and counseling on medicinal uses and on the provision of non-prescription drugs. A pharmacist can administer immunizations, properly dose drugs, educate people on disease and treatments, provide general health advice, and compound or combine medications.

Qualifications and Registration

In the United States, a potential pharmacist starts their education by earning a Bachelor’s degree, although many pharmaceutical programs require at least 2 years of undergraduate schooling and a completed list of prerequisites. Next, the student must complete 4 years of pharmacy school to obtain a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Finally, the student must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination and Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination licensure exams. There are currently 116 accredited pharmacy schools in the U.S., six of which have an accelerated three-year program where students must attend school almost all year round. There is also one fully accredited online or distance learning four-year PharmD program at Creighton University. To take it a step further, a pharmacist in America can choose a specialty practice and obtain certifications in such specific areas as ambulatory car, nutrition, nuclear pharmacy, pharmacotherapy, infectious disease, cardiology, geriatric pharmacy, toxicology, and psychiatric pharmacy.

  • American Society of Health-System Pharmacists: This is a pharmacy association that provides an entire page of information on accreditation, as well as information on continuing education and more.
  • How to Become a Pharmacist: Not only does this article provide information on what a pharmacist does, but there is a lot of information on the schooling and certification that needs to be obtained to become a pharmacist.
  • NABP: The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination must be taken by all pharmacists, and this is the official website of the association that heads the exam.
  • MPJE: Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination is another exam all pharmacists must pass prior to practicing pharmacy.

Pharmacy Specialties

Academic Pharmacist

Academic pharmacists are the educators that are teaching the next generations of Pharmacists. These pharmacists work in schools and colleges and provide education to local, state, national, and even international organizations. Academic pharmacists also get involved with biological sciences, clinic science, administrative tasks, drug discovery, natural medicinal products and pharmacology.

  • Pharmacy Postings: Not only is this a great resource for finding pharmacy jobs, but it provides an academic pharmacist job overview, description, qualifications, training information, and more.
  • Academic Pharmacy as a Career Option: Roberta Sislo, PharmD candidate, provides her experience and thoughts on becoming an academic pharmacist.

Clinical Pharmacist

A clinical pharmacist is typically in charge of coordinating the duties of the pharmacy technicians, including preparing, labeling, and delivery of medications and supplies as stated in physician’s prescriptions. The clinical pharmacist must also ensure that all medications dispensed from the pharmacy are in accordance with federal, state, and local regulations and laws. A clinical pharmacist also has education related responsibilities, such as mentoring and training less experienced pharmacists and speaking at seminars, conventions and conferences.

  • The Definition of Clinical Pharmacy: Everything a person would ever want to know about what a clinical pharmacist does can be found in this 2 page document.
  • Pharmacy Jobs Only: A website geared towards pharmacy jobs, this page provides a deeper look into the clinical pharmacist position.

Compounding Pharmacist

A compounding pharmacist provides patients with a customized blend of medications when all other options are not effective. These compound medications are not commercially available, or the commercially manufactured drugs require alterations to meet the needs of a specific patient. There are many types of people that require compound medications, such as a patient that is allergic to a component of a manufactured medication, a child who can not swallow a pill and need a liquid medication, or a drug is needed in a smaller dose than what is available through mass production.

Consultant Pharmacist

Consultant pharmacists provide clinical services to people that are receiving home care, such as hospice, and those that live in retirement communities and long-term care facilities. Consultant pharmacists must combine skills that are used in hospital and retail pharmacy, such as being familiar with intravenous medications, total parenteral nutrition, and over-the-counter medications. As a consultant, these pharmacists will need experience working in a pharmacy because they are often called upon to be a liaison between the provider pharmacy and the nursing facilities.

  • What is a Compounding Pharmacist?: Discovery Health has put together a document that explains how a compounding pharmacist works with a physician to provide unique and specific medications to patients.
  • Nontraditional Pharmacy Careers: A detailed look at the consultant pharmacist positions that have popped up over the past 30 years. This article includes comments from a woman in this profession and information on training programs.

Drug Information Pharmacist

Most drug information pharmacists work in drug information centers, which is a center that accepts a wide range of requests from health care professionals. This position entails investigating and researching drugs, drug interactions, drug identification, adverse drug reactions, drug use safety, and the safety of drugs used by pregnant and nursing mothers. The drug information pharmacists in one center can answer over 5,000 informational requests a year.

  • Career Profile: An overview of the drug information pharmacist’s career, as well as job outlook, career track, and average salary.

Hospital Pharmacist

A hospital pharmacist works in a hospital setting, providing pharmaceutical services and more complex clinical medication management to hospital patients only. A hospital pharmacy usually has a larger range of available medications, especially drugs that are more specialized and drugs that are currently being studies but have not yet been approved, than local retail pharmacies.

  • All Health Care: Hospital pharmacists play a big role in patient healthcare, especially while they are staying in the hospital, and this article discusses the role of a hospital pharmacist.
  • Job Shadow: An interview with a hospital pharmacist provides an in-depth look at this career choice and what responsibilities this type of pharmacist has, as well as information on salary and job training.

Informatics Pharmacist

An informatics pharmacist utilizes technology, such as computers and electronic health records, to improve patient’s health, strengthen the clinician-patient relationship, and enhance individual health outcomes. These pharmacists also develop and refine clinical decision support systems, evaluate and update clinical processes, asses the needs of patients and other health care professionals, and may participate in various roles to continue the improvement of clinical information systems.

  • The Current State of Pharmacy Informatics: This five-page article discusses why informatics pharmacy is important and the current state of pharmacy informatics education in United States Colleges of Pharmacy.
  • Pharmacy Informatics Residency Program: John Hopkins Medicine has outlined their informatics pharmacy residency program, which provides potential students with an indication of what to expect from such a course.

Veterinary Pharmacist

A veterinary pharmacist has been specially trained to dispense medicine and provide advice to animals, both pets and other livestock. Veterinary pharmacists also advise regulatory bodies involved in formulating drugs for animals.

Pharmacist Clinical Pathologist

A pharmacist clinical pathologist works in hospital and clinic laboratories and assists with the body fluid analysis and they can work in blood banks. This type of pharmacist will also be involved in patient testing to determine the best course of medication for that patient. There are several areas of specialty within the pharmacist clinical pathologist field, including hematology, microbiology, and chemistry.

  • What’s a Pharmacist Clinical Pathologist?: An overview of what a pharmacist clinical pathologist does on the job, and information on the schooling required to obtain this degree.
  • Pay Scale: A graph of salary and bonus averages for pharmacist clinical pathologists, as well as links to open jobs in this field.

Additional Career Resources

  • How to Become a Pharmacist: This is an easy-to-read guide with tips that will help a person become a pharmacist, from recommended high school courses, links to over 20 resources on licenses, exams, and free journals.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics: A detailed look at the pharmacist position, including information about the nature of the work, training, job outlook over the next few years, and projections.
  • Career Tool Kits: There are a few steps that a student must take when deciding to become a pharmacist and this article will touch upon all of them and include links to additional resources at the bottom.
  • Day in the Life: People thinking about becoming a pharmacist or are on the path to becoming a pharmacist will enjoy this site that provides information the average day of a Pharmacist.
  • Career Opportunities: Not a list of job postings, Purdue University has gathered information into an informative article that points out all the various places that a pharmacist can work.
  • American College of Clinical Pharmacy: ACCP is a scientific and professional society that strives to provide education, leadership, resources, and advocacy so clinical pharmacists can achieve excellence.
  • Science Careers: There are several different types of pharmacists and each of them are discussed here, along with salary information, projected job growth, places of employment, and links to additional resources.
  • Pharmacist Salary Calculator: This free tool allows people to enter in the requested information and the calculator will determine the average salary.
  • Pharmacist Recruitment Job Board: A huge listing of various pharmacist jobs all over the country.
  • Residency/Fellowship Program Matrix: This grid provides a look at several pharmacy schools, with details on each of their programs.