The job of a pharmacist is to distribute medications issued through prescriptions. Pharmacists work to advise patients, doctors, and other healthcare professionals on their choice of drugs, the precise dosages to be taken, potential drug interactions and the side effects of taking medications. They also review the health of individuals taking medications to ensure that they continue to use their medications in a safe and effective manner. Compounding, the mixing of different ingredients to create medications, is a part of a pharmacist’s role. However, the majority of the medicines required by patients are produced in standard dosages by pharmaceutical companies and as such, compounding is rare.
Working Conditions and Hours
Pharmacists spend their days in tidy, well-lighted settings. When working with certain pharmaceutical products, pharmacists may need to wear protective clothing, such as gloves and masks.
The majority of pharmacists work a 40-hour week. Full-time and part-time pharmacy jobs are available. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 65% of all pharmacists worked in retail in 2008. Of this percentage, a small number worked in their own pharmacies. Around 22% of pharmacists worked in healthcare settings, such as hospitals. The rest were employed in physicians’ offices, by mail-order pharmacies, pharmaceutical wholesalers, and the Federal Government.
To study for a Pharm.D, the qualification needed to work as a pharmacist, a prospective pharmacist must have successfully completed a minimum of two years’ specific scientific professional study. The majority of pharmacy students have completed more than three years of study at an educational institution before studying for their Pharm.D.
Pharm.D. programs last for approximately four years. Students on these programs learn about drug therapy, the ways in which to communicate with patients, patient care, medical ethics, public health concepts, and managing businesses. Classroom instruction is accompanied by work experience in a pharmacy.
Some graduates of Pharm.D. programs acquire further training through residency programs. These programs typically last between one and two years and are of postgraduate level. Hence, they usually require a student to complete a written research project. Pharmacy fellowships prepare students to create a career for themselves in a specialized area of pharmacy, such as clinical practice.
A license is required to practice as a pharmacist in the US. In order to acquire a license, a pharmacist must have completed a Pharm.D. qualification from an accredited educational institution and sit and pass examinations.
To become a pharmacist, an individual should have a strong academic background in the sciences. They should be excellent communicators and hold the desire to help others. Prospective pharmacists should pay attention to detail and be able to work with great care.
According to statistics from the BLS, the median yearly pharmacist salary in May 2008 was $106,410. The middle 50% of pharmacists earned a pharmacist salary of between $92,670 and $121,310 per annum. The lowest 10% took home a salary of less than $77,390, and the highest 10% took home in excess of $131,440 per annum.
A pharmacist’s salary will depend on the professional’s level of experience, with salaries increasing through further training and experience. The location in which a pharmacist works will also influence a pharmacist salary, with a pharmacist working in an urban location being associated with a greater pharmacist salary than a pharmacist working in a rural location. Pharmacists working in large hospitals can expect to earn a greater pharmacist salary than those in smaller healthcare settings.
The majority of trained pharmacists employed within community and hospital pharmacies must work extended hours, including night shifts, weekends, and public holidays. Pharmacists who work such unsociable hours are usually paid extra.
Pharmacist Jobs: Employment Prospects
The BLS expects employment for trained, licensed pharmacists to rise faster than average. Employment of pharmacists is predicted to rise by 17% from 2008 to 2018. This is due to the rising number of elderly individuals. Scientific advances will also contribute to demand for trained professionals in this field.
Pharmacists are also likely to become more involved in patient care over the coming years. As the range of prescription drugs available becomes more complex, and as more people embark on multiple medication regimens, the potential for drug interactions will increase and there will be a greater need for pharmacists able to advice patients on the use of their medications, to assist in choosing the best medications and dosages for patients’ personal needs, and to help to monitor more complex multiple medication regimens.
The use of mail-order pharmacies, healthcare settings, drugstores, and grocery stores is expected to increase and employment opportunities for pharmacists will grow in these areas.