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Pharmacist

Overview

In recent years, pharmacist has been consistently ranked as among the best jobs in the United States.

Pharmacists dispense medications prescribed by physicians and other health practitioners and monitor patient health. They advise physicians and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions and side effects of medications.

Pharmacists must understand the use, clinical effects and composition of drugs, including their chemical, biological and physical properties. Pharmacists are the medication experts.  They protect the public by ensuring drug purity and strength.

The goal of pharmacy care is to maximize positive health care outcomes and improve patients' quality of life with minimum risk. Most pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a retail drug store, or in a hospital or clinic.

To learn more about this career, watch the video about pharmacists (in the Health Science section).

Working Conditions

Pharmacists usually work in clean, well-lit and well-ventilated areas. Many pharmacists spend most of their workday on their feet. When working with sterile or potentially 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 evenings, nights, weekends and holidays. Consultant pharmacists may travel to nursing homes or other facilities to monitor patients' drug therapy.

Most full-time salaried pharmacists worked about 43 hours a week. Some, including many self-employed pharmacists, worked more than 50 hours a week. About one out of five pharmacists worked part time in 2009. 

Academic Requirements

In 2013, 129 colleges and schools of pharmacy were recognized by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Pharmacy programs grant Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degrees, which require at least six years of post-secondary study and passing a state board of pharmacy licensure examination.

The Pharm.D. is a four-year program that requires at least two years of college study prior to admittance. The majority of students enter pharmacy programs with three or more years of college. The Pharm.D degree has replaced the Bachelor of Pharmacy (B.Pharm.) degree, which is no longer awarded. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education provides a searchable database of pharmacy programs

The Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS) makes it easy to apply to multiple schools using a single application.

Students interested in laboratory or research experience can continue their education by completing a Master of Science or Ph.D. degree. Graduates usually go on to careers in research for a drug company or teaching at a university. In the 2013-14 academic year, 69 colleges of pharmacy offered Master of Science and/or Ph.D. programs. 

Other options for pharmacy graduates who are interested in further training include one- or two-year residency programs or fellowships. Pharmacy residencies are post-graduate training programs in pharmacy practice. Pharmacy fellowships are highly individualized programs designed to prepare participants to work in research laboratories. Some pharmacists who run their own pharmacies obtain a master's degree in business administration (MBA).