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How to Become a Pharmacist

If you have excellent communication skills, customer service skills, and interest in drugs and helping others with health issues and concerns, a pharmacist is a great profession that might fit your career goals.

Pharmacists typically work in pharmacies, drugstores, clinics, and hospitals where they are responsible for dispensing prescription and non-prescription medications to patients. They also might participate in patient rounds in hospitals, conduct clinical trials or research, help reduce the spread of disease, or focus on a specific health condition, such as asthma, diabetes, or HIV. Pharmacists must have in-depth knowledge of a wide range of prescription and non-prescription drugs as they often advise customers as to the use of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications.

To excel as a pharmacist, you should be able to interpret symptoms and provide appropriate treatment or refer customers to an applicable physician. Pharmacists review and interpret physicians’ directives in filling prescriptions. As such, they must maintain a high level of accuracy and have outstanding attention to detail. Pharmacists also provide immunizations, take blood pressure, and perform other basic functions of health for customers. As a pharmacist, you must always adhere to all state and federal regulations and procedures governing pharmaceutical practice. Pharmacists need to have intermediate computer skills and excellent organizational skills.

Sample job description

A pharmacist is an important healthcare professional who specializes in medication. They are responsible for preparing and giving out medications to patients. This entails accurately measuring medication doses, preventing dangerous drug interactions, and informing patients on safe ways to use their medications. Pharmacists need to be experts in their field, so anyone interested in becoming a pharmacist must earn a Pharm.D. to practice. [Your Company Name] is looking for an experienced pharmacist that has the proper education and knowledge of the industry that will allow them to flourish in this role. If you pay good attention to detail and have a strong desire to work with patients to keep them safe, then we would love to have you on our team as our pharmacist!   

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Review prescriptions to assure accuracy, to ascertain the needed ingredients, and to evaluate their suitability
  • Provide information and advice regarding drug interactions, side effects, dosage, and proper medication storage
  • Plan, implement or maintain procedures for mixing, packaging, or labeling pharmaceuticals, according to policy and legal requirements, to ensure quality, security, and proper disposal
  • Collaborate with other health care professionals to plan, monitor, review, or evaluate the quality or effectiveness of drugs or drug regimens, providing advice on drug applications or characteristics
  • Manage pharmacy operations, including hiring or supervising staff, performing administrative duties, and buying or selling non-pharmaceutical merchandise
  • Contact insurance companies to resolve billing issues
  • Compound and dispense medications as prescribed by doctors and dentists, by calculating, weighing, measuring, and mixing ingredients, or overseeing these activities

Education and experience

A master’s degree in pharmacy is required; Pharm.D. is preferred. A pharmacist needs a current state license, which requires passing two exams.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Thorough understanding of dosage administration and measurement, chemical compounds, medical brands, etc.
  • Excellent verbal communication and customer-service skills
  • Strong understanding of the major pharmaceutical computer software platforms
  • Enhanced problem-solving and critical thinking skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • 2+ years of working experience in a pharmacy setting
  • Values teamwork and demonstrates a positive attitude, good work ethic, and sound clinical acumen
  • Able to remain organized, analytical, and detail-oriented

Typical work environment

Pharmacists primarily work in retail pharmacies, located in grocery and drug stores. However, pharmacists can also be found working in various clinics and hospitals. Some may even work for the government and military. Most pharmacists spend most of the day on their feet looking over and preparing various medication orders. Pharmacists can either work full-time or part-time. 

Typical hours

Although some pharmacists work 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, many work extended hours due to pharmacies being open at nights and on weekends.

Available certifications

There are many great certifications available to pharmacists that allow them to keep up with the rapidly changing scope of pharmacy practices. Check out the following: 

  • Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation (ACHC). The Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation Board supports the Pharmacy Compounding Accreditation from ACHC, making it valuable to earn as an experienced pharmacist.  This certification teaches pharmacists how to make and provide customized medications when other conventional options aren’t working. This could include changing doses to include children or removing an ingredient a patient is allergic to, so they can still take their medication. Being introduced to compounding pharmacy is a great way to advance as an experienced pharmacist, making this certification valuable to earn. 
  • Point of Care Testing (POCT). The point-of-care testing certification is a great opportunity for any community pharmacist looking to make more money. This certification teaches pharmacists how to perform a variety of diagnostic tests outside of a lab that will produce fast and accurate results. If pharmacists choose to earn the POCT certification, they could charge patients directly for the tests they offer. This certification will expand patient care service while helping pharmacists make more money along the way. 

Career path

The career path for a pharmacist starts by first earning a bachelor’s degree with an emphasis in the sciences, whether chemistry, biology, or physics. Then candidates must take and pass the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test). Pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) postgraduate professional degree. An advanced position requires a one- or two-year residency. Last, every state requires pharmacists to be licensed, with additional certifications needed for administering vaccinations and immunizations.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-1051

2020 Employment322,200
Projected Employment in 2030315,300
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 2% decrease
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift7,000 decrease

Americans are taking more medicine than ever before, especially prescription drugs. Scientific advances continually lead to new pharmaceuticals, which increases the demand for distribution outlets.

Older people typically need more medicine than young people. As the oversized baby-boom generation ages, the demand for prescription medications increases. Also boosting demand: the rising rate of obesity in the United States, as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes.

This upward trend in the consumption of medicine would seem to boost the need for more pharmacists. However, more and more consumers are buying their medications online or through mail order, which leads to fewer positions available for pharmacists in retail settings. Demand for pharmacists in health care settings such as hospitals and clinics is likely to increase.