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Are you interested in becoming a pharmacist? If so, you better be prepared for the changes that this profession is going through. Namely, pharmacist jobs have seen dramatic transformations over the last 40 years, both in terms of professional responsibilities and their rising demand. 

A skilled pharmacist’s knowledge and expertise have always been admirable in healthcare. Besides retail pharmacy, pharmacists work in the manufacturing industry, regulatory agencies, clinics, and independently as consultants. 

If you have an aptitude for chemistry and biomedical research and are willing to continuously grow your skill set to adapt to a changing business climate, this profession could be the right choice. 


About Pharmacist Jobs


In general, a pharmacist is a drug professional with vast expertise on the topic. He possesses the knowledge of how to design a biologically active substance and manufacture it, analyze it, produce it in bulk, wholesale it, market it, retail it, dispense it, and reimburse it. 

A pharmacist’s education is based on medicine, chemistry, pharmacology, and technology. Therefore, they can develop a career within different sectors, and their job descriptions differ depending on the specialty.

Although mainly perceived as “pill counters,” pharmacists occupy a great variety of professions. From basic community pharmacy jobs, team-leading, and healthcare management to industrial expertise, pharmacist’s skills are highly tradable.

What Do Pharmacists Do?

No matter the specialty, a pharmacist’s main areas of work are medication, medical devices, and supplements.

Their professional duties may vary depending on the type of profession. 

Duties of a Community Pharmacist

Community (retail) pharmacists work in independent pharmacies, pharmacy chains, or drug stores. This type of job is highly regulated and is considered primary healthcare. Community pharmacists have the highest availability of all healthcare professionals.

The primary responsibilities associated with pharmacy clerk jobs include the following:

  • Dispensing drugs to the local population
  • Verifying prescription instructions and providing adequate medicine
  • Checking for possible drug-drug, drug-food, or other interactions
  • Instructing patients on the safe and proper use of medications and informing them about any potential contraindications or adverse effects
  • Advising patients on healthy lifestyle choices, such as diets, exercise, and stress management
  • Giving instructions on the correct use of medical equipment
  • Managing drug orders with wholesalers and ensuring optimal stock in the pharmacy
  • Administering flu shots and other vaccinations
  • Keeping records on drug storage and other administrative duties
  • Overseeing technicians and interns

This type of pharmacy job implies working in a clearly defined hierarchy. Therefore, pharmacists can become regional managers and maintain some of their previous—mostly executive—duties.

Many pharmacies across the country have a need for drug compounding. Therefore, some pharmacies have a separate laboratory for making customized drugs, creams, and ointments. 

Duties of a Clinical Pharmacist

Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals and clinics. Medication dispensing is a technician’s responsibility, and it’s mostly automated. Therefore, hospital pharmacists are directly involved in patient care.

Hospital pharmacist jobs involve the following responsibilities: 

  • Doing rounds with physicians or healthcare teams
  • Recommending medications and regulating dosages and ways of administration
  • Conducting basic biochemical tests
  • Advising patients on healthy lifestyle habits
  • Instructing patients on how to use self-testing kits
  • Teaching team members about the proper medication choices 
  • Educating staff on new pharmacological approaches

In 2020, hospital pharmacists are more in demand than in previous years. The statistics prove that healthcare teams that have a pharmacist produce optimal treatment outcomes.

Duties of a Consultant Pharmacist

The main responsibilities of a consultant pharmacist are jobs such as advising healthcare providers or insurance companies on the best drugs a patient should use. 

Their primary responsibilities include:

  • Analyzing the efficiency and cost of a patient’s medication use
  • Devising optimal treatment solutions for healthcare facilities and insurance providers
  • Working with care providers and insurance companies to supply patients with medicines
  • Completing insurance forms
  • Advising patients on the best therapy choices based on analysis 

Duties of a Pharmaceutical Industry Pharmacist

For an industry pharmacist, the job description varies depending on the sector they operate in. Their job always involves medicines, but rarely has any healthcare or insurance concerns. The primary interest of an industry pharmacist is the creation and placement of new drugs on the market. 

Here are some positions that industry pharmacists may find themselves in: 

  • Research and Development — The primary responsibilities include biochemical analysis, pharmaceutical synthesis, and production technology development. 
  • Manufacturing —This involves the procurement of technical documentation and oversight of the production processes in a drug factory.
  • Sales and Marketing Their primary duty is to raise product awareness via various marketing activities. The object of this department is generating and maintaining sales. 
  • Clinical Trials — These kinds of jobs—for any pharmacist—involve the oversight of clinical trials of drugs and the preparation and analysis of appropriate documentation. 
  • Quality control and drug analysis — Chemical analysis experts conduct laboratory tests, monitor drug quality, and make sure the drugs meet international requirements. They also implement stress studies to assess the expiration dates on substances and other additional materials.

Work Environment


According to the official data, community pharmacists accounted for 314,300 of all pharmacy-related jobs in 2018.  

In concurrence with the regulation, community pharmacies must have at least one pharmacist per shift, one technician, and one pharmacy assistant. The retail pharmacist is a job that involves working behind the counter—an area only authorized personnel can access. It is where the medications are stored, and it leads to the back office.

26% of pharmacists work in a hospital. Clinical pharmacists work in a clinic, where they share rooms with physicians. Depending on the job type, industrial pharmacists mostly work in personal offices or laboratories. Consultant pharmacists are independent individuals who work mainly at their offices.

Injuries and Illnesses

Although generally considered safe, the job of a community pharmacist carries the risk of contracting an infectious disease. To avoid accidental intoxication, a registered pharmacist performs jobs in compliance with regulations regarding the proper handling of hazardous substances. 

Clinical pharmacists are often in contact with diseased patients, which carries the risk of acquiring airborne, or fluid-borne infectious diseases.

Industrial pharmacists work with physiologically active chemicals, which demands constant caution and care. 

Work Schedules

All pharmacists work full-time, except for consultant pharmacists who work remotely and on-demand. Retail pharmacists, industrials, and clinicians work in shifts, so there could be three-shift work hours. All types of pharmacist jobs have flexible work arrangement opportunities.


How to Become a Pharmacist?


Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) professional degree accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. To get licensed, they must pass a professional and a law exam. 

Important Qualities 

Attention to Detail and Analytical Skills

To efficiently provide prescribed medications, pharmacists must evaluate patients’ needs and medical state, and implement their knowledge about pharmaceuticals in given circumstances. The prescription filing must be done accurately, with the correct dose adjustment.   

There are plenty of jobs for pharmacists who want to work in a clinic. These professionals offer an analytical perspective of a patient’s health status, which sometimes results in medication switching. Drugs can interact with a pathology, so the hospital pharmacist has to assess their patients’ drug responses accurately.

Quality control and manufacturing pharmacists deal with deficient substances, which requires them to be precise in conducting analyses and filling documentation.

Managerial Skills

Running a pharmacy requires applying management techniques to staff organization and stock management.

Industrial pharmacists often oversee the production process, so they assess employees’ work efficiency on different levels.

Communication Skills 

People skills are a prerequisite for a successful pharmacist career. Namely, community pharmacists frequently give patients health advice or instructions about proper medication use. They also must provide clear directions to staff members.

One of the most important traits a clinical pharmacist must have is the ability to communicate the drug administration pattern to all on-duty intendants. 

Computer Skills

To appropriately use healthcare records, pharmacists need computer skills. Additionally, many job types require daily electronic reports.

Industrial pharmacists often use sophisticated software.

Education

By the requirement of the US government, pharmacist jobs are available only for Pharm.D. degrees acquired at officially accredited academic institutions. In August 2017, there were 128 recognized pharmacy education institutions in the US. 

The mandatory exams are chemistry, biology, and physics. Most schools require two years of undergraduate study, and the students need to pass the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).

Pharm.D. programs usually last four years and include courses in chemistry, pharmacology, and medicine. Some plans offer a variety of choices, such as dietetics, botany, genetics, and biotechnology.

Students are required to complete internships. Pharmacist intern jobs are done under the supervision of experienced colleagues in hospitals or retail pharmacies.

As in other healthcare professions, pharmacists are encouraged to participate in continuous medical education during their careers, so they are up to date with all the latest pharmacology and therapy options. 

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations 

The state licenses pharmacists. So to acquire a license, prospective-pharmacists must pass two main exams.

The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX)

All pharmacist jobs require the test of pharmacy knowledge and skills. Namely, the NAPLEX is a linear exam with 250 multiple-choice questions. Of the total number, only 200 questions affect the final score. To pass, an applicant must answer 60% of the questions correctly. The available time to answer the questions is six hours. The price for the NAPLEX application is $575. 

The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE)

This test examines a candidate’s knowledge about the pharmacy law and jurisprudence in the state in which the test is taken. MPJE is a computer test with 120 questions, out of which only 100 are used to calculate the score. To legally get the pharmacist job opportunity, the applicant must have a minimum of 75 correct answers. The test lasts two and a half hours. The price for the MPJE test is $150. 

The state must certify community pharmacists who administer vaccinations. The most commonly used program is the one provided by the American Pharmacists Association.

Clinical pharmacists need to get certified by the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS). Certificates are obtained after the residency.

BPS offers additional certifications for working pharmacists that prove their advanced knowledge in some areas of pharmacotherapy. Retail pharmacists that seek advancement can choose to get a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). 

Advancement 

After passing the NAPLEX and the MPJE, candidates can work as community pharmacists. However, as for pharmacist jobs where you don’t work in a pharmacy, specialty education and certification are mandatory.

Clinical jobs require a two-year residency, and BPS conducts the certification.

BPS currently supports 12 clinical pharmacy specialties:

  • Ambulatory Care Pharmacy
  • Cardiology Pharmacy
  • Compounded Sterile Preparations Pharmacy
  • Critical Care Pharmacy
  • Geriatric Pharmacy
  • Infectious Diseases Pharmacy
  • Nuclear Pharmacy
  • Nutrition Support Pharmacy
  • Oncology Pharmacy
  • Pediatric Pharmacy
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Psychiatric Pharmacy

Researchers also require one or two years of academic or industrial residency, which usually implies the acquisition of several specialty certifications, such as Good Manufacturing Practice Certification or Chemical Drug-Analysis Certification. 


Pay


According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS), for pharmacist jobs, the salary that can be expected varies between $80,000 and $140,000. This difference mainly depends on an additional specialty.

Community Pharmacist Salary

According to BLS, in May 2018, the annual wage for retail pharmacists was $126,120. 

The lowest 10% earned $87,790, and the highest 10% earned $161,250 a year.

Pharmacies adjacent to general merchandise stores earned $131,460 on average, while a retail pharmacist’s median annual wage was $124,760.

Clinical Pharmacist Salary

The median annual wage for hospital pharmacists in 2018 was $127,330.

Clinical pharmacy intern jobs have salaries of about $93,000 a year, while clinical pharmacy managers earn up to $143,000 annually.

However, there are significant differences in salaries of different clinical specialties. Clinical oncology pharmacist wages are about $136,000, while pediatric pharmacists earn $121,000 yearly.

Other Pharmacy Salaries

Pharmaceutical representatives earn from $56,000 to $71,000, while their managers go up to $86,000 per year.

On average, drug safety specialists earn $77,531 yearly.

When it comes to industrial pharmacy jobs, the wages vary depending on the specialty type and position. They range from $77,000 to $91,000 for regular positions, while managerial positions have higher annual salaries.


Job Outlook


According to the employment data projections for the US between 2018–2028, the requirements for these professions aren’t shifting significantly. With the ever-rising age of the world population and the consequent need for healthcare professionals, the retail pharmacy businesses are not expected to grow. 

Job Prospects

According to BLS, a low pharmacist job growth is mainly found in the area of community pharmacies. This implies that there are no rising prospects in the pharmacy market, and this is primarily due to the rise of the mail-order-drug industry. Companies like Amazon are becoming more successful in direct drug delivery, shifting the global drug market and affecting both wholesalers and small businesses.

However, there is an increasing demand for specialty pharmacy professions, such as clinical pharmacists and certified specialists.

As the generic production of drugs rises, evidence predicts the rise of industrial pharmacy demands.


Frequently Asked Questions


What jobs can a pharmacist get with an MBA?

An MBA attached to the Pharm.D. can probably raise your job-seeking prospects and salary. Pharmacists that have management business administration degrees aim for executive or administrative positions. There are various opportunities, such as the jobs in chain pharmacy management, regulatory agencies, healthcare institutions, and clinics. 

According to the research, 85% of MBA pharmacy candidates believe that an additional degree will make them more competitive in the job market. MBA is sought mostly by pharmaceutical industry employees and chain pharmacy managers.

What jobs can a pharmacist do other than pharmacy?

There are specific prospects that are available to a person with a pharmacy degree. The particular skill set that a pharmacist has makes them very flexible in trading professions. 

There are job alternatives that one with a pharmacy degree can efficiently do. One of them is a regulatory affairs manager, a job that consists of analyzing data on a specific medication. Regulatory affairs managers use their pharmaceutical knowledge to write clear statements about whether a particular drug should be released on the market.

What jobs are in a pharmacy?

The pharmacy staff consists of a pharmacist assistant, a pharmacy technician, and a pharmacist.

The pharmacy assistant handles the defectiveness of the stock and other jobs of lower responsibility. Sometimes they perform the activities as hostesses in large capacity pharmacies.

Pharmacy technicians have a higher level of responsibility, as they handle patient information and assist pharmacists with the prescription filling. They also measure medications and advise about supplements.

Pharmacists handle dispensing of drugs and advise patients on various crucial drug-related topics. They also give directions to other staff and process drug orders.

What qualifications does one need to apply for pharmacist jobs?

The required qualification for this type of profession is a postgraduate Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. The academic institution that issues the diploma has to be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. If they want to acquire a license, postgraduates need to pass two tests: the NAPLEX test and the MPJE test.