Pharmacist Career Overview

Published September 12, 2022 · 4 Min Read

Reviewed by Grant Walker, PharmD
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Find out if a career as a pharmacist could be right for you. Learn about their duties, education, and salary.

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Pharmacist Career Overview
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How Long to Become

7-8 years

Median Annual Salary

$128,570

Source: BLS


Would you find a career helping patients manage their medications rewarding? If so, you should consider becoming a pharmacist.

Pharmacists have many choices for specialty and work settings, which allows them to choose the path best fitting their interests and skills.

No matter where they work, pharmacists help patients and healthcare professionals manage medications and treatments. This helps patients not only avoid bad side effects, but achieve the best outcome possible.

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What Does a Pharmacist Do?

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Pharmacists can work in hospitals, big box store pharmacies, and independently owned pharmacies. They help patients and healthcare professionals manage medications and treatments for a variety of conditions, such as diabetes and cancer.

The day-to-day responsibilities of a pharmacist may vary depending on where they work. However, all pharmacists need skills in management, multitasking, and communication.

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Key Responsibilities

  • Advising patients about medications and other health topics such as diet, exercise, and stress
  • Consulting with physicians about prescription instructions and proper treatments for patients
  • Managing medication
  • Keeping records and filing insurance paperwork
  • Managing pharmacy technicians and interns

Career Traits

  • Ability to multitask
  • Money and people management skills
  • Communication skills
  • Technology skills
  • Critical thinking

Where Do Pharmacists Work?

No matter where they work, pharmacists fill prescriptions, educate healthcare professionals and patients about medications, manage pharmacy technicians, and keep records. However, where a pharmacist works dictates how much time they spend doing each of these tasks.

Pharmacies and Drug Stores

Pharmacists in independently owned pharmacies have more time to explain or answer questions about medications and conditions. They also experience less staff turnover, and more opportunities for expanding the business or their skill set.

Medical and Surgical Hospitals

Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals. Most of the time, they work with healthcare professionals to manage patients’ medications. They must complete a two-year residency and board-certification is recommended.

Department Stores

Retail pharmacists may interact with customers more than they interact with other healthcare professionals. They may have more regular hours than clinical pharmacists. They do not have to complete a residency.

How to Become a Pharmacist?

Training

Becoming a pharmacist requires a bachelor’s degree, a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.), and a license to practice. High school students may find a six-year program that combines their undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Your bachelor's program must include courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics.

A Pharm.D. can take between three and four years. This degree includes chemistry, pharmacology, medical ethics, and internships.

Future pharmacists must take two exams before they can practice. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) tests their general knowledge and skills in pharmacy. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) tests knowledge of state and federal laws that apply to their field.

After you receive your license, you may consider a residency to practice clinical pharmacy, board certification, or other certifications based on your skills and interests.

Optional Training

After receiving a license, pharmacists can choose to complete additional training based on their specialty. Pharmacists can become a Certified Diabetes Educator through the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators. 

If they provide vaccines in their clinic, they can get the American Pharmacists Association’s (APhA) Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery certificate.

Clinical pharmacists, who work in hospitals, often complete a two-year residency. Once pharmacists complete their residency, they can become board certified in their specialty. Pharmacists need to renew their Board every seven years. 

As a pharmacist, you will build general skills in the first year of residency. During your second year, you develop knowledge and skills in a specific area of practice such as infectious disease, critical care, emergency medicine, or pediatrics.

Learn more about how to become a pharmacist.

Pharmacist Concentrations and Specializations

Ambulatory Care

Ambulatory care provides healthcare services to patients who transition out of the hospital into another healthcare space, or back to their home.

Oncology Pharmacy

Oncology pharmacists manage medication therapies and monitor potentially adverse effects of medications for people with cancer.

Pediatric Pharmacy

Pediatric pharmacists make sure patients 18 years old or younger take their medications safely and effectively.

Psychiatric Pharmacy

Psychiatric pharmacists manage the medication and treatment needs of people with mental health conditions.

How Much Do Pharmacists Make?

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from September 2022 projects 2% job growth for pharmacists between 2021-2031. Pharmacists retiring or leaving the field explain most of the about 13,600 job openings in the field.

Pharmacists make a median annual salary of $128,570 according to BLS data from September 2022. They make around $61.81 an hour. The lowest 10% of pharmacists make a median of $76,840 annually, while the highest 10% earn $164,590 annually.

Pharmacist salary can vary depending on a person's skills and experience level. Pharmacists with experience in infectious diseases make 14% more than average, according to Payscale data from August 2022. If they have experience in emergency medicine, they make 8% more than average.

Pharmacists with more than five years of experience can expect to earn 3% more than average, according to Payscale data from August 2022.

If a pharmacist has more than 10 years of experience, they can expect to earn a salary that is 6% higher than the average for pharmacists.

Learn more about a pharmacist's salary.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pharmacists


How long does it take to become a pharmacist?

Pharmacist training can take 7-10 years, depending on whether you decide to complete a residency to become a clinical pharmacist. Pharmacists must complete a four-year bachelor’s degree and a doctor of pharmacy degree, which can take three to four years.

What's the difference between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician?

Pharmacy technicians take inventory of medications, fill prescriptions, take payment, and answer phone calls. However, they must work under the supervision of pharmacists, who consult with physicians about treatment and advise patients on their medications, diet, exercise, and stress.

Can pharmacists prescribe medicine?

In most states, pharmacists can prescribe medicine under certain guidelines if a qualifying provider signs a collaborative drug therapy agreement (CDTAs). Otherwise, pharmacists teach other healthcare professionals about the proper treatments, medications, and therapies for patients.

Do pharmacists get paid well?

Pharmacists make an average of $128,570 per year. Their annual salary may seem high, but they make less than the average salary for other healthcare professionals with a doctorate such as internists, surgeons, family medicine physicians, and pediatricians.


Page Last Reviewed: August 31, 2022


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