The Pharmacist's Job

Pharmacists dispense prescription drugs to patients.

They provide information about those drugs and help patients understand the instructions their doctors or other health practitioners provided.

They monitor their patients' health and progress to make sure their medications are working effectively and safely.

Educational Requirements for Pharmacists

To work as a pharmacist one must have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

Pharmacy programs are usually four years long and must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

To gain admission one must have at least two years of college study with courses including math, chemistry, biology, physics, humanities and social sciences.

Applicants generally have to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test. Doctor of Pharmacy programs include coursework in pharmaceutics and pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology (effects of drugs on the body), toxicology and pharmacy administration.

In the U.S., pharmacists must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam administered by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).

Most states also require graduates to pass the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), a test of pharmacy law, also administered by the NABP.

Other states administer another exam that tests knowledge of pharmacy law. Several states also require additional state-specific exams.

All states, except California, grant license transfers from other states.

Pharmacists must have scientific aptitude and good communication skills and be detail-oriented.

Pharmacists working in independent pharmacies may become owners or part-owners after they gain experience and secure the necessary capital.

Those in chain drugstores may be promoted to pharmacy supervisors or store managers, then to district or regional managers and eventually to executive positions at the headquarters.

Hospital pharmacists may be promoted to supervisory positions.

Those who work in the pharmaceutical industry may advance in areas including marketing, sales, research, or quality control.

A Day in a Pharmacist's Life:

On a typical day a pharmacist will:

  • Advise physicians and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications;
  • Monitor the health and progress of patients in response to drug therapy;
  • Advise patients and answer questions about prescription drugs, including questions about possible side effects and interactions among different drugs;
  • Provide information and make recommendations about over-the-counter drugs;

Pharmacists may also

  • Give advice about diet, exercise, or stress management;
  • Help patients manage conditions such as diabetes, asthma, smoking cessation, or high blood pressure;
  • Advise patients about durable medical equipment and home healthcare supplies;
  • Complete third-party insurance forms and other paperwork;

Pharmacists who own or manage drugstores may supervise personnel, as well as have other general managerial duties.

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