Pharmacists

Career, Salary and Education Information

What They Do: Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions.

Work Environment: Pharmacists work in pharmacies, including those in drug, general merchandise, and grocery stores. Pharmacists also work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

How to Become One: Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), a 4-year professional degree. Pharmacists must also be licensed, which requires passing two exams.

Salary: The median annual wage for pharmacists is $128,090.

Job Outlook: Employment of pharmacists is projected to decline 3 percent over the next ten years.

Related Careers: Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of pharmacists with similar occupations.

Following is everything you need to know about a career as a Pharmacist with lots of details. As a first step, take a look at some of the following Pharmacist jobs, which are real jobs with real employers. You will be able to see the very real job career requirements for employers who are actively hiring. The link will open in a new tab so that you can come back to this page to continue reading about the career:

Top 3 Pharmacist Jobs

  • Pharmacist - SmartSewa - Faridabad, Haryana

    Proven experience as a pharmacist. As a pharmacist youwill be responsible for preparing and administering appropriate pharmaceuticals to patients.

  • Junior Data Entry Operator - SECL - Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh

    Overseer(civil), Staff Nurse, Pharmacist, Technician (Pathological), Jr Tech ECG, Technician (Radiographer), Physiotherapist, Jr Technical Inspector, Junior…

  • [Government] CRPF Paramedical Vacancy 2020 - Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) - India

    Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Invites online applications from both Male and Female Indian Citizens for recruitment of following combatised posts of…

See all Pharmacist jobs

What Pharmacists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. They also may conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, oversee the medications given to patients, and provide advice on healthy lifestyles.

Duties of Pharmacists

Pharmacists typically do the following:

  • Fill prescriptions, verifying instructions from physicians on the proper amounts of medication to give to patients
  • Check whether prescriptions will interact negatively with other drugs that a patient is taking or any medical conditions the patient has
  • Instruct patients on how and when to take a prescribed medicine and inform them about potential side effects from taking the medicine
  • Give flu shots and, in most states, other vaccinations
  • Advise patients about general health topics, such as diet, exercise, and managing stress, and on other issues, such as what equipment or supplies would be best to treat a health problem
  • Complete insurance forms and work with insurance companies to ensure that patients get the medicines they need
  • Oversee the work of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in training (interns)
  • Keep records and do other administrative tasks
  • Teach other healthcare practitioners about proper medication therapies for patients

Some pharmacists who own their pharmacy or manage a chain pharmacy spend time on business activities, such as inventory management. With most drugs, pharmacists use standard dosages from pharmaceutical companies. However, some pharmacists create customized medications by mixing ingredients themselves, a process known as compounding.

The following are examples of types of pharmacists:

Community pharmacists work in retail stores such as chain drug stores or independently owned pharmacies. They dispense medications to patients and answer any questions that patients may have about prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or any health concerns that the patient may have. They also may provide some primary care services such as giving flu shots.

Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings. They spend little time dispensing prescriptions. Instead, they are involved in direct patient care. Clinical pharmacists may go on rounds in a hospital with a physician or healthcare team. They recommend medications to give to patients and oversee the dosage and timing of the delivery of those medications. They also may conduct some medical tests and offer advice to patients. For example, pharmacists working in a diabetes clinic may counsel patients on how and when to take medications, suggest healthy food choices, and monitor patients' blood sugar.

Consultant pharmacists advise healthcare facilities or insurance providers on patient medication use or improving pharmacy services. They also may give advice directly to patients, such as helping seniors manage their prescriptions.

Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists work in areas such as marketing, sales, or research and development. They may design or conduct clinical drug trials and help to develop new drugs. They may also help to establish safety regulations and ensure quality control for drugs.

Some pharmacists work as college professors. They may teach pharmacy students or conduct research. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Work Environment for Pharmacists[About this section] [To Top]

Pharmacists hold about 321,700 jobs. The largest employers of pharmacists are as follows:

Pharmacies and drug stores 42%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 26%
Food and beverage stores 8%
General merchandise stores 5%

Some pharmacists work for the government and the military. In most settings, they spend much of the workday on their feet.

Pharmacist Work Schedules

Most pharmacists work full time. Because many pharmacies are open at all hours, some pharmacists work nights and weekends.

How to Become a Pharmacist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Pharmacists near you!

Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy program. They must also be licensed, which requires passing licensure and law exams.

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Education for Pharmacists

Prospective pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, a postgraduate professional degree. In August 2017, there were 128 Doctor of Pharmacy programs fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

Admissions requirements vary by program, however, all Pharm.D. programs require applicants to take postsecondary courses such as chemistry, biology, and physics. Most programs require at least 2 years of undergraduate study, although some require a bachelor's degree. Most programs also require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).

Pharm.D. programs usually take 4 years to finish, although some programs offer a 3-year option. Some schools admit high school graduates into a 6-year program. A Pharm.D. program includes courses in chemistry, pharmacology, and medical ethics. Students also complete supervised work experiences, sometimes referred to as internships, in different settings such as hospitals and retail pharmacies.

Some pharmacists who own their own pharmacy may choose to get a master's degree in business administration (MBA) in addition to their Pharm.D. degree. Others may get a degree in public health.

Pharmacists also must take continuing education courses throughout their career to keep up with the latest advances in pharmacological science.

Pharmacist Training

Following graduation from a Pharm.D. program, pharmacists seeking an advanced position, such as a clinical pharmacy or research job, may need to complete a 1- to 2-year residency. Pharmacists who choose to complete the 2-year residency option receive additional training in a specialty area such as internal medicine or geriatric care.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations for Pharmacists

All states license pharmacists. After they finish the Pharm.D. program, prospective pharmacists must pass two exams to get a license. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) tests pharmacy skills and knowledge. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or a state-specific test on pharmacy law is also required. Applicants also must complete a number of hours as an intern, which varies by state.

Pharmacists who administer vaccinations and immunizations need to be certified in most states. States typically use the American Pharmacists Association's Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery program as a qualification for certification.

Pharmacists also may choose to earn a certification to show their advanced level of knowledge in a certain area. For instance, a pharmacist may become a Certified Diabetes Educator, a qualification offered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators, or earn certification in a specialty area, such as nutrition or oncology, from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Certifications from both organizations require pharmacists to have varying degrees of work experience, to pass an exam, and pay a fee.

Important Qualities for Pharmacists

Analytical skills. Pharmacists must provide safe medications efficiently. To do this, they must be able to evaluate a patient's needs and the prescriber's orders, and have extensive knowledge of the effects and appropriate circumstances for giving out a specific medication.

Communication skills. Pharmacists frequently offer advice to patients. They might need to explain how to take medicine, for example, and what its side effects are. They also need to offer clear direction to pharmacy technicians and interns.

Computer skills. Pharmacists need computer skills in order to use any electronic health record (EHR) systems that their organization has adopted.

Detail oriented. Pharmacists are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the prescriptions they fill. They must be able to find the information that they need to make decisions about what medications are appropriate for each patient, because improper use of medication can pose serious health risks.

Managerial skills. Pharmacists—particularly those who run a retail pharmacy—must have good managerial skills, including the ability to manage inventory and oversee a staff.

Pharmacist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for pharmacists is $128,090. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $88,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $162,900.

The median annual wages for pharmacists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

General merchandise stores $136,320
Food and beverage stores $132,750
Hospitals; state, local, and private $129,740
Pharmacies and drug stores $125,910

Most pharmacists work full time. Because many pharmacies are open at all hours, some pharmacists work nights and weekends.

Job Outlook for Pharmacists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of pharmacists is projected to decline 3 percent over the next ten years.

Many pharmacists work in in retail pharmacies and drug stores, which are expected to lose jobs as more people fill their prescriptions via mail order and online. In addition, fewer of these workers are expected to be needed as pharmacy technicians increasingly perform tasks previously done by pharmacists, such as collecting patient information, preparing some types of medications, and verifying the work of other technicians.

However, demand is projected to increase for pharmacists in some healthcare settings, including hospitals and clinics. These facilities will need more pharmacists to oversee the medications given to patients and to provide patient care, doing tasks such as testing blood sugar or cholesterol.

Employment projections data for Pharmacists, 2019-29
Occupational Title Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29
Percent Numeric
Pharmacists 321,700 311,200 -3 -10,500


A portion of the information on this page is used by permission of the U.S. Department of Labor.


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