Pharmacist Job Description

The Pharmacist’s Job Outlook

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Pharmacists fill a unique niche in the world of health care. They are in high demand throughout hospitals and health care units, in the pharmaceutical industry, and in private or chain pharmacies. US based pharmacists hold more than 274,000 jobs according to quoting the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that number is steadily climbing. In fact, employment opportunities for pharmacists are growing faster than nearly every other profession, such that US News rates Pharmacists as the #3 career in their list of Best Jobs for 2012.

pharmacist-job-descriptionTo be fair, you can also find published on the internet in forums (like’s pharmacist job forum), and in comments on articles (like the link listed below in the resources), complaints that the increase in pharmaceutical schools and graduates has already had an impact in creating a dearth of pharmacist jobs, especially in bigger cities which are already struggling with an over-supply of pharmacists for their needs. And therefore only in rural communities or in states which have a high need of pharmacists will you be able to find a job with relative ease.

A Pharmacist’s Job Description

A pharmacist’s job typically revolves around dispensing and administrating medicines and pharmaceutical drugs as prescribed by a medical expert. While the pharmaceutical industry may seem fairly narrow at first glance, there are actually several exciting fields where you can choose to practice as a pharmacist. You may not be able to jump straight into your desired field fresh out of med school, but knowing your options will help you chart your path.
Choosing a career as a pharmacist is a wise move, and it can be a rewarding one. The job is extremely challenging however, so it’s wise to know what you can expect – and what will be expected of you – once you’ve earned your degree.

Working in Retail

Drug stores and pharmaceutical outlets have an ongoing high demand for qualified pharmacists. Many pharmacists start out working in a retail capacity for a number of years while they gain needed experience before moving on to work in a hospital or research capacity.

Pharmacists in retail will work completely with patients, filling prescriptions and providing advice and answers as needed. You’ll be responsible for preparing and dispensing prescribed medications, and making sure that patients get the correct dosage for their particular condition.

You’ll definitely need some good people-handling skills when you work in retail. You’ll need to pay close attention to what people are saying and react appropriately, taking time to fully understand patients’ concerns and questions as well as their reactions to your suggestions.

Strong communication skills are also vital as you will need to make sure that your instructions are understood clearly. You may find that a certain degree of persuasiveness will also come in handy while working with patients.

You will also need to be very analytical in your thinking, as you will need to properly assess the potential effects and interactions of drugs you dispense. You will need to review prescriptions accurately, and evaluate the suitability of the necessary ingredients for a particular patient.

You will also often be asked to make recommendations or give advice on over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and supplements. You will often be expected to help patients with the management and treatment of minor ailments and ongoing conditions like asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as provide advice on topics like smoking cessation. You may even be expected to give advice in areas like weight loss, exercise, and stress management.
Depending on your rank, you may be responsible for ordering drugs, medicines and pharmaceutical supplies. If so, you will need to carefully maintain supplies and make sure that they are stored and handled properly.

Working in Hospitals

Hospitals generally employ one or more pharmacists full-time. While retail pharmacists deal directly with patients, hospital pharmacists deal almost exclusively with doctors and nurses. They will take care of dispensing medicines, preparing IV admixtures, bin filling, and other similar duties. Some will also help doctors with dosing out commonly used drugs like warfarin. Hospital pharmacists are also called on to prepare sterile solutions and infusions for use in surgical procedures, ER treatments, or even in patients’ homes.

A pharmacist will be expected to assess the strength, identity and purity of medications, in order to ensure proper dosage for the desired results. You will often be responsible for monitoring prescription trends to prevent substance abuse, excessive use or dangerous drug interactions.

In many cases you will need to help doctors with a lot of paperwork for medical billing and health insurance.

Additionally, there are strict policies and legal guidelines in place for quality, security and disposal of pharmaceuticals. Thus, you’ll be responsible to carefully maintain those procedures throughout the preparation, packaging and labeling of medicines and drugs.

There are also clinical pharmacists who have gone through post-doctoral training and have obtained additional credentials, such as certification as a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist. These clinical pharmacists will actually see patients in the ER and ICU, as well as in outpatient clinics. Clinical pharmacists will often be called upon to advise doctors and health professionals as to the best pharmacotherapy based on a patient’s condition and overall health.

Clinical pharmacists are typically responsible for monitoring the response patients have to specific drug therapies, and are expected to seek immediate help from the doctor if the drug causes negative side effects.

Working in Research

Pharmacists may also choose to work in a research capacity for universities or private institutions. Pharmaceutical manufacturers employ many pharmacists who work on developing and testing new drugs in a variety of lab trials. Health insurance companies also employ a large number of research pharmacists who analyze the cost-benefit on a variety of drugs and create benefit packages accordingly.

Many research pharmacists also find excellent opportunities in pharmaceutical marketing and sales. Their thorough knowledge of the correct dosing, potency, usage, and potential side effects of various products provides a reliable source of information and a dependable resource for their clients.

Since you’ll be working with very specific quantities of chemicals and drugs in very delicate conditions, you will need to pay great attention to detail. You’ll also need to have a very strong independent work ethic, as you won’t always have someone following up on your progress.

In addition, strong persuasive writing skills will come in handy if you choose a career as a research pharmacist. Depending on where you work, much research tends to rely on grants, and it might often be largely up to you to get your work funded.