what is a pharmacist?

As a pharmacist, you handle prescriptions and guide customers on how to use medications properly. You fill prescriptions issued by healthcare professionals. If the medications are unavailable, you advise patients on alternatives and explain the possible side effects of the drugs.

A pharmacist typically works in a pharmacy or drug store dispensing prescription medication. You help customers choose over-the-counter medicines for minor ailments. As a pharmacist, you answer health-related questions, from inquiries about various drugs to methods of use. Some pharmacists also work in hospitals and research facilities. Pharmacists' careers have evolved from a historical focus on the distribution of medicines to an emphasis on safe and rational drug use. They provide a pharmaceutical service that revolves around preventative healthcare and monitoring medication use.

The provision of pharmaceutical care relies on understanding the characteristics of medications, from dosage formulations to the dispersal of drugs in the body. You should also understand drugs' interactions with the human body to determine their effects.

Personal attributes necessary for pharmacists include compassion and genuine care for patients. It is also important to be accurate to avoid administering the wrong medication.

Would working as a pharmacist suit your attention to detail? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a pharmacist role.

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average pharmacist salary

Would you like to know what a pharmacist earns? Where the highest salaries are paid for a pharmacist? Then check out this pharmacist salary page and find out all about the salary of a pharmacist in the USA.

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Smiling male looking away.

types of pharmacists

Some of the types of pharmacists include:

  • retail pharmacists: you work in drug stores and pharmacy counters in larger shops. Your job is to administer medications to patients based on their prescriptions. You also answer any questions they have about over-the-counter medication and explain the side effects. Sometimes, you also provide primary care like administering flu shots.
  • clinical pharmacists: you work in hospitals and other healthcare settings. You dispense medication and provide patient care. You may work alongside doctors and healthcare teams. Your job is to recommend the drugs to administer to patients and oversee the dosage and delivery times of the medications. You may also conduct some medical tests.
  • academic pharmacists: you conduct research on medicines and publish articles on new types of drugs for various diseases. You also lecture trainee pharmacists and mentor them by supervising their practice.

working as a pharmacist

If you love science and medicine, being a pharmacist is an ideal career that allows you to help people. Read on for details on the tasks and responsibilities involved in the role.


pharmacist skills and education

You typically need to earn a bachelor's degree before a pharmacy program will accept you. Some programs accept applicants who have completed two or three years of their undergraduate degree. What do you need a bachelor's degree in? Biology is the top choice, but you can also consider medicinal chemistry. Some schools offer pre-pharmacy programs that will prepare you for pursuing your doctorate.

The full list of prerequisites for pharmacy school varies based on the school. However, you can expect schools to usually require biology, chemistry, statistics and calculus credits. Other prerequisites may include anatomy and physiology, physics or communication.

You can increase your chances of getting into a pharmacy school by taking the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). Some programs require that you submit your score with your application. Even if they don't ask for it, you may include it to boost your chances.

Once you start pharmacy school, you can expect to get your doctorate degree within four years. In addition to earning your pharmacy doctoral degree (PharmD), you need to gain experience through an internship or a residency program. Some pharmacy schools help you with this. How many hours of experience you need depends on your state laws.

Check your state's pharmacy licensing laws to ensure you will meet all of the prerequisites before choosing your school and classes. Regardless of which state you're in, however, you need to pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). There may be an additional licensing exam that you have to take in your state.

skills and competencies

  • attention to detail: mixing up medications isn't a mistake that you can afford to make. You need a strong attention to detail to read prescriptions correctly and package the right medications in the correct doses.
  • communication: you'll be communicating with dozens of patients every day. Strong communication skills will help you effectively address concerns from all of the different personality types. Some people may have a condition that impacts their cognitive skills, so you'll need to know how to convey important information to them in a way that they understand.
  • interpersonal skills: occasionally, you may come across an impatient or agitated patient. It could even be a doctor who isn't known for being polite. Interpersonal skills will help you handle these uncommon situations over the course of your career with grace.
  • management skills: as a pharmacist, you need to make sure that you don't run out of important medications. There are many other important tasks you juggle on a daily basis, such as staying on top of filling prescriptions, record keeping and disposing of expired medications.
  • confidentiality: you must be able to keep patient information confidential. Don't even tell someone who's close to you, as that would break your confidentiality. If word ever slips out, you would face legal troubles. Patients are also putting their trust in you that you won't tell others about their health conditions.
  • computer skills: pharmacists need to use computers for record keeping. You'll need to understand how to use the software for tracking inventory and patient data.
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smiling female looking away

FAQs about working as a pharmacist

Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions about pharmacists.

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