Types of Pharmacist Careers

Pharmacist and Customer Discussing Medication
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A pharmacist is a medical professional who dispenses drugs to patients according to a prescription ordered by a physician or other clinician. Pharmacists have an in-depth knowledge of the chemistry of various drugs and how they react in humans, and also how drugs interact with each other. Pharmacists must accurately measure and package medicine, ensuring its dosage and safety to be administered properly to a patient.

While the pharmacist does not typically select or prescribe the medication, the pharmacist educates the patient on how to take the medication and what reactions or problems to be avoided.

Pharmacist Career Paths

If you are interested in obtaining your pharmacy degree to become a pharmacist, there are many different types of career paths and options from which you may choose.

Most people think of a pharmacist's role as the person standing behind the counter filling prescriptions at the drug store, but there are actually many other roles pharmacists can fill in different healthcare settings from hospitals to offices, to long-term care facilities.

In addition to retail pharmacy, some pharmacists may specialize in a certain type of patient or a certain type of drug therapies, such as nuclear pharmacists. One aspect that doesn't vary much is the average salary for pharmacists - most roles remain in roughly the same pay range regardless of the career path, although there may be some minor variations.

What Degree is Required to Become a Pharmacist?

Pharmacists graduating from college today are required to have a PharmD or Doctorate of Pharmacy degree. College students can start a four-year pharmacy program after successfully completing two years of undergraduate coursework and earning a passing score on the PCAT (Pharmacy college admission test). Coursework in pharmacy and pre-pharmacy includes chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, and physiology.

Additionally, PharmD students must complete a series of rotations in a variety of clinical and pharmaceutical settings. The length and quantity of rotations varies, but the average PharmD program requires seven to 10 rotations, each of which is four to six weeks in length.

If a student knows early in his or her college career that they would like to become a pharmacist, one could graduate with a PharmD in about six years. Many college students do not decide until later in college or after college to become a pharmacist; therefore, some pharmacists complete eight years of college.

Average Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for pharmacists is $120,950, (or, $58.15 per hour) as of 2014, the most recent data available as of 2016. According to Sherrie Nacke, CPC, who specializes in pharmacist recruitment for Hire Dynamics Rx in Atlanta, their average contract (temporary hourly) pharmacist job pays $50.00-$60.00 per hour, which equates to $100,000-$120,000 annualized income, assuming a full-time schedule. Additionally, a signing bonus of $5,000-$15,000 may be offered upon accepting and starting a position. Signing bonuses help keep pharmacists locked into a job for up to three years.