A pharmacist is a healthcare provider who gives you your prescriptions. But they’re also an important member of your healthcare team. They’re the person who knows the most about drugs. So, they work with your doctor and other providers to ensure you’re taking the correct medications at the right doses.
A pharmacist is a healthcare provider and medication expert. They ensure your medications are safe and appropriate for your needs. Some pharmacists may also:
Pharmacists work in a variety of settings, including:
Pharmacists can help you manage and improve your health. They work with your primary care physician and other providers to ensure you receive the best possible care.
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A pharmacist’s job description includes a long list of responsibilities, such as:
There are several different types of pharmacists.
A community pharmacist works in a retail store such as a chain drug store or an independently owned pharmacy. Community pharmacists give you your medications. They also answer any questions you may have about your prescriptions. They can answer questions about over-the-counter (OTC) medications and any health concerns you may have. Community pharmacists also provide services such as giving flu vaccines.
A clinical pharmacist works in a hospital, clinic or another healthcare setting. Clinical pharmacists usually don’t spend time filling prescriptions. They’re more involved in direct patient care. They may work with your doctor or other members of your healthcare team while you’re in the hospital. They may care for patients one-on-one in an outpatient office. Clinical pharmacists recommend which medications you should receive. They’ll also oversee how much and when you should take those medications.
A consultant pharmacist advises healthcare companies and insurance providers on patient medication use. They also work to improve pharmacy services at healthcare facilities. Consultant pharmacists may also give healthcare advice. For example, they may help seniors manage their prescriptions.
A pharmaceutical industry pharmacist works in the pharma industry. They work in the areas of sales, marketing, or research and development. Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists design and conduct clinical drug trials. They help develop new drugs. They may also help to create safety guidelines and ensure quality control for new medications.
A nuclear pharmacist prepares and distributes radiopharmaceuticals or radioactive drugs for use in nuclear medicine tests and procedures. Radiopharmaceuticals and radioactive drugs are important components of nuclear medicine imaging. They help treat certain conditions. A nuclear pharmacist undergoes extensive training in radiation safety and handling radioactive materials.
A pharmacist’s education includes many years of schooling. Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree to practice. This is a professional degree that includes courses in:
Additional pharmacist education requirements include the completion of supervised work experiences in a variety of healthcare settings.
An organization such as the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) must recognize the pharmacy program. Most PharmD programs require applicants to complete at least two years of undergraduate studies before entering the graduate program. Some programs require a bachelor’s degree. Some programs also require students to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).
Most PharmD programs take four years to complete. Some offer a three-year program. Others offer a six-year program to high school graduates (direct admittance after high school graduation).
Upon obtaining a PharmD degree, pharmacists must pass two exams to receive their license to practice. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) tests your pharmacy skills and knowledge. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), or a state-specific exam, tests you on pharmacy law.
Pharmacists seeking an advanced position (such as in clinical pharmacy or research) will need to complete a one- to two-year residency. Through the residency, you receive additional training in a specialty area.
To give vaccines, pharmacists need to receive certification through the American Pharmacists Association’s Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery program.
Some pharmacists also choose to receive certification in an advanced area. For instance, a pharmacist may receive certification as a Diabetes Educator from the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators. Certification requires work experience, the passage of an exam and paying a fee.
In addition, pharmacists must take continuing education courses throughout their careers. They need to continue learning the most recent advances in pharmacology.
Yes, pharmacists are doctors. You might not address your pharmacist as “doctor,” but a PharmD degree is a doctorate degree. It’s similar to a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. A doctorate represents the increased amount of responsibility your pharmacist has in providing trustworthy, high-level healthcare.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for a pharmacist was $128,570 in May 2021.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A pharmacist is more than just someone who hands you your medication. Pharmacists play a key role in helping you manage and improve your health. Since they know so much about medication, they’re an important member of your healthcare team. They can work closely with your doctor and other healthcare providers to ensure you receive accurate information and guidance about your health. That way, they can ensure you’ll receive the best possible health outcome.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/02/2023.
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