A career in pharmacy is a diverse and rewarding profession, with opportunities for patient care, scientific research and innovation.
Key benefits: Patient interaction; flexible hours.
Community pharmacists work with customers to fill their prescriptions, explain proper medication use, and provide clinical services. These pharmacists are often asked to give advice on diet, exercise, wellness or stress management. Community pharmacists also advise doctors about medication therapy, and help to identify possible drug interactions for people taking more than one medication.
Community pharmacists have the most direct interaction with customers, along with community health center (CHC) pharmacists and independent owners.
Key benefits: Patient interaction, community engagement, flexibility to make changes to meet patients’ needs.
Owning an independent community pharmacy is the ideal situation for a pharmacist who enjoys working in the community but wants to be his or her own boss. An independent community pharmacy could be a single store with one owner or several stores owned by an individual or small group. Owners have the opportunity to practice pharmacy according to their personal style, use their business and management skills, and customize their store to the needs of their patients and community.
Key benefits: Patient interaction, opportunity to counsel patients, help patients get the care they need but sometimes can’t afford.
Community health center (CHC) pharmacists play an important role in providing health care services and information to underserved populations. These pharmacists work closely with low-income patients to address their medication needs and questions. CHC pharmacists also conduct wellness and preventive health educational programs.
Key benefits: Interaction with customers and their pets, and veterinary office staff.
Students with a love for animals may want to consider becoming a veterinary pharmacist. One of their key roles is compounding medications to meet the specific needs of pets, their owners and veterinarians. Many veterinary prescriptions are hand-made based on the weight and size of the animal. The dosage, strength, and taste of the medicine can be adjusted to make it easier for pets to consume. To become a veterinary pharmacist, students must complete specialized training in veterinary pharmacology and therapeutics.
Key benefits: Interaction with patients, opportunities to work with doctors and veterinarians.
A compounding pharmacist does essentially all of the same things as a regular pharmacist but with an emphasis on preparing customized medication to meet a patient’s needs or a doctor’s request. Since every patient is different and has unique needs, customized medications are a very important part of providing quality care.
Key benefits: Intellectually stimulating work, job flexibility, and dynamic work environment. Satisfaction attained from helping discover and develop innovative new treatments.
Research and development (often called R&D) is regarded as the backbone of the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical researchers use their scientific knowledge to help develop new medications, test new substances, evaluate existing products, and create new dosage forms. In addition to research, they are also responsible for making sure that drug labeling is accurate and meets the requirements of state and federal laws.
Key benefits: Interaction with other pharmacists and health care professionals, fast-paced work environment with multiple responsibilities.
Doctors, nurses and patients rely on hospital pharmacists for important drug information. They work directly with doctors and nurses to make sure that each patient receives the correct medication, in the right dosage, at the right time. Hospital pharmacists also keep up-to-date records on each patient, which are used to fill medication orders and screen for drug allergies. In addition, hospital pharmacists may work directly with patients to be sure they understand their medications while in the hospital and when they are discharged to go home.
Key benefits: Tackle new challenges every day, flexible hours.
Nuclear pharmacists work to improve health through safe and effective use of radioactive drugs to diagnose and treat diseases such as cancer. They provide clinical services and fill drug prescriptions like other pharmacists, only these drugs are radioactive. This position requires scientific knowledge to safely work with radioactive material, as well as training in radiation safety. Nuclear pharmacists can work at a large hospital or at a commercial nuclear pharmacy where radioactive drugs are prepared and delivered to smaller hospitals.
Key benefits: Flexible schedule, interaction with students, good opportunity for advancement.
Academic pharmacists have many key responsibilities, including training future pharmacists and conducting research. Research may include laboratory studies to evaluate findings with other scientific data; research also is done on patient compliance, wellness and other disease-related measurements. In addition to sharing pharmaceutical knowledge and information with other health care professionals and students, academic pharmacists also speak at industry events, contribute to science and education publications, and advise student pharmacists. Some academic pharmacists also have direct contact with patients.
Key benefits: Work with a wide variety of people (professionals and consumers), use communications skills, manage multiple activities.
Pharmacists specializing in medical communications educate health care professionals, consumers, and other pharmacists about pharmaceutical products, including prescription drugs. They may provide these services internally, such as to employees of a pharmaceutical company or externally, such as answering questions from doctors or the local community. Possible work settings include medical communications and medical education agencies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, schools, managed care organizations, poison control centers or hospitals.
Key benefits: Flexible day-to-day schedule, travel opportunities, wide variety of tasks and responsibilities.
Long-term care pharmacists provide medicine and drug treatments for long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, assisted living facilities, group homes, and rehabilitation facilities. They also educate patients and their family, friends or other caregivers about different types of medication and treatments. Although long-term care pharmacists often work with the elderly, they also serve patients with HIV, multiple sclerosis (a chronic, often disabling disease that attacks the central nervous system), or developmental challenges.
Key benefits: Flexible schedule, direct clinical involvement with patients, families, caregivers, and other health care workers.
Home health care pharmacists specialize in treating patients in their homes or other residential facilities, such as assisted living communities. They may partner with hospice organizations, visiting nurse teams, or social services team members. Because preparing medication and delivering care in someone’s home takes time, home health care pharmacists usually concentrate on fewer patients than those working in other settings.
Key benefits: Wide variety of activities, flexible schedule, opportunities for growth, good salary. Regular pharmacists can serve in the military reserve and make a difference in the lives of active military members and their families. They are able to work in their community and serve when needed.
Government and federal pharmacists are employed by local, state, or federal government agencies. These include municipal health clinics, state Medicaid agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), branches of the U.S. Military, and the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). Pharmacists in the government are responsible for dispensing drugs, managing pharmacy departments within a government branch, and reviewing new drug applications.
Key benefits: Flexible schedule, ability to select appropriate medications for large groups of patients, wide variety of activities.
Pharmacists at managed care organizations (MCOs) perform a wide range of important tasks that allow patients to get the appropriate medications at the right time in a convenient, cost-effective way. These pharmacists have a variety of responsibilities, including dispensing drugs, monitoring patient safety, developing clinical programs, and managing costs. Most pharmacists in managed care work for health plans and pharmacy benefit management (PBM) companies.
PBMs work with pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, and others to make sure that patients get the appropriate medications and clinical services they need at the most appropriate cost.
Key benefits: Flexible schedule, opportunity to counsel patients (by telephone).
The demand for mail order pharmacy is growing because it provides people with a less expensive and convenient way to get their prescription medications. Mail order pharmacists dispense medication and also can serve as a direct link to patients. For example, most mail service pharmacies have toll-free numbers for patients to call when they have questions about their medication. Mail service pharmacists are responsible for counseling callers and helping them understand their treatment in the same way that a pharmacist would in a more traditional pharmacy or drug store.