If you’re a stickler for detail, love science and medicine, and want a challenging career in which you can help others, becoming a pharmacist may be the perfect fit. And if you’re looking for a way to enjoy variety, visit new places and work with great people, becoming a pharmacist might be just the ticket you need.
Depending upon the practice setting, the role of the pharmacist can vary quite a bit. The most common positions are in community-based retail pharmacies, where pharmacists dispense medications to patients and provide advice for using then safely. Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals and other healthcare settings, making recommendations for patient care as part of a multi-disciplinary team. Consultant pharmacists advise healthcare facilities or insurers regarding best pharmacy practice, as well as providing education directly to patients. Some work in academic settings, providing instruction to the next generation of pharmacists.
Jessica Wilson, Pharm.D. a community-based pharmacist, says her decision to become a pharmacist was driven by her desire to help others: “I picked pharmacy because I wanted to help people and was always interested in medicine. I often get to know my patients very well and it’s gratifying to see the benefits of my care in their lives. Pharmacy is an ever-evolving field, and patients need someone they can count on to provide the right information to care for their health.”
There are many career options for pharmacists, and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) provides details about ten pharmacy careers in particular. A survey by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) revealed that the majority of pharmacists are practicing in community-based retail pharmacy, so we’ll focus on the duties of that role in particular:
There are many important qualities that individuals will need to excel in this position:
Every career has its pros and cons, and this one is no different. The AACP provides the top ten reasons to become a pharmacist, and a few are included in the following pros:
Entry level requirements are higher now than they used to be. Pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy school to practice. This degree program requires at least two years of undergraduate study, followed by four years of professional coursework and training. Most first year-students entering a pharmacy program have already completed three to four years of college. Pharmacists who specialize typically require additional education and training. Licensure is also required, which involves passing two separate exams – one in pharmacy skills and knowledge, and the other in pharmacy law for the particular state of practice.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 274,900 working pharmacists in 2010. Of those, 43% worked in pharmacies and drug stores. The next most common setting was hospitals – at 23%. Within this group, the median wage was $111, 570 annually, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $82,090, and the top 10 percent earning more than $138,620. Most pharmacists work full-time, but about 21 percent of those surveyed worked part-time. Work hours vary based on the setting for practice. Many pharmacies in all settings are open 24 hours, so off-shifts, weekends and holidays can be expected.
The pharmacy profession is expected to grow by 25 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is a rate faster than average for all occupations. Factors such as the advent of new drugs, an aging population, increased insurance coverage for drugs, and medical advances with increasingly complex treatment protocols are expected to drive the demand.
Medical careers that are similar regarding educational requirements and salary are biochemists and biophysicists, medical scientists, and physicians and surgeons (typically require more extensive training). Those with a similar focus on pharmacy in particular are pharmacy technicians, but the educational requirements and pay are much less. Those with a similar focus on directly helping patients are registered nurses, with lower educational requirements, and lower pay as well.
Traveling pharmacists enjoy some great benefits – they get to work with great people, in new places, and may work in some of the best healthcare settings in the country. And the salary is even higher than what a typical pharmacist makes – plus benefits and living expenses are often included.
So if you want to combine your desire to help others with a challenging and evolving career, you may want to consider pharmacy as the perfect fit. And if you’re looking for a change of pace along with change of place, becoming a traveling pharmacist might be just the answer you’ve been looking for.
By Sue Montgomery, RN, BSN
Sue Montgomery, RN, BSN is a freelance healthcare writer and professional copywriter. In her 30 years as a registered nurse, Sue has held roles from staff nurse to administrator in critical care, hospice and the health insurance industry. Learn more about Sue on Google+