Pharmacy schools require 65-70 hours of courses prior to professional school. Requirements for pharmacy schools vary, so consultation with the pre-health advisor is recommended. Pharmacy school graduates can work in a number of different environments, including pharmacies, research laboratories and hospitals.
Pharmacists distribute prescription drugs to individuals. They also advise their patients, physicians and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions and side effects of medications, as well as monitor the health and progress of those patients to ensure that they are using their medications safely and effectively. Compounding—the actual mixing of ingredients to form medications—is a small part of a pharmacist's practice, because most medicines are produced by pharmaceutical companies in standard dosages and drug delivery forms. Most pharmacists work in a community setting, such as a retail drugstore or in a healthcare facility, such as a hospital
Pharmacists in community pharmacies dispense medications, counsel patients on the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications and advise physicians about medication therapy. They also advise patients about general health topics, such as diet, exercise and stress management and provide information on products, such as durable medical equipment or home healthcare supplies. In addition, they often complete third-party insurance forms and other paperwork.
Related Pre-Pharmacy Resources
- Pre-Health Student Timeline (pdf)
- Pharmacy School Requirements (pdf)
- California Pharmacy School Requirements (pdf)
- Pharmacy Schools
- Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)
- Pharmacy Volunteering
- Pharmacy School Application (PharmCAS)
- American Pharmacists Association
- National Community Pharmacists Association
Related career titles
Those who own or manage community pharmacies may sell non-health-related merchandise, hire and supervise personnel and oversee the general operation of the pharmacy. Some community pharmacists provide specialized services to help patients with conditions such as diabetes, asthma, smoking cessation or high blood pressure. Some pharmacists are trained to administer vaccinations.
Pharmacists in healthcare facilities dispense medications and advise the medical staff on the selection and effects of drugs. They may make sterile solutions to be administered intravenously. They also plan, monitor and evaluate drug programs or regimens. They may counsel hospitalized patients on the use of drugs before the patients are discharged.
Some pharmacists specialize in specific drug therapy areas, such as intravenous nutrition support, oncology (cancer), nuclear pharmacy (used for chemotherapy), geriatric pharmacy and psychiatric pharmacy (the use of drugs to treat mental disorders).
Most pharmacists keep confidential computerized records of patients' drug therapies to prevent harmful drug interactions. Pharmacists are responsible for the accuracy of every prescription that is filled, but they often rely upon pharmacy technicians to assist them in the dispensing medications. Thus, the pharmacist may delegate prescription-filling and administrative tasks and supervise their completion. Pharmacists also frequently oversee pharmacy students serving as interns.
Some pharmacists are involved in research for pharmaceutical manufacturers, developing new drugs and testing their effects. Others work in marketing or sales, providing clients with expertise on the use, effectiveness and possible side effects of drugs. Some pharmacists work for health insurance companies, developing pharmacy benefit packages and carrying out cost-benefit analyses on certain drugs. Other pharmacists work for the government, managed care organizations, public healthcare services or the armed services. Finally, some pharmacists are employed full time or part time as college faculty, teaching classes and performing research in a wide range of areas.
For more information on the pharmacy work environment, training and employment, please visit Bureau of Labor Statistics-Pharmacist.