Pharmacist Job Description, Salary, and Skills

Customer talking to pharmacist

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Pharmacists do much more than fill prescriptions according to the specifications of physicians. They consult with clients about appropriate over the counter medications for common ailments, instruct patients on how and when to take a prescribed medicine, and inform them about side effects that they might experience from taking the medication. Pharmacists also supervise and train pharmacy technicians also check for potentially dangerous drug interactions when patients are taking multiple medications.

As part of their role, pharmacists provide advice on healthy living. They give preventative vaccinations like flu and pneumonia shots and advise patients on health topics, such as diet, exercise, and managing stress. With an aging population, pharmacists spend more time than in the past helping older clients to manage the delivery of a complex set of medications.

Education and Training Requirements

In order to get hired as a pharmacist, a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree is required. This is a graduate degree that can be obtained through different educational paths. Most pharmacy graduate programs require a minimum two years of undergraduate study, although some require a bachelor’s degree. Many universities also require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT).

Pharmacy graduate programs are typically four years, though some are three years. plus an internship or another supervised work experience are required as a component of the academic program.

Pharmacist Employment Opportunities

Many pharmacists either own or manage pharmacies where they are responsible for other management functions like marketing, advertising, and finance. Others work for hospitals, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities, prescription drug providers, pharmacy chains, like Walgreens, Rite Aid or CVS, or for grocery stores or retailers with pharmacies, like Walmart or Target.

Pharmacist Salaries 

A career as a pharmacist is a well-paying one, and one of the higher paying jobs in the healthcare field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted pharmacists earned an average of $122,230 per year in 2016. The bottom 10% of pharmacists earned less than $87,120, and the top 10% earned more than $157,950.

Here’s a list of average salaries for pharmacists listed by type of employer:

  • General merchandise stores - $126,400
  • Hospitals - $122,820
  • Grocery stores - $122,670
  • Pharmacies and drug stores - $121,730

Projected Job Growth

Job opportunities for pharmacists are projected to grow by 6% from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Increased use of medicines by an aging population will support demand for pharmacists while the use of mail order and online pharmacies will moderate growth.

Pharmacist Skills

Required skills will vary based on the job for which you're applying, and this list includes many employers seek in the candidates they hire:

A - C

  • Accuracy
  • Advising Patients and answering questions regarding reactions to medications and side effects
  • Analytical
  • Assertiveness
  • Assessing the Strength and Purity of Medications
  • Attention to Detail
  • Calculating Appropriate Doses
  • Checking Patient List of Medications for Possible Drug Interactions
  • Clarifying Questionable Orders Through Dialogue with Physicians
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Compounding Medications
  • Comprehending Scientific and Medical Texts
  • Consulting with Other Healthcare Professionals
  • Continual Learning
  • Controlling Costs
  • Controlling Inventory of Medicines
  • Critical Thinking
  • Customer Service

D - L

  • Developing Health Promotion Programs
  • Devising Protocols
  • Dispensing Medications According to Specifications from Doctors and Dentists
  • Educating Medical Staff Regarding Potential Drug Interactions
  • Evaluating Sources for Supplies Based on Price, Quality and Service
  • Evaluating Subordinates
  • Instructing Patients Regarding Directions for Taking Medications 
  • Interpersonal
  • Interviewing Job Candidates
  • Labeling Drugs 
  • Leadership
  • Listening

M - P

  • Maintaining Confidentiality
  • Making Referrals to other Healthcare Professionals
  • Mathematical
  • Measuring
  • Mentoring Pharmacy Technicians
  • Monitoring Adherence to Quality Standards
  • Multitasking
  • Negotiating Agreements with Suppliers
  • Ordering Supplies
  • Orienting Staff to Unit Practices
  • Overseeing Patient Records Systems
  • Packaging Medicines
  • Prioritizing 
  • Problem Solving

R - Z

  • Recommending Over the Counter Products
  • Recruiting Staff
  • Resolving Insurance Coverage Denials
  • Reviewing Doctors Orders for Medications
  • Selecting Health Promotion Literature for Distribution
  • Setting Quality Standards
  • Sterile Compounding
  • Stress Management
  • Supervising Staff
  • Supervising the Supply Chain of Medicines
  • Teamwork
  • Time Management
  • Training Staff
  • Verbal
  • Working Independently
  • Working Quickly
  • Writing