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Career Pathways

Pharmacy is a diverse and rewarding career, with opportunities for patient care, scientific research and innovation.

Community Practice

What is It?

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.

Highlights

Key benefits: Patient interaction; flexible hours.

Community pharmacists have the most direct interaction with customers, along with community health center (CHC) pharmacists and independent owners.

Advice from the Field

  • Must have good people and communication skills.
  • Must be comfortable having a high level of interaction with the general public.
  • Must be able to manage significant paperwork and logistical details related to health insurance issues to make sure patients get the right care at the right price.

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Career Information

What is It?

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 needs of their patients and community.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Patient interaction, community engagement, flexibility to make changes to meet patients’ needs.
  • Independent owners have the most direct interaction with customers and their community at large.

Advice from the Field

  • Must have good people and communication skills.
  • Comfortable with a high level of patient interaction.
  • Must have good business management skills, as you will be running your own business.

 

  • Must be able to manage significant paperwork and logistical details related to insurance, inventory, payroll and other business issues.

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Career Information

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Patient interaction, opportunity to counsel patients, help patients get the care they need but sometimes can’t afford.
  • CHC pharmacists work closely with patients who may have income, educational or other challenges. This is a great area of pharmacy service for those want to have a direct and positive impact on those in need.

Advice from the Field

  • Visit a variety of CHCs to decide what setting is mot appealing to you(for example, in a rural area or in a city).
  • Must have strong communication skills and be willing to contribute to patients’ knowledge about health.
  • Being able to speak more than one language is a great plus.

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Career Information

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Interaction with customers and their pets, and veterinary office staff.

Advice from the Field

  • Should have a strong interest in working with animals and be comfortable interacting with them.
  • Be willing to work in a team with other veterinary professionals.

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Career Information

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Patient interaction, opportunity to counsel patients, help patients get the care they need but sometimes can’t afford.
  • CHC pharmacists work closely with patients who may have income, educational or other challenges. This is a great area of pharmacy service for those want to have a direct and positive impact on those in need.

Advice from the Field

  • Visit a variety of CHCs to decide what setting is mot appealing to you(for example, in a rural area or in a city).
  • Must have strong communication skills and be willing to contribute to patients’ knowledge about health.
  • Being able to speak more than one language is a great plus.

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Drug Development

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Intellectually stimulating work; job flexibility; dynamic work environment.
  • Satisfaction attained from helping discover and develop innovative new treatments.

Advice from the Field

  • Must have excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Must have a strong background in medical chemistry, and consider pursuing additional advanced degrees and training.
  • Should be prepared for occasional long hours and a high degree of pressure.

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Hospital Pharmacy

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Interaction with other pharmacists and health care professionals, fast-paced work environment with multiple responsibiltiies.

Advice from the Field

  • Need to stay informed about new medications and therapies so that you can provide the best care to patients.
  • Must have strong attention to detail skills.
  • Be prepared for long hours and unpredictable schedules.

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Career Information

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Tackle new challenges every day, flexible hours.

Advice from the Field

  • Consider rotations and other types of experiences in nuclear pharmacy to gain a better understanding of the required roles and responsibilities.
  • Must have excellent attention to detail.
  • Although the hours are usually flexible, nuclear pharmacists sometimes have to work early morning or night shifts.

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Education

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Flexible schedule, interaction with students, good opportunity for advancement.
  • Academic pharmacists help educate the pharmacist workforce.

Advice from the Field

  • Consider obtaining advanced degrees, certification, and residencies.
  • Be prepared for occasional stress, as the work load varies through out the year.
  • Must be able to balance heavy administrative loads and keep strict deadlines.

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Career Information

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Work with a wide variety of people (professionals and consumers), use communications skills, manage multiple activities.

Advice from the Field

  • Solid writing skills, espeically the ability to translate technical information in a simple way.
  • Comfortable  presenting in front of groups of people.
  • Ability to think critically.

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Consultant Pharmacy

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Flexible day-to-day schedule, travel opportunities, wide variety of tasks and responsibilities.

Advice from the Field

  • Be prepared to work closely with prescribers (e.g., doctors, nurse practitioners).
  • Must have good people and communication skills and the ability to work with little direction.

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Career Information

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: fFexible schedule, direct clinical involvement with patients, families, caregivers, and other health care workers.

Advice from the Field

  • Must be open to an “on call” work load, as pharmacists in home health care could be called upon at any time to make in-house visits.

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Other Pharmacy Areas

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • 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.

Advice from the Field

  • Look at long-term financial packages when considering a government/federal pharmacy job. For example, pharmacists in the military reserve can receive free continuing education and training courses.

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Career Information

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Flexible schedule, ability to select appropriate medications for large groups of patients, wide variety of activities.

Advice from the Field

  • Should have an understanding of economic principles and a strong interest in understanding business practices.
  • Consider an internship to learn about the various job areas in managed care, from patient counseling to research to prevention of drug fraud, waste and abuse.

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Career Information

What is It?

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.

Highlights

  • Key benefits: Flexible schedule, opportunity to counsel patients (by telephone).

Advice from the Field

  • Must have good communication skills, especially by telephone.
  • Stay up-to-date on new drug information.
  • Comfortable working in a highly automated work setting and/or in an office setting.

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Career Information

Watch and listen to other students inspirational reasons for entering the field of pharmacy – Inspiring Journeys 

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON CAREER PROFILES

Visit the American Pharmacists Association
Click the link to learn more about all the diverse career profiles within pharmacy.