By Yolanda Smith, BPharm
A pharmacist plays an important role in the healthcare team to dispense medications to patients and ensure they are used in the safest and most effective way.
They are responsible for checking that the doses are safe, and that there are no potential drug interactions that could have adverse effects for the patient. Additionally, they may be involved with health screening, help to take blood pressure tests, provide vaccinations and give recommendations about the optimal use of medications.
Requirements to Become a Pharmacist
University-level education is required to practice as a pharmacist in any country in the world, in addition to further study following graduation.
In the United States, you will need to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) degree in order to work as a pharmacist. In Europe and the United Kingdom, a Master of Pharmacy degree is required. In Australia and New Zealand, a Bachelor in Pharmacy followed by a 1-year internship is required in order for you to be registered as a pharmacist. In addition, licensing examinations may be required in several countries.
Following the appropriate course and period of study in the country where the pharmacist will work, an application must be made for registration before one can begin to practice as a pharmacist.
The protocol for this differs according to each country, but typically involves a series of written and/or oral exams to determine one’s proficiency level.
Continued professional development (CPD) is also required to remain a practicing pharmacist. In most countries, there is a minimum volume of continued study required to demonstrate that the pharmacist is staying up-to-date in the field.
Workplace of a Pharmacist
The traditional workplace of a pharmacist is in a pharmacy, to provide the public with safe and informed access to medications. However, there are various other workplaces today for a pharmacist. These include:
- Community pharmacy
- Hospital pharmacy
- Medical center pharmacy
- Aged Care center
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Governmental health agencies
Salary of a Pharmacist
The salary of a pharmacist varies significantly according to the country of work and residence.
The highest annual salary for pharmacists is in the United States, where the median annual wage in 2015 was $121,500. Other countries with competitive salaries include Switzerland ($83,600), Canada ($80,300), United Kingdom ($55,000) and Germany ($44, 800).
The employment range for pharmacists is projected to grow by 3% in the next decade, which is lower than the average for all occupations. Interestingly, the patient demand for prescriptions is predicted to increase beyond this figure, suggesting that the types of pharmaceutical services offered will need to adjust accordingly to meet the demand.
Important Qualities for a Pharmacist
The following skills are very important for a pharmacist to possess:
- Analytical skills to evaluate a patient’s needs, the prescriber’s directions and the ability to use one’s technical knowledge to make the best decision
- Communication skills to explain how to take a medication and any possible side effects that patients may experience
- Information technology (computer) skills to use electronic health record (EHR) systems easily
- Managerial skills to progress in one’s career, to manage a pharmacy inventory, and oversee staff such as pharmacy technicians
- Detail-oriented nature to accurately fill prescriptions and use technical information to make decisions that are adjusted to each individual patient’s well-being.
There are several careers which operate in a similar field to a pharmacist. Individuals interested in a pharmacy career may also wish to explore these careers. They include:
- Medical scientists
- Pharmacy technician
Reviewed by Dr Liji Thomas, MD.
Last Updated: Jun 30, 2016