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What Pharmacists Do About this section

Pharmacists review the accuracy of each filled prescription before it is given to the customer.

Pharmacists dispense prescription medications and provide information to patients about the drugs and their use. They also advise physicians and other healthcare workers on the selection, dosage, interactions, and side effects of medications to treat health problems. They may help patients with their overall health through activities such as providing immunizations.


Pharmacists typically do the following:

  • Fill prescriptions to the proper amount based on physicians’ instructions
  • Check patients’ allergies, medical conditions, and other drugs they are taking to ensure that the newly prescribed medication does not cause adverse reaction
  • Instruct patients on proper use, side effects, and storage of prescribed medicine
  • Administer vaccinations, such as flu shots
  • Advise patients about general health topics, such as exercise and managing stress, and on other issues, such as what equipment or supplies would be best to treat a health problem
  • Work with insurance companies to resolve billing issues
  • Supervise the work of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in training (interns)
  • Maintain patient and pharmacy records
  • Educate other healthcare workers about proper medication therapies for patients

Pharmacists verify instructions from physicians to fill and dispense prescription medications. For many drugs, pharmacists use standard dosages from pharmaceutical companies. However, pharmacists also may create customized medications by mixing ingredients themselves, a process known as compounding.

Pharmacists usually have a variety of other duties. In addition to answering patients’ questions about their prescriptions, for example, pharmacists may advise about or assist with topics of general health or the use of over-the-counter medications. Pharmacists also may have administrative responsibilities, including keeping records and managing inventory.

The following are examples of types of pharmacists:

Community pharmacists work in retail settings such as chain drug stores or independently owned pharmacies. They dispense medications to patients and answer any questions that patients may have about prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, or health concerns. They also may provide some primary care services such as giving flu shots and performing health screenings.

Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings where they provide direct patient care. They may go on rounds in a hospital with a physician or healthcare team. Additionally, they recommend medications to patients and oversee the dosage and timing of the delivery of those medications. They also evaluate the effectiveness of drugs and a patient’s progress. Clinical pharmacists may conduct certain medical tests and offer advice to patients. For example, pharmacists may earn credentials to work in a diabetes clinic, where they counsel patients on how and when to take medications, suggest healthy food choices, and monitor patients’ blood sugar.

Consultant pharmacists advise healthcare facilities or insurance providers on patient medication use. They may give advice directly to patients, such as helping seniors manage their prescriptions. Consultant pharmacists also advise facilities on improving services to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations.

Pharmaceutical industry pharmacists work in areas such as marketing, sales, or research and development. Their work includes designing or conducting clinical trials of new drugs. They may also help to establish safety regulations and ensure quality control for drugs.

Work Environment About this section

Pharmacists may consult with physicians if they have questions concerning a patient’s prescription.

Pharmacists held about 323,500 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of pharmacists were as follows:

Pharmacies and drug stores 40%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 27
Food and beverage stores 8
Ambulatory healthcare services 5

Pharmacists collaborate on patient care with other healthcare workers, including physicians and surgeons, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.

Pharmacists spend much of their workday standing. Their work may expose them to harmful substances, but following safety protocol and wearing lab coats, gloves, and other protective gear reduces the risk of injury or illness.

Work Schedules

Most pharmacists work full time. In hospitals and other facilities that are open 24 hours, pharmacists may work nights, weekends, and holidays.

How to Become a Pharmacist About this section

Pharmacists must pay attention to detail, ensuring the accuracy of the prescriptions they fill.

Pharmacists typically need a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy program. Every state requires pharmacists to be licensed.


Pharmacists typically need a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy program. (A list of accredited programs is available from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).)

Admission requirements vary; however, Pharm.D. programs typically require applicants to have at least 2 years of prerequisite undergraduate courses in subjects such as anatomy and physiology, physics, and statistics. Some Pharm.D. programs require or prefer that applicants have a bachelor’s degree in biology, a healthcare and related, or a physical science field, such as chemistry.

Pharm.D. programs usually take 4 years to finish, although some programs offer a 3-year option. Others admit high school graduates into a 6-year program. Pharm.D. programs include courses in sciences, pharmacology, and pharmacy law. Students also complete supervised work experiences, sometimes referred to as internships, in settings such as hospitals and retail pharmacies.

Some pharmacy programs offer a dual-degree option. These programs allow students to get another graduate degree, such as a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or a master’s degree in public health (MPH), along with their Pharm.D. degree.


Following graduation from a Pharm.D. program, pharmacists seeking a clinical or other advanced position may opt to complete a residency or fellowship. These program typically last 1 to 2 years and provide additional training and research opportunities. Pharmacists who choose a 2-year residency program train in a specialty area such as cardiology, internal medicine, or pediatric care.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All states require pharmacists to be licensed, although licensure requirements vary. After completing their degree, prospective pharmacists typically must pass two exams to get a license. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) tests pharmacy skills and knowledge and is required in all states. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) or state-specific test on pharmacy law is also required. Applicants also must complete a state-specified number of hours as an intern. To maintain licensure, pharmacists must complete continuing education.

In most states, pharmacists must be certified to administer vaccinations. For information about certification, see the American Pharmacists Association’s Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery program.

Pharmacists may choose to earn a certification to show advanced knowledge in a specific field. For example, a pharmacist may become a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, a credential offered by the Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education, or earn certification in a specialty area, such as emergency care or oncology, from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Certifications from both organizations generally require applicants to have work experience and pass an exam.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Pharmacists must evaluate the contents and side effects of prescribed medication to ensure that the patient may safely take it.

Communication skills. Pharmacists frequently must explain to patients about how to take medication and what its potential side effects are. They also may need to convey information to pharmacy technicians, interns, and other healthcare staff.

Compassion. Pharmacists often work with people who have health issues. They must be sympathetic to patients’ problems and needs.

Detail oriented. Pharmacists are responsible for accurately providing the appropriate medication for each patient.

Interpersonal skills. Pharmacists spend much of their time interacting with patients and as part of a healthcare team coordinating patient care.

Managerial skills. Pharmacists, particularly those who run a retail pharmacy, must have good leadership skills. These skills include ability to oversee inventory and direct staff.

Pay About this section


Median annual wages, May 2021



Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners


Total, all occupations



The median annual wage for pharmacists was $128,570 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $76,840, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $164,590.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for pharmacists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Ambulatory healthcare services $131,790
Hospitals; state, local, and private 130,280
Food and beverage stores 128,190
Pharmacies and drug stores 127,820

Most pharmacists work full time. In hospitals and other facilities that are open 24 hours, pharmacists may work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Job Outlook About this section


Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Healthcare diagnosing or treating practitioners


Total, all occupations





Employment of pharmacists is projected to grow 2 percent from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 13,600 openings for pharmacists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.


Demand is projected to increase for pharmacists in some healthcare settings, such as in hospitals and clinics. As the roles of pharmacists expand beyond traditional drug-dispensing duties, these workers increasingly will be integrated into healthcare teams to provide medication management and other patient care services in these facilities.

Meanwhile, many pharmacists work in retail pharmacies, which includes independent and chain drug stores as well as supermarket and mass merchandiser pharmacies. Fewer pharmacist jobs are expected in these settings as the industry consolidates and more people fill their prescriptions online or by mail.

Employment projections data for pharmacists, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program


29-1051 323,500 331,100 2 7,700 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about pharmacists, visit

American College of Clinical Pharmacy

American Pharmacists Association

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists

National Association of Chain Drug Stores

For information on pharmacy as a career, preprofessional and professional requirements, programs offered by colleges of pharmacy, and student financial aid, visit

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

For more information about accredited Doctor of Pharmacy programs, visit

Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education

For more information about certification options, visit

Board of Pharmacy Specialties

Certification Board for Diabetes Care and Education


For a career video on pharmacists, visit





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