Pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals with extensive knowledge of drugs and their uses. Their main job is to dispense prescription medication, along with advice regarding proper drug handling procedures and possible side effects. Are you wondering how to become a pharmacist? Or perhaps how much a pharmacist makes? This article explains the facets of the job; a pharmacist’s salary, key responsibilities, work environment and career path.
What is the salary of a Pharmacist?
What is the salary of a pharmacist? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average income of pharmacists is $118,470 per year, or $56.96 per hour. The top 10% of earners have an average salary of $150,550 annually, while the lowest 10% earned $89,320 per annum.
Numerous factors contribute to annual income. Professional’s earnings increase with job experience. New pharmacists earn on average [Starting Salary], which is around 5% lower than the national pharmacist average . Professionals in metropolitan areas generally earn more than those in rural areas, where demand for pharmacists is lower. The top 5 paying states are Alaska, California, Maine, New Hampshire and Wisconsin. Additionally, specialized pharmacists tend to boast higher salaries, as they must spend more time in education.
As well as competitive salaries, many employers offer substantial benefit packages which include health insurance, retirement plans, paid vacations and holidays.
Most pharmacists work in one of two fields, community or clinical. Each has different responsibilities.
Community pharmacists usually work in retail drug stores, and their main task involves dispensing prescription medication to patients. They offer expert advice on how drugs should be taken, as well as explaining hazards or likely side effects associated with them. They also counsel patients on general health and wellbeing, discussing diet, stress management and exercise. In recent years, the role of community pharmacists has expanded, and now includes providing various vaccinations. In addition to the medical side, independent pharmacists are heavily involved with the business side of the industry, encompassing invoice drafting, stocking new products, inventory checks and working with insurance companies.
On the other hand, clinical pharmacists are neither financially involved, nor spend time dispensing prescriptions. Most work in hospitals and are heavily involved in patient care. They collaborate with doctors – recommending the best drugs for a patient’s condition. They are often responsible for ensuring that correct drug dosage is taken, and at the correct time.
Some tasks are common to clinical and community pharmacists. Both must keep meticulous records of patient prescriptions. Also, before suggesting various treatment plans, pharmacists must check patient’s medical histories for anything that could be problematic, such as negative interactions with other medication.
Almost half of pharmacists work in pharmacies or retail drug stores, meanwhile 23% are employed by state, local or private hospitals. In general, all work in clean, well-lit, sterile environments.
Work hours vary depending on discipline. For example, many pharmacies and drug stores are open 24 hours a day, so many pharmacists have to work late at night or during the early hours of the morning. Typically, work weeks are 44 hours long, but those that are self-employed often clock more than 50 hours a week. On average, 1 in 5 pharmacists work part time.
Clinical pharmacists generally spend most of the day on their feet, attending to patients or meeting with doctors. Hospitals in urban areas often deal with a surplus of patients so daily schedules are fully booked, and hectic as a result. Breaks are few and far between, and lunch breaks typically consisting of a quick bite to eat before returning to work.
Despite long hours and stressful working conditions, pharmacists rated their profession 5/5 for job satisfaction (PayScale). This is attributed to meeting and helping a huge variety of patients, which reported as one of the job’s most positive aspects. The profession enjoys roughly an equal proportion of men and women employees; 43% of pharmacists are men while 57% are women.
How to become one a Pharmacist
All pharmacists must attain a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) degree from an Accredited Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) accredited institution. Admission requirements to pharmacology programs vary, though must require post-secondary study of biology, chemistry and anatomy. Upon application, most Pharm.D programs require applicants to pass an entrance exam. Prior to admittance, most students will have achieved Bachelor’s degrees, obtained in programs lasting 4 years. Alternatively, some students enroll in 6 year pharmacology programs after graduating from high school.
In general, pharmacology degrees take 4 years to obtain, though some institutions offer 3 year programs. During this time, students take courses such as chemistry, medical ethics and pharmacology. The curriculum also includes supervised work experience, where prospective pharmacists gain practical experience in a variety of settings such as hospitals and retail clinics.
After graduating, many opt to take further education. This typically consists of spending 2 years in residency, designed to prepare graduates to work in specialized fields, particularly drug research and development. Other graduates attain Master’s degrees in Business Administration, opening doors into drug retail and marketing.
All states require pharmacists to be licensed. All graduates must pass a national licensing exam, as well as a state specific exam before they can enter the profession. Specialized pharmacists must also sit certification exams specific to their chosen field.
Employment opportunities for pharmacists are expected to grow by 14% from 2012-2022 (BLS). A number of different factors are fueling job growth. Rising rates of chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes increase demand for prescription drugs. Additionally, new drug products are constantly being created with scientific developments. Consequently, more pharmacists are needed to provide advice and counsel.
Like with other medical professions, employment of pharmacists is particularly sensitive to current health care policies. If drugs are made cheaper, demand increases, meaning more pharmacist job opportunities.
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