What Does a Pharmacist Do?

Three pharmacy students examine the results of lab work on a computer monitor.

Pharmacy is a deeply rewarding career that combines patient care, thoughtful problem-solving, and team management, all built on a foundation of compassionate healthcare.

Pacific’s School of Pharmacy is currently accepting applications for both three-year and five-year PharmD pathways! Learn more about why program flexibility can make a difference in getting your degree.

Pharmacists are perhaps the most public-facing healthcare professionals, as they can be found everywhere from state-of-the-art hospitals to retail drug stores

With such a variety of settings, responsibilities, and specializations, it can be worth asking: what is a pharmacist?

The job of a pharmacist is so much more than simply filling prescriptions and communicating with doctors. 

Rather, a doctor of pharmacy fills a vital role in many communities, acting as an accessible entry point for healthcare concerns and questions.

What pharmacy is and the responsibilities of a pharmacist are complex, but not complicated. Let’s dig in.

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What Does a Pharmacist Do?

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who are experts in medication management by ensuring the safe and effective use of prescription drugs.  

However, what pharmacists do extends far beyond simply dispensing medication. A career in pharmacy includes day-to-day challenges as diverse and fulfilling as the field of healthcare itself.

Other essential roles of a pharmacist include:

  • Medication Counseling. Pharmacists offer comprehensive medication counseling, guiding patients on proper usage, dosages, potential side effects, and interactions.

  • Administering Vaccinations. Often available without an appointment, pharmacists are trained to give vaccines for everything from the flu to shingles.

  • Preparing Custom Medications. Called compounding, pharmacists can produce prescription drugs that work with specific allergies, dosage requirements, or particular patient needs.

  • Business Management. Team leadership, financial planning, and efficient operation are crucial to working in pharmacy.

    Pacific’s innovative Healthcare MBA is ideal for those who want to take on the business aspects of running a working pharmacy.

  • Pharmaceutical Research. PharmD program graduates, as well as those with an MS in Pharmaceutical Sciences, are uniquely qualified to make advancements in healthcare through discovery-based research.

Are Pharmacists Doctors?

Pharmacists are required to get a doctor of pharmacy degree, however, pharmacists are not medical doctors, and are not required to complete medical school or a residency.

Pharmacists can provide healthcare advice within the scope of dosage schedules, dealing with prescription drug side effects, and general medication concerns, all at no additional cost. 

Pharmacists in Oregon also possess the privilege of having provider status, which means they can practice pharmacy at the very top of their license.

Anything beyond those areas will require seeing a healthcare professional with suitable medical training, such as a physician assistant or doctor of medicine. 

Where Do Pharmacists Work?

A group of pharmacy students look at a chemical solution in a plastic container.

Part of what makes pharmacy such an attractive healthcare profession is the amazing variety of settings pharmacists are able to work within.

While community retail pharmacies may be what most people think of when they imagine a pharmacy (places like CVS and Walgreens), in reality pharmacists work across the medical field.

Pharmacists who want to interact with a lot of different kinds of medications can choose to work in hospitals, assisted living centers, or clinics, where they can take a generalist approach.

For those who want to work alongside doctors to create specific treatment plans, pharmacies in oncology, cardiac, and poison control centers can create spaces for research and development.

Pharmacists in rehab, addiction, and mental health facilities can use their training to combine modern pharmacy practices with goal-driven treatment plans. 

These settings highlight the diverse opportunities available to pharmacists, allowing them to apply their knowledge and skills in various areas of healthcare and pharmaceutical practice.

What are Pharmacist Specialties?

Within pharmacy school, aspiring pharmacists can explore specializations that greatly influence the careers they are able to pursue after graduation. 

These pharmacy specialties can include:

  • Ambulatory care. Ambulatory care pharmacists specialize in outpatient care, managing chronic conditions and helping patients stay on top of medication schedules.

  • Pharmacotherapy. Concerned with complex medical conditions, pharmacotherapists work with healthcare providers to create medication regimens in fields like oncology and psychiatry.

  • Nuclear pharmacy. Highly specialized, nuclear pharmacists handle hazardous chemicals used in specific treatments, including chemotherapy and radioactive imaging.  

  • Geriatric pharmacy. Geriatric pharmacy specialists cater to the medication needs of elderly patients, considering age-related changes and making note of medication interactions.

  • Pediatric pharmacy. Creating medication plans when patients are developing mentally and physically is very important, so pediatric pharmacists coordinate closely with family doctors and caregivers. 

How Do You Become a Pharmacist?

Becoming a pharmacist requires a combination of education and hands-on experience in healthcare environments. 

The path to pharmacy school starts as early as undergrad, where completing prerequisite coursework in math and science prepares you for the rigors of PharmD programs. 

After collecting materials required to apply for pharmacy school through PharmCAS — letters of recommendation and healthcare experience may be required — you’re ready to begin.

Whether participating in an accelerated three-year pathway or an extended five-year pathway, pharmacy school provides you with both a holistic biomedical health education and thousands of hours working in real-world environments

Then, after graduating and successfully passing your state’s licensing exam, you’re ready to pursue continuing education, residencies, or start your career.

How Much Do Pharmacists Make?

Pharmacists are one of the few careers that are able to achieve high earning potential directly after graduation, with the average salary of a pharmacist being $132,750 annually.  

Pharmacy salaries vary depending on where you practice and the specializations your work contains.

Grocery stores and supermarkets

$139,680

Ambulatory healthcare services

$138,720

Hospitals and treatment centers

$137,440

Pharmacies and drug retailers

$129,920


Inquire today and see which of our two innovative pharmacy pathways — accelerated and extended — fits you best, and browse application prerequisites.

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