The Definitive Guide for Pharmacist Jobs

pharmacist jobs
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Pharmacist Jobs Projection

One of the reasons why I got into a career in pharmacy is the plethora of pharmacist jobs and the career opportunities available.

When I matriculated into pharmacy school, the jobs market looked differently then what it is now.

According to the bureau for labor statistics (BLS), job growth for pharmacists is at 0% with little or no change. Additionally, employment change from 2018 to 2028 is at a negative 100. That’s not a typo, jobs for pharmacists are in the negative territory.

Regardless, if you look hard enough, and/or willing to relocate, I’m sure you can find a job.

In this post I will survey the different jobs for pharmacists out there and the different careers pharmacists can pursue and what you can do to improve your odds at landing your dream job as a pharmacist!

How to become a pharmacist

In order to become a pharmacist, you need to complete at least two years of prerequisite work followed by four years of the professional doctorate in pharmacy (PharmD) program. Most pharmacists enter pharmacy school with a bachelor’s degree.

In addition, a pharmacist may choose to match for a residency. There is a post-graduate year one (PGY-1) in general clinical pharmacy or a post-graduate year two (PGY-2) in a chosen clinical pharmacy specialty. Subsequently, a pharmacist may choose to complete a 1 to 2-year post-doctoral fellowship.

Altogether it takes as early as 6 years to become a pharmacist or as many as 8 years if the pharmacist obtained a bachelor’s degree prior to pharmacy school. As mentioned above most clinical pharmacists complete a 1 or 2-years residency program, bringing the total number of years of training from 7 to 10 years.

Fun fact, in 1987 there were a total of only 72 accredited pharmacy schools in the US. Fast forward to 2020, according to ACPE there are now 143 pharmacy schools in the U.S.

Community or Retail Pharmacist

The most common pharmacist jobs available are in the community pharmacy setting. These pharmacists are commonly known as retail pharmacists, but I prefer to call these pharmacists community pharmacists.

A Day in the Life of a Community Pharmacist

Approximately 58% of pharmacists work in this setting. These pharmacists dispense medications, administer vaccinations, compound medications and counsel patients on how to safely take their prescribed medications.

Depending on the setting and state jurisdiction, community pharmacists may perform clinical services such as tobacco cessation, pharmacogenomics, medication therapy management, travel medicine, contraceptive, perform CLIA-waived tests, and furnishing medications as allowed by the state’s scope of practice.

Hospital Pharmacist

Approximately 31% of pharmacists in the United States are hospital pharmacists. These pharmacists typically process medication orders from hospitalists, prepare parenteral administrations, mix intravenous medications (sterile compounding), monitor labs and medications with narrow therapeutic index and calculate the dosing (pharmacokinetics) of medications such as vancomycin.

They may also attend rounds with physicians and nurses as well as participate in the hospital’s pharmacy and therapeutics committee.

For more in depth look at what hospital pharmacists do visit: A Day in the Life of a Hospital Pharmacist.

Clinical Pharmacists

This category of pharmacist jobs includes many pharmacy careers. These pharmacists are involved in the field of clinical pharmacy, which is defined as by ACCP as:

The American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP) defines clinical pharmacy as an area of pharmacy concerned with the science and practice of rational medication use.

Clinical pharmacy is a health science discipline in which pharmacists provide patient care that optimizes medication therapy and promotes health, and disease prevention. The practice of clinical pharmacy embraces the philosophy of pharmaceutical care, blending a caring orientation with specialized therapeutic knowledge, experience, and judgment to ensure optimal patient outcomes. As a discipline, clinical pharmacy also has an obligation to contribute to the generation of new knowledge that advances health and quality of life.

ACCP

The Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS) has a total of 13 recognized pharmacy specialties currently, they are:

  • Ambulatory Care Pharmacy
  • Cardiology Pharmacy
  • Compounded Sterile Preparations Pharmacy
  • Critical Care Pharmacy
  • Geriatric Pharmacy
  • Infectious Disease Pharmacy
  • Nuclear Pharmacy
  • Nutrition Support Pharmacy
  • Oncology Pharmacy
  • Pediatric Pharmacy
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Psychiatric Pharmacy
  • Solid Organ Transplantation Pharmacy

Ambulatory Care Pharmacists

These clinical pharmacists typically work in the outpatient setting, often in the offices of physicians.

Ambulatory care pharmacists assist patients who have chronic conditions or diseases.

These pharmacists help patients with medications with the chronic disease manage their medication regimen and monitor their disease states through initiating, discontinuing, or optimizing a patient’s medication regimen following an established protocol or a collaborative practice agreement (CPA).

A Day in the Life of an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist.

In addition to holding a Pharm.D., these pharmacists usually completed PGY-1 in Community/Ambulatory Care Pharmacy residency and an optional PGY-2 specializing in ambulatory care pharmacy.

It is not uncommon to see a board-certified ambulatory care pharmacist (BCACP) credential behind the names of these pharmacists.

Chronic diseases that ambulatory pharmacists often saw are asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anti-coagulation, heart failure among others.

Cardiology Pharmacist

Similar to an ambulatory care pharmacist, cardiology pharmacists also completed PGY-1 and/or a PGY-2 residency and obtained the board-certified cardiology pharmacist (BCCP) from BPS.

Check out this post from a practicing cardiology pharmacist.

As you can expect, cardiology pharmacists will help manage heart conditions such as chest pain, heart attacks, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

However, the field of clinical pharmacy and cardiology pharmacy particularly is still growing and cardiology pharmacists may assist cardiologists to manage patients with a mechanical valve and bypass grafting. The above-linked cardiology pharmacist even worked in critical care and immunology.

BPS defines cardiology pharmacy as:

Cardiology Pharmacy focuses on disease prevention and treatment, including evidence-based medication use and related care that improve both short- and long-term outcomes for patients.

BPS

Compounded Sterile Preparations Pharmacist

Sterile compounding pharmacists can now get certified as Board Certified Sterile Compounding Pharmacist (BCSCP).

Compounded Sterile Preparations Pharmacy ensures that sterile preparations meet the clinical needs of patients, satisfying quality, safety, and environmental control requirements in all phases of preparation, storage, transportation, and administration in compliance with established standards, regulations, and professional best practices.

BPS

These pharmacists have existed for a long time oftentimes playing the double role as hospital/sterile preparation pharmacists. However, as with medicine and other healthcare providers, pharmacy is getting more specialized and with the increasing reservoir of sterile preparations and chemotherapy admixtures, sterile compounding pharmacists are needed more than ever.

Critical Care Pharmacists

These clinical pharmacists are credentialed as a board certified critical care pharmacist (BCCCP) are defined by BPS as:

Critical Care Pharmacy specializes in the delivery of patient care services by pharmacists, as integral members of interprofessional teams, working to ensure the safe and effective use of medications in critically ill patients

BPS

Pharmacy Joe is the most authoritative voice on the internet regarding all things about critical care pharmacy. Pharmacy Joe also features a podcast titled “The Elective Rotation.”

Want to find more about critical care pharmacy from a critical pharmacist? Check out these posts.

Geriatric Pharmacist

Geriatric pharmacists are sometimes known as senior care pharmacists and consultant pharmacists.

BPS define geriatric pharamcists as:

Geriatric Pharmacy Practice specializes in applying the knowledge of pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of medications in older adults to optimize therapeutic outcomes

BPS

Consultant pharmacist has an association dedicated to their own profession and you can find out more information by visiting their website at the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP).

Consultant pharmacists review charts at nursing homes and long term care facilities and make clinical suggestions to help improve the patient’s clinical outcomes as well as the facility’s desired clinical outcomes.

Most geriatric pharmacists hold the credential of board-certified geriatric pharmacists (BCGP) from BPS. Not all geriatric pharmacists work as a consultant pharmacist, you can find geriatric pharmacists in all pharmacy practice settings.

More perspective from practicing geriatric pharmacists:

Nuclear Pharmacists

Nuclear pharmacy is a specialty area of pharmacy practice involved with the preparation of radioactive materials to improve and promote health through the safe and effective use of radioactive drugs to diagnose and treat specific disease states.

PCOM

Get a personal insight from a practicing nuclear pharmacists.

These pharmacist specialists usually hold the credential of a board-certified nuclear pharmacist. Salary.com has a nuclear pharmacist average $140,000, slightly higher than that of an average pharmacist salary.

Because of its highly specialized niche, there are plenty of jobs available for nuclear pharmacists.

Infectious Disease Pharmacists

These pharmacists collaborate with physicians to help manage a patient’s infectious diseases. At hospitals, these pharmacists are assigned the tasks of antibiotic stewardship.

A fairly new credential for infectious disease pharmacists was approved recently and these pharmacists can carry the title of board-certified infectious disease pharmacists (BCIDP).

Are you interested in getting your BCIDP? The ID Stewardship website has a lot of useful resources to utilize or to find out more about how to become an infectious disease pharmacist as a pharmacy career.

Nutrition Support Pharmacy

These  Board Certified Nutrition Support Pharmacists (BCNSP) are involved in a niche area of clinical pharmacy.

Nutrition Support Pharmacy addresses the care of patients receiving specialized nutrition support, including parenteral (IV) or enteral (feeding tube) nutrition

BPS

You don’t have to hear it from me, you can get an insider’s view from a nutrition support pharmacist.

Oncology Pharmacy

Board certified oncology pharmacists (BCOP) are defined as:

Oncology Pharmacy provides evidence-based, patient-centered medication therapy management and direct patient care for individuals with cancer, including treatment assessment and monitoring for potential adverse drug reactions and interactions

BPS

Oncology pharmacists are an important team member in the care of cancer patients since there are continually new oncology medications coming on boards and the adverse events that must be monitored. This group of pharmacists has banded together to form the hematology/oncology pharmacy association (HOPA).

Want to find out what’s it like to be an oncology pharmacist? Check these out:

Pediatric Pharmacy

BPS defined pediatric pharmacy as a Pediatric Pharmacy that ensures safe and effective drug use and optimal medication therapy outcomes in children up to 18 years of age. They oftentimes hold the credential of Board Certified Pediatric Pharmacist (BCPP).

The Houston Chronicles defines pediatric pharmacists as:

The job of a pediatric pharmacist is to make sure that all medications prescribed to children are safe, effective, properly dosed, and age-appropriate.

Houston Chronicle

Psychiatric Pharmacy

Board Certified Psychiatric Pharmacist (BCPP):

Psychiatric Pharmacy addresses the pharmaceutical care of patients with psychiatric-related illnesses and disorders

BPS

Like oncology pharmacy, the psychiatric pharmacy has been around for a long time and has formed its own association called: The College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP).

Becoming a Psychiatric Pharmacist

CPNP defines psychiatric pharmacy as Psychiatric pharmacists require comprehensive knowledge not only in psychiatry and neurology but also proficiency in clinical problem solving, interprofessionalism, and communication with empathy for the patient population they serve.

If interested, here is the pathway to becoming a psychiatric pharmacist. Drug Topics has an article laying out the value of board-certified psychiatric pharmacist here.

Solid Organ Transplantation Pharmacy

Solid Organ Transplantation Pharmacists provide evidence-based, patient-centered medication therapy management and care for patients throughout all phases of solid organ transplantation at all ages and in various healthcare settings.

BPS

Board Certified Transplant Pharmacist (BCTXP) is one of the newest pharmacy specialties approved by BPS.

Get an insider’s view regarding a career as a transplant pharmacist here.

Medication Therapy Management Pharmacist

MTM is defined by the CDC as Medication therapy management (MTM) is a distinct service or group of services provided by health care providers, including pharmacists, to ensure the best therapeutic outcomes for patients. MTM includes five core elements: medication therapy review, a personal medication record, a medication-related action plan, intervention or referral, and documentation and follow-up.

Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Pharmacist is not a pharmacist job per se but it is usually integrated into a community practice setting.

However, a pharmacist can start their own MTM consultant business or be employed at a company that delivers MTM services solely. MTM pharmacy can give the pharmacist an opportunity to do remote work or work from home, making it one of the ideal pharmacist jobs during the pandemic!

Typically these pharmacists get certification from the American Pharmacist Association. A separate certification is available from Power-Pak.

Alternatively, you can get board certified and use the credential Board Certified Medication Therapy Management Specialists (BCMTMS) when all criteria are met.

Prior Authorization (PA) Pharmacist

Prior authorization is defined as: Under medical and prescription drug plans, certain medications may need approval from your health insurance carrier, before they’re covered.

What types of medications typically need approval?

  • Those that may be unsafe when combined with other medications
  • Have lower-cost, equally effective alternatives available
  • Should only be used for certain health conditions
  • Are often misused or abused
  • Drugs often used for cosmetic purposes

Prior authorization pharmacists’ jobs are plenty but it is hard to get a grasp on their job description and job duties. These pharmacists typically work at health plans and their primary duty is to approve or deny prior authorization as requested by pharmacies and physicians.

Remote Telepharmacy/Remote Pharmacist Jobs

Similar to PA pharmacist, remote telepharmacy jobs are on demand. Specializations in this field include Remote Oncology Pharmacists, Telecommute Centralized Order Entry Pharmacists, and Remote Licensed Telepharmacists. You can find these jobs at FlexJobs and Virtual Vocations.

The Work at Home Woman listed 12 work at home jobs for pharmacists here.

Here are some of the remote pharmacist jobs to consider:

  1. Centralized order entry pharmacist
  2. Remote order entry pharmacist
  3. Telecommuting pharmacist
  4. Screening and Verification Pharmacist
  5. Quality Assurance Specialist

Mail Order Pharmacist

Mail order pharmacist typically works for pharmacy benefits manager owned mail-order pharmacy such as OptumRx, Pillpack or Express Scripts. These pharmacists with the help of pharmacy technicians dispense medications and package them for shipments to patient’s homes.

Essentially these are closed-door pharmacies that employed multiple pharmacists dispensing 90 days supply medications with the aid of pharmacy automation.

Specialty Pharmacist

Specialty pharmacy is experiencing explosive growth at the amount. They are defined by APhA as:

“Specialty pharmacy focuses on high cost, high touch medication therapy for patients with complex disease states. Medications in specialty pharmacy range from oral to cutting edge injectable and biologic products. The disease states treated range from cancer, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis to rare genetic conditions.

A specialty pharmacist may work in a variety of practice settings. Some pharmacists in this practice area work in pharmacies dedicated to only products that are considered specialty medications. In this setting, pharmacists may work in a variety of areas including dispensing, medication therapy management, patient advocacy, and therapy compliance. Some pharmacists work in institutional or health system settings and may be involved with the patient’s therapy from in-patient to ambulatory care sites. Other pharmacists work in more traditional retail settings and either focus on certain specialty disease states at their practice sites or work with an affiliated specialty pharmacy provider to dispense these complex medications.”

There are plenty of specialty jobs available since their services are in great demand. A special pharmacist does not need to get certification but some choose to get board-certified pharmacotherapy specialists (BCPS) form BPS or the newly created Certified Special Pharmacist (CSP) from the Specialty Pharmacy Certification board.

Travel Pharmacist

As the name implies, travel pharmacists have to do a significant amount of traveling for work. They can be short distances or longer distances and has to be traveled by plane.

To get an insider’s perspective read this post here: How I became a traveling pharmacist.

As with some of the pharmacist jobs on this list, travelling pharmacist has a significant demand.

Veterinary Pharmacist

According to Zip Recruiter: “What Does a Veterinary Pharmacist Do?

The job duties of a veterinary pharmacist include preparing medication, making dose measurements, and helping administer drugs to animals. In this career, your responsibilities include communicating with the owner of a pet or livestock animal so that they understand how to give the medication. You fill each prescription from a veterinarian, maintain an inventory of pharmaceutical products for animals, and source-specific medications when necessary. You may also offer insight to veterinarians about the uses and side effects of medicines.”

Check out the pharmacist jobs profiles of a veterinary pharmacist:

Pharmaceutical Industry Pharmacist

See medical science liaison pharmacist.

A day in the life of an industrial pharmacist: two perspectives

Medical Science Liaison Pharmacist

Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs (ACMA) offers medical science liaison (MSL) pharmacist a board certification opportunity leading to Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist (BCMAS).

Most industrial/MSL pharmacists typically start their work after a one year or two year fellowship program.

More information on MSL career:

Pharmacist Mom Group
The Nontraditional Pharmacist

Army/Navy Pharmacist

In a way, Army and Navy Pharmacists are that different than your typical hospital pharmacist and community pharmacists jobs. The only difference is their practice setting and clientele. The work can sometimes similar to that of a mail-order pharmacy.

Additionally,these pharmacists follow an expanded scope of practice and relaxed licensing requirements.

Indian Health Services Pharmacist

Pharmacists working at the Indian Health Services (IHS) enjoy direct patient care interactions. Hence, the clinical pharmacy program at IHS is strong. The con with IHS pharmacist jobs is the relocation that is sometimes necessary depending on staffing needs.

Anti-coagulation Pharmacist

Anticoagulation pharmacists can be grouped together with ambulatory care pharmacists but I decided to separate it out because it is a unique career.

These pharmacists primarily work in a clinic setting under a collaborative agreement with a physician to prescribe and monitor anticoagulation therapies.

Some anti coagulation pharmacists may choose to get certified as a certified anti coagulation care provider (CACP).

Although anticoagulation pharmacist jobs are available, their jobs are threatened by direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) in place of traditional warfarin therapy.

Additionally, the jobs of these pharmacists can be performed by nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistant.

Clinical Pharmacy Specialists

Most of the pharmacist jobs listed here are clinical pharmacists. Although some employers chose to assign the role of clinical pharmacy specialist (CPS) instead of the standard clinical pharmacist. Perhaps this is due to the fact that a clinical pharmacy specialist originated from the veteran’s administration system.

A Day in the Life: Clinical Pharmacy Specialist

Compounding Pharmacist

“Compounding pharmacies fill customized prescriptions that are specially prepared for patients with specific needs that cannot usually be met by a traditional pharmacy. Compound pharmacies use innovative technology to manufacture prescriptions that may contain multiple drugs and alternative dosing strategies,” according to Smith-Caldwell Drugstore.

Home Health Pharmacy

Pharmacists specializing in in-home care provide pharmacy services and some health care treatments to patients in their homes, residential care facilities, and specialty infusion centers according to Houston Chronicles.

Home Infusion Pharmacy

According to the Houston Chronicles, a home infusion pharmacist “It’s your job to administer infusion therapies, and you’ll gain experience in treating common home health conditions, developing specialized medical knowledge. This may include assessing patients, monitoring their progress, and making recommendations on changes to treatment plans.”

Both home health pharmacists and home infusion pharmacists’ jobs involve the preparation, dispense, and delivery of medications to patients in line with their care plans. These pharmacists also help assess patients to make sure the medications therapies in their care plans are suitable for them.

Regulatory Affairs Pharmacist

Regulatory affairs pharmacists are concerned with the regulations and guidelines for clinical trials and other aspects of human research according to APhA.

This article from pharmacy times can give you a better idea of what regulatory Affairs pharmacist’s jobs involve.

Research Pharmacist

According to pharmacy times, “the research pharmacist can assist investigators in basic, clinical, and translational research.”

If you’ve got a knack for research-related skills then becoming a research pharmacist may be right for you.

Prison Pharmacist

As a prison pharmacist, you with for the bureau of prison. Similar to the VA, IHS, prison pharmacists are part of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioner Corps.

These clinical pharmacist collaborate with physician to mange patients with chronic disease states.

Hospice/Palliative Care Pharmacist

According to US pharmacist Pharmacists, particularly those with special training or experience in palliative care, bring added value to the services provided by hospice by counseling the patient in care, updating and educating the team regarding medications, and working with the team—particularly nursing staff—to closely monitor therapeutic responses.

According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the pharmacist’s role in hospice care involves assessing the appropriateness of medication orders for patients, ensuring timely provision of effective medications for symptom control and management, counseling and educating the hospice team about supportive care through the use of medication therapy, and ensuring that patients and caregivers understand and adhere to the directions provided with medications.

Non-Traditional pharmacist jobs

In this section, any pharmacist jobs that I didn’t mention or forget to mention.

One of which is an informatics pharmacist– Informatics pharmacists can help to design how this information is collected, stored, analyzed, and dispersed to ensure that a patient’s health record is complete, allowing clinicians to provide the highest level of care.

Academic Pharmacist-work in schools of pharmacy where they conduct research, publish articles and teach pharmacy students

Professional Organizations-These pharmacists work inside organizations such as the American Pharmacists Association, or the local state board of pharmacy. If participating in association affairs sounds appealing to you then this pharmacist job is right for you.

Pharmacy Times pulled through for me and suggested pharmacist jobs that I didn’t think about such as working for the FDA, and poison control.

Pharmacists can serve in research and drug development, drug information, quality assurance, regulatory affairs, and marketing.

Pharmacist with an entrepreneurial spirit can choose the self-employment paths, including—but not limited to— consulting, wellness coaching, medication therapy management (MTM) services, medical writer, speaker, and career coach.

Additionally, a subsequtent PT article mentioned NASA pharmacist a a career bpath! Read about it here

If you’ve ran out of ideas then you can visit the nontraditonal pharmacist blog.

Earn Extra Money as a Pharmacist

What if you love what you’re doing as a pharmacist but you’re looking for ways to boost your earnings as a pharmacist? Here is the list of ways you can improve your earnings as a pharmacist.

  1. Start a side hustle, these side hustles can be related to your pharmacy skills set or it can be non-pharmacy related. These side hustles can add to serious cash over time.
  2. Add certifications or credentials. Another way to boost your income is to get board certified or other relevant certifications. Some employers will reimburse you for the costs incurred and most likely will give you a raise. For example, my wife received a raise after she obtained her BCGP. She moved into a position only reserved for board-certified pharmacists and got a boost in her pay.
  3. Promotion-Getting promoted to a pharmacy manager, director of the pharmacy, or vice resident of pharmacy can and will significantly boost your salary.
  4. Take advantage of geography arbitrage. For example, if you move to Tyler, Texas, you can claim an average salary of $178,000 according to data from BLS. Moving to smaller cities such as Tyler, Texas may also cut your cost of living and thus make your money work harder for you.
  5. Pick-up extra shifts-Pharmacists needed a vacation too and if approved you can volunteer to cover shifts for staff pharmacists on vacation. Another way to approach this is by taking extra shifts from an outpatient pharmacy if you’re a hospital pharmacist and vice versa. Another approach is to take an as-needed (PRN) position outside of your employment.
  6. Medical Writing-this form of freelance work plays into the strengths of pharmacists with strong written skills. Fees are usually assessed as a flat rate or according to the words count.
  7. Providing continuing education/workshops-This will take work upfront to put together a presentation but once it is done, the same materials can be presented to interested parties for a fee.
  8. Medication Therapy Management/Remote telepharmacy-These is billable that services that pharmacists can perform including making adherence calls, comprehensive medication reviews, and other medication-related services such as remote order entry review. Best of all yet, these jobs can be done remotely.
  9. Write a book-If you have accumulated enough relevant information in pharmacy or any other ara of interest. Publishing a book can give you passive income for years to come.
  10. Creating a blog/podcast-Pharmacy Joe and Tony Guerra have both started a popular podcast that is listened to by thousands and created opportunities to monetize from their respective audience.

Final Thoughts on Pharmacist Jobs

Working through the list of pharmacist jobs out there, I feel like I am never done. There are jobs for pharmacists in every setting both traditional and non-traditional, including side hustles and other means of earning extra income.

Pharmacy has become highly specialized in the 21st century. Modern pharmacists work in hospitals and other clinical settings, helping doctors decide on appropriate doses of medications for specific patients.

I don’t regret choosing pharmacy as a career choice, I hope this post can broaden your knowledge of pharmacist jobs out there and help you make the correct career decision.

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