There are more than 67,000 pharmacies in the United States. Nearly half of these pharmacies are located inside drug stores, grocery stores, department stores, and other facilities that people frequent every day. Trained retail pharmacists man the desks, ready to dispense both medications and information that will aid people with their medical concerns and treatments.
What is a Retail Pharmacist?
When a person walks into the drug store or corner pharmacy, the men and women in the white coats behind the counter are probably trained retail pharmacists or technicians. They are there to help people choose over-the- counter treatments and medicines, as well as discuss the details of prescription medicines.
A retail pharmacist can dispense medicine, inform shoppers about side effects, help patients understand drug interactions, and provide information that can improve the health and well being of the people they interact with. They answer questions about how to take medicine, dosage measurements, insurance, and refills. They must know about the various types of medicine that are requested for patients, as well as the many kinds of medicine that are available for purchase. This ensures that the prescriptions they administer to individuals are safe and correct, and that people are aware of their choices, as well as any other concerns.
Educational Requirements for Becoming a Retail Pharmacist
The minimum educational requirement for becoming a retail pharmacist is a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
Step-by-Step Educational Path to Becoming a Retail Pharmacist
Bachelor’s Degree — Pre-Pharmacy Programs
The first step towards becoming a retail pharmacist is to study at the undergraduate level. Many pharmacists graduate with an undergraduate degree, even though some pharmacy schools accept students that have met a minimum number of credit hours — usually 60 to 90 credit hours, versus the 120 credit hours it takes to graduate. There are some colleges and universities across the United States that offer a pre-pharmacy program for those who know the direction they want to take. Pre-pharmacy programs ensure that students get all of the necessary coursework they need to apply, and succeed in pharmacy school.
Every pharmacy school has a list of requirements and pre-requisites that are needed in order gain acceptance. These requirements are designed to ensure that the student has the foundation of knowledge required to jump into further study. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy publishes a list of pharmacy programs so aspiring students can research the requirements, so they use their time at the undergraduate level, wisely.
Basic requirements, include coursework in the following:
From this list of required courses at the undergraduate level, it is easy to see why many students choose to major in science — like biology or chemistry — when at the undergraduate level. This allows them to get the education they need, without taking unnecessary courses.
In addition to enrolling in the correct courses, it is important for students to maintain a high overall GPA to be accepted into pharmacy school. Schools publish this information — both the minimum requirement and the average GPA of accepted students — so aspiring students know what it takes to be competitive for acceptance.
The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is administered to students wishing to apply to pharmacy schools in the United States and Canada. The test measures both general academic ability, and a student’s scientific knowledge, both of which are necessary in order to succeed in pharmacy school. Test scores are then submitted to the pharmacy schools of the aspiring students choosing. Some schools have strict minimum requirements, which the student should check out before taking the test. This will help them prepare for the exam by taking advantage of the many resources that are available to them. This test can be taken in the sophomore or junior year of undergraduate school, or whenever the student applies to pharmacy school.
There are many Pharm.D. programs throughout the U.S. In order to be admitted, one must submit their PCAT scores, GPA, coursework information, as well as pass an admissions interview.
Pharm.D. schools offer either a three or four year program. During this time students take classes in pharmacology and medical ethics, and gain experience in a supervised setting, such as a hospital or retail pharmacy.
Pharmacists must complete the North America Pharmacists Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). The test measures an aspiring pharmacis’s knowledge. According to the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, the NAPLEX assesses the following:
In addition, many states have their own exam requirements for licensing pharmacists, called the Multi-state Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). State exams include pharmacy skills and knowledge tests, as well as a state-specific pharmacy law exam. A person who wishes to practice in a specific state, should look up the requirements for that state in order to ensure they uphold all of the standards of licensure. They should also be aware of any continuing education requirements, specific certifications, or other details that are needed to maintain a valid license.
Continuing Education Requirements
Most states have continuing education requirements for licensure. This training and education is administered by professional organizations that focus on maintaining the highest standards in pharmaceutical care. Pharmacists should look up state requirements, and register with a professional organization to keep up-to-date of any changes that are made to state licensing requirements.
Additionally, there are several certifications for pharmacists that indicate specialized knowledge. The Board of Pharmacy Specialties lists the following:
Obtaining certifications may help with job prospects and salary for a pharmacist, as they indicate specialized knowledge and abilities.
Understanding the Career Path
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment for retail pharmacists will grow 14 percent between 2012 and 2022.
Retail pharmacists can work in a variety of settings from drug stores to grocery stores, hospitals, medical centers, and specialized care units. Most, nearly 43 percent, work in pharmacies and drug stores, with another 23 percent at state, local, and/or private hospitals. Eight percent work in grocery stores, with the remaining 10 percent at various department or general merchandise stores.
In any of these settings, pharmacists may be involved in dispensing prescription medications, helping people choose over-the-counter medications, conducting health and wellness screenings, administering immunizations, and providing information about how to take medications, side effects, and more.
Pharmacists must be available as long as the pharmacy is open. This means that some pharmacists will work nights or weekends in order to help people get prescriptions filled and answer their questions.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a pharmacist is $116,670 a year or about $56.09 an hour.
The highest-paying environment is in general merchandise stores, which offer a median annual wage of $128,910, followed by department stores that provide a median annual wage of $120,540. The lowest paying environment, by average, is a hospital setting, at $114,100 per year.