What does a pharmacist do?

Pharmacy is a blend of sciences, health care, direct patient contact, technology, ethics and business. A pharmacist is a highly-skilled and trusted medication expert. Pharmacists dispense prescriptions to patients, conduct health screenings, give immunizations and advise on the safe use of medicine.

A pharmacist must attend pharmacy school and earn a Pharm.D. degree. The Pharm.D. degree takes four years to complete and requires at least two years of undergraduate college study. Many students enter the program with three or more years of college and may even have a bachelor's degree.

Internships and introductory pharmacy practice experiences give students hands-on skills and an in-depth look at pharmaceutical services. Advanced pharmacy practice experiences, or rotations, help student pharmacists apply knowledge they learned in school to the real world.

After graduating with a Pharm.D. degree, many pharmacists choose to complete a postgraduate residency training program. This yearlong program gives students the opportunity to apply the skills learned in pharmacy school to real patients and situations.

Pharmacists who complete a postgraduate year one residency can work as a clinical pharmacist in a hospital. Pharmacists who go on to complete the postgraduate year two residency can focus on a specialty such as critical care or oncology.

People they work with: Doctors, nurses, pharmacy technicians, and patients

Where they work: Hospitals, retail stores, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, universities, governmental facilities, mail services, and internet companies

Career outlook for a pharmacist

After graduating from pharmacy school or completing postgraduate training, pharmacists have countless career opportunities available. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment of pharmacists to grow as fast as average. The expansion of the health care industry and an aging population has resulted in increased reliance on highly-trained and skilled pharmacists.

With additional training and education, some pharmacists advance into management, research or teaching (preceptor) positions. Some pharmacists open their own pharmacies. Other opportunities for advancement are available by completing a residency in a particular specialization.

Pharmacy programs at Mayo Clinic

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