Pharmacists are essential and respected members of the healthcare team. For years, in Gallup International polling, they have been named one of the “most trusted” groups of professionals by consumers in the United States. Earning and maintaining trust is critical for pharmacists as they, each year, become more involved in drug therapy decision-making, and patient counseling.

Responsibilities for pharmacists vary according to their particular area of practice. Pharmacotherapy (using drugs to treat conditions) is the most frequently used means of medical intervention today and is expected to remain so in the future. Pharmacists must have an extensive knowledge of the chemical and physical properties of the thousands of drug products on the market. They must be able to mix and dispense medications as well as educate patients regarding side effects and proper treatment procedures. More now than ever, physicians rely on pharmacists as a resource in making patient therapy decisions.




According to Full Preparation: The Pfizer Guide to Careers in Pharmacy, the responsibilities of a pharmacy are in five essential areas:

Drug delivery and medication safety: Not only must the pharmacist deliver the correct prescribed drug and educate the patient as to side effects and how much and when to take the drug, he or she is in the best position to review the patient’s current medications to ascertain possible reactions with the newly prescribed drug.

Patient education and advocacy: In the past, pharmacists often diagnosed ailments and compounded individual remedies. Then, with increased regulations and commercialized drug production, their role changed to mixing and dispensing prescriptions with little interaction with patients and customarily not even identifying the medication. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, their role changed once again to being directly involved in patient care. Today, pharmacists offer to counsel patients for all new prescriptions. This step is mandatory for all medications paid for by the federal government. It is the pharmacist’s responsibility to ensure that the patient knows what the drug is, possible side effects and how to minimize them, how and when to take the drug, and where to store it. Pharmacists also provide information about over-the-counter drugs and make suggestions in this area as well as give advice regarding medical equipment and home healthcare supplies.

Monitoring drug therapy: Pharmacists provide support in managing diseases and conditions. Since many insurance companies require that drugs be refilled every 30 days, pharmacists may interact with patients on a more regular basis than physicians. In addition to providing technology such as blood pressure machines on site, pharmacists can discuss conditions, encourage behavioral modifications if necessary, and refer patients to appropriate healthcare providers when needed.

In North Carolina pharmacists have the opportunity to become licensed as a clinical pharmacist practitioner (CPP). A CPP provides drug therapy management under direction of and in professional relationship with a licensed physician. CPPs make therapy decisions and write prescriptions.  They participate in patient education to facilitate safe and effective medication use. CPP's work in hospital settings, clinics, physician offices and nursing homes.

storeTeaming with other healthcare providers: Pharmacists are integral members of the healthcare team, joining with physicians and other healthcare professionals to assess patient conditions, determine appropriate medications, and monitor outcomes.

Research and clinical studies: Pharmacists increasingly participate in community-based drug studies. Their coaching has proven particularly successful in boosting patient compliance with drug therapy. Oftentimes, the pharmacist serves as a principal or co-principal investigator.

Back to Top ^


According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the principal goal of pharmaceutical care is to achieve positive outcomes from the use of medications that improve patients’ quality of life with minimal risk.

Pharmacists strive to:consult

  1. Promote health and patient safety
  2. Eliminate or reduce symptoms
  3. Arrest or slow a disease process
  4. Prevent disease

Pharmacists are responsible for:

  1. Staying current and knowledgeable on medications and related therapies
  2. Assessing, monitoring, initiating and modifying medications to ensure that drug regimens are safe and efficacious
  3. Designing drug treatment plans in collaboration with the patient and other healthcare professionals that are specific to the patient's individual needs
  4. Educating and counseling patients on drug therapy
  5. Following up and referring patients when problems continue
Back to Top ^


TraitsTo enter the pharmacy field, you need to have well-rounded interests. Not only do you need an aptitude for mathematics and science; you also need strong interpersonal skills and the ability to pay attention to details so that accuracy is assured. Business and computer technology expertise is important since these tools are utilized in every aspect of the patient encounter. Potential pharmacy students need to enjoy working with people of all ages, especially older adults, as they are more likely to be under medical care. A pharmacist must be able to multitask given the variety of overlapping responsibilities in a typical work day. Additionally, a pharmacist must have good teamwork and communication skills and be willing to suggest treatment alternatives based upon evidence-based literature.

Back to Top ^


Pharmacists can choose from a variety of practice areas. Primary choices include the following:

Academic Pharmacist:
More than 3,000 full-time faculty members of the nation’s pharmacy colleges and universities are involved in research, public service, and patient care as well as fulfilling teaching responsibilities. This career path offers opportunities to contribute to scientific and clinical knowledge, enhance your own learning, improve the educational experiences of pharmacy students, collaborate with other professionals, and engage in scholarly work or research.

communityCommunity Pharmacist:
Pharmacists who choose this path enjoy working with people and building relationships with them. The work environment is fast-paced, requiring intense focus, efficiency and strong organizational skills. The pharmacist must be able to communicate with other healthcare professional at a scientific level and be able to translate that information into patient-friendly terms. Many of these pharmacists are certified to administer numerous vaccinations and are credentialed in disease state management.

Pharmacists who are employed by pharmaceutical chains such as CVS and Walgreens also have opportunities to climb the corporate ladder to challenging management positions at regional or national levels. In the spirit of entrepreneurship, pharmacists can own and operate an independent pharmacy, allowing them to tailor their pharmacy services to the patients in their areas. Such services may include packaging for long-term facilities, medication delivery and durable medical equipment (DME) sales.

Hospital Clinical Pharmacist:
Pharmacists have various roles in the hospital setting. They receive, evaluate, and enter medication orders submitted by physicians and other providers. Using sterile techniques, they prepare intravenous medications, parenteral nutrition, and chemotherapy agents. They dispense medications with appropriate labeling and instructions. They oversee work activities of sometimes large teams of pharmacy technicians. They assist physicians in selecting the appropriate medications, dosages. Pharmacists monitor medication therapy. They also provide drug information to patients, nurses, and other health professionals. An important role for hospital pharmacists includes educating patients about their current drug regimens, as well as, any new medications prescribed. Pharmacists practice in specialty areas such as oncology, the operating room, and the emergency department. Hospital pharmacists may work in a distributive role entering and dispensing medications or they may work in a clinical role on patient-care units alongside other healthcare professionals to provide an inter-professional approach to healthcare. In any setting, pharmacists rely on their clinical knowledge to promote safe and effective drug therapy.

compareLong-term Care and Consulting Pharmacist:
More than 10,000 pharmacists currently provide a broad spectrum of services to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. All long-term facilities are required by federal regulations to have a pharmacist review medication regimens on a regular basis. These pharmacists provide general pharmacy services, educate patients and families, provide drug information, and serve as patient advocates. Activities include drug regimen review, pain management, patient counseling, nutritional assessment, medical and surgical equipment analysis and fitting, and a variety of other services. These pharmacists generally spend time in multiple facilities and have the opportunity to impact patient care in a large geographical area.

Ambulatory Care Pharmacist:
Pharmacists working in this field practice in a variety of settings including private physician offices, health departments and free clinics, as well as outpatient clinics at hospitals. These pharmacists often work in conjunction with physicians and other practitioners to evaluate patients, select the appropriate medication regimen, and provide patient-centered education. Ambulatory care pharmacists also work with patients who have chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and congestive heart failure. This collaboration helps to improve the quality of patient lives while decreasing hospitalizations and healthcare expenditures through optimal disease state management.


Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Distributors:
Pharmacists in this area are involved in distributing medications and other healthcare supplies to hospitals and other facilities where they are used to diagnose, prevent, and treat a myriad of ailments and disorders. Information and decision support services are also offered through these companies to maximize efficiency and improve patient care. Distributors are important factors in cutting the cost of healthcare transactions as they provide economies of scale to reduce expenses and manage inventories.

Pharmaceutical Industry:
Pharmacists employed by drug companies are involved in marketing, research, product development, quality control, sales, and administration. They can hold a variety of positions including pharmaceutical sales representative, medical service and information liaison, and administrative positions. The opportunities exist to develop new drugs, research study protocols, and evaluate pharmaceutical outcomes.


TechnicianPharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in providing medications and healthcare products to patients. The technician’s duties focus on the mixing, dispensing, and delivery of medications. The technician’s role is governed by state regulations and may require certification.

Pharmacy technicians may receive prescriptions sent electronically from the doctor's office or in written form from patients. They verify that the information on the prescription is accurate and, depending on the company, may enter the information into the computer system. Pharmacy technicians also may retrieve, count, pour, weigh, measure, and sometimes mix the medication. Other duties may include preparing labels, selecting containers, pricing and filling the prescription. All activities of the pharmacy technicians must be checked by a pharmacist before a prescription can be dispensed to the patient. The technician must refer all questions regarding prescriptions, drug information, or health matters to the pharmacist.

Pharmacy technicians also may establish and maintain patient files, prepare insurance forms, and stock and take inventory of prescription and over-the-counter medications. In hospitals, technicians read patient charts and prepare and deliver medications to patients after a pharmacist has checked the drug order and the technician's preparation. Pharmacy technicians often operate complex robotic devices in both hospital and community practices. Technicians play a significant role in sterile product production (IVs), most often in hospitals and home care practices. A recently added role for the pharmacy technician is taking medication histories from patients when they enter the hospital or a similar facility. An accurate list of the drugs that patients take at home helps medical staff make informed decisions on which drugs need to be continued in the hospital.

Pharmacy aides work with pharmacy technicians. The pharmacy aide’s responsibilities are generally clerical in nature – answering the telephone, stocking the shelves, and serving as cashier.There is no certification required to become a pharmacy aide.

Back to Top ^


The Pharmacy Manpower Project has predicted that there will be a shortage of as many as 157,000 pharmacists by 2020 due to the aging of the nation's population. The first wave of baby-boomers turned 60 in 2006. Since adults age 60 and over, on average, use three times as many medications as younger adults, the demand for pharmaceutical services will dramatically increase. Also, people are now living longer with many achieving a life span beyond 100 years.

The pharmacy profession has grown tremendously. Pharmacists are a necessity to a well-rounded line of care for both the inpatient and outpatient setting. With new drugs constantly coming on the market, pharmacists are needed to assess the best places for these new medications in therapy. Pharmacists are the drug experts in all settings of care — and drug experts are a necessity to the future of medicine.

Back to Top ^