Retail Pharmacist Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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A retail pharmacist's mean annual wage is around $118,000, but is it worth the education requirements and debt? Get the truth about the job duties and career prospects to decide if becoming a retail pharmacist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Retail Pharmacist Career

A career as a retail pharmacist can be attractive for individuals who like interacting with the public, working with physicians and being part of a healthcare team. To determine if being a retail pharmacist is for you, find out the pros and cons.

Pros of a Retail Pharmacist Career
Good job prospects with 14% growth expected from 2012-2022*
High salary ($118,000 mean annual salary)*
Opportunity for advancement to management or executive positions*
Can work in multiple places, such as hospitals, retailers, drugstores and grocery stores*

Cons of a Retail Pharmacist Career
Most of the day is spent on the feet*
May interact with dangerous drugs*
A 4-year degree and licensure are required*
Frequent interaction with insurance companies**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Wake Forest University.

Job Duties, Salary and Career Info

Retail pharmacists review prescriptions and dispense the requested dosage of prescription drugs to customers. They're responsible for ensuring the accuracy of every dispensed prescription and overseeing the work performed by pharmacy technicians. A sizable portion of the workday is spent educating customers about drugs that have been prescribed, counseling them and answering questions. Retail pharmacists interact with physicians and insurance companies and must maintain records for each patient. They must review these records and monitor complex drug treatment plans to ensure that no adverse drug interactions occur.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacists made an average salary of roughly $118,000 as of May 2014. The job outlook for the 2012-2022 decade was about as fast as the average for all occupations with a projected increase of 14%. The BLS determined that this growth was due to an aging population seeking a greater demand for prescription drugs. But since pharmacy schools are projected to graduate more students within the decade, competition for jobs could grow. Pharmacists who get certified are expected to have the best job prospects.

What Are the Requirements?

A Doctor of Pharmacy degree and a license are required for employment as a pharmacist in every U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia (D.C.). It takes four years to acquire this degree, which may include courses in pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, toxicology, law and the different components of a pharmacist's practice. The type of exam required for licensure will depend upon geographic location. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam is required by all U.S. states, territories and D.C., but some states also require the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam or have their own pharmacy law test.

Some of the skills required for this occupation include:

  • Ability to educate others
  • Strong critical thinking skills
  • Oral and written expression and comprehension
  • Inductive and deductive reasoning
  • Decision-making
  • Ability to recognize problems

Actual Job Postings from Employers

Full-time and part-time positions are available for retail pharmacists. Most work in retail stores, while others work in hospitals, doctors' offices and mail-order pharmacies. Some employers require weekend rotations, and all employers require a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and a license to work in the state where the job is located. The following open job postings from March 2012 are a few examples of what employers are looking for in this field:

  • A pharmacy in Denver is seeking a full-time retail pharmacist to prepare and distribute medications and oversee the tasks of pharmaceutical technicians. Other job duties include training students, pharmacy staff, and other healthcare professionals; counseling patients; looking for drug incompatibilities and staying current on new and current drug legislation. More than two years of experience are required along with a Colorado pharmacist license.
  • A pharmacy in San Antonio is looking for a full-time retail pharmacist in charge to work with physicians in a family practice environment. The pharmacist will establish procedures, purchase inventory and work with other pharmacies to provide excellent customer service. The candidate must have a Texas license, retail experience and be proficient in computers. This is a weekday management position with no weekend work or overtime necessary.
  • A licensed full-time pharmacist was sought after by a hospital in Overland Park, KS. The position is located in a retail/employee pharmacy and candidates should be non-smokers. Workers will ensure compliance with all laws applicable to prescription sales and will provide oversight of support staff and pharmacy operations. This employer requires a schedule of 30 hours per week with one weekend rotation a month.

How to Beat the Competition

Get Specialized

Obtaining professional certification in a specialty area shows employers that you're serious about your career and may put you ahead of the competition. One organization dedicated to the practice of pharmacy is the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, which offers niches in areas such as ambulatory pharmacy, nutrition support pharmacy, oncology pharmacy and nuclear pharmacy. Gaining experience in one of these areas or another area of expertise may expand your employment opportunities.

Additionally, some employers may prefer candidates who are fluent in another language, such as Spanish. Retail pharmacies in large metropolitan areas typically have customers from diverse backgrounds, so knowing a foreign language can help you beat out other candidates.

Continue Your Education

Completing a residency or fellowship program after receiving your Doctor of Pharmacy degree is another way to stand out in the field. You can also obtain a certificate that qualifies you to give immunizations, making you more valuable to an employer. Taking advantage of the numerous online and onsite continuing education classes available through universities and professional associations may increase your chances of landing a well-paying position. Diabetes management is an area commonly offered in pharmacy continuing education courses. There are courses to help pharmacists keep up-to-date with the laws regarding the practice of pharmacy in their state and classes pertaining to the pharmaceutical management of various illnesses.

Alternative Fields

Registered Nurse (RN)

If a career in the medical field interests you, but retail pharmacy isn't your cup of tea, you may want to consider a career as an RN. Like pharmacists, RNs work with the public, but RNs typically interact and care for patients in a hospital setting. They perform a number of duties according to a medical care plan, including administering medication, inserting intravenous (IV) lines and maintaining the flow of IV fluids according to physician instructions. RNs also supervise junior staff, perform medical tests, maintain patient records and monitor drug treatments to prevent adverse reactions.

RNs can begin their career with a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree, but licensure is required as it is for pharmacists. The BLS reported the average wage of an RN to be about $65,000 as of 2010, which was quite a bit less than the earnings of a retail pharmacist, but the job prospects were better, with 22% growth expected from 2008-2018.

Medical Scientist

If you'd like a career in the healthcare field that doesn't involve direct contact with patients, employment as a medical scientist might be something to ponder. Medical scientists study biological processes and conduct research to develop treatments for medical conditions. They may collaborate with physicians and other healthcare personnel to establish public health programs. They also analyze tissue samples, determine drug dosage standards and study the efficacy of drugs and other methods of treatment. Medical scientists earned an average salary of $77,000 as of 2010, but the job outlook was higher (40% from 2008-2018) than that for a retail pharmacist. Education requirements for medical scientists are higher than for retail pharmacists, requiring a doctoral degree and perhaps a medical degree.

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