A pharmacist is a health care professional licensed to dispense medicines and drugs on the written orders of physicians. Pharmacists also play a key role in educating and counseling patients about the use, risks and potential side effects of these substances to ensure the medications are properly applied for optimal effect.
Because pharmacists handle large quantities of controlled substances with the potential to cause great damage if abused, misused or misapplied, it is both necessary and desirable that they be highly responsible, highly trained and licensed by state boards which oversee their actions.
To qualify and practice as a pharmacist, one must hold a minimum of a PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) degree. Like most doctorate degrees, this requires approximately six years of schooling following high school. Following graduation, the prospective pharmacist must perform an internship and pass a comprehensive state exam, the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination), as well as a second exam (which varies by state).
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities in the field of pharmacy are expected to grow “faster than the average for all occupations” over the next decade. Below are a few of the most popular careers.
Traditionally, the role of the pharmacist has been to fill prescriptions written by doctors and to dispense the drugs and medicines prescribed. Pharmacists also provide patients with information and cautions about the use of the medications. Pharmacists can be employed in numerous places, including hospitals, nursing facilities, clinics, or retail stores such as drug store or supermarket pharmacies.
A pharmacy assistant assists a registered pharmacist by fulfilling lesser job responsibilities. These can include stocking and organizing of medications, sales and billing, record keeping, and other functions as directed by the pharmacist. The pharmacy assistant is prohibited by law from filling prescriptions.
Pharmaceutical engineers usually work in two main areas. First there is the design, building and implementation of research and production facilities. The other area includes the creation, design and packaging of the materials that pharmaceutical companies use to manufacture products.
The role of the pharmacy technician is to assist the pharmacist perform routine functions such as the maintenance and accounting of supplies. Pharmacy technicians are authorized in many venues to prepare medications and prescriptions under the supervision a registered pharmacist.
Hospital pharmacists distribute medications for hospitalized patients. They dispense the patients’ drugs through medical staff rather than directly to the patient. Hospital pharmacists advise the medical staff about dosages, possible side effects and administering medication to patients.