Chain pharmacy: Chain pharmacists account for the majority of pharmacists in the United States and collectively dispense approximately 2.5 billion prescriptions per year. Responsibilities for a chain pharmacist include dispensing and verifying medications, counseling patients on proper medication use, and recommending OTC products. Recently, the role of the retail pharmacist has expanded to include vaccinations and medication therapy management (MTM). Additionally, management opportunities are available to chain pharmacists. Approximately 60% of pharmacy students go into retail pharmacy upon graduation.
Independent pharmacy: Independent pharmacies represent approximately 40% of all community pharmacies in the United States and provide employment for more than 60,000 pharmacists nationwide. Pharmacists employed within this setting typically have many of the same responsibilities of a chain pharmacist; however, pharmacists who own 1 or more pharmacies will have the additional responsibility of managing the business finances. In addition, there may be additional compounding opportunities within independent pharmacy. Individuals interested in pharmacy ownership may consider a dual MBA degree and the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) Junior Partnership program.
Hospital pharmacy: Approximately 20% of pharmacists nationwide are employed within the hospital setting. Pharmacists working within this field are responsible for choosing, preparing, storing, compounding, and dispensing medicines, as well as advising health care professionals and patients on their safe and effective use. Other responsibilities for an institutional pharmacist include monitoring patterns of medication use, implementing hospital regulations, and other administrative tasks. Many hospital pharmacists choose to complete a hospital pharmacy residency program.
Clinical pharmacy: Clinical pharmacists work directly with physicians, other health care professionals, and patients to ensure that the medications prescribed contribute to optimal health outcomes. Responsibilities for clinical pharmacists may include evaluating the appropriateness and effectiveness of medication use, consulting with health care professionals, monitoring patient therapeutic responses to drugs, attending patient rounds on hospital units, and counseling patients. In addition, some clinical pharmacists can initiate, modify, or continue drug therapy for patients under a collaborative MTM agreement. Clinical pharmacists can work within hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes, and insurance companies. Residency programs are available for students interested in pursuing a clinical pharmacy career path.
Managed care: Pharmacists employed by managed care organizations are responsible for a broad range of clinical, quality-oriented, and MTM services. Additionally, they work directly with other health care professionals to provide the highest quality drug therapy management, while considering the pharmacoeconomic implications for their patient population. Other tasks include patient safety monitoring, formulary management, outcomes research, and patient education. The majority of pharmacists in managed care work for health plans and pharmacy benefit management companies. Managed care PGY-1 residencies are available for students interested in this field of pharmacy.
Industry: The pharmaceutical industry serves to develop, produce, and market drugs or pharmaceuticals. Within the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacists can engage in research and development, quality assurance, drug information, and clinical trials. Additional responsibilities may include sales, marketing, drug monitoring, and regulatory affairs. Postgraduate fellowship programs are available for students interested in working within industry.
Consultant pharmacy: The field of consultant pharmacy is dedicated to providing expert advice on proper medication use for patients within institutions, often long-term care settings. Services provided by consultant pharmacists include drug regimen review, nutrition assessment, pharmacokinetic dosing services, patient counseling, and therapeutic drug monitoring. Examples of long-term care settings for consultant pharmacists include nursing facilities, mental institutions, home health agencies, hospice care, correctional institutions, rehabilitation centers, and adult day care centers. Today, more than 10,000 pharmacists find themselves within the consulting field.
Academia: More than 3000 full-time faculty members work across the nation's 130 colleges and schools of pharmacy. Responsibilities of pharmacists within this field include teaching, research, public service, and patient care. Others may serve as consultants for local, state, national, and international organizations. Specific disciplines within academic pharmacy include administration, biological science, clinical science, continuing education, experiential education, drug discovery, natural products, and pharmacology. Individuals wishing to pursue academia may consider a PGY-1 residency with a robust teaching component.
Nuclear pharmacy: Nuclear pharmacy is a specialty area of pharmacy dedicated to the compounding and dispensing of radioactive materials for use in nuclear medicine procedures. Responsibilities of a nuclear pharmacist include preparing and compounding radiopharmaceutical agents, quality control measures, and ensuring the proper transportation of medications. Pharmacists in this profession work in highly regulated environments and often start work at early hours of the day. To enter this profession, an individual needs to complete a specialized training program. Residency programs in nuclear pharmacy are also available.
Government agencies: Local, state, and federal governmental agencies including the National Institutes of Health, FDA, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Prisons, Veterans Administration, and Armed Forces all require the expertise of skilled pharmacists. Within these settings, pharmacists can engage in a wide array of tasks, including direct patient care services, biomedical and epidemiological research, reviewing new drug applications, and developing and administering health care policy.
Other options: Informatics, mail order, home infusion, legal practices, poison control, and veterinary pharmacy
- “Career Opportunities for Pharmacists.” Purdue University College of Pharmacy. Web. 12 Oct. 2014
- Giorgianni, Salvatore J. Full Preparation: The Pfizer Guide to Careers in Pharmacy. New York: Pfizer Pharmaceuticals Group, 2002. Web. 11 Oct. 2014.
- "Independent Pharmacy Today." National Community Pharmacists Association. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
- "Pharmacy Career Information." American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.
Timothy O'Shea, MS, PharmD
Timothy O'Shea, MS, PharmD, is a Clinical Pharmacist working at a regional health insurance plan on the east coast. Additionally he works per diem at a nationwide retail pharmacy chain. He graduated from MCPHS University - Boston in 2015 and subsequently completed a PGY-1 Managed Care Pharmacy Residency. He completed his M.S. in Health Services Administration, with a focus on Health Economics and Outcomes, in 2018. His professional interests include pharmacy legislation and managed care pharmacy. He can be followed on Twitter at @toshea125.