Stuck in a pharmacy career rut? Not interested in the traditional job options in retail, independent, or hospital pharmacy?

Here are 4 nontraditional jobs for pharmacists:



1. NASA Pharmacist

For pharmacists who secretly wanted to go to Space Camp as a child, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) might actually be a good career fit.

Tina Bayuse, PharmD, lead pharmacist at the Johnson Space Center Pharmacy, was highlighted in NASA’s Women’s History Month a few years ago.

In her NASA profile, Dr. Bayuse explained that she helps scientists examine how medications affect the body on land and in space, packs medical kits for space shuttles and the International Space Station, and gives her input on what medications astronauts should take. She also provides medicine to astronauts and their families at the Flight Medicine Clinic.

One of the challenges NASA pharmacists face is how space changes the way humans can take or react to medicine. Dr. Bayuse said something as banal as taking a spoonful of cough syrup is not possible for astronauts, so she and her team have to think of the best ways to deliver medications safely and effectively as astronauts undergo physiologic and environmental changes.

Back in 2008, Dr. Bayuse gave a presentation celebrating the 5-year anniversary of the space center and discussed some of her other responsibilities as a pharmacist working for NASA.

She said the Johnson Space Center Pharmacy’s main concerns relate to the pharmacy management system, dispensing, education, and patient safety and increased awareness—“our biggest challenge terrestrially,” she noted.

In some ways, the stakes are also higher for serving astronauts because their care affects more than 1 person, Dr. Bayuse said.

“Space medicine pharmaceutical care is about both the patient and the mission,” she wrote.

The objectives of space medicine are to eliminate or reduce the crew’s symptomatology and to prevent or slow down the long-term effects and symptoms from microgravity, Dr. Bayuse explained.

 “NASA has benefited from pharmacists’ expertise with improvements in medication improvements in medication management both in terrestrial medicine and space medicine,” she maintained.



2. Nuclear Pharmacist

About half of health care professionals in a recent study had no idea that pharmacists played a role in nuclear medicine departments, so there is a good chance that pharmacy students and pharmacists have not considered this career path.

Nuclear pharmacists promote the safe and effective use of radioactive drugs. According to the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS), nuclear pharmacists are involved in a host of activities such as compounding, quality control testing, dispensing, distribution, monitoring, and consulting on health and safety issues related to radiopharmaceuticals.

BPS recognized nuclear pharmacy as its first specialty in 1978. To be eligible for certification, pharmacists must have 4000 hours of training or experience with nuclear pharmacy practice.

Some academic opportunities to fill these required hours include undergraduate courses, post-graduate courses, an MS or PhD degree in nuclear pharmacy, or completion of a Nuclear Pharmacy Certificate Program, which is offered at Purdue University and Ohio State University, or through online programs at the University of New Mexico and the University of Arkansas. 

Training in a residency, internship, or at a licensed nuclear pharmacy or health care facility approved to handle radioactive materials may also count toward those 4000 hours of practice.

BPS’s exam for nuclear pharmacy covers storage, handling, compounding, dispensing, quality assurance, drug information, and professional consultation, among other topics.


3. Prison Pharmacist

Incarcerated individuals are more likely to have a history of substance abuse, psychiatric illness, and infectious diseases, as well as chronic conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, compared with the noninstitutionalized, according to the American College of Correctional Physicians.

In addition, the Bureau of Justice Statistics cites that 21% of those in prison report ever having tuberculosis, hepatitis B or C, or a sexually transmitted disease. Meanwhile, recent data also showed that around 66% of prisoners with a chronic condition reported taking a prescription medication. 

This presents an important and unique opportunity for pharmacists to serve a population facing many health issues.

Some of the duties a prison pharmacist can expect to perform include dispensing, counseling, educating patients and staff, and monitoring the use of medications.

“Viewed as health care providers and equal partners in health, pharmacists routinely enter into collaborative practice agreements with physicians in order to manage a variety of disease states, medications, and preventive health services,” the Federal Bureau of Prisons notes on its website. 

Some of these physician-pharmacist collaborations may include working together on issues such as anticoagulation, immunizations, diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and hepatitis.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons maintains that Correctional Health Care offers competitive salary and benefits, flexible schedules, and room for growth.


4. Medical Writer
For those who feel just as comfortable with a pen as a medicine bottle, medical writing provides ample opportunities.

In an article for Pharmacy Careers, Michele Reed, PharmD, describes some of the projects that an individual in medical communications could be involved in, which include clinical drug monographs, key opinion leader presentations, sales training slide kits, and promotional materials.

Pharmacists may also be asked to write content based on peer-reviewed sources or fact-check other writers’ work.

“This pharmacist should be competent in verification of drug and medical information as well as possess excellent communication and language skills,” Dr. Reed wrote. “They must also have an ability to create engaging scientific content for various audiences and media and a working knowledge of MLR [medical, legal, and regulatory] compliance parameters for promotional materials.”

Dr. Reed described pharmacists in medical communications as detail-oriented team members who can handle multiple deadlines.

Course offerings in pharmacy school that would be useful in this field include medical writing, literature evaluation, and pharmaceutical marketing, Dr. Reed noted. Pharmacy students may also be interested in doing rotations at a medical communications company.

Medical communications also offers a predictable schedule that may allow for working part-time or remotely.

Thora Brown, PharmD, also noted in an article for Pharmacy Times that pharmacists may be tapped to write continuing education (CE) programs or scripts for CE presentations. They can also pitch stories to magazines, including yours truly.