New Dimensions for Preferred Careers in Pharmacy

Pharmacy CareersPharmacy Careers Fall 2016

It is estimated that more than four billion prescriptions are filled in pharmacies across the US on an annual basis.

It is estimated that more than four billion prescriptions are filled in pharmacies across the US on an annual basis and that number continues to grow. Nearly one third of adults take five or more medications and almost half of the country’s population has taken at least one prescription medication in the last 30 days.

With so many opportunities to impact patients’ medication utilization, a pharmacy degree offers a diverse array of career opportunities. Community pharmacy and hospital pharmacy remain the preferred practice settings, with each area allowing for both general and specialized practice. Other upcoming options include ambulatory care, managed care, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Expansion of Community Pharmacy Careers

Community or retail pharmacy is the most common practice setting for pharmacists. Pharmacists in this setting are considered the most accessible health care professionals because they are available without an appointment and, in many locations, 24 hours per day. Community pharmacists provide a variety of services to ensure patients receive their medications and are educated about the proper way to take them. They also assist patients with selection of appropriate non-prescription therapies and administer vaccinations.

Community pharmacy settings offer pharmacists an opportunity for continuous interaction with a variety of patients and the ability to assist with a range of health related needs. Many community pharmacists provide more advanced services such as health screenings and comprehensive medication reviews, ensuring patients are receiving optimal, most cost effective therapies, and communicating with prescribers when alternate treatments are warranted.

Pharmacists in community setting can also become specialized in several areas. Compounding pharmacists create customized sterile and non-sterile medication formulations and dosages which are not commonly or readily available on the market. Others specialize in services related to specialty pharmacy where they focus on patients with complex disease states and medication regimens.

These pharmacists not only ensure that patients are able to receive the necessary medications in an affordable manner, but also provide extensive patient education to ensure proper administration and monitoring of the medication therapies. They also work with patients to improve adherence to the prescribed regimens and with prescribers to identify regimens best suited for patients’ individual needs. Still others elect to become involved in business operations, either through business ownership or by becoming part of the management teams within corporations. These positions allow pharmacists to be involved in recruitment and training, purchasing, acquisitions, and legal affairs.

Upcoming Options for Pharmacy Careers to Meet Growing Need

Hospital pharmacists can also be involved in a variety of activities. They participate in the medication distribution process, making sure all medications get to the appropriate patients, review medication orders ensuring that medications are properly prescribed and will offer the optimal benefits for the patient, and prepare intravenous preparations. Pharmacists in hospital or health system settings also have opportunities for management positions with involvement in planning and development of programs, recruitment and training, budgeting, and personnel administration.

Additionally, hospital pharmacists provide clinical services by rounding with medical teams and providing recommendations related to medication therapies. They also monitor patients’ outcomes and help patients understand their disease states and medication regiments. Multiple opportunities exist for specialization with pharmacists offering expertise in particular therapeutic areas or for specific patient populations and their unique needs. In addition to patient education, pharmacists also educate various healthcare workers on a variety of medication related topics and help to implement programs improving medication utilization. Pharmacists are also involved in preventing, identifying, and managing medication errors which account for an estimated 700,000 emergency department visits and 100,000 hospitalizations annually. In some states, pharmacists can also prescribe.

Another area of specialty is ambulatory care. Ambulatory care pharmacists focus on helping patients manage their ongoing/chronic illnesses in an outpatient environment to prevent occurrences that may require hospitalization. For patients being discharged from the hospital, ambulatory care pharmacists provide follow up and monitoring, and work with the patients to prevent hospital readmission. Some services provided by ambulatory care pharmacists include comprehensive medication reviews to ensure patients are receiving optimal cost effective therapies, communicating with prescribers to assure continuity of care, patient education, and conducting health screenings and wellness promotion programs. Pharmacists in this setting develop close ongoing relationships with their patients as they work together to achieve the patients’ therapeutic goals.

Pharmaceutical industry careers offer a broad range of opportunities to impact individual and population health. Pharmacists within the industry can be involved in several areas such as research and development, sales and marketing, medical communications, drug regulatory affairs, medication safety, and others. They are able to combine their extensive knowledge of medications with their abilities to effectively communicate information to a variety of audiences.

Opportunities exist to work not only with patients and healthcare providers, but also with federal agencies and global markets. Collectively, these pharmacists ensure that the medications available are safe and effective and meet the standards of agencies such as the FDA, and that the information available about the medications is accurate and comprehensive.

Managed care pharmacists assist health plans and pharmacy benefits management companies in providing their patients with appropriate medications and medication therapies conveniently and cost-effectively. They utilize evidence-based clinical and research data to ensure desired patient outcomes while reducing misuse of medication. They also conduct medication reviews, develop patient education and outreach programs, and help to ensure patients’ adherence to medication therapies. Additionally, pharmacists in managed care settings are involved in various administrative roles pertaining to business management and cost management.

The continuously growing general and aging population requiring medical care, medical developments and advances, and increased medication spending demand pharmacist expertise in the diverse pharmacy fields. There are no limits to the impact pharmacists can have on medication use and patient health in any practice setting.

Jane Shtaynberg obtained her PharmD degree from Long Island University Pharmacy. She worked for several years in hospital pharmacy and various community pharmacy settings. She is currently the Director of Experiential Education and Adjunct Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice at LIU Pharmacy where she has been for more than six years.


  • Total Number of Retail Prescription Drugs Filled at Pharmacies. Kaiser Family Foundation website Updated 2016. Accessed June 16, 2016
  • Medication Errors. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website Updated March 2015. Accessed June 16, 2016
  • Therapeutic Drug Use. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website Updated April 27, 2016. Accessed June 16, 2016
  • Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2015. Bureau of Labor Statistics website Updated March 30, 2016. Accessed June 16, 2016
  • American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy website. Updated July 6, 2015. Accessed June 16, 2016.
  • Roles of Pharmacists in Managed Care Organizations. Updated May 2015. Accessed June 16, 2016.
  • American Pharmacists Association website. Accessed June 16, 2016.

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