What Does a Pharmacist Do? (With Salary, Skills and Requirements)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 3 October 2022 | Published 27 September 2021

Updated 3 October 2022

Published 27 September 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're interested in a career in health care, you may consider becoming a pharmacist. Pharmacists have an important role in helping patients treat their medical concerns and stay healthy. Learning about what a pharmacist does can help you decide if this career path can help you reach your professional goals. In this article, we explain what a pharmacist does, their salary, whether they make drugs, the difficulty of the profession, pharmacist requirements and work environment, how to become a pharmacist and an example of a pharmacist job description.

What does a pharmacist do on a daily basis?

A pharmacist is a clinical professional with expertise in various medications, including what they treat, their interactions and how to prescribe them properly. Some duties pharmacists typically have include:

  • Working with physicians to discuss potential incompatibilities

  • Managing and maintaining an accurate inventory of a pharmacy's medications

  • Providing information to help patients better understand what their prescribed medications do and how to take them properly

  • Assisting patients in solving pharmaceutical challenges such as identifying medication with damaged labels

  • Recommending over-the-counter medical solutions to minor health issues

Related: 11 Jobs for a Pharmacist

Do pharmacists make a lot of money?

The national average salary for pharmacists is $42.89 per hour. The actual amount of money pharmacists make per year depends on factors such as education level, experience and their employer. Entry-level pharmacists may make less than the average salary, but experienced pharmacists may make more. According to the Australian Government's Job Outlook initiative, the pharmacist jobs have experienced very strong growth over the past five years, and the agency expects jobs to continue to increase over the next five years.

Related: Interview Questions: "What Are Your Salary Expectations?"

Do pharmacists make drugs?

Pharmacists do not make or manufacture drugs, but they may mix different drugs or alter their ingredients to create a product that suits the health care needs of a specific patient. This process, known as compounding, occurs on a personalised basis after assessing the patient's medical concerns, allergies and health needs. Compounding pharmacists mix drugs that have a safe, beneficial effect on the patient, so they have extensive knowledge of drugs and their contraindications, or circumstances under which a drug could be harmful. Pharmacists who work at non-compounding pharmacies only dispense regular, pre-mixed medications as opposed to a compounded medication.

Is being a pharmacist hard?

Being a pharmacist involves a rigorous educational and training path that some may find difficult, but many find the salary and job satisfaction worth the effort to get a job in the field. Becoming a pharmacist requires a university degree and internship, and working as a pharmacist requires the regular use of advanced skills such as chemistry and mathematics. Pharmacists typically manage teams of pharmacy technicians and other pharmacy employees, so they also have important leadership roles.

Pharmacist job requirements

Specific job requirements for becoming a pharmacist depend on the employer, but candidates can follow a general path to gain the knowledge and skills to work in the position. Here are some requirements for becoming a pharmacist:

Education

Being a pharmacist requires the candidate to receive tertiary education in the fields of science, technology and mathematics. Most pharmacists pursue a four-year bachelor's degree to find an entry-level position in the field. Some choose to further their education after gaining and experience and earn a master's degree to further their skills and advance their knowledge of the field.

Training

After receiving a degree, pharmacists pursue a training program to help them practice their practical skills. These programs usually last at least one year. Pharmacists may also complete on-the-job training specific to the needs of their organisation when they get a job.

Skills

Some of the most important skills include:

  • Clinical pharmaceutical knowledge: Pharmacists must maintain a vast and comprehensive understanding of their field. A pharmacist must possess in-depth knowledge of current clinical theories and the purposes of particular medications.

  • Accuracy: Pharmacists accurately dispense the proper medications to a patient, depending on their needs. They provide the patient with an accurate and comprehensive description of the appropriate method of use and any potential medication interactions or risks.

  • Communication skills: A pharmacist must be able to communicate a medication's proper uses and risks accurately to a patient to ensure that a patient does not accidentally misuse their prescription, which may be potentially dangerous.

  • Problem-solving skills: Pharmacists analyse how various drugs and medical applications interact with the human body to help them determine which pharmaceutical solutions are best. Having effective problem-solving skills allows a pharmacist to provide the best possible solutions to a patient to account for their unique situation.

Related: 13 Transferable Job Skills That Employers Love

Pharmacist work environment

Pharmacists may work in hospitals, retail pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies. Those who work in retail pharmacies usually work standard pharmacy hours, which often range from early morning to late evening. Some pharmacies are open for business 24 hours per day, so pharmacists may work shifts during the day or night. Hospital pharmacists also work a range of hours, while those who work in pharmaceutical companies typically have standard working hours. Pharmacists who work on public holidays, weekends or during evening hours may make a higher wage during these times.

How to become a pharmacist

Here are the steps candidates can take to become a pharmacist:

1. Earn a degree

Candidates first earn a Bachelor of Pharmacy, which takes approximately four years to complete if they attend a full-time program. Some candidates also take prerequisites first to qualify for a bachelor's degree program. During their course of study, students learn about types of medications and how they work in the human body.

Candidates can also choose to pursue a Bachelor of Pharmacy and Management. This program takes five years to complete when the candidate attends full time. This program includes standard pharmacist education plus leadership and business curricula. The Master of Pharmacy takes an additional two years, and candidates usually choose to earn this optional degree after gaining experience as a pharmacist.

2. Complete an internship

Students who complete a bachelor's degree can get a provisional registration with the Pharmacy Board of Australia. This program takes about one year to complete and includes an accredited training program called the Intern Training Program (ITP). ITP enables interns to practise important practical skills for a pharmacist, such as:

  • Preparing medications

  • Dispensing medications to patients

  • Reviewing prescriptions for accuracy

  • Providing patients with drug information

  • Abiding by laws and industry standards

Upon completion of the program, interns receive an ITP certification, which allows candidates to take the board examination.

3. Pass the pharmacy board examination

Candidates who receive an ITP certification qualify to take the pharmacy board examination through the Pharmacy Board of Australia. The exam includes a written section and an oral section, which test the candidate's knowledge of essential pharmacist skills. After passing the examination, candidates can apply for registration with the Pharmacy Board of Australia.

4. Find a job in the field

Once a candidate registers with the Pharmacy Board of Australia, they can begin practising legally as a pharmacist. If you recently became registered, you can start your career by seeking entry-level jobs in the field. After gaining experience, you may have more career options and the ability to earn a higher salary.

Please note that none of the companies or certifications mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Read more: How To Become a Pharmacist: Definitions, Steps and FAQs

Pharmacist job description example

Central University Hospital in Sydney is looking for a new pharmacist to join our establishment. The ideal candidate has vast and comprehensive knowledge of pharmaceutical laws and practices. You should be comfortable working with physicians' records to determine the best and most compatible medical treatments for patients. Our pharmacists also provide general medical advice to our pharmacy's customers, such as over-the-counter medical recommendations.

Our pharmacy is open seven days a week from 8 a.m.-6 p.m., and the proposed schedule includes five shifts of eight hours each week. We require a bachelor's degree in pharmacy and completion of a pharmaceutical internship and training program. All applicants must have a licence to practise pharmacy in Australia.

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Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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