Pharmacy is the practice of dispensing medicinal drugs per a physician's orders. Some drugs are dispensed as supplied from a pharmaceutical company; others require mixing and special formulation, especially of medications for patients who can not swallow pills. The workplace can be in a retail pharmacy or in a hospital setting, to name the most common locations. The job is changing, as many pharmacists now are involved with primary patient care, including administration of injectable drugs and patient counseling for correct drug use. Many pharmacists now also alert patients and physicians of dangerous drug-drug interactions for patients using more than one prescription medication.

There are a couple of degree options in pharmacy. The Pharm.D. is the degree most individuals pursue in order to dispense medications. However, one may wish to obtain a Ph.D. in Pharmaceutical Sciences; this degree allows one to be more involved in the research aspect of pharmaceutical development, and not directly with administration of drugs.

The Work: Pharmacists usually dispense medications as prescribed by a physician. For those working in a retail or community setting, a great deal of attention is paid to customer relations and business concerns. For the hospital pharmacist, more complex pharmaceutical management issues of clinical care require more attention. As the proportion of elderly in the population increases, pharmacists will be even more in demand as more medications are prescribed. New pharmaceuticals under development will require more careful assessment of their use, and more pharmacists will be involved in counseling patients as to drug coverage by various insurance and Medicare programs. Other career options exist in an academic setting, in government agencies, medical and scientific publishing, pharmaceutical development, or public health service.

The Work Setting: Most pharmacists work in large retail businesses as a department within the store. A few pharmacists are self-employed, running their own businesses, or working in a small group. Working hours vary, but often encompass 10-hour work days for 4 days a week. Hospital pharmacists have more limited patient access, but work more closely with physicians in tailoring medication regimes for specific patients. Night and weekend work is very common.

Entry Into Field: A license to practice pharmacy is required in all 50 states ("Board Certification") following completion of a doctoral program in pharmacy (obtaining a Pharm.D.).

Education: There are more than 100 pharmacy schools in the United States, with 4 in Virginia. Admission requirements vary by school; be certain to check what is required by each school in which you are interested. The Preparation for Pharmacy School page is a good place to start.

The first two years of most programs are generally aimed at classroom learning of basic science as it relates to pharmacy. Subsequent years of most programs then focus regulatory issues and more specialized training.

Compensation: Retail Pharmacy Team Manager (PIC) Pharmacist Yearly salary is $101,500; Retail Staff Pharmacist Yearly Salary is $98,000; Staff Pharmacist (Non-Retail) Salary is $97,000; Clinical Pharmacist Salary is $95,900.

Job Outlook: Government economists predict that jobs for pharmacists will grow more rapidly than the average for all careers through 2014. Currently there exists a shortage of pharmacists in the US, and this shortage is expected to increase over the next decade.

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Pharmacy Schools in the Region: