A pharmacist is an important medical worker who aids physicians, dentists and veterinarians by dispensing appropriate medications to patients. Some pharmacists may also specialize in pharmaceutical research, or in marketing and sales of particular medications for a company. Many in this field work in drug, department or retail store settings, and many more work in hospital settings. They are specialists in their knowledge of medications, and must always be furthering their education in this area since new medications are developed all the time.
The student of pharmacology first studies math, biology and chemistry, and takes at least a bachelor in sciences degree in order to work as a pharmacist. Furthermore, in the US, you cannot legally work as a pharmacist unless you get a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.) degree from a school that is accredited or approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and pass two licensure exams. You can find out if a pharmacy program you’re considering is accredited merely by asking, and if in doubt, you can contact the council to verify credentials.
In retail settings, the pharmacist compounds drugs, orders supplies when necessary, may advise physicians on drug interactions, and dispenses medications to people with prescriptions. A pharmacist cannot give medications to those without prescriptions unless the medications are legally sold over the counter. Pharmacists are also excellent resources if you’re taking over the counter medications and need advice on whether these meds will conflict with prescription meds. They’re further responsible for making sure patients understand how to properly use prescription drugs. Many pharmacists maintain records on patients, when patients use the same pharmacy for all their prescriptions, to be certain that no medications the patient currently takes conflicts with newly prescribed drugs.
In hospital settings, pharmacists principally work in the same manner, preparing medications, labeling them to be sent to appropriate patients, advising doctors on the best medications that do not conflict with others, and ordering supplies as necessary. Some hospital pharmacists also dispense medicines directly to patients, since many hospitals have retail pharmacies on site.
A pharmacist in the research setting may be responsible for developing new drugs, testing drugs, administering pharmaceuticals for specific tests, or studying developed drugs for safety and possible interactions. Some work with investigatory agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to perform safety tests on medications that are waiting for safety approval. Others pharmacists work for pharmaceutical companies or run independent laboratories.