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Close your eyes and picture a pharmacist. Are you seeing a person in a white coat handling prescriptions at CVS or Walgreens? That’s what most people see when they picture a pharmacist, but it’s a rather limited perspective.

Once they’ve earned the right degree, there’s a whole world of career options for pharmacists. Keep reading to learn more about the typical pharmacist work environment in both clinical and non-clinical pharmacy careers.

What degree does a pharmacist need?

Students often wonder just what kind of degree it takes to become a pharmacist. With a little bit of research, most students discover there are two kinds of pharmacy degrees: a doctor of pharmacy or Pharm.D., and a doctorate in pharmacy or Ph.D. It may not be immediately clear which degree is the better fit for your career goals, but there’s one major thing to consider when deciding on a pharmacy degree:

If you want to be a practicing pharmacist, whether you want to work in a clinical setting or not, you must have a Pharm.D. to become licensed.  

Generally speaking, the Pharm.D. prepares you to become a general pharmacy practitioner and is a qualification for the pharmacist licensure exam, while the Ph.D. prepares you for a career in academia or in research and development. 

If you’re unsure which degree is the best fit for you, you should consider what kind of pharmacy career you’d like to pursue. If you want to work as a pharmacist, whether in a government agency, pharmaceutical company, hospital, university or anywhere else, a Pharm.D. is the only degree that can get you there. 

If you choose to earn a Ph.D., you can pursue some similar career paths but won’t be a qualified pharmacy practitioner. The Ph.D. is the degree to pursue if you want to perform research in the field of pharmacy.

If you want to pursue both licensed pharmacy work and research, you don’t necessarily need to get both degrees, but it can be helpful.  The good news is that NEOMED also offers an opportunity for students to attain a Ph.D. and Pharm.D. concurrently — and in less time than if they were to complete the degrees in sequence.

Clinical Pharmacy Careers

There are several different clinical pharmacy career paths, from community (that’s your CVS pharmacist) to veterinary pharmacists, and everything in between. Here are some potential career paths you might consider on the clinical side:

Community Pharmacist

  • Work with members of your local community
  • Prepare and dispense medications, counsel patients, provide immunizations and help community members live healthier lives through health-centered programming

Compounding Pharmacist

  • Prepare customized prescription medications
  • Create customized medications for humans or animals in a laboratory by making different dosage forms, different dose options, and different flavors (if you like cooking/baking, this might be a great option for you!)

Hospital Pharmacist

  • Work as part of a high-functioning care team in hospital settings
  • Prepare and dispense medications, review patient charts, monitor medication therapy and develop pharmacy procedures to ensure patients receive the right medication and the right time

Veterinary Pharmacist

  • Work in hospitals, veterinary schools, zoos, aquariums and more
  • Compound, dispense and administer medications for sick and injured animals

Non-clinical pharmacy careers

If you don’t want to help patients directly, that doesn’t mean pharmacy can’t be a great fit for you. In fact, you can still be a successful pharmacist without ever working with a patient either directly or indirectly. Here are some non-clinical pharmacy careers you might consider:

Government Pharmacist

  • Work for federal agencies, like the FDA, the U.S. Public Health Service, Veterans Affairs or state and local authorities
  • Compound prescriptions, advise on drug therapy and usage, assist with research and development of new medicines and evaluate drug proposals from private industries

Pharmaceutical Companies

  • Could work as part of a team in marketing, medical or regulatory affairs or research and development
  • Ensure compliance with promotional rules, provide strategic direction for a product or educate physicians and other health care professionals on products, help create new products and conduct and analyze experiments

University Professor

  • Work as a professor and faculty member as part of a university department
  • Combines teaching, research and clinical practice

These are just some of the many career paths open to pharmacists. Pharmacy graduates are qualified to do so much more than work in drug stores. Whether you hope to work in the pharmaceutical industry, government agency or industry, a doctor of pharmacy degree can help you get there.

Get Your Pharmacy Degree at NEOMED

If you want a rewarding and lucrative career that will allow you to advance community health, a career in pharmacy can make your dreams a reality. At NEOMED, we’re graduating a new breed of pharmacists who are focused on patient care, community health and helping people live better, healthier lives. 

Our latest resource is designed to provide you with all you need to know about pharmacy degree programs, applying to pharmacy school and more, so you can take the next step toward your future as a pharmacist.

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About the author

Kelly Jeroski

Assistant Director of Admission