What Is A Pharmacist? (With Responsibilities And Skills)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 2 March 2023

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.

Pharmacy is a profession that involves preparing and dispensing medical drugs. Pharmacists are health care professionals who guide people with their medications. They conduct research on new medicines and drugs in improving patient care. In this article, we discuss what a pharmacist is, learn about their responsibilities, understand the required qualifications to become a pharmacist and find out the skills required to excel in this career.

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What Is A Pharmacist?

Finding the answer to 'What is a pharmacist?' can help you decide if it is the right career path for you. Pharmacists are medication experts who help patients understand their medications, including how to take them, potential reactions and answering their queries. These professionals have in-depth knowledge of the compositions of medicines, including their physical and chemical properties. They also take part in clinical trials and research processes to find out how these medications can affect the human body.

Pharmacists work in different settings, such as retail pharmacy stores, hospitals or health care centres. They may also use their qualifications to develop new drugs for the pharmaceutical industry or pursue research and teach in pharmacy programmes in higher education institutions.

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Responsibilities Of A Pharmacist

The responsibilities of a pharmacist include:

Review prescriptions

Pharmacists review prescriptions before dispensing medications to patients. This ensures patients get the right drugs for their health condition and there are minimal or no adverse consequences. They may also suggest alternative medications that can prove beneficial to the patient.

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Communicate with prescribers

Pharmacists are better equipped to educate patients when they have a clear understanding of medications. These professionals communicate with doctors to discuss alternative medicines or changes in dosage. This helps to ensure that the prescribed drugs do not cause adverse reactions.

Ensure health and safety

These professionals make sure they are prescribing the correct medications by reviewing each patient's medication history. They also ensure that the prescriptions are up-to-date by making sure the patient has visited a doctor recently. This is essential to the health and safety of patients.

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Counsel patients

There can be side effects from medications or negative interactions between two different drugs. Not only do pharmacists advise about potentially harmful reactions between drugs and food or alcohol, but they also advise patients on when and how to take their medications. They may also recommend taking nonprescription drugs, including vitamins, exercising or consulting a dietician to maintain a healthy diet. They can also suggest changes in the dosage of medication upon consultation with a physician.

Perform administrative tasks

Pharmacists also perform a wide range of administrative tasks, such as maintaining patient records and stocking medications. This also includes organising patient health reports, conducting health and wellness screenings and providing customer service. They ensure quality, security and proper disposal of pharmaceuticals by mixing, packaging and labelling procedures in compliance with health care policies and regulations.

Qualifications Required To Be A Pharmacist

The qualifications to become a pharmacist include:

Bachelor's degree

Pharmacy is a scientific profession and requires pharmacists to undergo years of training and education before entering the field. It is essential for aspiring pharmacists to complete four years of bachelor's training. Students who want to enrol in a Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) programme can take courses in physics, chemistry, biology and advanced mathematics.

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Doctor of Pharmacy

A Doctor of Pharmacy (or PharmD) is a professional doctorate degree. Although like other PhD programmes, the PharmD. is also a four-year course, it differs from usual four-year doctorate programmes in how it prepares professionals for a career entirely devoted to working for the pharmaceutical industry. They can either prescribe medications at a retail store or join the industry and help to develop new drugs for the market.

A PharmD programme can be especially useful if you are planning to join a rapidly growing field producing innovative technologies such as stem cell therapies. They may also work towards the development of innovative medical devices. Pharma experts can also join a community of policy experts to provide cost-effective patient care or become community care specialists and work in the medical field.

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Skills To Become A Pharmacist

Here are some of the important skills essential to becoming a pharmacist:


Attention to detail is an important skill to become a pharmacist. It is crucial that pharmacists follow prescriptions carefully. They require to be attentive to the dosage for every drug along with how and when to consume each medication.

Analytical thinking

Pharmacists require strong analytical skills to understand the patient's health requirements and prescribe medication accordingly. They may also help customers take their medications safely by following up with them or creating a drug chart for better assistance. They analyse customer needs and advise them against taking medications that can affect their health.

Communication skills

Having good communication skills is another major requisite for excelling as a pharmacist since this job requires performing activities such as conducting medicine reviews, interacting with patients and physicians and collaborating with colleagues. Having good communication skill ensures that you can educate and counsel patients properly. It also helps to build a good rapport with patients and families and work effectively with other health care professionals.

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Computer literacy

A pharmacist's job entails retrieving prescription information, insurance information and patient records. These tasks require a basic understanding of computer software. While a pharmacist does not need to handle complicated computer systems, they require to know how to record sales and input data into the pharmacy's computer systems.

Career Options For Pharmacists

Pharmacists can choose from an array of career options:

Retail pharmacies

Pharmacists often work in retail stores. Apart from prescribing prescription and non-prescription drugs, pharmacists in retail stores are responsible for keeping accounts, supervising sales assistants and keeping track of supplies. They also provide guidance on health issues, symptoms and medications for customers upon inquiry.

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Hospital pharmacies

Hospitals need pharmacists and pharmacy assistants to assist doctors in the preparation of medications for patients. Pharmacists in hospitals also play a crucial role in medicine management, determining which drugs best suit the patient while also monitoring the effects of these drugs. Since they work closely with physicians and nurses, hospitals expect them to stay current with medical research developments and electronic databases. They regularly monitor supplies to prevent shortages and maintain the inventory.

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Research and development

These professionals can find lucrative careers in medical research and development. To get into research, they might first require completing a bachelor's degree in pharmacy. As pharmacy students, they can devote their careers to creating new drugs and researching their adverse effects. This may also collaborate with experts in other fields, such as statistics, social science and psychology.

Medication distribution center

Pharmacists who manage a distribution center process large quantities of orders for companies, hospitals or health care facilities. They also conduct inventory checks and place orders with their distribution partners. Working at a medication distribution centre requires the right selection and on-time delivery of drug products.


A pharmacist working with the government is responsible for maintaining the health and safety of citizens by ensuring that medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies pass the quality check. They might provide certain necessary certifications to ensure drugs prescribe to a certain standard. Developing new medicinal drugs for the public is a vital task for pharmacists working in government facilities.

Military facilities

Pharmacists working for the military provide medication and drug treatments to enlisted members of the military. Planning to work as a pharmacist for the military requires undergoing basic military training first before working as a health care expert.

During wartime or conflict situations, military pharmacists may travel with army personnel for active service. They might also provide health care services once a physician has treated the wounded and sick. A military pharmacist's work environment depends on their base location.

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