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Pharmacists | What Do They Do?

Pharmacists typically do the following:

  • Fill prescriptions, verifying instructions from physicians on the proper amounts of medication to give to patients
  • Check whether the prescription will interact negatively with other drugs that a patient is taking or conditions the patient has
  • Instruct patients on how and when to take a prescribed medicine
  • Advise patients on potential side effects they may experience from taking the medicine
  • Advise patients about general health topics, such as diet, exercise, and managing stress, and on other issues, such as what equipment or supplies would be best for a health problem
  • Complete insurance forms and work with insurance companies to be sure that patients get the medicines they need
  • Oversee the work of pharmacy technicians and pharmacists in training (interns)
  • Keep records and do other administrative tasks
  • Teach other healthcare practitioners about proper medication therapies for patients

Some pharmacists who own their store or manage a chain pharmacy spend more time on business activities, such as inventory management. Pharmacists also take continuing education throughout their career to keep up with the latest advances in pharmacological science.



Pharmacists who work in universities or for pharmaceutical manufacturers are involved in researching and testing new medications.

With most drugs, pharmacists use standard dosages from pharmaceutical companies. However, some pharmacists create customized medications by mixing ingredients themselves, a process known as compounding.

Although most pharmacists work in retail stores, some work in specialized fields. The following are examples of types of pharmacists who work in settings outside of retail:

Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals and other healthcare settings. They spend little time dispensing prescriptions. Instead, they are involved in direct patient care. For example, they may go on rounds with a doctor and recommend medications to give to patients. They also counsel patients on how and when to take medications and monitor patientsí health.

Consultant pharmacists advise healthcare facilities or insurance providers on how to make pharmacy services more efficient. They also may give advice directly to patients, such as helping seniors manage their prescriptions.

Some pharmacists work full time or part time as college professors.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition


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