BlogCareersWhat Does a Pharmacist Do?

What Does a Pharmacist Do?

Are you excited to find a job with a tight-knit team? Perhaps a career as a pharmacist?

Well, we’ve got all the information on what it takes to become one, what the role entails, and the future of this career.

Keep reading to learn all you need to know! 

Meet Dr Cherie
What is a Pharmacist?
Steps to Becoming a Pharmacist
Future Outlook
Best Thing & Worst Thing
Advice for Aspiring Pharmacists

Meet Dr Cherie

What is your current role?

Dr Cherie Lucas is currently a Senior Lecturer and Manager of Clinical Pharmacy Placements at the University of Technology Sydney.

She is also a registered pharmacist, pharmacist immuniser and works as an academic pharmacist. She previously worked as a specialist clinical hospital pharmacist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. 

Studies and Experience 

Dr Cherie first studied a Bachelor of Pharmacy at the University of Sydney. She has also completed a PhD in Curriculum Instruction and Design, Pharmacy Education and Practice as well as a Graduate Certificate in Educational Studies.

Importantly, not all Pharmacists follow a lineal study plan. “I completed my Bachelor degree in 1989 and I didn’t start my PhD until 2013, completing this in 2016!” Dr Cherie told us.

“You don’t need a PhD to study pharmacy but my love for the profession and pharmacy education prompted me to pursue a PhD in pharmacy after almost 25 years as a practicing pharmacist.”

During Dr Cherie’s final year of undergraduate study, she spent the first 9 months in community pharmacy and the final three months interning at St Vincent’s hospital, before receiving an immediate job at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where she “decided to go down the track of specialising in HIV-AIDS.”

Dr Cherie’s Experiences in the Field

At the time when Dr Cherie began this specialisation in the early 1990s, the AIDS situation in Australia was rife and pharmaceuticals related to the treatment were novel. 

As Dr Cherie spoke about her diverse career, she noted that many pharmacists gain experience across different fields. She believes new pharmacists should understand that they can work across various job types!

“Prior to my academic pharmacy career, I was a Pharmacist-in-Charge at various community pharmacies, a specialist clinical hospital pharmacist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and worked in other facets of pharmacy such as the pharmaceutical industry,” Dr Cherie said.  

Her most important advice to studying Pharmacy? “Pharmacy is a small world…If you’ve made a commitment, it’s really important you follow through.

What made you want to work in this industry? 

“I started work in a pharmacy at age 14. I just loved talking to people and loved learning about how medicines work, their interactions and how they are administered,” Dr Cherie said. 

What is a Pharmacist?

Pharmacists at a basic level are qualified to dispense prescription medications to patients, offer expertise on the quality use of  medicines (both over the counter medicines, and prescription), if accredited they can administer immunisations; and of course it is a given that they provide counselling on medicines and medical conditions. 

However, many Pharmacists also take an active research or teaching role, discovering how different medicinal treatments affect disease and lifestyle issues. They also work alongside doctors and other healthcare professionals to find the best treatment options for different medical conditions and optimal use of medicines based on evidence based practice! 

Roles and Responsibilities 

Dr Cherie explained that a typical day for a Pharmacist can look very different depending on their scope of practice or the needs of patients. She told us about her experience in hospital work. 

I had a ward role and specialised in a particular therapeutic area, but these specialist roles are rare and only occur in major teaching hospitals,” Dr Cherie explained.

“The regular pharmacist in a hospital will work with inpatients and outpatients directly… [they will] review medication charts, for example for interactions, allergies, correct dosing regimens and schedules, correct routes of administration… There’s a lot of interaction with other health staff on the floor.” 

Hospital Pharmacists must build great rapport with other staff to make effective informed clinical decisions about treatment options. They often advise doctors and nurses on what the best medicinal treatments for patients are, and collaborate with the multidisciplinary team on long-term health plans. 

Which industries can this career be found in? 

As Dr Cherie explained, Pharmacists can go into a broad range of work. The main areas of work are: 

    • Community (retail sector-chemists that you may walk into and purchase from)
    • Hospital 
    • Clinical Research Associate, Medical Information Associate, Regulatory Affairs Associate in the Pharmaceutical Industry 
    • Research at a university 
    • Academic teaching (higher education pharmacy students) 
    • Scientific Advisor positions for government or large corporations 
    • Sales and Marketing (product managers or sale representative for pharmaceutical products) 

What jobs do people sometimes confuse this with? 

Though Pharmacists are highly qualified, they have a different purpose to medical doctors.

Both Medical Doctors and Pharmacists care for the patient holistically and as the Pharmacist is the most accessible, they are also considered the ‘medication experts’. They spend a great amount of time during their degree understanding the pharmacology: how medicines work in relation to a medical condition, with careful consideration of a patient’s medical history, pathology and other factors.

Pharmacists are often consulted by medical doctors regarding medicines and especially in a hospital setting, play a role with collaborating with medical doctors regarding treatment options. 

Characteristics and Qualities 

Pharmacy - Characteristics

Such a skilled profession can’t be mastered simply from having the right personality — it’ll take a lot of determination and work to become a pharmacist. However, the right qualities will give you a great advantage! 

According to Job Outlook, the top qualities for Pharmacists are: 

    • Customer and personal service 
    • Chemistry
    • Reading comprehension 
    • Critical thinking 
    • Active listening 

Pharmacists must be good with people to establish relationships with patients and colleagues! This is particularly important if you are working in an industry that requires good bedside manner. 

You’ll need to be a great active listener, able to take what you’re told into account and make complex decisions with new information. Pharmacists also need good reading comprehension, so they can understand complex scenarios quickly. 

Finally, a bit of background chemistry knowledge will never go astray! As you’ll be working with many different compounds in your degree, it’s great to understand their makeup and how they work together. 

Steps to Becoming a Pharmacist

What should you study? 

To work as a pharmacist, you’ll need to obtain an undergraduate degree at the very minimum.

There’s roughly 25 universities in Australia that offer a Bachelor of Pharmacy or equivalent. These include the University of Technology Sydney, University of Newcastle, University of Canberra, University of Sydney and University of South Australia! A full list of study locations can be found here.

Learn more about the Bachelor of Pharmacy at USYD here!

Another pathway is through a Masters of Pharmacy degree, which takes into account a previous Bachelor’s degree with pre-requisite subjects. Masters degrees are by course work and are usually 2 years following a Bachelor’s degree.

How long does it take to become a Pharmacist? 

Undergraduate Pharmacy degrees in Australia are generally four years in length and postgraduate degrees are two years long. 

Becoming a Qualified Pharmacist

According to My Health Career, there are two main ways to become a Pharmacist in Australia. 

Option One

  1. Complete Year 12
  2. Four year undergraduate degree: In this case, you will need to study a specific Pharmacy degree, like the ones listed above.
  3. Complete a 48-week internship: Professional internships last roughly a year. Using this path, you’ll be a qualified Pharmacist in five years.

Option Two 

  1. Complete Year 12
  2. Three year undergraduate degree: If you’re not sure of exactly what you want to do, you may complete a more general degree like a Bachelor of Health Science.
  3. Two year postgraduate degree: If you decide you want to be a Pharmacist, you’ll need to complete a Master of Pharmacy or equivalent.
  4. Complete a 48-week internship: Following this option, you’ll be a qualified Pharmacist in six years.

Becoming a Registered Pharmacist 

Once you are qualified, most Pharmacists will also need to register with the national Pharmacy Board, supported by APHRA. 

Dr Cherie explained that “if you get into industry straight away, you don’t actually have to be a registered Pharmacist, but it’s good to have it as a back up.” 

Here’s how you do it:

While you’re an intern, you’ll be under a Provisional Registration. You must transition to a General Registration once you are fully qualified. You will need to have:

    • Completed 1823 hours of approved supervised practice
    • Completed both a written and oral examination 
    • Waited two weeks for your registration to be processed

So, in summary, it’ll take you about six years to become a Pharmacist. It may be a little less if you take the undergraduate study option. 

Industry Knowledge 

Dr Cherie explained that whilst Pharmacists do use specific software, this varies a lot depending on degree and workplace and can generally be learnt on the job. 

What will this career look like in the future?

How in demand is this career? 

Interestingly with Pharmacists being on the frontline during COVID-19, the demand for pharmacy as a career has soared.

Are there opportunities to grow or specialise? 

“I had the opportunity to attain a specialist clinical pharmacist position in HIV/AIDS area when I was working as a hospital pharmacist at Royal Prince Alfred. There are a few of these specialist pharmacists’ positions available in each teaching hospital. There is a set of criteria to meet before you attain such a position,” Dr Cherie said. 

In hospital and research settings, many skilled Pharmacists do specialise in specific areas, including cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes and arthritis. However, these positions are competitive. 

In terms of community pharmacy, clearly a Pharmacist-In-Charge is a top line role, along with the Pharmacist Owner position,” Dr Cherie explained. 

Salary

Annual SalaryFuture GrowthSkill Level Rating
$96,000+Moderate over the next 5 yearsVery high skill

The Future of this Industry

Dr Cherie believes there are two major areas of change in Pharmacy.

COVID-19 has highlighted that pharmacists play an important role in the community as the most accessible healthcare provider,” she said. 

“The scope of practice is continually evolving and involving more professional pharmacy services. This includes INR, cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure monitoring services and of course immunisation services. Pharmacists will now be involved with the administration of the COVID-19 vaccinations.”

She added that, “I think when I started I thought there were only community pharmacy or hospital pharmacy options for a pharmacy career... but there are so many different areas of pharmacists that are completely untouched. There’s a lot of avenues you can tap into.” 

Best Thing & Worst Thing

What do you enjoy most about this job? 

I enjoy interaction with people and other healthcare professionals. I also like helping someone through their medical issues and meet their health goals,” Dr Cherie said. 

Is there a challenging part?

Dr Cherie noted, “You’re on your feet most of the time, especially in the community setting.

Depending on the area work you find yourself in, you could also be on your feet all the time. But if pharmacy is something you’re truly passionate about, this shouldn’t stop you from pursuing it!

Advice for Aspiring Pharmacists 

What do you wish you had known before you started working in this career?

Pharmacist - Interviewee Quote

Why should people consider taking on this career?

Dr Cherie gave three main reasons to consider Pharmacy. They are: 

    • Pharmacy is flexible with lifestyle 
    • You can work in many different areas 
    • A great deal of time is spent interacting with people and their families

Job Flexibility 

Dr Cherie explained that Pharmacy is quite flexible around people’s lifestyles. 

I have had three children while being in this industry,” she said. 

“Flexibility is good though especially in community pharmacy where you could negotiate your hours, work part-time, full-time, casually or as a locum for a desired time.”

What is the workplace culture like? 

Dr Cherie said, “[It is] a fast-paced workplace and… usually a close knit team. Cultural fit is very important in a community pharmacy setting, especially as we spend a great number of hours in the same room together.” 


Lucinda Garbutt-Young hopes to one day be writing for a big-shot newspaper… or maybe just for a friendly magazine in the arts sector. Right now, she is enjoying studying a Bachelor of Public Communication (Public Relations and Journalism) at UTS while she writes on the side. She also loves making coffees for people in her job as a barista, and loves nothing more than a sun shower.

 

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