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At a Glance

  • Often work in drug stores, hospitals, and grocery stores
  • Work with patients and medical staff
  • Often wear gloves, masks, or other safety gear
  • May work evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays
  • Training usually lasts six years after high school
  • Have a license

Career summary

Pharmacists dispense drugs and provide information about their use.

#No alternate titles CJ

Pharmacists dispense medications that are prescribed by doctors and other health care workers. They check patient records to make sure there will not be a negative interaction with another medication the patient is taking.

Pharmacists review the accuracy of each prescription before it is given to the customer. When customers pick up medications, pharmacists give them instructions for taking the medicine. They advise them about what side effects they might experience.

Pharmacists also provide information to people about medications that are sold without a prescription. Before suggesting a drug, pharmacists ask customers about their symptoms and current medicines they are taking. They may also give advice about medical supplies that are sold in their pharmacy.

Some pharmacists compound drugs for customers. This means they mix ingredients to form powders or solutions.

Pharmacists also perform administrative tasks, such as:

Some pharmacists work in specialized fields, such as:

Clinical pharmacists

Clinical pharmacists work in hospitals and clinics. They advise medical staff on the selection and effects of drugs. They also plan and monitor drug schedules for patients. Pharmacists may evaluate the success of drug therapies for hospital patients. In addition, they counsel patients on how to use drugs while in the hospital and after they go home.

Consultant pharmacists

Consultant pharmacists help health care facilities and insurance providers make pharmacy services more efficient. They also may give advice directly to patients, such as helping seniors manage their prescriptions.

Related careers

This career is part of the Health Science cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Military careers

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to pharmacists.

Common work activities

Pharmacists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, pharmacists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Pharmacists frequently:

It is important for pharmacists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for pharmacists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Pharmacists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Use math and science

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Perceive and visualize

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a pharmacist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Pharmacy programs take four years to complete and grant a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. These programs teach students to fill prescriptions, advise patients, and confer with physicians and other health workers.

You need at least two years of college-level classes before entering a college of pharmacy. Most students enter pharmacy programs after completing three years of college.

Many college programs qualify you for pharmacy school. Regardless of major, you should take courses in math, chemistry, and biology. You also study physics, humanities, and social sciences. You do not have to complete a formal pre-pharmacy program.

On-the-job training

While in pharmacy school you will get some real work experience by working as an "extern" in different settings. For example, you may work in a community pharmacy or hospital.

After finishing a pharmacy program, you must complete an internship. During the internship you work under the guidance of a licensed pharmacist.

Military training

The military does not provide the initial training to become a pharmacist. However, it can provide work experience for those who have a pharmacy degree.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements. Pharmacists need a strong background in math and science. If possible, take math through Trigonometry and science through Physics.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Employers require that pharmacists be licensed in the state where they work. Employers also look for pharmacists who have good people and communication skills. This is because communication with patients is a very important part of the job.

Employers prefer applicants with certification in as many pharmaceutical care service areas as possible.


Prospective students should know which pre-pharmacy classes are needed for the pharmacy program in which they would like to enroll. A visit to the school can provide this information as well as other specific admission requirements. Competition among pharmacy school applicants is high and those who have good grades and a background in science will fare best. Talk with pharmacists and read professional journals to learn more about the field. Volunteer in a pharmacy or health-related setting (nursing home, hospital), or work as a pharmacy clerk to learn what the job is like.

Costs to workers

Some pharmacists may be required to join a union and pay an initiation fee and quarterly dues. Other costs include comfortable shoes and a uniform, usually a lab coat. Some join professional associations. It is expensive to establish a private practice.


Pharmacists must be licensed by the Washington State Board of Pharmacy. Licensing requirements are:

Applicants must pay for the state examination and license. Fees vary depending on the type of license being sought. The fee for the full-board examination is $825, plus $200 for the original licensing fee. The annual renewal fee for a pharmacist license is $265. All licensed pharmacists must also complete a one-time suicide prevention and awareness training.

For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Health
Board of Pharmacy
Health Professions Quality Assurance
Customer Service Center (external link)

PO Box 47877
Olympia, WA 98504

#Updated app & renewal fees, no change to exam fees 3/2/12 lh. Updated to general state CSC POB; no change to fees, 4/16/13 cj. update exam fees from faq: http://www.nabp.net/programs/examination/naplex/faqs#3 (external link) 3/20/14 lh. Fee & contact info ok 3/17/15 cj. Updated exam fees; now $575 for NAPLEX and $250 for MPJE; rest of info ok, 12/14/16 cj. Looks okay 3/5/18 NPLEX website will be changing 3/20/18 lh. Added personal data questions & suicide awareness training & updated state licensing fees, 4/5/19 cj.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Pharmacists (SOC 29-1051)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $49.86 $54.95 $62.62 $71.70 $77.58
Monthly $8,641 $9,523 $10,852 $12,426 $13,445
Yearly $103,710 $114,300 $130,250 $149,130 $161,380
    Bellingham Hourly $53.43 $58.46 $66.11 $73.83 $78.49
Monthly $9,259 $10,131 $11,457 $12,795 $13,602
Yearly $111,134 $121,600 $137,510 $153,574 $163,276
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $50.95 $53.74 $58.41 $63.48 $74.30
Monthly $8,830 $9,313 $10,122 $11,001 $12,876
Yearly $105,979 $111,788 $121,483 $132,021 $154,551
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $53.00 $55.62 $60.01 $64.47 $73.93
Monthly $9,185 $9,639 $10,400 $11,173 $12,812
Yearly $110,228 $115,695 $124,807 $134,102 $153,759
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $44.34 $53.24 $62.28 $72.03 $78.34
Monthly $7,684 $9,226 $10,793 $12,483 $13,576
Yearly $92,229 $110,737 $129,527 $149,829 $162,949
    Longview Hourly $52.24 $59.32 $68.10 $75.16 $79.40
Monthly $9,053 $10,280 $11,802 $13,025 $13,760
Yearly $108,678 $123,371 $141,639 $156,331 $165,146
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $53.62 $57.90 $65.37 $73.70 $78.69
Monthly $9,292 $10,034 $11,329 $12,772 $13,637
Yearly $111,529 $120,434 $135,973 $153,296 $163,674
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $51.34 $54.42 $61.20 $72.95 $89.09
Monthly $8,897 $9,431 $10,606 $12,642 $15,439
Yearly $106,781 $113,198 $127,282 $151,727 $185,327
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $51.98 $56.63 $64.35 $73.12 $78.76
Monthly $9,008 $9,814 $11,152 $12,672 $13,649
Yearly $108,121 $117,788 $133,854 $152,100 $163,805
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $30.19 $52.40 $60.38 $69.61 $79.01
Monthly $5,232 $9,081 $10,464 $12,063 $13,692
Yearly $62,792 $108,981 $125,595 $144,795 $164,342
    Vancouver Hourly $48.41 $58.29 $68.10 $75.79 $80.45
Monthly $8,389 $10,102 $11,802 $13,134 $13,942
Yearly $100,688 $121,246 $141,629 $157,634 $167,333
    Walla Walla Hourly $48.72 $55.68 $65.08 $73.67 $78.80
Monthly $8,443 $9,649 $11,278 $12,767 $13,656
Yearly $101,353 $115,826 $135,383 $153,227 $163,891
    Wenatchee Hourly $52.75 $56.69 $63.26 $72.19 $78.02
Monthly $9,142 $9,824 $10,963 $12,511 $13,521
Yearly $109,720 $117,910 $131,585 $150,154 $162,265
    Yakima Hourly $24.75 $56.18 $66.94 $75.33 $80.46
Monthly $4,289 $9,736 $11,601 $13,055 $13,944
Yearly $51,493 $116,865 $139,233 $156,695 $167,340
United States Hourly $42.21 $53.53 $60.64 $70.13 $77.53
Monthly $7,315 $9,277 $10,509 $12,154 $13,436
Yearly $87,790 $111,340 $126,120 $145,870 $161,250

Wages vary by employer. For example, pharmacists who work in chain drug stores tend to earn somewhat more than those who work in independent drug stores. Wages also vary by area of the country.

Most pharmacists who work full time receive benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave, and health insurance. Many pharmacists also receive bonuses, overtime, and profit-sharing. Those who work part time may not receive benefits.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

In Washington, the outlook depends on the increased health care needs of a growing and aging population, the supply of pharmacy graduates, the expansion of health care and health insurance programs, and continued demand for pharmaceutical services.

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Pharmacists (SOC 29-1051)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 5,948 11.7% 16.1% 406
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 200 13.0% 13.4% 14
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 201 7.0% 8.6% 11
    Benton and Franklin Counties 212 6.6% 15.0% 12
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 204 11.3% 11.9% 13
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 505 12.5% 15.2% 35
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 374 11.2% 14.1% 24
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 280 10.0% 14.6% 18
    King County 1,945 13.0% 19.6% 138
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 232 9.5% 13.8% 15
    Pierce County 714 14.3% 15.2% 53
    Snohomish County 448 7.1% 12.4% 25
    Spokane County 627 14.8% 13.9% 47
United States 314,300 -0.1% 5.2% 14,100

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation is expected to show little to no change. As the population ages, more people will need medications. New medications are always being developed and more will become available. Also new federal health care laws mean that more people will be covered by health insurance and be able to seek medical treatment.

However, competition for jobs will be strong as new pharmacy schools open. This means that there will be more qualified applicants than jobs available. Job prospects will be best for people who complete a residency or who are board certified.

Other resources

American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (external link)
1400 Crystal Dr, Suite 300
Arlington, VA 22202
American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (external link)
2107 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 700
Arlington, VA 22201
American Pharmacists Association (external link)
2215 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20037
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (external link)
Explore Health Careers: Pharmacist (external link)
Is Pharmacy for You? (external link)
(American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy)
National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (external link)
1600 Feehanville Drive
Mount Prospect, IL 60056
National Community Pharmacists Association (external link)
100 Daingerfield Road
Alexandria, VA 22314
Nuclear Medicine Physicists (external link)
The Student Doctor Network (external link)
Washington State Pharmacy Association (external link)
411 Williams Avenue South
Renton, WA 98057


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Strong Interest Inventory

Holland occupational cluster