Retail Pharmacist Job Description

Retail pharmacists dispense medications in retail outlets, such as supermarkets or drug stores. While they perform many of the same tasks as their counterparts at hospitals, retail pharmacists spend much more time interacting with patients. Most retail pharmacists work full-time. Shifts vary around when the store itself is open, which may mean being on duty at night or on the weekends.

As baby boomers continue to age, they will likely need more medications. This situation may influence job prospects for retail pharmacists in the years ahead. However, the popularity of mail order and online pharmacy sales may cause the job market for retail pharmacists to decline.


Retail Pharmacist Duties and Responsibilities

In their effort to help people get the right medication in order to feel better, retail pharmacists perform a variety of tasks. Our analysis of job postings reveals the following to be some of the most common:

Preparing and Dispensing Medications

When prescriptions are brought in by patrons or called in by doctors, retail pharmacists confirm that they can supply the correct medication in the asked-for amount. They find the requested medication among the pharmacy’s stock, count out pills or measure liquids into proper containers, package items, print out instructions and warnings, and either give the completed prescription directly to a waiting person or file it for later customer pick up.

Customer Service

As healthcare professionals, retail pharmacists aim to help people feel better. They answer questions patients have about medications, explain how and when prescriptions should be taken, examine which other drugs people are taking and how they might interact, note possible side effects, and recommend over-the-counter solutions when people come in based on the symptoms they present. Some retail pharmacists may encourage customers to take preventative actions such as getting their blood pressure checked or receiving a flu shot and may assist in those procedures.

Handling Insurance

Medications can be very expensive. Retail pharmacists work with patients and their insurance companies to determine coverage or figure out substitutions.

Monitoring Inventory

Retail pharmacists may be called upon to keep track of the store’s stock of medications and other healthcare supplies. They may place orders for additional items and restock shelves.

Following Guidelines

Because they deal with powerful medications, retail pharmacists must know and practice proper procedures as outlined by their employer and by state/federal regulations. This may involve locking up certain medicines, storing items in the correct containers and temperatures, checking IDs, and disposing of out-of-date drugs in the stated way.


Retail Pharmacist Skills

All pharmacists need to pay particularly close attention to detail. Mistakes in medications or dosages could be harmful, as could not spotting potential drug interactions. Other good qualities for retail pharmacists to possess include:

  • Exhibiting exceptional interpersonal skills to serve the needs of the diverse people who come to the pharmacy counter
  • Communicating clearly to ensure patrons know details about their medications and how to take them
  • Listening actively to address customer concerns
  • Respecting the privacy of patients and keeping information confidential
  • Handling numbers, fractions, and calculations with ease


Retail Pharmacist Tools of the trade

In carrying out their duties, retail pharmacists employ objects such as:

  • Prescription medications – drugs and other medical items that require approval from a doctor before being given to a patient
  • Controlled substances – drugs regulated by the government because of their potential for abuse or harmful side effects
  • OTC medications – medicines that patrons can buy over the counter without approval from a medical practitioner
  • Prescriptions – written out or digitally submitted requests by physicians that state the exact medication and dosage a pharmacist should dispense to a patient
  • Vials, bottles, and containers – storage units for individual prescriptions
  • Tablet-counting machine – device with a vibrating plate that drops pills until the requested amount is complete
  • Counting tray and spatula – a surface on which pills are poured and then moved via spatula to a chute for transfer into a container
  • Computers – to monitor inventory, correspond with insurance companies, create labels, enter patient data, and keep records
  • Autoclave – device that sterilizes pharmacy equipment and tools using high-pressure steam


Retail Pharmacist Education and Training

Retail pharmacists earn a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. Some students enter this professional program already having obtained a bachelor’s degree, oftentimes in a field such as biology or chemistry. Others apply after at least two years of undergraduate study and passing the Pharmacy College Admissions Test. In addition to classroom instruction, students complete internships to gain hands-on experience in real environments. Graduates of Pharm.D. programs then need to fulfill their state’s licensing requirements before being hired. Retail pharmacists should plan on taking additional courses throughout their careers to keep up with industry advances.


Retail Pharmacist Salary

The median annual salary for retail pharmacists, categorized by the BLS under “pharmacists,” is $122,230. Retail pharmacists in the 10th percentile earn about $87,100 a year, and the highest paid make in excess of $157,900 a year. Retail pharmacists in California, Alaska, and Vermont make the highest median salaries in the U.S. – $142,780, $142,730, and $133,720, respectively.


Retail Pharmacist Resources

As you explore the various career options available to people interested in pharmaceutical sciences, the following books and organizations can help:

Pharmacy: An Introduction to the Profession – The third edition of this book provides aspiring retail pharmacists with insights into the career. It also covers critical topics such as government regulation, career pathways, membership organizations, communication skills, and ethics.

Letters from Rising Pharmacy Stars: Advice on Creating and Advancing Your Career in a Changing Profession – Published by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, this book features down-to-earth information on the variety of career choices available in the pharmacy industry.

American Pharmacists Association – This LinkedIn group of more than 55,000 members is a great place to turn to for questions you may have about becoming a retail pharmacist.

National Association of Chain Drug Stores – The mission of this group is to “advance the interests and objectives of the chain community pharmacy industry by fostering its growth and promoting its role as a provider of healthcare services and consumer products.” Its website provides up-to-date industry news and other issues of interest to retail pharmacists.


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