The role of pharmacists in the medical field is changing and evolving to meet the demands of the profession and the greater society. While working in local or chain pharmacies is a great option for many, a Doctor of Pharmacy degree potentially can also lead you to careers you’re less familiar with. After earning a pharmacy degree, here are a few paths you might pursue.
1. Nuclear pharmacy
Nuclear pharmacists compound, measure and deliver the radioactive materials used in diagnostic imaging (MRI, CT, etc.) and other procedures. Preparing radioactive materials is often done off-site. The materials are then transported to hospitals and medical offices. Nuclear pharmacists typically start work very early, sometimes before dawn, due to the nature of the radioactive materials and how they must be handled. If not dispensed and used within the proper time frame, radioactive materials will become ineffective. Instead of working with patients, nuclear pharmacists interact primarily with healthcare technologists and physicians.
2. Hospitals and clinics
Working in collaboration with physicians and other healthcare professionals, a clinical pharmacist visits with and supports patients in a hospital or clinic. They assist in determining effective medications and doses for each patient, advise patients on proper medication use, and monitor patient responses to drugs. Within the healthcare setting, they may also prepare, compound and dispense medications. In addition, they can facilitate clinics to provide services such as anticoagulation and disease state management. Clinical pharmacists are more involved in drug therapy initiation and management than many other types of pharmacists.
Government agencies at the local, state and federal level employ pharmacists in organizations such as the Food & Drug Administration, National Institute of Health, Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Veterans Administration and even NASA. Pharmacists are also integral to the military. Within these organizations, a pharmacist may conduct many tasks, including dispensing medications, counseling on medication usage and side effects, managing medication storage and procurement, conducting research, developing drug policies and reviewing new drug applications.
4. Long-term care and consulting
Long-term care facilities are places where the elderly or individuals unable to care for themselves receive ongoing care from others. These facilities include nursing homes, mental institutions, correctional institutions, rehabilitation centers and adult daycare centers. Often working as consultants, pharmacists review the medications of long-term care patients and provide recommendations and information to their care providers. Some pharmacists may provide some patient counseling or therapeutic drug monitoring, but often pharmacists in long-term facilities do not interact directly with patients.
5. Home health care
Pharmacists who work in home health care serve patients in their home, preparing intravenous medications for people who require such products as antibiotics, parenteral nutrition, pain management and chemotherapy. These pharmacists may monitor the patient’s reactions and progress and adjust treatment as necessary. In their work, they may collaborate with home health nurses, hospice organizations and social services team members.
Working in higher education could be a rewarding opportunity that allows you to help mentor future pharmacists and put your communication skills to use. Pharmacy faculty teach undergraduate and graduate students using a mix of lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical demonstrations, fieldwork and online learning. They may also serve as preceptors for students completing rotations. In academia, instructors may be responsible for conducting research on their own or as part of a team, with the goal of publishing books and scholarly articles.
7. Pharmaceutical sales and marketing
Pharmaceutical sales representatives are the middle men and women between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals. Their job is to increase awareness and use of their employer's products. Marketing professionals work to achieve the same goal through larger-scale communication efforts. Meanwhile, sales representatives may meet one-on-one with doctors, pharmacists and nurses (among others) to share important drug information and learn their needs for prescription drugs and treatments. In either role, Doctor of Pharmacy program graduates have valuable technical knowledge and proficiency that can help them succeed.
8. Research and development
Pharmaceutical research scientists and associates plan and conduct experiments, working on everything from drug isolation and synthesis to packaging and quality control of a finished product. They can help to improve existing drugs or treatments as well as develop new ones, studying things like side effects and cross-drug interactions. Their work includes conducting clinical trials to test drug effectiveness, risks and safety. Researchers may work in higher education institutions, research institutes, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and contract research organizations. They collaborate often with other scientists and share results regularly.
Planning Your Pharmacy Career
As you can see, the pharmacy world has a wealth of potential career opportunities. Even beyond these eight areas, pharmacists may be involved in pharmaceutical benefit management, regulatory affairs, poison control, medical writing, managed care and more. No matter what your pharmaceutical interests, get started on pursuing your goals with South University’s School of Pharmacy today.