California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Pharmacists in California

May also be called: Clinical Pharmacists; Pharmacy Consultants; Doctors of Pharmacy; Hospital Pharmacists; Prescriptionists; Registered Pharmacists; Staff Pharmacists; and Pharmacists in Charge.

What Would I Do?

Pharmacists dispense drugs prescribed by physicians, dentists, and other health practitioners. They monitor the health and progress of patients in response to drug therapy to ensure the safe and effective use of medications. They provide advice on drug selection, dosage, interactions, and side effects. Pharmacists also supply and advise patients on the uses of nonprescription medicines. Some Pharmacists specialize in specific drug therapy areas, such as intravenous nutrition support, oncology (cancer), nuclear pharmacy (used for chemotherapy), geriatric pharmacy, and drugs to treat mental disorders.

Pharmacists must understand the composition and effect of drugs. They maintain confidential, computerized records of patients’ drug therapies and use them to ensure that harmful drug interactions do not occur. They are responsible for the accuracy of every prescription that is filled but they often rely on pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides to assist them in the dispensing process. Thus, the Pharmacist may delegate prescription-filling and administrative tasks and supervise their completion. They also may teach in schools of nursing and allied health professions.

Making a pharmaceutical agent by compounding ingredients to form powders, tablets, capsules, ointments, and solutions is now only a small part of a Pharmacist's practice. Most medicines are produced by pharmaceutical manufacturers in a standard dosage and drug delivery form. However, there are still Pharmacists who prepare medications and use tools such as tablet or liquid counters, pestle or mortars, and laminar flow cabinets or stations. They also use a variety of computer software and databases for accounting, label making, and scientific analysis.

In addition to dispensing medications, Pharmacists employed in community and retail pharmacies counsel patients and answer questions about prescription and over-the-counter medicines. They may give advice about the patient’s diet, exercise, stress management, or medical equipment and home health care supplies. They also may provide specialized services to help patients manage conditions such as diabetes, asthma, smoking cessation, or high blood pressure. Some Pharmacists oversee the operation of the pharmacy. They may buy and sell medical supplies and nonpharmaceutical merchandise, hire and supervise personnel, and complete third-party insurance forms and other paperwork. They may also be trained to administer vaccinations.

Pharmacists in hospitals and clinics dispense inpatient and outpatient prescriptions, make sterile solutions for injection, and advise the medical staff on the selection and effects of drugs. They also assess, plan, and monitor drug programs or regimens, and evaluate drug-use patterns and outcomes. Those who work in home health care monitor drug therapy and prepare infusions—solutions that are injected into patients—and other medications for use in the home. Pharmacists also work as consultants to medical teams in matters related to daily patient care in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Review prescriptions to assure accuracy, to ascertain the needed ingredients, and to evaluate their suitability.Chemistry
Analyze prescribing trends to monitor patient compliance and to prevent excessive usage or harmful interactions.Medicine and Dentistry
Order and purchase pharmaceutical supplies, medical supplies, and drugs, maintaining stock and storing and handling it properly.Coordination
Maintain records, such as pharmacy files, patient profiles, charge system files, inventories, control records for radioactive nuclei, and registries of poisons, narcotics, and controlled drugs.Reading Comprehension
Provide specialized services to help patients manage conditions such as diabetes, asthma, smoking cessation, or high blood pressure.Customer and Personal Service
Advise customers on the selection of medication brands, medical equipment and health-care supplies.Oral Expression
Collaborate with other health care professionals to plan, monitor, review, and evaluate the quality and effectiveness of drugs and drug regimens, providing advice on drug applications and characteristics.Critical Thinking
Provide information and advice regarding drug interactions, side effects, dosage and proper medication storage.Instructing
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Pharmacists typically work in retail drugstores or health care facilities, such as a hospitals, nursing homes, mental health institutions, or neighborhood health clinics. Their work area often resembles a small laboratory that is clean, organized, well-lit, and well-ventilated. Pharmacists spend most of their work day on their feet. Their work can be mentally demanding, partly because of the thousands of drugs that are in the medical arsenal and also because of the need to keep current on the new drugs introduced every year. Their work requires precision and extreme care in the handling and storing of drugs and chemicals. When working with sterile or dangerous pharmaceutical products, Pharmacists wear gloves and masks and work with other special protective equipment.

Pharmacists generally work a full-time, 40-hour week. Part-time and on-call/per diem shifts are also available. In addition, they may work evenings, weekends, nights, and holidays, particularly in facilities open for 24 hours, seven days a week. Pharmacists may travel to nursing homes or other facilities to monitor patients’ drug therapy. Pharmacists who are self-employed may work over 40 hours per week.

Some Pharmacists belong to unions representing hospital or grocery store workers. They can also join the Health Care Workers division of the Service Employees International Union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Pharmacist will appeal to those who enjoy searching for facts and solving problems as well as working with data, details, and ideas. This occupation satisfies those with investigative interests. Investigative occupations involve working with ideas and require an extensive amount of thinking.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2016 for Pharmacists in California is $143,267 annually, or $68.88 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2016Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California$127,370$143,267$158,261
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2016 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefit packages generally include medical, dental, life, and vision insurance; vacation; sick leave; and retirement plans. Some employers offer sign-on bonuses. Self-employed Pharmacists must provide their own benefits and retirement.

What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits?  Of the 505 employers in California, most provide medical insurance and vacation and dental insurance, and many provide retirement plan and sick leave and vision insurance benefits to Pharmacists who work full-time.

Percent of Employers Who Provide
Specific Benefits by Time Base
Benefit TypeFull-TimePart-Time
Medical Insurance79%18%
Vacation76%21%
Dental Insurance60%16%
Retirement Plan55%18%
Sick Leave53%16%
Vision Insurance44%13%
Life Insurance40%13%
Disability Insurance26%9%
Paid Time Off Bank18%8%
No benefits8%34%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

Of the 402 employers surveyed who responded in California, who provides medical benefits, almost all reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Pharmacists.

Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
Portion Paid by Employer:Full-TimePart-Time
All35%15%
Half or more47%59%
Less than Half17%21%
None1%5%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

What is the Job Outlook?

Good job opportunities are expected for Pharmacists because of the increased pharmaceutical needs of a growing, older population. With advances in science, the need for Pharmacists grows as more medications become available to treat a greater number of conditions. New medical technologies and developments in administering medication also increase their demand. In addition, job openings for Pharmacists will result from the expansion of retail pharmacies and other employment settings and from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or retire.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Pharmacists is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Pharmacists are expected to increase by 7.6 percent, or 2,200 jobs between 2014 and 2024.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Pharmacists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Estimated
Employment
Projected
Employment
Numeric
Change
Percent
Change
Additional Openings
Due to Net
Replacements
California
(2014-2024)
29,10031,3002,2007.66,800
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

Annual Job Openings

In California, an average of 220 new job openings per year is expected for Pharmacists, plus an additional 680 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 900 job openings.

Estimated Average Annual Job Openings
Pharmacists
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-
Projected Year)
Jobs From GrowthJobs Due to
Net Replacements
Total Annual
Job Openings
California
(2014-2024)
220680900
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Data for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

In order to practice pharmacy in California, it is necessary that individuals meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Have a bachelor's degree (B.S.) or a doctorate degree (PharmD) in pharmacy from an accredited college of pharmacy program approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)
  • Have completed 1,500 hours of pharmacy practice experience
  • Have successfully passed the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the California Pharmacist Jurisprudence Examination (CPJE)

To enter a college of pharmacy program, applicants must have completed at least two years of pre-requisite coursework, some programs require a bachelor’s degree. Pharmacy programs are typically four years long. After the requirements are met, Pharmacists may apply for a license. To obtain a Pharmacist license, applicants must submit an application for licensure and pay the appropriate fees and pass a fingerprint criminal background check.

Experience

Pharmacy schools are typically looking for students who are able to handle a rigorous course load and who have been able to keep their grade point average (GPA) above a 3.2. Some schools look at a cumulative GPA (all college coursework) and a pre-pharmacy GPA (only pre-pharmacy coursework). All pharmacy schools will be looking to see if applicants have experience in community service and usually select students who also possess strong leadership and communication skills.

Early Career Planning

A pre-pharmacy curriculum usually emphasizes mathematics and basic sciences, such as chemistry, biology, and physics, but also includes courses in humanities and social sciences. Students are also encouraged to volunteer, intern, or take a summer job in a pharmacy or health care setting. Gaining exposure to the pharmacy profession can help a student become a competitive applicant and help them to identify what skills, values, and interests they enjoy about the profession.

Continuing Education

To renew a Pharmacist license in California, one must complete 30 hours of continuing pharmacy education every two years. All new licensees are exempt from taking continuing education for their first renewal cycle.

Licensing and Certification

Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.

Pharmacists may hold a certificate such as the Certified Geriatric Pharmacist. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Pharmacy, Pharmacy Administration, Pharmacy Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Pre-pharmacy Studies, and Herbalist.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Pharmacists are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Health and Personal Care Stores 37.6%
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 27.0%
Offices of Physicians 8.3%
Outpatient Care Centers 2.6%
Federal Government 1.9%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

What Employers Say...

The Employment Development Department surveyed 505 employers in California which employ 2,266 Pharmacists. Here's what they had to say:

About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and most employ part-time Pharmacists.

About Work Experience:  Of the 505 employers surveyed in California, most require new hires to have prior work experience as Pharmacists. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.

How Much Work Experience
Do Employers Require?
More than 5 years 8%
25 to 60 months 13%
13 to 24 months 28%
1 to 12 months 51%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Recruitment:  Of the 505 employers surveyed in California, most indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while some indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Pharmacists.

About Hiring:  Of the 505 employers surveyed in California, most expect the number of Pharmacists they employ to remain stable during the coming year.

Hiring Expectations
Expect Employment to Increase 15%
Expect Employment to Remain Stable 77%
Expect Employment to Decline 8%
Source: EDD/LMID Local Occupational Information Survey.

About Vacancies:  Of the 505 employers surveyed in California, 40 percent hired Pharmacists during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 78 percent filled existing vacancies, 22 percent filled newly created positions, and 20 percent filled temporary assignments.

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Hospitals and retail pharmacies advertise openings in newspaper classified ads, Internet job listings, and some also recruit through private employment agencies. Job seekers should apply directly to hospital personnel departments throughout California. Applicants, who apply for Veterans Administration Hospital positions as well as other government job openings, must first pass a Federal or State civil service examination. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Pharmacists.

  • Drug Stores
  • Government Offices
  • Grocery Stores
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmaceutical Products-Wholesale & Manufacturers
  • Pharmacy

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

Some Pharmacists become owners or partial owners of pharmacies. They also may advance to managerial positions, and later to higher executive positions within their company. Hospital Pharmacists may advance to director of pharmacy service or other administrative positions. Pharmacists in manufacturing often have opportunities for advancement in management, sales, research, quality control, advertising, production, packaging, and other areas.

Pharmaceutical training can qualify individuals for a variety of nontraditional pharmacy careers. Some Pharmacists are hired as sales or medical service representatives by drug manufacturers and wholesalers. Some teach in colleges of pharmacy. Others supervise the manufacture of pharmaceuticals or are involved in research and development. Some combine pharmaceutical and legal training in jobs as patent lawyers or consultants on pharmaceutical and drug laws.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Pharmacists with links to more information.

OccupationOccupational
Guide
Industry
Report
Occupational
Profile
AnesthesiologistsGuide
Medical and Clinical Laboratory TechnologistsGuide
Nuclear Medicine TechnologistsGuide
Pharmacy TechniciansGuide
Physician AssistantsGuide
PodiatristsProfile
Respiratory TherapistsGuide

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification29-1051
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Pharmacists29-1051.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)ICS