The traditional image of a pharmacist is of someone in a white jacket working behind a counter in a drugstore. This is not representative of all pharmacists today; about 60% of pharmacists work in community pharmacies but in 2011 (the latest year with complete data) pharmacists held a total of about 272,000 jobs ranging from the local hospital to the federal government. Over the past 40 years, pharmacists have shifted the primary function of their practice away from the mere distribution of medications. They have begun to take a more proactive approach, emphasizing pharmaceutical care, system management and public health policy. Pharmaceutical care is the achievement of positive outcomes from the use of medications that improve patients' quality of life. Pharmacists have also increased their role in the "wellness" movement, especially through counseling about preventive medicine. According to one estimate, pharmacists get more than two billion inquiries per year from their patrons. An increased number of pharmacists now practice in hospitals, nursing homes, extended care facilities, neighborhood health centers, and health maintenance organizations. Another area in which pharmacists practice is the pharmaceutical industry, which produces prescription and nonprescription drugs and other health products. Pharmacists do such things as marketing, research and product development, quality control, sales and administration. Pharmacists use their backgrounds in a host of federal and state positions. At the federal level, pharmacists hold staff and supervisory posts in the United States Public Health Service, the Veterans Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and in all branches of the armed services. There is a nationwide shortage of pharmacists, due to such factors as population growth, the aging of the population, an increasing demand for pharmacy services, changes in insurance policies and federal regulations, and emphasis on home health care. Changes in prescribing habits of physicians and availability of more potent and complicated medicines have created a need for more clinically oriented pharmacists. A shortfall of about 157,000 pharmacists is anticipated by 2020 according to the Pharmacy Manpower Project; there are currently about 6000 open retail pharmacist positions in the United States.
Pharmacists are well respected in their communities, as reflected in the fact that they often top the list of “most trusted” professionals in the country. According to the 2005 CNN/USA Today Gallup Poll, 67% of Americans surveyed rated pharmacists either “high” or “very high” concerning the profession’s honesty and ethical standards. The mean national average earnings of pharmacists (including overtime and bonuses) in 2011 was $ 112,160; entry level annual pay is about $ 70,000 in urban areas, with relocation and sign-on bonuses as high as $ 20,000. Experienced pharmacists earn over $ 100,000 per year at hospitals and chain stores; starting salaries at hospitals might be $ 60,000 while chains offer about $ 80,000 or more to start. It is possible to support a family on a part-time pharmacist’s salary. With over 3 billion prescriptions dispensed each year at retailers in the United States, the future is extremely bright for pharmacists.
There are 127 accredited colleges and schools of pharmacy in the United States. Overall application to enrollment rate is 7.7 to 1. The schools range in size from one with a full‑time enrollment of 121 students to the largest with 1,612 students. Total full‑time enrollment was 57,000 in fall 2011; 60% of enrollees are women; 1985 was the first year that more pharmacy degrees were awarded to women than to men; this trend has continued since then and today 46% of all licensed pharmacists are female. Enrollment of ethnic and racial minorities in pharmacy schools has also been increasing in recent years, and now stands at 14 %. Average student loan debt upon completion of pharmacy school is about $ 60,000. Information about careers and colleges of pharmacy is available from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, on the web at http://www.aacp.org.
Admission requirements for colleges of pharmacy range from two to four years of pre‑pharmacy courses, depending on the particular school; these courses are available at Oglethorpe University; the pre-pharmacy advisor, Dr. Dan Schadler, firstname.lastname@example.org, is prepared to assist you. An additional four years of study at the pharmacy school is required for completion of the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm. D.) degree that is the standard professional degree for entry into the field. The Pharm.D. program provides the student with greater clinical assessment skills than earlier B.S. in Pharmacy degrees.