What Does a Pharmacist Do? Job Duties, Salary, and More

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

A pharmacist is a healthcare professional who prepares and dispenses medications to treat illnesses and improve patient quality of life. Learn how to become a pharmacist and what paths you can take once you’ve earned your pharmacy degree.

[Featured image] Two pharmacists in lab coats talk to each other while looking at a computer monitor.

Becoming a pharmacist can be a fulfilling and lucrative career. Many people think doctors and nurses are on the front lines of health care, but a pharmacist is just as important for helping patients treat illnesses and other health concerns. 

Pharmacists know the science of medicine well, so they can ensure that patients receive the correct dosages of life-saving prescriptions. They identify any dangerous interactions with other drugs and educate patients about the medication. Some pharmacists go a step further to offer tips for health and well-being. 

Read on to determine if a career as a pharmacist is right for you.

What is a pharmacist?

A pharmacist is a health care professional specialising in the usage and administration of medication. They dispense prescriptions to patients upon receiving a physician's orders. Pharmacists are experts on how drugs work and interact with the body so that patients who take them achieve the best possible results. 

Most pharmacists are community pharmacists who work in drug stores. Other pharmacists work in hospitals, drug-development companies, academics, or retail pharmacies. In addition to ensuring patients receive their medication, you may also answer questions and help educate patients and other health care professionals on how certain drugs interact or their side effects on the body or mind. 

What does a pharmacist do?

As a pharmacist, your main task will be filling prescriptions for patients. You’ll likely perform other tasks daily, including: 

  • Administering enemas, giving injections, and dressing wounds as needed.

  • Teaching customers how to take their medicine safely and effectively

  • Consulting with doctors, veterinarians, and other health care professionals about prescriptions for specific customers 

  • Preparing intravenous solutions, tinctures, and dosages of drugs and drug salts

  • Maintaining customer, supply, and cash records 

Types of pharmacists 

You might consider a few types of pharmacists as you earn your pharmaceutical degree. Take a look at the chart below: 

Type of pharmacistWorkplaceEssential duties
Community pharmacistDrug stores• Fill prescriptions • Provide vaccinations • Educate customers on medications and basic health matters
Clinical pharmacistHospitals and clinics• Can specialise in areas like critical care and oncology • Advice doctors on the best medications and therapeutics for patients
Oncology pharmacistHospitals and medical facilities• Compound and dispense chemotherapy drugs • Research treatments and review drugs the hospital uses for cancer patients

If you're looking for a career that allows you to help others by improving their health, then a career as a pharmacist may be right for you. Educating patients or customers and ensuring their prescriptions are safe to take with their other health conditions, and medications can improve their quality of life and possibly even save lives.  

How much do pharmacists make?

According to Indeed, the national average base salary for pharmacists in India is  ₹2,12,703 [1]. Some of the highest-paying cities include Noida, Uttar Pradesh; Bengaluru, Karnataka; and Gurgaon, Haryana. Your pay as a pharmacist will depend on your experience, role, and place of employment.

Benefits of being a pharmacist

In addition to a high salary, pharmacists can typically enjoy the following benefits:

  • Flexibility: You'll have options for choosing where and how you want to work. For example, if you enjoy working directly with people, becoming a retail or community pharmacist is an excellent choice. If you prefer to work more independently, you may become a clinical research pharmacist who mainly deals with other medical professionals rather than customers. Pharmacists can work for national drug store chains or open independent pharmacies. They may be completely autonomous or work with a large team. 

  • Leader in a community: Pharmacists are also leaders in their communities. When a person has a question about a medication and its side effects, they can come to their local drug store and ask the pharmacist face-to-face without an appointment.

Pharmacist skills 

As a pharmacist, you can directly impact people’s lives. Success in this career relies on a combination of skills that include: 

  • Attention to detail and accuracy  

  • Critical thinking

  • Verbal and written communication skills 

  • Compassion 

  • Integrity

  • Ability to mix drugs

  • Maths and counting skills

  • Ability to multitask 

  • Willingness to advocate for patients 

  • Time management 

How to become a pharmacist 

To work as a licensed pharmacist, you’ll need to earn a minimum of a Diploma of Pharmacy (D Pharma). Let’s take a closer look at the specific requirements.

Pharmacist degree requirements

A Diploma in Pharmacy typically takes two academic years to complete and requires 500 hours of practical experience over three months.

Tip: While in pharmacy school, consider working as a pharmacy technician to gain experience in the field. 


Pharmacist registration requirements

Once you've earned your pharmacy degree or diploma in pharmacy or pharmaceutical chemistry, you'll need to register to practice. Alternatively, you can work in a hospital or dispensary in the compounding of drugs for at least five years or pass an examination. Since a tribunal approves you, it’s a good idea to contact the Pharmacy Council of India for more precise information when you are ready to become a pharmacist.

Get started with Coursera.

Experience whether your interest in pharmacy might translate into a career by taking a course from a top-rated pharmacy school. Learn about patient perspectives on medication from the University of Copenhagen.

Article sources

  1. Indeed. "Pharmacist salary in India, https://in.indeed.com/career/pharmacist/salaries?from=whatwhere." Accessed April 4, 2024.

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