The best things about a career in pharmacy
Pharmacists can literally save a life by ensuring that the combination of medications a patient is taking will not cause harm or even death. Statistics promoted by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia include that there is a 70% reduction in medication errors when there is a pharmacist in a hospital emergency department.
2014 Australian Young Pharmacist of the Year Taren Gill sees many opportunities for the profession of pharmacy to move forwards in the future.
The profession of pharmacy is currently undergoing a transformation at a global level, and that the pharmacists of the future will be using their knowledge of medications in a different way to how it has been utilized in the past. Some people may be excited by this while others find this daunting!
Innovation – More and more programs are being introduced to recognize the important role of pharmacists in healthcare. One of these is the General Practice Pharmacist Fundamentals education program that aims to enhance the integration of pharmacists and community pharmacists within the primary healthcare setting. The Pharmacy Board of Australia and the Australian Pharmacy Council also recently made a joint announcement regarding a revised competency standards.
Recognition – It is possible to be recognized for a significant contribution to the profession and society. Three pharmacists received Queen’s Birthday Honours in July 2017. They were Graham Slade MPS, Kosmas Sclavos, and Harry Jones MPS.
Things you really need to consider before deciding to study pharmacy
My Health Career recommends that you speak to a number of people in pharmacy so that you understand that the future of pharmacy will most likely be very different to the past.
The Pharmacy Guild of Australia runs an annual National Student Business Plan Competition for students completing a pharmacy course at university. The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia also runs a leadership program for early career pharmacists who will drive strategy, change and innovation in the industry. These programs are evidence of a profession that is re-creating itself. Australian industry leader Cathie Reid has also asked the question “Is pharmacy facing its Kodak moment?”
Pharmacy is a profession which has had a turbulent time in Australia in the last few years. Reasons for this include:
- Issues around price disclosure, which relates to the profit margins community pharmacies make when they dispense a medication
- Pharmacies looking for ways of making money other than dispensing medications – there have been reports of the abuse of programs such as Medschecks
- Accusations from a national medical group that pharmacy is planning to “plunder primary care”
- Reports that a national pharmacy group is advocating for the removal of penalty rates for community pharmacists who work at nights, weekends and public holidays
- Allegations that pharmacy interns are being overworked and underpaid (this article raised many points of discussion around the considerations graduates need to make before choosing where they will do their internship)
- A lack of awareness of the general public about the difference between medications that are available for purchase in a supermarket compared with those available in a pharmacy
Support system – In a survey supported by Master Research Australia and the Pharmacists Support Service (PSS) to research the stress and wellbeing of pharmacists in Australia, researchers found that pharmacists have a higher level of stress compared to the general population. To aid in helping pharmacists all over Australia, the Pharmacists’ Support Service vows to continue working with a variety of organisations in the health industry.
What do pharmacists do and where do they work?
The skills required to become a pharmacist are summarized here. In this video Professor Lisa Nissen also covers the knowledge that pharmacists have:
Most people are aware of the area of community pharmacy – this is a “shopfront” pharmacy such as an Amcal, Priceline, Chemmart, Guardian, Terry White or Chemist Warehouse. Community pharmacists spend a lot of time assembling and labelling products, monitoring prescriptions, giving non-prescription medicines advice and doing prescription medicine counselling.
Pharmacists may also give advice to elite athletes about which medications are on the banned substance list.
In the future community pharmacists could play a more pivotal role in reducing the abuse and misuse of prescription medications, via real time reporting of addictive medicines being dispensed. Jack Hammond points out that pharmacists are like the “police” of the prescription industry:
After a process that has taken a number of years and included a trial in Queensland in 2014, in 2015 there was a national rollout of a course training pharmacists to administer vaccines. Some rural community pharmacies have been very successful in filling in the gaps in health care in their communities.
Some pharmacists have become successful businesspeople. For example, in 2014, Canberra pharmacist Samantha Kourtis won two major awards, 2014 Pharmacy of the Year and Telstra ACT Business Woman of the Year. Another winner, named in the National Telstra Business Women’s Awards in 2011 is Cathie Reid, who advocate for wearable technology in healthcare, and sees applications for technologies such Google Glass in pharmacy.
As with many areas where it has been proposed that health practitioners other than doctors prescribe medications, this has been an area of controversy in pharmacy. Another area where there has been some controversy is in the use of dispensing robots. Click here for the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia’s statement on the use of these robots.
Due to the fact that there are a limited number of community pharmacies in Australia, pharmacy graduates may need to look at different career paths, including:
1. Hospital pharmacy
Here the pharmacist’s role includes reducing medication errors and ensuring that medications are being used appropriately. Click here for the article “a hospital pharmacist hits the wards” by Matt, a Victorian pharmacist. Click here for the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia’s position statement on the role of the hospital pharmacist in an interdisciplinary team.
2. Industrial pharmacy
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society says that if you are interested in working on a medicine and not face to face with patients, this might be the right industry sector for you.
3. Primary care pharmacy (also known as being a practice pharmacist)
This often involves working out of a general practice but spending some time on the road doing Home Medicines Reviews which can be repeated for the same patient every 2 years. Practice pharmacists may never dispense a single medication. Click here for an account of the role of a primary care pharmacist. It has been said that the expansion of this model of pharmacy practice depends on the remuneration. Please note that pharmacists who want to work in a general practice may need to create their own position in the clinic, as currently these may not be formal jobs that are advertised. Research suggests that patients may be becoming more open to having a pharmacist as part of their care team in a general practice setting.
4. Academia / research
Although it is possible to go on to complete a PhD without doing honours, this is generally the exception, not the rule. In this article, PhD candidate Kenny Lee gives his view on what he learned during the first 2.5 years of his PhD.
5. Non-traditional areas
Examples of pharmacists working in non-traditional roles are listed in the second half of this article.
What do pharmacists love about their jobs?
In this article pharmacists Toni Riley and Kenny Lee as they share the very reasons why they love their careers.
Are pharmacy graduates getting jobs?
Pharmacist numbers – In 2003, it was predicted that there would be a shortage of pharmacists in Australia that would continue beyond 2010. In under 10 years there was an increase from 6 to 19 schools of pharmacy in Australia, and for a number of years overseas pharmacists were allowed to move to Australia to live and work. By September 2012, it was reported that there was no shortage of pharmacists in Australia, but evidence of a maldistribution with more in metropolitan areas.
Below is very important information about the pharmacy workforce in Australia:
- Pharmacy – are there jobs out there for pharmacists? (please read this article carefully for an overview about the pharmacy labour market in Australia)
- Australian pharmacy workforce in focus
In this video leading pharmacist Chris Freeman talks about how having more pharmacists plays a part in expanding the scope of practice in the profession:
Getting the right numbers – There has been difficulty in obtaining data about the percentage of newly registered pharmacists go into their first job as a pharmacist after completing their university course and pre-registration year. Please note that if you look at the figures contained in the GradStats document, each year the information relating to pharmacy is about university graduates going into their compulsory pre-registration year. For example, at the end of 2014, 94.1% of pharmacy graduates had a position for their 48-week internship the following year, at an average annual salary of $40,000 in that pre-registration year.
Where are the courses?
Click here for our article about pharmacy courses in Australia.
Please go to our pharmacy infographic page for more information on the pathways to becoming a pharmacist.
ATAR / OP for pharmacy
Click here for ATAR / OP information for pharmacy courses in Australia.
Click here for the latest news about pharmacy.
How much money do pharmacists earn?
In 2018 the statistics on myfuture state that full time employed pharmacists earn an average or $75,452 per year excluding superannuation.
According to 2015 GradStats data, pharmacists completing their intern / pre-registration year had a median income of $42,000.
Please read our scholarship listing thoroughly for this information.
Videos about a career in pharmacy
Click here to go to our videos about a career in pharmacy. Topics include “Which pharmacy students go on the have the best career?” and “I studied pharmacy but went on to become a yoga instructor.”
Career information from professional associations
Go to this page and click on the links from there.
Thumbs up image: digitalart – freedigitalphotos.net
Kodak image: www.freedigitalphotos.net
Photo of Cathie Reid courtesy of Cathie Reid, and photo of Chris Freeman courtesy of Chris Freeman.
This page was last updated in May 2018.