Pharmacists (NOC 3131)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Pharmacists include community and hospital pharmacists who compound and dispense medications, as well as industrial pharmacists who are involved in the research and development of medications.

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Community pharmacists and hospital pharmacists:

  • compound and dispense prescribed pharmaceuticals and provide consultative services to both clients and health care providers
  • work for retail and hospital pharmacies
  • may be self-employed

Industrial pharmacists:

  • participate in the research, development, promotion and manufacture of pharmaceutical products
  • work for pharmaceutical companies and government departments and agencies.
Common job titles
  • druggist, hospital
  • pharmacist, clinical
  • pharmacist, community
  • pharmacist, consultant
  • pharmacist, drug information
  • pharmacist, hospital / dispensary


Community pharmacists and hospital pharmacists:

  • Check prescriptions for proper dosage
  • Compound prescribed pharmaceutical products by calculating, measuring and mixing the quantities of drugs and other ingredients required and filling appropriate containers with correct quantity
  • Dispense prescribed pharmaceuticals to customers or to other health care professionals and advise them on indications, contra-indications, adverse effects, drug interactions and dosage
  • Maintain medication profiles of customers including registry of poisons and narcotic and controlled drugs
  • Ensure proper preparation, packaging, distribution and storage of vaccines, serums, biologicals and other drugs and pharmaceuticals
  • Order and maintain stock of pharmaceutical supplies
  • Advise customers on selection and use of non-prescription medication
  • May supervise and co-ordinate the activities of other pharmacists, pharmacy assistants, pharmacy technicians and other staff.

Industrial pharmacists:

  • Participate in research for the development of new drugs
  • Coordinate different types of clinical and non-clinical tests during the development of new drugs
  • Provide quality control services during the manufacturing of drug products, ensuring that they meet potency, purity, uniformity, stability and safety standards
  • Promote pharmaceutical products and the development of informational materials for other health care professionals, other pharmacists and the general public
  • Formulate new drug products developed by medical researchers
  • Test new drug products for stability and to determine absorption and elimination patterns
  • Control the quality of drug products during production to ensure that they meet standards of potency, purity, uniformity, stability and safety
  • Develop information materials concerning the uses, properties and risks of particular drugs
  • Evaluate labelling, packaging and advertising of drug products
  • Promote pharmaceutical products to health professionals
Duties for specific occupations in this group are described under Special Duties.

Special duties

Community pharmacists:

  • provide pharmaceutical care by filling prescriptions and solving drug-related problems for the general public
  • interact with patients and explain the use of prescribed drugs
  • Commonly work in retail pharmacies

Hospital pharmacists:

  • provide drugs for more advanced forms of medical treatment and work with more toxic medicines
  • work closely with other health care professionals in order to provide the best care possible
  • get involved in clinical research

Work environment

Most pharmacists work approximately 40–50 hours per week. However, they may be required to work longer hours if they are self-employed or if they work in locations that are under-staffed. Part-time employment is common among pharmacists nearing retirement.

Because of the current shortage of pharmacists, trained pharmacy technicians now prepare and dispense most medications, while pharmacists focus on disease assessment and management of patient care.

Technological advancements are leading to increased automation, further reducing the amount of time pharmacists spend preparing and dispensing medications.

Pharmacists work in a professional environment that requires pharmacist–patient confidentiality. They spend the majority of their work day standing, which can result in back strain. The preparation of medicines can be meticulous work, involving measuring out small quantities of hazardous compounds and conducting calculations. This work may require pharmacists to wear safety goggles, aprons and gloves, and to use fume hoods. Pharmacists must stay alert at all times in order to maintain a safe working environment and to ensure patient safety through the proper preparation of medications.

Pharmacists use computers to assess and store patient information, drug information and educational information. Extended use of computers can cause eye strain.

The internet has increased the amount of drug-related information available to the public, creating more informed consumers and patients. Pharmacists are often asked to verify information and are required to answer detailed questions about different treatments and medications.

Insights from industry

A significant number of job openings are expected in response to new job creation and the need to replace retiring workers.

The demand for pharmaceutical services is rising in response to the increasing proportion of the population who are over the age of 65. Over the last decade years, Canada's aging population has led to a rapidly increasing number of prescriptions being filled by pharmacists. The largest increase in pharmacy activity has taken place in community pharmacies that are located in food and general merchandise stores. Many jobs will be created in retail pharmacies as more supermarkets and general merchandisers open pharmacies in their stores.

The aging population is putting increased pressure on hospital pharmacies. According to the Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists, an increasing number of hospitals, especially in small centres, have reported long-term vacancies for pharmacists. Many pharmacists are leaving hospitals to work in community pharmacies. One reason for this may be that hospital pharmacists generally earn a lower wage than community pharmacists, despite working under more stressful conditions. Temporary vacancies that result from maternity leaves are also difficult to fill.

Industry reports a current shortage of pharmacists in B.C. In particular, rural communities are short of both community and hospital pharmacists. As such, demand for pharmacists in these smaller communities is high.

As employers in under-served regions tend to experience difficulties in hiring these professionals when vacancies occur, the B.C. provincial government has offered loan forgiveness to physiotherapist graduates who commit to work in these regions.  For more details on the loan-forgiveness program, please view the StudentAid BC website at

Graduates of clinical and non-clinical hospital pharmacy programs, and pharmacists with previous experience working in hospitals, are also in demand in the province. Those with doctorate of pharmacy degrees are in particularly high demand in hospitals.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Recent graduates typically obtain employment as staff pharmacists, therapeutic specialists or store managers in a retail environment, with hospitals, health authorities or the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharmacists working in retail outlets may eventually open their own practice or be promoted to an executive management position within a retail pharmacy chain.

Pharmacists working for pharmaceutical companies can advance to become lead researchers within the company and may eventually move into an executive position.

Hospital pharmacists may move into supervisory positions, specialize in a particular area of clinical pharmacy, become information specialists or move into hospital administration (for example, becoming regional directors).

Some pharmacists who pursue education beyond a bachelor's degree may eventually become pharmacy educators and researchers at universities.

Experienced pharmacists may also move into government administrative positions.

Additional resources