Clinical or Retail Pharmacist. Which Job is Best?

3 years ago  •  Add Comment  •  by Donna Bliss

Are you investigating a career as a retail or clinical pharmacist? Or are you thinking of changing over from one to the other? Either way, this is an important decision and we hope to help make this decision a little easier for you.

Similarities of Clinical and Retail Pharmacists

Given that they’re in the same industry, the duties and responsibilities of clinical & retail pharmacists are similar in many ways & overlap in some areas. Here are five of the most prominent similarities between the two.

1. Medication

Both retail and clinical pharmacists help patients with getting the medications they need. In either sector a strong knowledge of dosage and usage, possible interactions & general guidelines is needed.

2. The Feel-Good Factor

Pharmacists in general directly help people on a daily basis. You can have a big impact on someone’s life and possibly even save it.

But of course you may also have challenging experiences of conflict with them too. While it is true that patients can often be unappreciative, this is likely because they’re experiencing pain or discomfort of some kind at the time of the interaction. This simply comes with the territory and is by no means limited to the pharmacy environment.

3. Dealing with People

Both positions require strong people and communication skills. While both clinical and retail pharmacists will deal directly with people, clinical pharmacists tend to deal more with patients & other medical professionals. Retail pharmacists usually interact more often and with general consumers.  

4. Patient Paperwork

Managing records, processing insurance paperwork and checking the prescription history of patients are all tasks that both clinical & retail pharmacists will undertake.

5. Hours

Pharmacy professionals in both areas can expect to work long hours and often weekends & holidays, too. The average work week is at least 40 hours long. Retail pharmacists usually operate according to other store hours in the area.  Clinical pharmacists normally work shifts in line with hospital staff.

Differences of Clinical and Retail Pharmacists

For as many similarities the two positions share, there are also a few major differences. Here we are highlighting the five biggest differences between the positions.

1. Medication Related Responsibilities

In addition to dispensing medications, clinical pharmacists are also responsible for performing medical tasks, monitoring patients and advising medical professionals. In contrast,  a retail pharmacist focuses less on these tasks, if at all, and more on filling prescriptions & handling paperwork. Clinical pharmacists also deal with different drugs, such as IV medications, that retail pharmacists will not.

2. Salaries

Many pharmacy students’ graduate hand-in-hand with the debt they incurred from student loans. Thankfully, because of this very training, both clinical and retail pharmacists earn comparatively high salaries.

Generally speaking, clinical pharmacists tend to earn slightly more. For example, a clinical pharmacist in a doctor’s office will earn more than a retail pharmacist who is working in a grocery or general store.

3. Training and Education

Becoming a retail or clinical pharmacist requires lengthy education and training. Clinical pharmacists are required to undertake additional training and you must complete a residency at a healthcare facility after earning your professional degree. Retail pharmacists are not required to complete a residency but rather go through standardized training.

4. Areas of Work

Naturally, clinical and retail pharmacists will find themselves working in different companies and establishments. Common work settings for retail pharmacists include:

  • Pharmacy store chains
  • Personal care stores
  • Health stores
  • Supermarkets

Clinical pharmacists are often placed in hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, urgent care centers and clinics.

5. Longevity of the Career

We can’t ignore automation in the modern world. More and more people are opting to order their medication online or on the phone and get it delivered straight to their doorsteps. This could reduce the need for retail pharmacists in the future. Because of this factor we’re inclined to believe that there is more career longevity for pharmacists in the clinical field.

The Verdict: Clinical vs Retail Pharmacist

Being a pharmacist in general can be a deeply rewarding career decision. Whether you go down the clinical route or opt to take the retail road,  you have the ability to change and improve the lives of your patients.

Job satisfaction can easily be found in either profession and most of the time, personal preference is the deciding factor between the two.

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