How to Become a Clinical Pharmacist | Clinical Pharmacy

by | Jan 15, 2021 | Career, Career Path

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This article is a part of a series of The Many Paths of Pharmacy, which has 48 other pharmacy career paths.


Summary – Clinical Pharmacist

A clinical pharmacist is a broad term to cover a wide range of pharmacist activities in a variety of practice sites from internal medicine to ambulatory care. Unfortunately, the classification of a clinical pharmacist is indiscriminately used for job descriptions, making it challenging for job-seeking pharmacists to understand the role and responsibilities. Traditionally,  the term clinical pharmacist implies providing clinical provider-based care, in addition, it also is defined by residency training as a prerequisite (however, the author disputes the need for residency training for any job described as “clinical pharmacist”).

In addition, to the more traditional roles, this role involves the specialization in practice areas similar to medical specialties, and some have created unique skills and opportunities. This career description will not be in as much depth considering the wide variety of position types, thus generalities will be used.

Responsibilities of a Clinical Pharmacist

Clinical Pharmacists may also be responsible for the following:

Clinical Pharmacists will work in a multi-disciplinary team, including but not limited to physicians, specialists, and nurses, providing therapeutic insights, recommendations and critical problem-solving concern disease state management.

  1. Developing clinical pharmacy programs according to policies and regulations
  2. Reviewing medical records to determine the appropriateness of medical therapy
  3. Evaluating a patient’s condition to ensure all issues are being treated
  4. Identify untreated health problems and refer patients to appropriate physicians
  5. Develop an effective medication therapy plan 
  6. Provide consultations on specialty medications, dosage, and medication use
  7. Follow up and assess pharmaceutical treatments results
  8. Collaborate with healthcare professionals to ensure optimal patient care

This Pharmacy [FIELD] Career Description is a part of The Ultimate Guide to Pharmacy Careers, part of our future book, POTENTIAL.

Clinical Pharmacist Job Requirements

A PGY1 or PGY2 residency in the relevant field is typically preferred, but not required with the appropriate experience. Gaining experience through a residency program is the simplest, and perhaps, the fastest approach to gaining work experience for an open position. Critical thinking is a close requirement as work centers around often complex patient cases. A lack of detail orientedness, critical thinking, and puzzle-solving strengths will make this role challenging.

Salary of a Clinical Pharmacist

According to, the average Clinical Pharmacist salary is $127,848 as of March 26, 2020, but the range typically falls between $120,416 and $135,956. Salary ranges can vary widely depending on many important factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.

Pros and Cons of Being a Clinical Pharmacist

Some of the pros come in the form of job security. Clinical pharmacist positions are touted by academia as the best path for budding pharmacists, thus driving a significant number of pharmacists to pursue residencies after college. And job security continues to be a hot topic as the observed decline in the retail and hospital sector. Pay and benefits are generous and sometimes include a modest pension. Opportunities for advancement from clinical specialist to clinical subspecialist to management or even IT.  Larger hospitals can offer a vast array of different opportunities to pursue as the problems to solve for pharmacy are endless, a few major problems include backorder and drug shortages, regulatory compliance, quality assurance and control, any number of subspecialties (infectious disease, cardiology, etc.), and process improvement.

However, not all is perfect in the highly regarded profession. The clinical pharmacy practice is still battling an old perspective held by many healthcare profession: pharmacists are meant to stay in pharmacy. Smaller institutions may not have clinical pharmacists and new practitioners may find it difficult to assimilate in a team.

Patient interaction may not be common, but this depends on the institution and specialty. As one specializes, their number of job opportunities and advantages will decrease. There are only so many clinical pharmacy positions open at any given moment. Administration and paperwork were both cited by many pharmacist clinical specialists as one of the least appealing aspects of their jobs.

These pharmacists are very satisfied with the work they perform but do not enjoy the record-keeping that needs to be completed to substantiate their services or to quantify outcomes.  Long hours, staffing concerns, and heavy workload were each cited by respondents as well. Notably, pharmacist clinical specialist positions are dependent on patient load and other factors that are beyond the control of the pharmacist.

How to Stand Out as a Job Candidate in Clinical Pharmacy

The most successful Clinical pharmacist are those who have great aptitude, ability to teach, good physical assessment skills, great communication and writing skills, willingness to continue to learn throughout a career. Maintaining great grades and staying active with organizations. PGY1 residency is an important way to show you have been exposed to multiple clinical aspects of the role you are pursuing.

To transition into a clinical role is best completed when adding clinical skills and experience to your role. If your current job doesn’t supply those activities, consider volunteering in clinical roles for universities or free clinics. Receiving more education for certifications isn’t a bad approach, however, experience is more valuable than time spent reading textbooks or watching continued education programs.

Prepared by: Kingsley Aguebor, PharmD CandidateInterviewed: Shoshanna Robinson, PharmDEdited by: Alex Barker, PharmD

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Creating Happy Pharmacists

If you really want to build the career and life that you’ve dreamed of, one where you are helping people and working in the field that you love, you need to do something different than what you’ve been doing.

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