Pharmacists prepare, mix and dispense prescribed medicines. They also give patients advice about their medication and medical conditions.
Pharmacists with up to five years’ experience usually earn
$45K-$75K per year
Pharmacists with more than five years experience usually earn
$75K-$105K per year
Source: Auckland DHBs/PSA MECA and Pharmacy Guild of NZ, 2017
Pay for pharmacists varies depending on their experience and level of responsibility.
- Pharmacy interns (graduates completing their registration year) usually earn $45,000 a year.
- Pharmacists with one to five years' experience can earn $50,000 to $75,000.
- Charge pharmacists (who manage a pharmacy) and pharmacists with more than five years experience can earn between $75,000 and $105,000.
Sources: Auckland Region District Health Boards/PSA Allied, Public Health and Technical MECA, 2017; The Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Pharmacists may do some or all of the following:
- prepare, mix, check and dispense medicines
- keep accurate records and stock take medicines
- provide information and advice on medicines, health issues and lifestyle choices
- supervise and check the work of other pharmacy staff
- offer services such as blood pressure, glucose or cholesterol testing
- design and implement policies, procedures and budgets for medicine use throughout a hospital
- design and carry out clinical trials.
Skills and knowledge
Pharmacists need to have knowledge of:
- medicines and how they affect the human body
- laws that relate to pharmacy practices
- alternative health treatments and practices
- how to mix medicines accurately.
Community pharmacists need to have business skills for the day-to-day running of a pharmacy.
- usually work regular business hours but may need to work longer hours and weekends
- usually work in community pharmacies, but may also work in hospitals.
What's the job really like?
Kristian Schmidt talks to pharmacists with different roles – 3.57 mins. (Video courtesy of University of Auckland)
Female pharmacist 2: Mālō e lelei.
Male pharmacist 1: Talofa lava.
Female pharmacist 3: Kia orana.
Male pharmacist 2: Bula vinaka.
Male pharmacist 3: Fakalofa lahi atu.
Kristian ‘Krit’ Schmidt: These are just a view of the beautiful faces you’ll find in the world of pharmacy.
What is a pharmacist? The role of a pharmacist is forever evolving, but I can show you better than I can tell you, so let’s take a look.
Amy is a clinical pharmacist in mental health at Auckland Hospital and she’s also a research pharmacist at the University of Auckland.
Now Amy, what is the best part about being a pharmacist?
Amy Chan: I think the best part is definitely the versatility of my job. I can’t think of any other job where you get to wear like 10 different hats in one day. You can be involved in teaching other colleagues, sometimes I’m an artist, because I’m drawing different pictures for patients to help explain their medications and just the people that come through that we end up caring for; they’re all so different and so unique.
Krit: Right now we’re heading out to the country to see how pharmacy works in a rural setting.
Krit: Hey Sam.
Sam: Hey, what's up man?
Krit: I need you to tell me what makes a rural pharmacist different.
Sam: I think the difference is that we work in such a small community – that allows us to build really good relationships with our patients. It also allows us to work really closely with the patient’s GP.
We’ve been really fortunate to work really closely with the local Māori health organisation Raukura Hauora o Tainui.
Us, the GPs and the nurses work really closely together to do the best that we can for our patients.
Krit: Now we’re going to talk to Penny whose role as a pharmacist prescriber is one of the new and innovative services offered in pharmacy.
Penny Clerk: Well for me, it’s just a continuation of my role here at the medical centre working as a clinical pharmacist, so working collaboratively with the doctors and nurses. The doctors are doing the diagnosing and I’m working on the treatments side.
That means that I can write prescriptions, order the blood tests, follow them up myself – more autonomy but still in a team environment.
Krit: We’re here to see Marie who’s been instrumental in expanding the role of pharmacists in a community setting.
Marie Bennett: Well things have changed a lot in community pharmacy over the past few years, so we’re now doing things like vaccinating patients for things like ‘flu and whooping cough, so blood testing, we’re helping people quit smoking, we’re helping them with their weight. We’re working a lot more closely with them with their medicines and helping them take them better and keep on track.
Krit: If you enjoy being constantly on the go you can be a locum pharmacist like Arthur.
Arthur Bauld: I work as an addictions pharmacist. I’m involved with patient care, then I work as a community pharmacist and the other role as a council member for the Pharmacy Council which is around regulation and the law.
When I started we didn’t have computers. We used to type everything manually, put things through, with labels.
I think IT is going to have a huge impact, because it’s going to give us a lot more access to patient information; that is going to open up what the pharmacist can do for their patients. It'll be immense.
Krit: As you can see, pharmacists have multiple roles in a variety of settings, like Helen, who can come to you in the comfort of your own home.
Helen Morton: Hey, how are ya?
Krit: Why do we need mobile pharmacists?
Helen: When people come to you in a medical practice or a pharmacy you don’t get a good picture of what they’re actually doing with their medicines and we know that most people don’t take their medicines as prescribed, so coming to their home you actually get a true picture of what they’re doing and also they’ll share with you stuff that they wouldn’t share with you and so you can find out why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Krit: Finally let me introduce you to Dr Jeff Harrison, head of the school of pharmacy at the University of Auckland.
Now, Dr Harrison, really enjoyed my time there, and I've learnt so much, there’s so much more to pharmacy than you might think, right?
Dr Harrison: Yeah absolutely, there’s heaps more. You can take a look around our website. The University of Auckland, we’ve got a brand new curriculum, and you can learn more about that on the website as well. Hopefully you’ll get the information you need but if you don’t, just drop us an email, give us a call.
Krit: Eh, that was just a little insight into the world of pharmacy. We hope you’ve learned a lot, but if you need any more information make sure you check out our website, or talk to some of our friendly staff.
To become a pharmacist you need to:
- complete a Bachelor of Pharmacy from the University of Auckland or University of Otago
- complete an internship of one year working in a hospital or community pharmacy
- register with the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand.
- University of Auckland website - information about the Bachelor of Pharmacy
- University of Otago website - information about the Bachelor of Pharmacy
A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, health, maths and physics.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
To become a pharmacist prescriber you must complete the Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Pharmacy in Prescribing from the University of Auckland or a Postgraduate Certificate in Pharmacist Prescribing from the University of Otago.
You also need to be registered as a pharmacist prescriber with the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand.
Pharmacists need to be:
- honest and efficient
- responsible and careful, particularly when dealing with dangerous drugs
- able to work within a professional code of ethics and keep information private
- accurate, organised and observant, with an eye for detail
- friendly, patient and helpful, with communication and listening skills
- good researchers
- able to manage and train staff
- good at maths, and have record-keeping skills.
Pharmacists also need to have an understanding and awareness of a variety of cultures.
Useful experience for pharmacists includes:
- pharmacy technician and pharmacy assistant work
- any customer service experience
- any work in the health industry.
Pharmacists need to register with the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand.
Find out more about training
- Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand
- (04) 802 0030 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.psnz.org.nz
- Pharmacy Council of New Zealand
- (04) 495 0330 - email@example.com - www.pharmacycouncil.org.nz
- The Māori Pharmacists' Association Ngā Kaitiaki o Te Puna Rongoā o Aotearoa
- (07) 376 7149 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.mpa.maori.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Chances of getting a job as a pharmacist are good due to:
- an ageing population which means an increased demand for health care of all types
- an increase in long-term conditions such as diabetes that puts demand on services
- a demand to take some primary care work from doctors, such as treating minor ailments, immunisations, prescribing medicine and health checks.
According to the Census, 3,576 pharmacists worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Pharmacists mostly work in community pharmacies
Pharmacists mostly work in community pharmacies.
They can also work for:
- public hospitals
- universities and polytechnics
- the pharmaceutical industry.
- Ministry of Health, 'Pharmacy Action Plan 2016-2020', May 2016, (www.health.govt.nz).
- Neyland, K, membership and events coordinator, Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, Careers New Zealand interview, May 2017, (www.pgnz.org.nz).
- Pharmacy Council of New Zealand,'Workforce Demographics', 30 June 2016', (www.pharmacycouncil.org.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
- University of Auckland website, accessed May 2017, (www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Pharmacists may progress to own a pharmacy, or move into other pharmacy-related work such as:
- research and development or production and marketing in the pharmaceutical industry
- policy work with the Ministry of Health and Pharmac
- advocacy and management within pharmacy professional organisations
- medical publishing.
Pharmacists can specialise as pharmacist prescribers:
- Pharmacist Prescriber
- Pharmacist prescribers examine patients with minor ailments, prescribe and give them medicines.
Last updated 9 April 2020