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Pharmacist

Taka Rongoā

Alternative titles for this job

Pharmacists prepare, mix and dispense prescribed medicines. They also give patients advice about their medication and medical conditions.

Pay

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

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a pharmacist are good due to increasing demand for their services.

Pay

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.

Working conditions

Pharmacists:

  • 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?

Pharmacist video

Hamish shares his experience as a pharmacist – 5.47 mins.

Hamish: My name’s Hamish. I’m a pharmacist and I work at Queen Street Pharmacy in Upper Hutt.

So a pharmacist broadly is a medicines expert. We’re the guys that indorse or promote the safe use of medicines, and the appropriate use of medicines. We also triage patients.

Okay so there’s definitely some bumps.

How long have they been there for?

To ensure that if we don’t have the skills and knowledge to treat them, we refer them onto others and we’re educators as well, so we educate patients on their treatments and therapies, regimes, just to make sure that they get the best use of their medicines and the best health outcomes.

Queens Street Pharmacy in Upper Hutt - it’s a community pharmacy so we’re one of actually a couple of pharmacies in Upper Hutt but I would argue that we’re the busiest.

We work between two medical centres. So we get a lot of prescriptions from each of those. But a lot of what we do is dispensing medicines. Thankfully at this pharmacy we’ve got technicians, so they do a lot of the paper work.
They do a lot of orders, so when I come to work every day, my priority is just making sure that the medicine treatment is safe and appropriate for that patient and that it's correct so that each patient gets the right medication.

It usually starts crusting over after about seven days but you want to continue for two weeks after it's gone as well to make sure that fungal infection stays away.

We also counsel them on that medication, we're making sure that they understand what that medication is for, how to use it and just any side effects or anything they might need to be aware of.

If it's getting worse and spreading, pop back and see us.

So pharmacists provide free health care information. So you can come in off the street.

Like in here kind of things as well?

Yeah, is it up here?

I do definitely think it's a bit of eczema.

Before you go to the medical centre, we get a lot of patients that come in just to check with us. If it is beyond our skills and knowledge then we do refer them on for a more thorough assessment.

Hamish: Did the doctor see them at all?

Customer: No.

Hamish: No?

So it could be worth just popping into the after-hours clinic.

Hamish: Okay so just a routine blood pressure check today is it?

Customer: Yes.

We also do a lot of consultation services. Patients come into the pharmacy for the oral contraceptive pill, trimethoprim, which is a urinary tract infection antibiotic. We do vaccinations. We do nicotine replacement therapy. We do quite a few services and that's all about just improving access to health care in New Zealand. Besides that we do lots of advice and counselling about common conditions. So head lice, eczema, hay fever, colds, flus, you name it, we do a lot of that as well.

To be a pharmacist you need to be very organised and on top of everything all the time. There is lots of communication in pharmacy. So we're talking to the patients, we're talking to prescribers, we're talking to other team members in the pharmacy.

Has she seen the doctor yet and how long has it been?

So she's not vomiting, there's no other symptoms is there?

With patients we've got so many demographics. You've got children, you've got elderly and everything in between. You need to be relatable and make connections with patients because the more connections you make and the better the rapport you have with patients, the better health outcomes they're going to receive as well. They're going to listen to you and they're going to take your advice and take that on board and practice that advice. You are going to have good days and bad days. Sometimes you're going to get yelled at - that's unavoidable. Some people are scared, some people are angry so you need to learn to discuss things with those people as well.

Pharmacists are accountable for every decision that we make and also the decisions of people in our team as well. Every decision we make or what we do needs to be justified by law and ethics.

There's a lot of laws and ethics. Pharmacy hours do vary. Pharmacy can be a nine-to-five job. Often community pharmacies are open late as well so there's after-hours pharmacies. I do a little bit of both.

Today for example I'm working one to nine so that we can cover those patients that need treatment after hours as well.

Queen street pharmacy Hamish speaking.

So that morphine it's meant to be ten day supply at a time.

So there's lots of different types of pharmacies. Studying to become a pharmacist, the first year is first year health science. You really need to focus because it's competitive entry to get into pharmacy or one of the other medical professions. The second, third and fourth year is pharmacies. Its four years in total at university and then the final year to become a pharmacist is an internship.

You've got a preceptor who watches you and sees everything you do and signs you off as a competent pharmacist. As for the study itself, its very science based so in high school if you're thinking about chemistry and biology, but everything you will learn anyway at university.

You need to be enthusiastic and committed to learning. Key things are just working really hard and making sure that you're keeping up to date with the content. In pharmacy like most other health professions there is a process of continued education. So we are what you call lifelong learners and every year we do have certain requirements that we need to maintain in order to get our practicing certificates and every three years we've even more again so we're constantly learning and updating our knowledge and practices to make sure that patients get the best healthcare they can.

Pharmacy is constantly changing as we've got this ageing population, increased burden of long-term conditions. People are getting older. They've got more non-contagious diseases. We've got increased strain on the healthcare system so we're having to get smarter, more efficient. For pharmacy what that means is pharmacists stepping out of the dispensary. We have to do more consultations. We have to broaden our services so that we can meet increased needs of the community and maybe take away some of the burden from prescribers and hospitals. It's just constantly changing so stay tuned.

Let's try to clear this place up.

I really enjoy making a difference in people's lives. Often you get to form really good relationships with patients as they come and go, to get to know them and how their families are. When a patient comes in sometimes they've got no idea what their condition is or what their medication is. I really love to try and make that patient's therapy a little bit better. Everything lights up for them when you finally talk them through everything and they've come back and they are taking their medications properly now where they weren't before. It's enjoyable and sometimes you do make a real difference.

Entry requirements

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.

Secondary education

A tertiary entrance qualification is needed to enter tertiary training. Useful subjects include biology, chemistry, health, maths and physics. 

Additional requirements for specialist roles:

Pharmacist Prescriber

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.

Personal requirements

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

Useful experience for pharmacists includes:

  • pharmacy technician and pharmacy assistant work
  • any customer service experience
  • any work in the health industry.

Registration

Pharmacists need to register with the Pharmacy Council of New Zealand.

Find out more about training

Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand
(04) 802 0030 - p.society@psnz.org.nz - www.psnz.org.nz
Pharmacy Council of New Zealand
(04) 495 0330 - enquiries@pharmacycouncil.org.nz - www.pharmacycouncil.org.nz
The Māori Pharmacists' Association Ngā Kaitiaki o Te Puna Rongoā o Aotearoa
(07) 376 7149 - admin@mpa.maori.nz - www.mpa.maori.nz
Check out related courses

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.

Sources

  • 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
  • teaching
  • medical publishing.

Pharmacists can specialise as pharmacist prescribers:

Pharmacist Prescriber
Pharmacist prescribers examine patients with minor ailments, prescribe and give them medicines.
A female pharmacist in a white coat is talking to a mother holding her baby about the packet of medicine she is about to give them

Pharmacists advise people on their medication

Last updated 9 July 2021