Pharmacists play a crucial role in the healthcare system. They are the distributors of drugs prescribed by physicians and other healthcare professionals and the main contact a patient has before starting a new medication. As such, pharmacists counsel patients about their medications and how they should use them. As noted above, pharmacists also check if an individual's prescription will interact negatively with other drugs he is taking or any existing medical conditions he has. Pharmacists are also qualified to advise patients about more general health topics, such as stress management, exercise, and diet. Pharmacists who work in a hospital setting are known as clinical pharmacists, and work more with patients than prescriptions. In 2010, more than 3,000 pharmacists were employed in Oregon, just a small portion of the 274,900 that worked in the United States.
Graph 1 shows the industry distribution of Oregon pharmacists. More than half of Oregon pharmacists work in the retail industry, with nearly one-quarter of total employment located in health and personal care stores. This is much greater than the national concentration, which stands at 12 percent. Hospitals in Oregon provide one-fifth of pharmacist jobs, while grocery stores account for 10 percent of employment.
Pharmacists also need to have non-academic skills to be successful. This includes active listening, computer skills, and administrative skills. In addition, pharmacists must be able to communicate technical information to those with little medical knowledge.
Lastly, workers in many health care occupations are able to enjoy a more flexible schedule. And pharmacists are no exception. While most pharmacists work full time, roughly one out of five worked a part-time schedule in 2010.
Graph 2 shows projected employment growth rates for pharmacists through 2020 in select Oregon counties. Currently, pharmacist positions are expected to grow in Benton, Linn, and Lincoln counties by 22 percent, 4 percentage points faster than the state as a whole. Pharmacist jobs in Central Oregon are also projected to grow faster than the state average, at 20 percent. Pharmacist jobs in the United States, however, are expected to grow 25 percent through 2020, faster than anywhere in Oregon.
In Oregon, these job openings will be largely due to the need to replace existing workers rather than new positions. Nevertheless, an aging population that continues to use more prescriptions suggests that the need for pharmacists will not decrease any time soon.