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SALARIES SERIES

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Job: Pharmacist

Salary: The average salary is $80,000 to $95,000 a year, depending on province and the size of the community where the pharmacist works.

Education: To become a licensed pharmacist in Canada, you need a bachelor’s or doctor of pharmacy degree from one of 10 Canadian universities that offer the program, and completion of a national board examination through the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC), except in Quebec. Licensing is a requirement in all provinces and territories for community and hospital pharmacists, according to the Canadian Pharmacists Association.

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The role: Pharmacists prepare, mix and dispense medicine prescribed by doctors. They are also increasingly taking on other roles, such as giving flu shots and advising customers about which non-prescription medicines to take.

“The goal is to provide patient-centred care,” says Taj Dhinsa, an Ontario community pharmacist and senior category manager for a pharmacy at Wal-Mart. The role is moving away from professionals standing behind the counter giving advice, to more interaction with customers in the stores and the community. Most pharmacists work in drug stores and hospitals, but they are also employed by governments and corporations.

By the numbers: There are about 32,000 pharmacists in Canada, according to the 2011 National Household Survey. That’s up from about 25,000 in 2005, according to Census data. About 60 per cent of today’s pharmacists in Canada are women.

Job prospects: An aging population and the evolving role of pharmacists could help to increase demand for people in this profession. Job growth will depend on the volume of prescriptions doctors hand out in coming years, as well as any continued changes in the profession.

Challenges: The transition from working mostly behind the counter to reaching out to customers and administering flu shots and other medications can be an adjustment for some pharmacists who have been doing the job for years. Ms. Dhinsa says time management is also a challenge, between dispensing medication and working with customers.

Why they do it: “It’s probably the best profession to be in if you want to be the most accessible health care provider,” Ms. Dhinsa said. “Depending on how passionate you are about what you do, you’re probably also in the best position to advocate for your patients.”

She says pharmacists work to improve patient results by helping to educate them about their medical conditions and medications. “Pharmacists regularly intervene on behalf of their patients and suggest alternatives to prescribers if the drug conflicts with another medication and even assist in deprescribing drugs when treatment is deemed to be unnecessary,” she said.

They also monitor patients to see if their treatments are effective and help them manage any potential side effects. Pharmacists can also screen for various medical conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. It’s also one of the few health care careers where she said business and heath care are intertwined.

The changing role of pharmacists is also appealing to many. “Now is the most exciting time if you want to be part of a profession that’s changing,” Ms. Dhinsa said.

Misconceptions: “We aren’t pill counters,” Ms. Dhinsa said. Instead, she said the day is a mix of administering medicines and helping customers with their health care needs.

Give us the scoop: Are you a pharmacist in Canada or do you want to be? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to careerquestion@globeandmail.com and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.

Want to read more stories from our Salaries Series? Find more here.

Follow on Twitter: @BrendaBouw

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