Many people may think of pharmacists in the traditional setting of the drugstore down the street, dispensing medicine and giving patients advice on side effects. These health care professionals are known as clinical pharmacists. However, pharmacists may take on another role -- that of the consultant pharmacist. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says consultant pharmacists primarily give advice to patients, health care facilities or insurance providers.
Clinical vs. Consulting
Consultant pharmacists were first used in nursing homes, according to the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists, or ASCP. Their original role was to help improve the use of medications in these facilities, but the definition has expanded to mean any pharmacist who provides expert advice. The advice may be as personal as instructing an individual on the use of her medications or may include the use of medications within institutions. Consultant pharmacists may also advise organizations such as hospitals on the provision of pharmacy services. Clinical and consulting pharmacy work are not mutually exclusive. A pharmacist might work for a retail chain drugstore and have a private business as a consulting pharmacist.
A pharmacist must have a specialized doctorate, called a doctor of pharmacy, or Pharm. D. Most programs require a bachelor’s degree, and all require the applicant to have completed post-secondary courses such as chemistry, biology and anatomy. Applicants must also take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test, or PCAT, to get into most pharmacy programs. Although some programs offer a three-year option, most Pharm.D. Programs take four years. Research and clinical pharmacy work requires a one- to two-year residency program as well.
Licensing and Permits
Pharmacists must be licensed in all states. A graduate pharmacist must pass two exams -- one in general pharmacy skills and knowledge and another specific to the state in which he will practice. Each state regulates pharmacists and may have different laws regarding consulting pharmacy operations, according to Pharmacist Job Connection. In Florida, for example, a consultant pharmacist must complete a special course approved by the Florida Board of Pharmacy Continuing Education Committee at an accredited college of pharmacy within the state. Arkansas requires a separate permit called an “at-large pharmacist consultant permit.”
Work Settings and Salaries
Many consulting pharmacists work in senior care, according to ASCP, due to the increasing number of seniors who have chronic health care issues or some type of disability. ASCP reports 29 percent of all individuals over the age of 80 need assistance. Consulting pharmacists may work in sub-acute care, assisted living facilities, psychiatric hospitals and hospice programs, as well as home and community-based care. The BLS does not distinguish between clinical and consulting pharmacists; in 2011, the average annual salary of pharmacists was $112,160.