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Pharmacy Specialties

Published on: May 10, 2023
By: Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS
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Pharmacy Specialties

Pharmacy practice has evolved greatly over the years, and today there are many different specialties that pharmacists can pursue. These pharmacy careers offer a range of opportunities for pharmacists to specialize in specific areas of healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry and make a significant impact on patient care.

Pharmacy is a field that offers a range of career opportunities. Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who are responsible for ensuring that patients receive the right medication, dosage, and advice for their medical conditions. While dispensing medications is the primary role of a pharmacist, there are also unique (and even alternative) career opportunities within the field that allow pharmacists to explore their creative or entrepreneurial side or to practice at the highest level of clinical pharmacy.

Here are a few unique pharmacist careers to consider.

Medical Writing

Pharmacists who enjoy writing can pursue a career in medical writing. Medical writers are responsible for creating content for scientific journals, regulatory documents, and patient education materials. They work closely with healthcare professionals, pharmaceutical companies, health economics and outcomes research organizations, and regulatory bodies to ensure that the content is accurate, informative, and easy to understand.

Research and Development

Pharmacists with a passion for research can work in pharmaceutical companies to develop new medications. They conduct research on drug compounds, test the efficacy and safety of new drugs through design, development, execution, and analysis of clinical trials, and develop new drug formulations. This career path often requires advanced education and training. These research and development pharmacists often work with pharmaceutical or biotech companies or clinical research organizations (CROs).

Medical Affairs

Many pharmacists may have an interest in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, or medical device space.  There pharmacists are highly trained and specialized pharmacists who serve as the bridge between pharmaceutical and biotech companies and the healthcare community. They play a critical role in the development and promotion of new drugs, devices, and therapies by educating healthcare professionals and providing scientific information to support clinical decision-making.

Their role is to act as the primary scientific point of contact between the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare professionals. These highly trained individuals will have advanced degrees in healthcare, including, PharmD, DO, MD, DNP or a PhD biomedical or life sciences and they have a deep understanding of the clinical, scientific, and regulatory aspects of their company's products.

What Medical Affairs Professionals Do

One of the key responsibilities of a medical affairs position is to educate healthcare professionals about the scientific and clinical data related to their company's products. This includes providing information about the mechanisms of action, clinical trial data, safety and efficacy profiles, and any other relevant scientific information. They also help healthcare professionals stay up-to-date on the latest research and developments in their field, and they may provide training on the use of new drugs, devices, or therapies.

These medical affairs pharmacists also play a crucial role in the development and execution of clinical trials. They work closely with clinical investigators to provide scientific and technical support, as well as to ensure that trials are conducted in accordance with regulatory guidelines and ethical principles. They collaborate with physicians and fellow pharmacists in clinical settings, often the experts in their field, to help identify potential trial sites, recruit investigators, and provide support during the recruitment process.

In addition to their scientific expertise, these pharmacists must also be skilled communicators and relationship builders. They must be able to communicate complex scientific information to healthcare professionals in a clear and understandable manner, and they must be able to build and maintain strong relationships with key opinion leaders in their field. These medical affairs pharmacists may also work closely with sales and marketing teams to ensure that their scientific messaging is consistent and effective.

A pharmacist in a medical affairs or field medical position is an essential one for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. He or she will play a critical role in educating healthcare professionals about new drugs, devices, and therapies, as well as in supporting the development and execution of clinical trials. Their scientific expertise, communication skills, and relationship-building abilities make them a valuable asset to any healthcare organization.

Creative Compounding

Compounding is the process of creating custom medications for patients with unique needs. Creative compounding involves adding different flavors, colors, and textures to medications to make them more palatable and easier to take. Pharmacists who enjoy experimenting with different flavors and textures can pursue a career in creative compounding.

Specialized Clinical Pharmacist

A board certified pharmacist is a highly qualified healthcare professional who has earned certification from a recognized certification board in a specialized area of pharmacy practice. Board certification is a rigorous process that requires extensive training, experience, and knowledge in a particular area of pharmacy practice beyond the minimum requirements for licensure.

Board certification is voluntary and is recognized as a mark of excellence in the pharmacy profession. In this article, we will explore what a board certified pharmacist is, the different types of board certifications available, what a board certified pharmacist does day to day, and the various practice settings where a board certified pharmacist may work.

Board certification in pharmacy practice is mainly available through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties (BPS).  Other advanced certifications exist to manage specific chronic diseases.  Several examples of these are the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE) in the management of diabetes and the Asthma Educator Specialist (AE-C) certification for the management of asthma. The Board of Pharmacy Specialties offers certification in specialty pharmacy practice areas. 

Specialized Pharmacist Practice Areas

Currently there are 14 board certifications offered by BPS: Ambulatory Care Pharmacy, Cardiology Pharmacy, Compounding Sterile Preparations Pharmacy, Critical Care Pharmacy, Emergency Medicine Pharmacy, Geriatric Pharmacy, Infectious Diseases Pharmacy, Nuclear Pharmacy, Nutrition Support Pharmacy, Oncology Pharmacy, Pediatric Pharmacy, Pharmacotherapy, Psychiatric Pharmacy and Solid Organ Transplantation Pharmacy.

To become board certified, a pharmacist must meet rigorous education and experience requirements, as well as pass an examination that assesses their knowledge and skills in the specialty area of practice. These board certifications also require pharmacists to complete continuing education and recertification requirements to maintain their certification status.

Day to Day of a Board Certified Pharmacist

A board certified pharmacist's day-to-day responsibilities will depend on their specialty area of practice. However, in general, board certified pharmacists are responsible for providing expert medication management and advice to patients and healthcare providers. This includes reviewing patient medical histories, evaluating medication regimens for safety and efficacy, monitoring patients for drug interactions and adverse effects, and providing education on medication use and self-care.

For example, a board certified ambulatory care pharmacist may work in a primary care clinic or outpatient pharmacy setting, where they provide medication therapy management services to patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, or asthma. They may work collaboratively with primary care providers, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to develop and implement individualized medication regimens and monitor patient progress.

A board certified critical care pharmacist, on the other hand, may work in a hospital or intensive care unit (ICU) setting, where they provide specialized medication management to critically ill patients. They may work collaboratively with physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to optimize medication regimens, manage drug interactions and adverse effects, and ensure medication safety in the high-stress environment of the ICU.

A board certified pediatric pharmacist may work in a children's hospital or pediatric clinic, where they provide medication management services to pediatric patients. They may specialize in areas such as neonatal intensive care, pediatric oncology, or infectious diseases and work collaboratively with pediatricians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to optimize medication regimens for children of all ages.

A board certified geriatric pharmacist may work in a long-term care facility or community pharmacy, where they provide medication management services to older adults. They may specialize in areas such as dementia care, palliative care, or medication safety and work collaboratively with primary care providers, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to optimize medication regimens for older adults.

In addition to these practice settings, board certified pharmacists may also work in other specialized areas, such as nuclear pharmacy, oncology pharmacy, or psychiatric pharmacy. They may also work in academia, research, or government agencies, where they contribute to advancing the field of pharmacy practice and improving patient outcomes.

Board certification is a mark of excellence in the pharmacy profession that recognizes pharmacists' advanced knowledge, skills, and expertise in specialized areas of pharmacy practice. Board certified pharmacists play a critical role in improving patient outcomes by providing expert medication management and advice to patients and healthcare providers. Those pharmacists that are board certified truly help to advance the pharmacy profession.


In conclusion, pharmacy offers a range of unique career opportunities for pharmacists enabling them to follow their passions. Whether you enjoy writing, research, industry, compounding, or clinical specialization, there is a career path in pharmacy that can help you explore your personalized passion while still making a difference in the lives of patients.


portrait of Jim Herbst PharmD

Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS is an advanced patient care pharmacist at a nationally ranked pediatric acute care teaching hospital.  Dr Herbst received his Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the Ohio State University in 2012.  He started his clinical career as an inpatient patient care pharmacist covering the neurology and complex care services, before transitioning to a pediatric neurology ambulatory care clinic in 2019. 

Dr Herbst's areas of interest in pediatric neurology include treatment-resistant pediatric epilepsy, infantile spasms, the ketogenic diet, and neuroimmunology.  He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed pharmacy and neurology journals, including Neurology, Epilepsia, and the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association.  Dr Herbst is board certified as a pediatric pharmacy specialist.

Opinions and information published by the author here on PharmDDegree.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.

Education: Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), The Ohio State University
Knowledge: Advanced Patient Care Pharmacy, Neurology, Epilepsia