1. Home
  2. /
  3. Advice
  4. /
  5. Considering

Pharmacy Specialties and Practice Areas to Explore

Published on: May 10, 2023
By: Jim Herbst, PharmD, BCPPS
Share Article

Pharmacy Specialties

Pharmacy practice has evolved greatly over the years, and today, pharmacists can pursue many different specialties. These careers offer pharmacists a range of opportunities 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 responsible for ensuring patients receive the correct medication, dosage, and advice for their medical conditions. While dispensing medications is a pharmacist's primary role, there are unique (and even alternative) career opportunities within the field that allow pharmacists to explore their creative or entrepreneurial side or 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 create 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 the content is accurate, informative, and easy to understand.

Research and Development

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

Medical Affairs

Many pharmacists may be interested in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, or medical devices.  These pharmacists are highly trained and specialized, serving as the bridge between pharmaceutical and biotech companies and the healthcare community. They play a critical role in developing and promoting new drugs, devices, and therapies by educating healthcare professionals and providing scientific information to support clinical decision-making.

They 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 information about the mechanisms of action, clinical trial data, safety and efficacy profiles, and 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 and 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 recruitment.

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 clearly and understandably, 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 their scientific messaging is consistent and effective.

A pharmacist in a medical affairs or field medical position is essential for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. He or she will play a critical role in educating healthcare professionals about new drugs, devices, and therapies and 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 beyond the minimum requirements for licensure in a particular area of pharmacy practice.

Board certification is voluntary and recognized as a mark of excellence in the pharmacy profession. In this section, we will explore what a board-certified pharmacist is, the different types of board certifications available, what a board-certified pharmacist does daily, 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 and 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 practice area. However, board-certified pharmacists are generally 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, providing medication therapy management services to patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, or asthma. They may collaborate with primary care providers, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to develop and implement individualized medication regimens and monitor patient progress.

On the other hand, a board-certified critical care pharmacist may work in a hospital or intensive care unit (ICU) setting, where they provide specialized medication management to critically ill patients. They may collaborate 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 collaborate 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 collaborate 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 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 who 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 pursue 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 patients' lives.


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