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Hospital Pharmacy vs Retail Pharmacy – What’s the Difference?

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When many people think of pharmacy positions, the first thing that comes to mind is the friendly face who fills their prescriptions at the local drug store. However, retail pharmacy jobs are not the only positions out there for pharmacists and pharmacy techs to take advantage of. There are many jobs available in hospital pharmacies and though you might think they are the same, these jobs can be vastly different. Here is what you can expect in a hospital pharmacy versus a retail pharmacy.

Salary Differences

One of the first things to consider when looking at hospital pharmacy versus retail pharmacy work is the pay scale. Typically, those who work in a hospital pharmacy receive a higher rate of pay than those in a retail pharmacy. In some cases, the difference can be as much as 20%! There is more than just the prestige of working in a hospital behind this pay differential, however. 


Some positions in a retail pharmacy may not require certification and license, while nearly every job in a hospital pharmacy will involve certification. In a retail setting, many pharmacy techs may receive on the job training, while in a hospital pharmacy, there are board certifications that will have to be obtained before starting work. This can vary in some areas or with specific retailers.

Work Hours

Though there are a handful of retail pharmacies that are open and dispensing 24 hours a day, in most cases, there are specific business hours. Those who work in a hospital setting may be required to work overnight shifts, weekend hours, holiday hours, and maybe frozen during a very busy period or if someone calls out sick, as required by the hospital. 

Personal Interaction

Those in a retail pharmacy will interact with a wide variety of people throughout their day. From the doctors and nurses who are managing prescriptions in the office to their patients who are picking up medications and asking for advice, personal interactions are constant. In a hospital pharmacy, it is rare for the pharmacist or techs to ever interact with patients. They work closely with doctors and nurses to determine dosage and course of treatment but do not often interact with patients. 

Daily Duties

Though the base duties of preparing and dispensing medications are the same in both retail and hospital settings, the intensity of the work is higher in a hospital setting, with IV medications and heavy courses of treatment to prepare. Retail pharmacists are dispensing medications that can be handled by the consumer, plus are consulting with them on possible interactions, side effects, and ensuring that they have everything they need to treat their condition at home. 

Once you compare the hospital pharmacy versus retail pharmacy job descriptions, it might be easier to decide which job is the best fit for you. You’re equipped to play up your strengths and interests and know how to answer interview questions as you continue on your quest to find the perfect pharmacy job.

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Contributor Kimberly Anders

As the Division Director of pharmacy, allied and healthcare IT recruitment for Soliant, Kimberly brings over 14 years of success in all aspects of the staffing industry to lead operations for a highly recognized and respected brand in pharmacy recruitment. Upon walking into a temporary staffing office, to find part-time work around a college schedule, Kimberly was fixated on developing a career in the recruiting industry. The following 20 years in the profession have provided her the perfect livelihood, a platform to guide, educate and coach talented individuals to fulfilling new jobs. Kimberly is experienced working with pharmacies and pharmacy professionals in large health systems, rural inpatient hospitals, home infusion, ambulatory care, long term care, mail order, retail, PBM and specialty settings across the country. Make sure to check out the rest of her blogs!