Becoming a Pharmacist in Informatics: Beyond the Traditional Pharmacist Career

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Pharmacist taking inventory of medications.Informatics, or the use of computer systems to store, organize and process data, brings efficiency and convenience to the health care industry, especially when it comes to the tracking and management of pharmaceuticals. For those interested in becoming a pharmacist, the University of Illinois at Chicago Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) degree provides instruction to instill competency in handling the systems created for the pharmaceutical industry. Graduates who hold this degree will have the tools they need to seek employment in many areas of the health IT industry, such as programming, software development, systems analysis and product architecture.

Pharmacy Career Opportunities in Informatics

Completion of an MSHI degree provides graduates with a broad education regarding informatics, which opens the door to a range of potential career options. For anyone with a pharmaceutical background, here are four possible career choices the MSHI degree brings to the table:

Pharmacy Informaticist

A pharmacy informaticist acts as a pharmaceutical technology expert. These professionals specialize in the use and development of management systems and electronic tools to support patient safety efforts, improve patient care and streamline the services the pharmacy provides. For many of these professionals, an educational background in pharmaceuticals gives insight into the unique technological needs of pharmacies. The competencies needed to be successful include leadership, analytical skills, systems management and technical skills.

Job growth for general pharmacists, as projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), is 6%, which is just under the national average of 7% for all occupations. However, the role of a pharmacy informaticist includes a heavy IT component, and health IT job growth projections are higher, at 13%. Currently, the demand for IT professionals in health care is so great that many medical facilities are seeking to hire from outside the industry.

The salary for pharmacy informaticists averages around $125,000 a year, with a range of $104,000 to $147,000. This is close to the median salary of $126,120 per year for traditional pharmacists reported by the BLS.

Pharmacy Informatics Technician

Pharmacy informatics technicians handle maintenance of the technology systems used in pharmacies and perform the bulk of data entry duties. They have general pharmacy technician responsibilities as well, such as medication dispensing. Necessary skills include computer and technical savvy to operate the systems they oversee, organization, communication and problem solving to resolve technical issues.

Like pharmacy informaticists, pharmacy informatics technicians fall under the category of health IT professionals. BLS puts their projected job growth at 13%. The growing demand for pharmacy technicians trained in informatics supports this.

According to Glassdoor, the average pay for a pharmacy technician is $29,276 a year, which breaks down to a little over $12 an hour. This falls within a salary range of $23,000 to $38,000.

Drug Safety Specialist

A drug safety specialist takes a supportive role in monitoring drug safety for their employer. Possible duties can include the creation of medical reports for FDA approval, safety regulation promotion, drug tracking, and auditing. Skills needed to perform the duties of this position include attention to detail, database maintenance to handle record-keeping, computer savvy for data entry and report generation and interpersonal skills.

The closest BLS category to a drug safety specialist is the occupational health and safety specialist, which has a projected employment growth of 8%, just 1% higher than the national average for all occupations.

Drug safety specialist salaries average $80,079 per year within a range of $49,000 to $101,000, according to Glassdoor. The highest-paid professionals demonstrate proficiency in vendor management, case management, technical writing and quality control.

Clinical Data Analyst

Another potential position for professionals interested in becoming a pharmacist is clinical data analyst. These professionals are in charge of managing and analyzing pharmacy data to ensure it’s being used effectively. Clinical data analysts are given authority to modify systems to increase efficiency and often develop the programs used to process incoming data. Necessary competencies include analytical skills to recognize patterns and potential issues, computer and technical savvy to operate and modify databases and systems, critical thinking and communication.

The BLS projected growth rate for employment of all medical records and health information technicians is 13%, or almost twice the national average for all jobs. This trend is likely to continue as more pharmacy functions rely on technology to store and categorize patient and pharmaceutical data.

According to Glassdoor, clinical data analysts have an average yearly salary of $67,377. The lowest-paid analysts make around $46,000, while the top earners can bring in as much as $96,000. Experience with quality assessment and improvement can raise the salary potential by up to 7%.

Starting the Journey to Becoming a Pharmacist in Informatics

Becoming a pharmacist can open a variety of career options, especially with a degree in health informatics. This specialized education ensures candidates are knowledgeable about the technology being used to manage patient and pharmaceutical data.

To find out more about these exciting career options and explore admissions and curriculum requirements, check out the online Master of Science in Health Informatics program offered by the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Recommended Readings

What Is Health Care Data? Examining a Key Concept in Modern Care

MSHI or Master’s in IT: Which Degree Is for You?

Why Choose the Post-Master’s Certificate in Health Informatics? 

Sources

Glassdoor: Clinical Data Analyst Salaries

Glassdoor Drug Safety Specialist Salaries

Glassdoor Pharmacy Technician Salaries

Glassdoor, Clinical Informatics Pharmacist Salaries

Journal of Pharmacy Technology, “Pharmacy Informatics: Current and Future Roles for the Pharmacy Technician”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pharmacists