The corner pharmacy may increasingly be a thing of the past, but the actual pharmacist still has a strong future.

In fact, research shows continued robust hiring, something that's rare these days.

In this month's cover story in the Connecticut Economic Digest, published by the state's labor and economic and community development departments, the average hourly wage for pharmacists remains impressive and the overall employment outlook is better than average.

The article, taking a little liberty with this meds-dispensing profession, quips that the employment outlook "delivers a dose of brightness."

"Pharmacists have long played an important role in the health care industry," writes Sarah York, an economist with the labor department who authored the article. "With the increases in job responsibilities and the strong reliance the health care industry has on pharmacists, the job outlook remains strong."

The average hourly wage for pharmacists in the New London and Norwich areas during the second quarter of this year was $52.01 an hour. The highest hourly wage for such services was $56.82 in the Bridgeport and Stamford areas in affluent Fairfield County, where the cost of living is higher.

As York points out in her research, pharmacists these days do a lot more than distribute prescription drugs to individuals. They advise patients, and doctors and a variety of other health-care practitioners. It is not an easy job. Pharmacists need to understand drug selection, the proper dosage, possible interactions and also need to monitor the health of patients and their progress

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