Pharmacist

Pharmacists are experts in medicines and their use. They also offer health advice to patients on issues such as sexual health and giving up smoking. 

See how they use their knowledge of medicines to help people with every type of medical condition and find out how you could use your science skills to become a pharmacist.

"When I tell people I’m a pharmacist, they assume I stick labels on boxes, but there’s much more to it than that!"

Read Amy's story 

Working life

Medicines are the most common treatments offered to NHS patients. A pharmacist is an expert in medicines and their use. Their knowledge of medicines and the effect they have on the human body is critical for the successful management of every type of medical condition.

Pharmacists:

Pharmacists are also involved in manufacturing medicines when ready-made preparations are not available. For example, certain cancer treatments and intravenous feeding solutions need to be tailor made under sterile conditions for individual patients.

Pharmacists work as part of healthcare teams in hospitals or community pharmacies. Some work in retail pharmacies in supermarkets or on the high street, or for other employers that provide NHS services. Community pharmacists are based in health centres or pharmacies but they may spend time visiting patients at home or in residential homes.

Pharmacists may also supervise pharmacy technician and pharmacy assistants in purchasing, quality testing or dispensing medicines. 

Entry requirements 

To practise as a pharmacist, you have to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). To register, you need to study for an accredited Masters degree in pharmacy (MPharm). Universities across the UK offer the course, which lasts four years, full time. A list of courses is available at the bottom of this page. 

To get onto a Master's course in pharmacy you need three A-B grade A-levels in chemistry and biology, maths or physics along with five GCSEs (grades 9-4/A-C), including English language, maths and at least one science.

Or you could use alternative qualifications, including:

However, each institution sets its own entry requirements, so it’s important to check carefully. Wherever you study, you will need to show that you have an understanding of pharmacy and how it benefits patients. It is a good idea to spend some time with a registered pharmacist to see what the work is like.

After university, to become a fully qualified pharmacist you'll need to:

Must have skills

Pharmacists need to be:

"The best bit about the role is knowing you have positively impacted someone’s health. Over time, you get to see the positive impact your advice and care has had on your patients and their love ones."

Read Aditya's story

Training and development

Once qualified, many pharmacists join the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). Registered pharmacists have to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with annual continuing professional development (CPD). The RPS runs courses, conferences and seminars where pharmacists can exchange ideas and update their skills.

You may choose to specialise in a particular area of practice such as mental health, oncology (cancer treatment) or paediatrics. Teaching or research are also options. Some pharmacists move into areas such as the regulation of medicines, veterinary pharmacy or into industry. You could also move into management, either within pharmacy or general management. As head of a local pharmacy service you would be responsible both for a team of staff and for managing a budget.

Some pharmacists decide to set up their own pharmacies in high street shops, either working on their own or with other professionals.

Career Planning for Healthcare Professionals programme

Health Education England has developed an e-learning programme for healthcare professionals including pre-registration / foundation pharmacists, to help them make informed career choices and effective applications for their next career steps.

Pay and benefits

Pharmacists working in the NHS will work standard hours of around 37.5 a week which may include shifts. Newly qualified pharmacists will usually start in the NHS on band 6 of the Agenda for Change pay scale. With further study and training, they can apply for posts at band 7. Senior pharmacy roles can be on band 9 as a most senior manager of pharmaceutical services. You’ll also have access to our generous pension scheme and health service discounts, as well as 27 days of annual leave plus bank holidays.

Pay and benefits for pharmacists working outside of the NHS eg in high street pharmacies will differ depending on the employer.

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