As a Pharmacist, you will train to become an expert on medicines and their effects on the body. Most work in community (high street) pharmacies, supplying and selling medicines and advising on their use. Hospital Pharmacists ensure that patients receive the most appropriate medicines. Industrial Pharmacists research, develop and test new medicines. Other areas of work include prisons, education and veterinary pharmacy.
Video: - Anthony: Hospital Pharmacist
As a Community Pharmacist, you will work in high street and rural Chemists' shops, and pharmacy departments in supermarkets and retail chain stores. You could also work in GPs' clinics and health centres. You will work within your local community and play a vital role within it.
You'll supply prescribed and 'over-the-counter' medicines to customers. You will also give advice to customers on how to take medicines, and their possible side-effects.
As a Pharmacist in the community you will give advice on a range of health issues, such as healthy eating, family planning, oral hygiene and how to give up smoking. Prevention is always better than cure.
You could train as 'Independent Prescribers'. This training will provide you with the skills you need to be able to assess a patient's condition and prescribe the appropriate medicine, thereby taking some of the work load off GPs and Doctors.
Most medicines arrive at the pharmacy ready-made, so mixing ingredients to make tablets, capsules, powders and ointment will only be a small part of your work. As a fully qualified Pharmacist, you will usually supervise Pharmacy Technicians who deal with routine tasks such as counting out tablets.
As a Hospital Pharmacist, you will work directly with Doctors, Nurses and other healthcare professionals to ensure that people going into and out of hospital receive the most appropriate medicines and use them in the most effective way.
Most medicines are delivered to the hospital already made-up, although you might need to prepare some medicines in the hospital. You will supervise the Pharmacy Technicians in dealing with the more routine tasks. You might make sterile solutions and other specialist products, such as cancer treatments.
As a Pharmacist in a hospital, you will also be responsible for ordering, quality testing, storing and securing drugs and medicines.
You'll give advice to Doctors on the most appropriate drugs to use in a treatment and also give advice on the dosage, the best way to deliver the drug (such as a tablet, injection or ointment) and warn of any likely reactions between the medicine and particular foods or different treatments.
You'll visit patients in wards and clinics to dispense medicines. You can also run specialist clinics for patients with long-term conditions. Some Hospital Pharmacists visit patients in the community, for example, in residential care homes and local health clinics.
Like Community Pharmacists, Hospital Pharmacists have increasing opportunities to select treatments for patients. You might be able to specialise as a consultant, for example, in areas such as haematology (blood), respiratory medicine or infectious diseases.
As an Industrial Pharmacist, you will research, test and develop drugs to make safe and effective medicines. You are responsible for the overall development of new medicines.
In formulation work, you might be responsible for deciding how best to deliver a particular drug to a patient. For example, this could be as a tablet, ointment, liquid or injection.
Some Industrial Pharmacists trial drugs to make sure they are safe and effective. Eventually, this will involve trials on healthy human volunteers, clinical trials with real patients, and, finally, studying the long-term effects of the medicine on patients.
Other Pharmaceutical Areas
Pharmacists also work in areas like veterinary pharmacy, teaching and research, medical journalism, the armed forces and scientific writing.
Some Pharmacists become Primary Care Pharmacists (or 'Prescribing Advisers'). You work for organisations that manage local health services. You make sure that organisations manage and use your stock of medicines effectively.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
To become a Pharmacist, you'll need:
- a high level of scientific knowledge
- sensitivity, tact and discretion when dealing with patients, customers, Doctors and other health professionals
- a strong sense of responsibility
- attention to detail and a thorough, methodical approach when dealing with prescriptions and preparing medicines
- good basic IT skills for tasks such as labelling medicines and stock control
Communication skills are also essential. For example, Community and Hospital Pharmacists have direct contact with patients and customers. You must be able to listen carefully, ask the right questions to gain more information, and know how to explain things clearly and concisely.
Industrial Pharmacists must be able to explain things such as their findings and trial results clearly, including in written reports.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate. NHS Pharmacists are paid according to official pay bands.
- Band 6: £30,401 - £37,267
- Band 7: £37,570 - £43,772
- Band 9: £89,537 - £103,860
Hours of work
Pharmacists usually work a 37-hour week, which might include shift work and weekends on a rota basis.
Where could I work?
- NHS and private hospitals
- pharmacy departments of retail chain stores and supermarkets
- major pharmaceutical companies
- primary care organisations
- producers of agricultural and veterinary products
Pharmacists also work in areas like education, journalism, prisons and the Civil Service.
Opportunities for Pharmacists occur in towns and cities throughout the UK, and in rural pharmacies.
There are opportunities for Community Pharmacists to own and run their own pharmacy.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on the NHS Jobs website and on recruitment websites. Community pharmacy vacancies are also advertised on the websites of major supermarkets.
Social media websites, such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, are a great way to network, find vacancies and get in contact with possible employers. Make sure that your profile presents you in a professional manner that will appeal to potential employers.
Take a look at our General Information Article
Entry Routes and Training
To become a registered Pharmacist, you need to complete a degree in pharmacy that is accredited by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).
The NHS provide a course finder to help you find accredited courses:
This degree is known as a Master of Pharmacy (MPharm); courses usually take four years to complete.
Five-year courses for people with non-science A levels are available at a small number of universities.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article '
After successfully completing your degree course, you will need to complete a 'pre-registration year' in a pharmacy setting. For example, this could be in a community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy department or an industrial pharmaceutical company.
Both the training site and the tutor supervising you must be approved by the GPhC.
If you train in industry or a primary care organisation, you'll also need to spend at least six months of the pre-registration year in either a community or hospital pharmacy. For more advice, please see the GPhC website.
The University of Bradford has a five-year 'practice-integrated' MPharm sandwich course, incorporating the 'pre-registration' year.
When you have completed the pre-registration year, you need to sit the GPhC or Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI) registration exam. You must pass this exam before you can join the GPhC/PSNI Register.
In industrial pharmacy, it can sometimes be an advantage to have a postgraduate qualification.
With experience (and enough money to invest), Community Pharmacists can set up their own businesses. It is also possible to enter a management post, for example, in a primary care organisation or large pharmacy retail chain.
Hospital Pharmacists follow a structured career path up to consultant grade. You can specialise in an area such as intensive care or paediatrics.
In industrial pharmacy, progression would be to supervisory or management roles. Industrial Pharmacists can specialise in particular areas of research or in work such as quality control, regulatory affairs (securing product licences from health authorities) and marketing.
Previous experience working with the public in a customer service position would be really useful for this career.
Rehabilitation of Offenders Act
This career is an exception to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. This means that you must supply information to an employer about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands or warnings, if they ask you to.
This is different from other careers, where you only have to reveal information on unspent convictions if you are asked to.
For entry to a degree course in pharmacy, the usual requirement is:
- 3 A levels, including chemistry and two other subjects from biology, maths and physics
- GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in your A level subjects
- a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 and above, including English and maths
You could use alternative qualifications, including:
- foundation degree in pharmacy
- BTEC, HND or HNC which includes science
- a relevant NVQ
- science-based access course
- equivalent Scottish or Irish qualifications
Please check college/university websites carefully for their individual requirements.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen accredited degree in pharmacy, a college or university Access course, such as Access to Science, could be the way in. You don't usually need any qualifications to start an Access course, but you should check individual course details.
You can apply for funding from relevant medical charities and trusts. Some employers provide sponsorship.
The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries General Charity Limited offers grants to a limited number of students who are on the third or final year of their pharmacy degree courses.
Professional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain is the professional institution for pharmacy in the UK.
NHS Wales Careers
Publisher: National Leadership and Innovation Agency for Healthcare
Step into the NHS
Tel: 0345 6060655
Skills for Health
Skills for the health sector
Address: Goldsmiths House, Broad Plain, Bristol BS2 0JP
Tel: 0117 9221155
Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd
Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)
Address: 7th floor, Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London SW1E 6QT
Tel: 0870 8904333
Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Scotland
Address: Crichton House, 4 Crichton's Close, Edinburgh EH8 8DT
Tel: 0131 5230493
NHS Education for Scotland (NES)
Address: Westport 102, West Port, Edinburgh EH3 9DN
Tel: 0131 6563200
National Pharmacy Association (NPA)
Address: 38-42 St Peter's Street, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 3NP
Tel: 01727 858687
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Address: 1 Lambeth High Street, London SE1 7JN
Tel: 0845 2572570
Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland Enquiries
Address: 73 University Street, Belfast BT7 1HL
Tel: 028 9032 6927
Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Address: Apothecaries' Hall, Black Friars Lane, London EC4V 6EJ
Tel: 020 7236 1189
General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
Address: 129 Lambeth Road, London SE1 7BT
Tel: 020 3365 3400
Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland
Address: Holyrood Park House, 106 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AS
Tel: 0131 5564386
Cardiff School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Address: Cardiff University, Redwood Building, King Edward II Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3NB
Tel: 029 2087 4151
People Exchange Cymru (PEC)
Public sector recruitment portal for Wales