Pharmacist Careers

How to become a Pharmacist

What does a Pharmacist do?

Pharmacists specialise in the area of drugs and medicine. They work in a variety of settings, usually beginning their career in an NHS community or hospital pharmacy.

Community pharmacists work in a retail environment, preparing medicines ordered on prescription or bought over-the-counter. They give healthcare advice to the general public and provide information on how to use medicines correctly – highlighting dosage and any contraindications. In addition, they are likely to be business managers and therefore require the skills necessary to make the pharmacy profitable. Selling a range of products, as well as supervising and training a number of staff, the community pharmacist must be financially astute, able to order and control stock and be responsible for the maintenance of premises.

Hospital pharmacists prepare and supply medication, check labels and prescriptions, and advise on the dosage and administration of drugs. They may visit wards, give clinical advice to colleagues and supply them with current information on drugs. They are responsible for the purchase, storage, stock control, quality testing and distribution of medicines within the hospital. Senior pharmacists may be involved in supervising pre-registration trainees and junior pharmacists.

Industrial pharmacists research and develop new medicines, carry out experiments, evaluate results, produce reports and make recommendations.

Pharmacists can also work within health authorities, for wholesalers, in universities, for research institutes, in food production, and the chemical industry.

All pharmacists maintain records and ensure the laws controlling medicines are observed.

What's the working environment like working as a Pharmacist?

The hours of work of a community pharmacist can vary from a few hours a week to 48 hours a week.

Hospital pharmacists will work 37.5 hours a week. Weekend and on-call rotas are common.

Industrial pharmacists normally work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

What does it take to become a Pharmacist?

To be a pharmacist, you should:

  • have a careful, thorough approach
  • be organised, work methodically and think logically
  • be responsible and security conscious
  • have well developed communication skills for advising patients, doctors and other colleagues
  • have an interest in the health and well-being of people
  • be able to supervise others
  • have a high level of scientific understanding and ability
  • be able to calculate and use scientific formulae
  • have good business skills.

Pharmacist Career Opportunities

Some pharmacists go on to teach, others work as locums (filling temporary/holiday posts). It may be possible to become self-employed, owning and managing a pharmacy, or possibly work overseas.

There may be opportunities to move into management, or sideways into areas such as production and toxicology.

Promotion opportunities are excellent in larger pharmacies, and can lead to regional or national management. There is a formal career structure in the NHS.

A degree in pharmacy can provide a good foundation to occupations in areas like forensic science, food processing, the cosmetics industries, and scientific journalism.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Pharmacist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850

NHS Careers
PO Box 376
BS99 3EY
Tel: 0845 606 0655

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain
1 Lambeth High Street
Tel: 020 7735 9141

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
12 Whitehall
Tel: 020 7930 3477

The Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland
73 University Street
Tel: 028 9032 6927

Facts and Stats:

  • Dutch researchers have genetically altered plants so that bees produce foreign proteins in their nectar. They hope that the bees will create honey containing a variety of drugs or vaccines.

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  • A commercial satellite capable of distinguishing objects the size of a tea tray will soon be launched from the United States. The Ikonos-1 is the most powerful commercial imaging satellite yet built. Its parabolic lens will be able to resolve objects 80cm (32in) in length anywhere on Earth.

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