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Pharmacist Dispensing chemist, community pharmacist, hospital pharmacist

Pharmacists provide expert advice on the use and supply of medicines and medical appliances.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £26,500 to £83,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 37.5 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need to do a:

  • 4-year Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) degree approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
  • 1-year pre-registration training course in a pharmacy
  • registration exam

If you don't have the qualifications to get onto an MPharm degree, you could do a 2-year pharmacy foundation degree. You could then take a job as a pharmacy assistant or technician and apply for the MPharm degree directly into year two.

If you don't have science A levels, you could do a 5 year course at a few universities.

2. Skills required

Pharmacists have a highly responsible job, dispensing drugs and checking prescriptions according to strict controls. You'll need:

  • abilities in science and maths
  • very high standards of accuracy and attention to detail
  • excellent customer care and communication skills
  • organisational skills and ability to prioritise work
  • business skills (if you're running a community pharmacy)

3. What you'll do

You could work in different areas, including:

Community pharmacy

  • dispensing medicines in a high street or supermarket pharmacy
  • giving healthcare advice about prescription and over-the-counter medicines
  • advising on drug dosages and risks
  • running screening programmes for diabetes, cholesterol or blood pressure
  • visiting care homes to advise on the use and storage of medications
  • ordering and controlling stock
  • running a business, including supervising and training staff

Hospital pharmacy:

  • working with doctors and nurses and other healthcare staff
  • producing medicines when ready-made ones aren’t available, for example, cancer treatments
  • buying, quality testing and distributing medicines throughout the hospital
  • visiting wards and patients to talk about medicines and dosages
  • dispensing medicines for patients being discharged from hospital
  • supervising trainees and junior pharmacists

Local NHS service:

  • giving advice to GPs and nurses on how to choose and prescribe medicines
  • running GP practice clinics

Education or industry:

  • doing research into new medicines
  • running clinical trials

In all of the above roles, you'll observe high standards of security and confidentiality.

4. Salary

Starter: £26,500

Experienced: £32,000 to £41,000

Highly Experienced: £41,000 to £83,000

These figures are taken from NHS pay grades. In a community pharmacy, salaries can be similar.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work 37.5 hours a week, including weekends and on call. As a community pharmacist, you could work up to 48 hours a week in a retail location.

As a hospital pharmacist, you might work in the NHS or at a private hospital.

6. Career path and progression

There's a formal career structure in the NHS, so with experience you could progress to team manager or pharmacy consultant. You could also work in GPs’ surgeries or health centres.

Promotion opportunities can be good if you're working for one of the larger pharmacy chains where you can apply for regional or national management positions.

With experience, you could set up your own community pharmacy business.

After further training, you could go on to teach pharmacy students at university.

Another option is to move into related areas like scientific journalism or publishing.

To do research, you'll need a further postgraduate qualification in a subject like toxicology or pharmacology.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society offers professional support services.

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Last updated: 12 April 2017