Pharmacy is a major industry in the UK with over 65,000 employees and self-employed professionals working in pharmacist jobs. In 2019, there were more than 11,500 community pharmacies in the country, so there are plenty of opportunities to those seeking to pursue a career within the industry. Experts in the preparation and supply of medicines and other drug treatments, pharmacists, advise customers on the over-the-counter treatments and how to take those medications. However, there is much more to pharmacy jobs than that. While pharmacists aren’t doctors, they can assess and advice patients on their conditions and refer them to a doctor if they deem it necessary.
Would-be pharmacists should possess excellent communication skills in order to translate medical terms and technical instructions to patients about their medications in a way that’s clear to understand. Aside from this, you’ll need to be well organised, methodical and capable of multi-tasking.
Qualifications needed to work
A recognised pharmacy degree is required to become a pharmacist. To be accepted onto a course, undergraduates will have passed science subjects at A-level, ideally with three A-B grades in chemistry, biology, maths or physics, before going on taking a pharmacy degree at an accredited third level institution.
Degree courses typically last four years combining theory and practice and covering various aspects of pharmacology, biology, physiology pharmaceuticals, chemistry, ethics and economics. Then a pre-registration training year follows, although some degree courses may include the pre-registration year. This is essentially a year of paid work in a pharmacy, hospital or other medical facility. On completion of this, you receive an MPharm qualification (Master of Sciences of Pharmacy). Candidates must then pass a registration assessment, consisting of two exams set by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPC). Once you pass these, you will be allowed to practice as a fully qualified pharmacist.
There are three main pharmacy jobs for graduates:
Pharmacist – Working in a pharmacy or medical facility dispensing medicines over the counter and advising on treatments.
Pharmacy Assistant – These roles are responsible for assisting the senior pharmacist in their work. The role can involve a wide variety of tasks such as handling prescriptions, maintaining stock and answering queries.
Pharmacy Technician – Technicians work in hospitals and community pharmacies and are responsible for ensuring the correct supply and dosage of medicines.
Qualified pharmacists start on anywhere between £20,000 and £30,000 depending on the role and location, rising to between £35,000 and £60,000 with experience. Within the NHS, there is a very formal career structure for progression. Exceptional candidates can become team managers or pharmacy consultants. Promotion prospects are also good within large pharmacy chains such as Boots. Many high street pharmacies offer summer placement programmes. With further training, some pharmacists go on to teach at university, or enter scientific journalism.
As well as applying directly to pharmacy chain operators or local chemists, you’ll find pharmacy vacancies near you by searching the Zoek job board.
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