How to become a pharmacist (With FAQs)
Updated 15 November 2023
Pharmacists are medical professionals who help people achieve and maintain their health by dispensing medicine. If you want to work in the health industry and focus on educating and providing people with medications to improve their health, you might be interested in becoming a pharmacist. Qualified pharmacists have access to a wide range of career opportunities. In this article, we discuss what a pharmacist does, how to become a pharmacist and provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about this profession.
Related: How To Become a Doctor in the UK
What does a pharmacist do?
Pharmacists dispense over-the-counter or medication prescribed by doctors to customers. They also educate customers on how to take their medicine safely. Pharmacists provide essential health care services. Some of the typical duties of a pharmacist include:
Receive medication prescriptions from doctors and fill them for their customers. When pharmacists dispense prescriptions, they usually make sure that the customers don't take any other medications that could interact negatively with the prescribed medication.
Explain to customers how and how frequently to take medicine. They also provide customers with written instructions. The pharmacist highlights the side effects of the medication to customers.
Provide flu injections and vaccinations to their customers when requested to do so.
Process their customers' insurance claims and complete the paperwork or digital forms to receive medication from medical insurance providers.
Discuss stress, diet, exercise and other health-related topics with customers and lifestyle issues with customers.
Work with other healthcare professionals, such as nurses and doctors, to ensure the doctors chooses the most appropriate medicine for a patient.
Help customers manage long-term health conditions, such as high blood pressure.
Educate and train new pharmacists and other healthcare team members.
How to become a pharmacist
It can take up to five years to become a pharmacist. You can use the following steps to become a pharmacist:
1. Meet a university's entrance requirements
For a career as a pharmacist, you need a university degree. To qualify for entrance to a university, you can check with your chosen university what their specific entrance requirements are. The following may help you meet most universities' entrance requirements:
You can complete at least three A-levels or equivalent subjects, such as mathematics, chemistry and a second science.
Universities may also consider any completed General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) subjects alongside A-levels. Most universities offering pharmacist degrees require a minimum of five GCSE subjects, including English language, one science and mathematics.
You can complete vocational qualifications such as BTEC Level 3, the Access to Higher Education Diploma or the National Extended Diploma in Applied Sciences.
2. Complete a degree
You can complete a five-year pharmacy degree programme at a university. The degree typically comprises academic and clinical-based teaching. After the first four years of your studies, you can earn a Master's degree in pharmacy (MPharm).
3. Complete the required foundation training
After completing your master's degree, you can gain valuable work experience through a one-year work placement. This work placement is called a foundation training year. Your university can assist you in making arrangements for a work placement.
4. Register with the General Pharmaceutical Council
Once you have completed your foundation training, you can register as a pharmacist with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). Registration with the GPhC is a mandatory requirement to work as a pharmacist. You may also register with other professional bodies as you specialise further.
5. Find a job and gain experience
After registration with the GPhC, you can look for a job. As you work as a pharmacist, you can build experience and essential skills you succeed. You may also choose to work as a locum pharmacist and travel to different pharmacies.
6. Join the professional body for pharmacists
After becoming a qualified pharmacist, you can join the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). The RPS is the professional body for pharmacists. They support pharmacists with development and education opportunities.
7. Keep up-to-date through learning
All pharmacists must meet the mandatory requirement to complete at least nine Continuing Professional Development (CPD) entries annually to remain registered with the GPhC. CPD training ensures that pharmacists keep their knowledge and skills updated.
Related: The Importance of Upskilling
8. Choose an area of specialisation
Pharmacists can specialise in several areas. Some of these areas of specialisation include:
Ambulatory care pharmacy: these pharmacists provide integrated and accessible healthcare services for ambulatory patients in different settings, such as clinics and physician offices.
Cardiology pharmacy: this area of specialisation focuses on the prevention and treatment of disease, including the use of evidence-based medicine.
Compounded sterile preparations pharmacy: these pharmacists provide sterile preparations that meet the clinical needs of patients.
Pharmacotherapy: pharmacists in this field ensure the safe and economical use of medications as part of multidisciplinary treatment teams in different settings, such as hospitals.
Oncology pharmacy: these pharmacists provide managed patient-centred medication therapy and other patient care for individuals with cancer.
Nuclear pharmacy: these pharmacists focus on improving public health by providing safe and effective use of radioactive drugs for therapy and diagnosis.
Pediatric pharmacy: pharmacists in this field promote the safe and effective use of drugs and optimal medication therapy outcomes for children under 18.
Frequently asked questions about becoming a pharmacist
You may want to know the answers to these frequently asked questions about a career as a pharmacist:
What skills does a pharmacist need?
A successful pharmacist needs the following skills:
Attention to detail: pharmacists follow physicians' prescriptions carefully to ensure they provide the correct medication and accurate instructions to customers.
Analytical thinking: pharmacists focus on helping customers take their medicine safely. They do this by analysing the customer's specific needs and identifying potential conflicts when using multiple types of medications.
Communication skills: pharmacists need excellent verbal and written communication skills to communicate with physicians and customers.
Computer literacy: pharmacists use computers to retrieve prescriptions and update customer records. They know how to use pharmacy software and do basic searches and data entries using the computer.
Physical stamina: pharmacists may work long shifts and spend most of their shifts standing up.
Compassion: they show compassion by providing friendly consultations and service to customers.
Active listening: pharmacists need excellent listening skills to understand medical professions and customers.
Professional ethics: pharmacists need to be ethical and keep customers' information confidential.
Where do pharmacists work?
Pharmacists have many options for places to work, including:
Community pharmacy: community pharmacists work with communities in villages, towns and cities.
Hospitals: pharmacists working in hospitals rotate through different clinical specialities, such as cardiology.
General practice: these pharmacists support the physicians and may run specialist clinics for patients with longer-term illnesses.
Industry: these pharmacists work in companies involved in the manufacturing and development of medicines.
Technical services and clinical trials: pharmacists may manufacture specialist drugs and participate in trials for different or new medications in this field.
Integrated care systems: pharmacists in integrated care systems work with general practitioner surgeries to ensure that the patients get the best medicine.
Academia: pharmacists may do research and teach at a university.
Procurement: these pharmacists liaise with medicine manufacturers to manage the supply of medication globally.
Mental health: in this field, you ensure patients get appropriate medicine to enhance their mental well-being.
Care homes: pharmacists assist residents to use their medicine optimally.
Research: these pharmacists create new types of medicines.
Health and justice: pharmacists may provide medication in settings such as prisons or prisoner rehabilitation facilities.
Armed forces: these pharmacists support members of the military with their medicine needs
Who works with a pharmacist?
Pharmacists work with other healthcare professionals to give the best treatment to patients. They may also work directly with patients. Pharmacists typically work with pharmacy technicians and pharmacy support staff, such as pharmacy assistants.
What are the working hours for pharmacists?
Most pharmacists work full-time, but others may work part-time shifts. Pharmacists may also work over weekends and in the evenings since some pharmacies are often open at all hours. They may also work on-call and travel to patients in the community.
Average salary and benefits for pharmacists
The average annual salary for pharmacists is £46,961 per year. The salary and benefits of pharmacists depend on the type of employer and align with the National Health System (NHS) salaries and benefits, which includes pension fund contributions. Pharmacists who work in the NHS get benefits, such as 27 days of annual leave plus bank holidays.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed. Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location. This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out a local resource for the latest on this topic.
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