What Is Needed to Study and Become a Pharmacist?

Applying To Become a Pharmacist

Medicines prescribed by doctors are the most common treatment offered to patients by the NHS. Pharmacists are described as “experts in medicines and their use” and their job requires them to have knowledge of medicines and the effects they have on human beings and their bodies. With this knowledge, they are able to successfully manage many types of medical conditions.

Job Description

Pharmacists are required to perform a wide range of roles which vary from giving advice to providing information on medications and treatments. Within the Pharmacist’s job, they perform all of these tasks listed:

  • Give advice on the dosage of any prescribed medication
  • Suggest the most relevant course of medication for the given condition of a patient and whether or not tablets, injections, inhalers etc. are needed
  • Ensure that patients are taking their medication properly and are not abusing/misusing it
  • Give help to patients and manage long term conditions
  • Give advice to other healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses and physicians on how to choose the right medicines and their correct uses
  • Make sure that new medicines are safe to use with other types of medication
  • Provide detailed information to patients on how to get the most benefit from the medication they have been prescribed.
  • Give advice on prescriptions and any recommended changes if there are any
  • Provide detailed information on the potential side effects of any medication
  • Give advice on the most effective treatments for particular conditions even if that means medication for sale without prescription
  • Keep a close monitor on the effects of a patient’s treatment and ensure that it is working properly and is safe to carry on

Qualified Pharmacists are sometimes involved in the manufacturing of medicines when medicines that are usually readily made are unavailable for whatever reason. This is normally the case when it comes to certain treatments that require medicines to be specifically made under sterile conditions for individual patients.

Pharmacists often work as part of healthcare teams that work in hospitals but they also work at local community pharmacies too. Some pharmacists work in supermarkets where retail pharmacies are usually found or other parties that provide NHS services like clinics and such. Pharmacists can sometimes also supervise pharmacy assistants and technicians when purchasing, quality testing and dispensing medicines to ensure that the process is being done correctly and the correct medications are being prescribed.

medicine illustration

Community pharmacists are usually based in pharmacies and health centres but they can also spend a lot of time visiting patients at home. This is to ensure that patients who are unable, such as disabled people and pensioners, to leave their homes/residential homes still get the proper treatment and care. 

Entry Requirements, Characteristics and Skills Needed

To begin practising as a pharmacist there are a few things you will need to sort out first. First of all, you must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) which requires you to study for an accredited Masters degree in pharmacy. There are many Universities and institutions across the UK that offer this full-time course which lasts four years if you are studying full time.

To pass the requirements to study a Master’s degree in pharmacy you need to have achieved three A-B grade A-levels in chemistry, biology, physics and maths as well as five GCSEs grade C or above. These can be any GCSEs as long as English language, maths and at least one of the sciences are among them. If you don’t have all of these there are a few alternative qualifications that they will accept which are:

  • BTEC, HND or HNC including at least one of the sciences
  • NVQ that is relevant to the course
  • Equivalent qualifications if you received them from a Scottish or Irish institution
  • Foundation degree in pharmacy
  • Science-based access course

Every institution sets its own entry requirements so it is imperative that you carefully check what your choice requires exactly. Wherever you decide to study, you will need to show that you have a clear understanding of pharmacy and the benefits it can bring to patients. It is good practice to volunteer and get some work experience with a registered pharmacist so that you know what the work is like and you have a given understanding and know exactly what is expected of you. 

happy pharmacist

Once you have graduated from your chosen University/institution you are required to work for a 1-year pre-registration period while under supervision in a hospital or local community pharmacy and also pass a registration exam. 

The skills and personal characteristics you’ll need to develop before you begin working as a pharmacist are as follows:

  • You must be able to understand and apply the law
  • You must be responsible
  • You must be able to work with all types of people and personalities
  • You must be accurate and methodical
  • You must have an interest in people’s health
  • You must be willing to supervise others
  • You must have good communication skills and be able to listen attentively
  • You must have good customer skills
  • You must be able to explain things clearly to people
  • You must have good science skills

Further Training and Development

Once you are qualified, you have the option to join the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) which many pharmacists do. Registered pharmacists need to keep their skills and knowledge sharp and up to date with annual Continuing Professional Development (CPD). The RPS organises and runs courses, seminars and conferences which pharmacists can use as a platform to exchange ideas and develop their skills further. Pharmacists with a lot of experience can choose to receive additional training and qualifications which can allow them to prescribe medicines.