Career information pharmacy jobs
Pharmacy career overview
As experts in the field of drugs and medicine, pharmacists contribute to public health by supplying medicines. In the UK, pharmacists in the health service work in one of two areas: Hospital Pharmacy and Community Pharmacy. There are also numerous opportunities for qualified pharmacists in industry and research.
Community pharmacists work in a retail environment, frequently in high street or local chemists. They check prescriptions written by doctors, and prepare and dispense medicines to the general public. They also sell pre-packaged 'over the counter' medicines and advise people upon their use.
Hospital pharmacists are vital members of the hospital team, providing, preparing and dispensing drugs and medicines, preparing special feeding solutions, and supplying diagnostic agents.
There are currently around 31,000 practising pharmacists in the UK, and there is a shortage in hospitals.
In the community, a pharmacist advises customers on the use of prescribed medicines and checks that they understand which prescriptions should not be taken at the same time, or at the same time as alcohol. They check prescriptions, dosages and labels to ensure they are legal and accurate.
A community pharmacist is often also a retail manager - the pharmacy also sells toiletries, cosmetics and photographic material in addition to medical products. Running the business efficiently involves hands-on financial management, stock control and merchandising. In this role, the pharmacist is also responsible for employment of staff and maintenance of the premises. Administrative management usually entails the use of computer technology.
The hospital pharmacist is a member of the healthcare team, so has a slightly different role. Frequently, they consult with the other healthcare professionals, and meet patients on the ward to discuss the medicines being prescribed. The pharmacist advises on dosage and administration of drugs. They will be supervising pharmacy technicians, ordering medicines, making up prescriptions, and providing an information service.
The industrial pharmacist tasks include undertaking research and development of new drugs, and undertaking related clinical trials. They are also responsible for quality control, and legal and licensing issues.
Would a career as a pharmacist suit you?
A career in pharmacy requires a strong interest in chemistry, as well as the ability to use scientific formulae. The capacity to work independently or as a team member is essential, as are accuracy and attention to detail.
Working hours are usually standards at around 37 to 39 hours a week. Community and hospital pharmacists usually have to work on a rota that includes evenings and weekends, plus on-call hours.
To become a pharmacist, you need to gain a Degree in Pharmacy, approved by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB). Entry qualifications are A levels (or equivalents) in chemistry and 2 other subjects, chosen from biology, mathematics or physics, plus GCSEs in English language and mathematics at grades A-C. A level maths is preferred.
Some other qualifications may also be acceptable. Mature students might be accepted for a pharmacy degree without the normal qualifications if they have other relevant qualifications or evidence of recent study, such as an Access course.
After gaining a pharmacy degree, graduates must spend a year in practical training in a community or hospital pharmacy.
Salary / prospects for a career pharmacist
In the NHS, pre-registration graduates commence with a salary starting at £14,189. This rises to £19,961 - £22,464 upon registration. Industrial pharmacists earn from £22,000 to over £60,000. Community pharmacists running their own business stand to increase their earnings if the enterprise is profitable.
After a period of working under more experienced staff, newly qualified NHS pharmacists can opt to specialise in various areas of pharmacy. Promotion is to supervisory and management roles within specific service areas. This usually involves managing non-pharmacist staff, such as technical and support staff.
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