In NHSScotland, pharmacists work as a key member of the healthcare team to deliver essential and advanced services to the public. They provide expert advice on the safe use and supply of medicines.

Pharmacists work closely with other healthcare professionals to make sure people receive the correct treatments. They care for patients using healthcare services in many different settings such as GP practices, community pharmacies and hospitals. 

To work in the UK, pharmacists must be professionally qualified and registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). 

Starting your career

Choosing subjects at school

To get on a course that could lead to a career as a pharmacist, useful subjects include:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Human Biology
  • English
  • Maths
  • Physics
  • Administration and IT
  • Business Management

Work placement

If you’re at school or thinking of changing career, doing a work placement could help you when applying to college, university or for a job in healthcare. You’ll learn new skills, improve your knowledge and discover what it’s like to work in the health service. Find out how to apply for work experience with the NHS.

Completing a Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare, taken in S5 or S6, could gain you vital work experience.

College and university

In Scotland, two universities offer the GPhC accredited Master of Pharmacy degrees (MPharm):

  • Robert Gordon University
  • University of Strathclyde

This pre-registration programme lasts 4 years, full time.

Most universities accept a wide range of qualifications, giving you the option of applying directly from school or going to college first.

If you do not have the initial requirements for entry into the MPharm, there are other possible ways for you to gain entry to the course.

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you can get into higher education through the Scottish Widening Access Programme (SWAP). Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.

Another path to becoming a pharmacist is to initially study to become a pharmacy technician and then continue your studies with the MPharm.

Once you have completed your MPharm degree, you must complete a one-year pre-registration training in the workplace and pass the GPhC’s registration assessment.

For more information on related further and higher education courses, search My World of Work. You should check specific entry requirements before applying.

The role

As a pharmacist, you would use your knowledge of medicines and the effect they have on the body to make sure that people manage their conditions. You could also prescribe and lead clinics in your place of work.

If you are working in a community pharmacy, you would deal with members of the public with minor illnesses, medication queries and prescriptions. You’ll be responsible for supervising the sale of medications and for providing training for staff. You could also consult patients at weekends and evening when GP practices are closed.

If you are working within a hospital pharmacy, you will be involved in every stage of a patient’s hospital journey. You might review patients in clinics before you come in for surgery or see them when they come into hospital unwell.

Recently, pharmacists have become key members of GP practices. You would make sure that medicines are prescribed safely, cost-effective and appropriate for the disease. You’ll also be the key link between hospital and community pharmacy care.

What you’ll do

Some of the typical tasks of a pharmacist include:

  • confirming what medications patients are taking and making sure they are appropriate
  • prescribing medications to allow patients to achieve their treatment goals
  • training and supervising staff in a hospital setting
  • making sure the supply and use of medicines is within the law
  • monitoring the effects of treatments to make sure they are safe and effective
  • providing advice to others about the safe use of medicines

Top skills

You’ll need these skills:

  • compassion
  • communicating with people
  • working in a team
  • decision-making
  • leadership
  • problem-solving

Who you’ll work with

You could work with:

  • pharmacy technicians
  • pharmacy support workers
  • doctors
  • nurses
  • other healthcare professionals
  • administrative staff

Working environment

You could work in:

  • hospital
  • community pharmacies
  • GP practices
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • universities or colleges

Useful information

To work as a pharmacist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:

Did you know?

There are around 4,000 registered pharmacists and over 1,200 pharmacies in Scotland.

Learning and development

You will need to renew your registration and provide evidence that you are continuing to develop your knowledge and skills every year.

The professional body for pharmacists and pharmacy in the Uk is The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). You can become a member once you’ve qualified as a pharmacist. They provide courses, conferences and seminars where you can exchange ideas and update skills. They also offer advanced training programmes for pharmacists.

Career progression

You may choose to specialise in an area of pharmacy such as:

  • mental health
  • cancer care
  • paediatrics
  • addiction
  • research and development

You could also progress to senior and specialist pharmacist roles. To help you develop into these roles, there are a number of pathways of training. One of these in the National Learning Pathway for Pharmacists working in General Practice.

The National Learning Pathway for Pharmacists working in General Practice

The Scottish Government has allocated funding for the recruitment of pharmacists with advanced clinical skills to work directly in GP practices.

These new roles will support the care of patients with long term conditions and allow GPs to spend more time with complex patients.

Once you have the necessary experience, you may choose to undertake a senior managerial role. You could become the head of pharmacy service and you would be responsible for the running of a pharmacy service for the local community.

There are also teaching and research opportunities.