Pharmacists are key members of the healthcare team. They provide expert advice to patients and other healthcare professionals on the safe use and supply of medicines.
Pharmacists are also trained in managing common clinical conditions and provide services to help people live longer and healthier lives.
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:
- Administration and IT
- Business Management
Work placements and volunteering
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.
Our Health Boards also offer volunteering opportunities. You can help make a real difference to patients using healthcare services and their families. Find out more about volunteering in the NHS.
A Foundation Apprenticeship could be a great way to start your NHS career journey. Find out more about the Foundation Apprenticeship in Social Services and Healthcare.
In Scotland, 2 universities offer the GPhC accredited Master of Pharmacy degrees (MPharm):
- Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen
- University of Strathclyde in Glasgow
The 4-year MPharm degree is followed by a paid Foundation Training year. At the end of the training year, you'll be set the GPhC assessment to become a qualified pharmacist.
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 Wider Access Programme (SWAP).
Many universities also provide access programmes to help you get the degree entry qualifications you need.
If you're a registered pharmacy technician, you can apply to do the MPharm degree to become a pharmacist. You'll then need to complete a foundation training programme in your 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.
As a pharmacist, you would use your expert knowledge of medicines and the effect they have on the body to help people manage their conditions.
The GPhC is changing the education and training process for future pharmacists. It means that by the summer of 2026, all pharmacists will be qualified independent prescribers at the point of registration. This will allow you to prescribe medicines and lead clinics in your place of work.
As a pharmacist working in a community pharmacy, you would help people with common clinical conditions, answer medication queries, and dispense prescriptions. You will also be responsible for supervising the sale of medications and for providing training for staff.
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 or see them when they come into the hospital unwell.
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 teams.
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, ethics, and local and national guidelines
- monitoring the effects of treatments to make sure they are safe and effective
- providing advice to others about the safe use of medicines
You’ll need these skills:
- communicating with people
- working in a team
Who you’ll work with
You could work with:
- pharmacy technicians
- pharmacy support staff
- other healthcare professionals
- administrative staff
You could work in:
- community pharmacies
- GP practices
- pharmaceutical companies
- universities or colleges
To work as a pharmacist in NHSScotland, you’ll need to:
- register with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
- complete occupational health checks
- join Disclosure Scotland's Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme
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 every year. This includes providing evidence that you are continuing to develop your knowledge and skills.
The professional body for pharmacists in the UK is The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). You can become a member as soon as you start studying for a pharmacy degree. The RPS provides courses, conferences, and seminars. They also offer post-registration training programmes for pharmacists at foundation, advanced, and consultant levels.
You may choose to specialise in an area of pharmacy such as:
- mental health
- cancer care
- 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 training pathways.
Once you have the necessary experience, you may choose to undertake a senior managerial role. You could become the head of a pharmacy service. There are also teaching and research opportunities.