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How to become a pharmacist

To become a pharmacist, you must be professionally qualified and registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

What is a pharmacist?

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 as pharmacist

Choosing subjects at school

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

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

Work placements and volunteering

You may find it helpful to get some healthcare experience by doing a work placement or volunteering. You’ll get training, increase your knowledge, and learn new skills. This could help you when applying to university, college or a new job with NHSScotland. 

College and university

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 access

Widening participation supports adult learners who want to go to university. If you’re an adult with few or no qualifications, you could 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. 

Degree programme

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.

Course search

Search for college or university programmes on My World of Work.

Get to know the role

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.

Community pharmacy

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.

Hospital pharmacy

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.

Primary care

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.

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:

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

You could work with:

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

You could work in:

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

Learning and development

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 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.

Professional bodies

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 will need to renew your registration every year. This includes providing evidence that you are continuing to develop your knowledge and skills.

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