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How to Become a Pharmacist

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How to Become a Pharmacist

Pharmacists play a vital role in keeping our hospitals, pharmacies and health care organisations functioning. They help patients stay healthy by prescribing and dispensing the correct medication, they help patients and carers in the community with chronic health conditions, and they carry out research to develop new and improve existing medication. If you want to work in healthcare, you might be considering a career in pharmacy. We’ve put together this guide to provide you with more information about how to become a pharmacist, what qualifications are required, how long it takes to become a pharmacist and more.

How do I know if becoming a pharmacist is the right choice for me?

If you’ve stumbled across this post, it’s likely you’ll have asked yourself this question at some point. And it’s a great question. Becoming a pharmacist is a big commitment that takes a long time and a lot of effort, due to how long you need to spend in education to get there. So you want to make sure you’re pursuing the right career before you throw yourself in to becoming a pharmacist.

First of all, an interest in healthcare and pharmaceuticals is a must. Once you’ve became a pharmacist, you will spend most of your day in a healthcare setting, handling medication and pharmaceutical materials. You will also need to enjoy working with people. While there are some pharmaceutical settings with little patient contact (pharmaceutical informatics or lab-based pharmacy, for example), most settings require you to interact directly with patients. So it will help a lot if you actually enjoy dealing with them!

If you’re well organised and have strong attention to detail, a career in pharmacy may be right for you. Pharmacists work with a wide inventory of medications, and will have to juggle multiple requests for lots of different patients at any one time. So good organisational skills can ensure you keep on top of all of this. While attention to detail is vital for making sure you get prescriptions right and catch any mistakes before medication is administered to patients. Mis-prescribed medication can have serious consequences. So attention to detail is essential for reducing the likelihood of errors.

One other thing that may help you decide whether becoming a pharmacist is the right decision is the benefits the career brings. Firstly, pharmacists are pretty well paid, enjoy a lot of responsibility and have a great career outlook. And a pharmacy career can offer lots of variety. At different points in your career, you could find yourself working in the community, in ambulatory care, in a hospital or in a lab. And if you decide you want more flexibility later in your career, you can work as a locum pharmacist. If you still want to work in the pharmaceutical world, but you’re not sure you want to spend so much time in education, or perhaps you don’t want to take on as much responsibility, you could consider a career as a pharmacy technician. Check out our post on how to become a pharmacy technician for more information.

How to become a pharmacist - What qualifications are required

One of the main reasons it takes quite a long time to become a pharmacist is due to the extensive training required. But given pharmacists are the ones responsible for deciding what medication patients are given, the amount of training is definitely a good thing!

To become a pharmacist, you will typically need to complete five years of academic and practical education and training. This consists of a four year pharmacy Master’s degree (MPharm), followed by a year-long paid work placement called your foundation year.

The MPharm course covers things like preparing medication, pharmacy law & ethics, helping patients manage symptoms, promoting a healthy lifestyle and advising on drugs and medicines, as well as theoretical topics like physiology, biochemistry, pathology and microbiology.

In your placement year, you’ll work in a pharmaceutical setting, on real-life projects, alongside fully-qualified experts in your chosen field. So it’s a great opportunity to learn what working as a pharmacist is really like, and support your colleagues on real pharmaceutical projects.

To get on to an MPharm course, most universities require two of your three A-Levels to be in Chemistry and a second Science subject or maths. Additionally, most course providers will expect you to have achieved GCSEs in maths, language and at least one life science.

Once you’ve completed your MPharm and foundation year, the final step to become a qualified pharmacist is to register with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). In order to register, applicants are expected to pass the GPhC’s registration assessment. The assessment tests applicants on the knowledge gained during their training, as well as testing their arithmetic skills, to ensure they’re able to carry out the calculations they will need on the job as a pharmacist. And that’s it! After completing these steps, you will officially be able to call yourself a pharmacist.

How long does it take to become a pharmacist

Most accredited pharmacy master’s degree courses last four years, followed by your 12 month pre-registration training period. So assuming you pass the GPhC’s registration assessment at the first attempt, it takes most people five years to become a fully qualified pharmacist from starting the MPharm.

If you want to go in to specialist areas of pharmacy, for example radiopharmaceuticals, this may require additional training and education further down the line.

What skills are important for becoming a pharmacist

Pharmacy is a multifaceted job, and the skills that will be most important may differ slightly depending on the pharmaceutical setting you find yourself in. But some skills that are probably the most important for pharmacists include:

  • Maths & mental arithmetic: pharmacists are required to calculate dosage and amounts of medication for patients, so a good grasp of numbers is important.

  • Attention to detail: This one is a must. In a healthcare setting, mistakes can be lethal. So pharmacists must be detail oriented to make sure patients receive the correct medication and correct dosage.

  • Working under pressure: This one is extra important for hospital pharmacists, but it applies to any pharmacy role. There’s rarely a quiet day as a pharmacist, and you’ll be juggling lots of patients’ requests at any one time. So it’s essential to stay cool and calm under pressure.

  • People skills / good communication: As a pharmacist, whichever clinical setting you end up in, you’ll come into contact with a wide range of people from different backgrounds: patients, doctors, pharmacy techs, nurses, hospital administrators etc. So good people and communication skills are key for helping you manage these professional relationships.

How to find a job as a pharmacist

Just an important question as how to become a pharmacist is also how to find work as a pharmacist once you’re fully qualified.

Many pharmacists who want to work in healthcare settings will look for work directly through the NHS jobs site. Others who are more interested in community pharmacy may look on the job pages of major companies that employ pharmacists, such as Boots or Lloyds.

Some pharmacists will use pharmacy recruitment specialists like Quad Recruitment to find work. This is a good option, as pharmacy recruiters usually have multiple roles that may be relevant for you, and will get to know you and what you’re looking for in a job, so they can match you with the best options.


Hopefully you’ve found this post informative and it’s now a little bit clearer to you how to become a pharmacist. If you do decide to pursue a career as a pharmacist, just know you’ll be embarking on a fulfilling and exciting career in which you’ll be able to improve the health of many patients. And remember, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Quad Recruitment once you’re qualified and we’ll be happy to help you find your first job as a pharmacist!