Pharmacy Jobs in the UK - A Comprehensive Guide

12 min

The pharmacy industry in the UK accumulated around £36 billion last year and shows no ...

Hannah Hemsley

By Hannah Hemsley

The pharmacy industry in the UK accumulated around £36 billion last year and shows no signs of slowing down. By 2028, market revenue is expected to bring in up to £40 billion, further cementing the growing availability for a promising career in pharmacy. Over the past few decades, pharmacy professionals have seen their roles evolve beyond dispenser pharmacy jobs to comprehensive patient care and specialised functions. While overseeing prescriptions is still important in the pharmacy profession, the advent of new technologies, a surge in complex healthcare needs, and an ageing population require adaptable and future-oriented pharmacists. Read on to learn more about the current state of pharmacy careers in the UK and gain valuable insight into how you can pursue jobs in pharmacies successfully.

Pharmacists are an indispensable part of the healthcare system in the UK. Pharmacists manage minor and major ailments, alleviating pressure on General Practitioners (GPs) while reducing wait times for more complex cases. Besides that, they divert attention away from the already stretched National Health Service (NHS) by contributing significantly to public health initiatives such as administering vaccinations or offering screening services to patients. 

Though the outlook on pharmacist jobs is positive, reported numbers for the total workforce have reduced, with more than 50% set to retire by 2027. It should come as no surprise that specialised functions like pharmacy technician positions are on the UK’s skilled worker shortage list, as even clinical pharmacy jobs and pharmacy assistant jobs remain vacant. A skills gap is emerging in the profession as the number of new and unfilled roles outpace the growth of qualified pharmacists who can occupy these positions.

Qualifications and Requirements for Pharmacy Jobs in the UK

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has set certain standards for aspiring pharmacists to fulfil, starting with a four-year Master’s Degree in Pharmacy (MPharm). This is the core qualification that will allow you to complete the next step: a one-year supervised pre-registration training program in a pharmacy setting. 

After you have gained the necessary practical experience, the final mandatory step is to register with the GPhC. You will need to pass a registration assessment and demonstrate good character, submit some documents proving both your identity and your degree certificates, as well as pay the registration fee of £196 to process your application.

A strong academic foundation and successfully registering with GPhC are enough to land you most pharmacy roles. Those who are seeking advanced practice can opt to enhance their employability through additional qualifications like an MSc in Oncology for the Pharmaceutical Industry or an MSc in Public Health.

Types of Pharmacy Jobs Available in the UK

The pharmacy market is capricious, leading to the emergence of new and specialised roles. Below is a breakdown of the various roles that the profession has to offer:

Community Pharmacist

The foundation of medication access, community pharmacists dispense medications, review patient medication plans, offer advice on minor health concerns, and collaborate with doctors on patient care. They also contribute to public health initiatives like vaccinations and medication adherence programs. Their fast-paced environment is typically located in convenient locations like high streets or supermarkets, requiring strong communication and interpersonal skills. They typically work in local pharmacies or big brand corporations.

Hospital Pharmacist 

Working within hospital teams, these pharmacists ensure safe and effective medication use for in and outpatients. They collaborate with doctors on medication regimens, monitor for drug interactions, manage medication distribution, and educate other healthcare professionals. Specialisation options like infectious diseases or oncology are available. The fast-paced environment fosters collaboration with nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals, focusing on patient care within a larger healthcare system.

Clinical Pharmacist

These pharmacists dive deeper into patient-centred care and specialise in areas like critical care or mental health. They conduct medication reviews, optimise medication regimens, recommend adjustments, and educate patients. They play a crucial role in improving medication outcomes and reducing hospital readmission rates. The work environment can vary, including hospitals, clinics, and outpatient centres, with collaboration alongside doctors and nurses being a key aspect.  They may also engage in data analysis and medication protocol development.

Research Pharmacist

Contributing to the development of new medications, these pharmacists may design and conduct clinical trials, analyse research data in universities, or work in pharmaceutical companies on drug development and regulatory processes. They may pursue a Ph.D. to advance their research expertise. The research-oriented environment requires strong analytical skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work independently while collaborating with other researchers and scientists.

Informatics Pharmacists

Leveraging technology and data analysis skills, informatics pharmacists optimise medication use and improve patient outcomes. They may work in hospitals, clinics, or healthcare IT companies. Their environment can range from hospital pharmacies to IT departments, requiring them to collaborate with healthcare professionals and IT specialists to develop medication management systems and electronic health records.

Public Health Pharmacists

Focused on population health, these pharmacists tackle initiatives like immunisation programs, medication safety awareness campaigns, and promoting healthy lifestyle choices. They may work in public health departments or community settings, interacting directly with the public and collaborating with healthcare professionals across various organisations.

Nuclear Pharmacists

Specialising in the safe handling and administration of radioactive medications used in diagnostic imaging procedures, these pharmacists work within dedicated nuclear medicine departments of hospitals. Their environment requires meticulous attention to detail and adherence to safety protocols for radioactive materials.

Medical Affairs Pharmacists

Acting as a bridge between pharmaceutical companies and the medical community, these pharmacists liaise with both parties. Their work environment can involve offices within pharmaceutical companies or healthcare institutions. Responsibilities may include clinical trial design, ensuring accurate drug information dissemination to healthcare professionals, and monitoring drug safety.

Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Pharmacist in the UK

Universities usually require a minimum of BCC A-Levels in Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics or Physics as a prerequisite for entry into GPhC-accredited MPharm programmes. After graduating with a degree, you will need to sign up with a GPhC-approved training provider. For one year, aspiring pharmacists complete a hands-on training program called the foundation year. Previously known as the pre-registration training year, it provides supervised practical experience for budding pharmacists. Pharmacy trainees get at least 90 hours of supervised training in prescribing medications. This helps them become more skilled and eventually qualify to prescribe drugs themselves after they register.

After you’re done with training, it’s time to take the GPhC registration test. You will need to pass this computer-based exam offered twice a year (June and September). This assessment is to ensure that you can use your knowledge quickly and make sound decisions like a real pharmacist would. You get a total of three tries to pass the exam. Here’s how you can prepare for the GhPC test:

  1. Familiarise yourself with the format

A good rule of thumb is to check the GPhC website as it updates regularly. Most of the information you will need to familiarise yourself with the assessment and foundation year is on the site but also X @TheGPhC

  1. Practise with mock exams

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) offers mock assessments to both Foundation programme trainees and those resitting their exams to help them build confidence in their exam techniques, hence increasing their chances of passing the assessment. 

Online resources are also available for you to test your knowledge. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, you can try to practise completing these mock exams under timed conditions as the real assessment requires you to manage your time effectively. For part 1, you have 120 minutes to answer 40 calculation questions which gives you roughly three minutes per calculation. Practise going through a calculation twice in three minutes to ensure you get the correct answer. For part 2, you have 150 minutes to answer 120 questions (90 questions and 30 extended matching questions), giving you just over a minute per question. 

  1. Seek guidance from a designated supervisor (DS)

Take charge of your progress by proactively seeking feedback from your DS. You can start by asking their view on your development gaps. They will be able to point you in the right direction in terms of what resources you could look into or how you can approach learning in specific topics. 

Finding Pharmacy Jobs in the UK

Landing a pharmacist position takes hard work and determination. Besides applying on job portals like Indeed or Quad Recruitment, you can leverage your existing network to give you a good personal referral. Hiring managers look favourably upon candidates with stellar recommendations because respected professionals within the field have already validated your capabilities and commitment to the field.

Not every supervisor or professional is willing to recommend candidates. In this case, your best bet is to perform well and build a rapport with them so that when a potential employer calls your supervisor for reference, they will have good things to say about your work ethic.

If you have only been applying on general job portals, consider taking advantage of specialty job boards such as Quad Recruitment. Keep in mind that some opportunities aren’t posted on portals either — hiring managers of well-known companies, pharmacies, and hospitals instead prefer to post openings on their websites.

Major Employers in the UK 

  1. The NHS is the most well-known healthcare provider with positions in hospitals, GP surgeries, and community pharmacies. They offer stability, good benefits, and the chance to directly impact patient care within the public healthcare system.

  1. Private hospitals like Spire Healthcare often provide competitive salaries and usually focus on specialized areas like oncology or cardiology. 

  1. Retail pharmacies, especially large franchises like Boots, offer an equally fast-paced environment where you get the chance to work directly with patients by dispensing medications or potentially engaging in some retail sales aspects.

Application Process for Pharmacy Jobs

A dynamic industry demands specific qualifications, which you can best showcase in a comprehensive resumé. Tailor it effectively by first highlighting relevant work experiences, from clinical rotations to internships. It’s best to quantify your achievements to showcase impact straightforwardly. For example, highlight the percentage of patients you successfully counselled on medication use. Under the skill sets section, set yourself apart by listing specific capabilities like medication dispensing, patient counselling, or experience with pharmacy software systems. Other areas to include are your education, certifications, and professional affiliations if applicable. 

Resumé aside, a well-written cover letter is also necessary to make your application stand out. Express your passion for the role by highlighting specific aspects of the opportunity that excite you. It’s also important to bridge the gap between your skills and the job description — align each requirement with your expertise, and make sure to illustrate examples for credibility. Close out your letter by providing your contact information and conveying your interest in proceeding to an interview.

Beyond the qualifications listed above, employers look for applicants who demonstrate a genuine interest in the pharmacy field. As the industry is constantly changing, joining associations like the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) or volunteering in pharmacy settings showcases a commitment that goes beyond just wanting a full-time job. 

Looking good on paper is not enough — you will also need to highlight your soft skills during interviews as these are essential for a successful career as a pharmacist. Just like any job, the first question is the most daunting and open-ended: Tell me about yourself. Instead of listing out things that have already been mentioned and probably read by your interviewer, you should use this opportunity to focus on your specific area(s) of interest or a niche you are looking forward to contributing to within the field. Another important way to make you stand out from the hundreds of applicants they have interviewed with the same qualifications is by answering with descriptive situations. Should the interviewer ask what your greatest strength is, you can describe a situation where you’ve either successfully communicated and addressed a patient’s problems to them or you could even note how building rapport with doctors as well as patients comes easily to you.

Working Conditions and Career Development

According to the National Careers Service, working hours for pharmacists can range from 38 to 40 hours per week. The average pharmacist salary in the UK starts at £35,000 whereas experienced professionals can earn up to £68,000. The daily routine for a pharmacist in an NHS or private hospital, at a GP practice, at a university, at a store, or a research facility could include:

  • Dispensing medicines in a pharmacy, hospital or GP practice

  • Advising on prescriptions, drug dosages, risks and how to use and store medication

  • Offering screening programmes 

  • Buying, testing and distributing medicines in a hospital

  • Managing stock 

  • Supervising and training junior staff

  • Researching new medicines or running clinical trials

High job satisfaction rates among practising pharmacists can be attributed to the abundance of opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD), career progression paths, and leadership opportunities. 

Salary Expectations and Benefits

Registered pharmacists can expect to earn according to their experience. Newly qualified pharmacists can expect a salary package ranging from £35,392 to £42,618 whereas a more senior pharmacist can demand up to £50,952 to £96,376 working with the NHS. If you have worked your way up to being a chief pharmacist, you could easily earn between £99,891 and £114,949.

A clinical pharmacist, on the other hand, can work for £24.00 per hour. This opening in a North Swindon practice even includes the NHS pension scheme for the chosen candidate. More technical roles like pharmacy technician are more sought after, making their average salary per annum reach up to £41,475. As a pharmacy assistant at Grange University Hospital (GUH), the salary band is £22,720 a year.

Pension Schemes

Choosing to work in the NHS unlocks several enticing benefits for aspiring pharmacists. The average NHS pharmacist’s yearly pay is approximately £52,564, which is 12% above the national average. On top of that, NHS pharmacists enjoy 27 days of annual leave, excluding public holidays. 

Fresh graduates can look forward to a new NHS pension scheme that grows annually according to their average salary instead of their final salary. To be fairer, the new system keeps up with inflation rates every year by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) plus 1.5% per year. You can even earn 1/54th of your pensionable salary with no limitations on how much you can stack. By the time you retire (usually 65 years old or above), you are entitled to your full pension without reductions. To get a better understanding of the new NHS scheme, you can visit the official page here.

Health Insurance

While the NHS doesn’t cover health insurance for in-house pharmacists, some employers in the private sector do. NHS employees can still access healthcare insurance plans but need to bear in mind that private insurance can be costly

Employers like IQVIA, however, guarantee private healthcare (BUPA), dental and wellbeing schemes for you and your dependents. Their insurance plans are flexible — successful applicants may receive Life Assurance, Group Income Protection, and Personal Accident Insurance, among other benefits.

Miscellaneous Benefits

Depending on the employer, practising pharmacists can enjoy corporate rates for gym memberships, restaurants and store discounts. At Pharmacy2U, employees get occupational sick pay, enhanced maternity and paternity pay, and in-house mental health support. The company also pays for registration renewal fees (GPhC, NMC, CIPD and such).

Challenges Facing Pharmacists in the UK

Increasing patient demands, overwhelming workloads, medication shortages, and understaffing are just some of the challenges pharmacists may face throughout their careers regardless of the setting. Frequent regulatory changes from governing bodies add another layer of pressure to an already demanding job. 

NHS funding has suffered one of the biggest cuts since the 1970s, leading to limitations on staff, resources and services offered by pharmacies. This makes it even more difficult for pharmacists to provide quality care for patients. While challenges do exist, the future of pharmacy in the UK is filled with potential for innovation and technological advancements in patient care that can help streamline processes and reduce the burden on pharmacists.

Success Stories and Case Studies

Pharmacists make a difference in the lives of their patients. Though the path to success may seem daunting, most pharmacists find satisfaction in their jobs when they realise the positive impact their advice and care have had on their patients. Here are some of their stories:

  1. Aditya Aggarwal, Pre-registration Pharmacist

Aditya Aggarwal always knew that he wanted to work in healthcare. While working as a dispensary assistant for a year, Aggarwal gained a deeper understanding of the empowering changes he can make within local communities. Now, he’s completing a pre-registration year of his pharmacy degree in cross-sector placements (a hospital and a GP practice). Most of his time is dedicated to helping patients maximise the use of their medicine through counselling, which resulted in a passion for digital health and interacting directly with patients. Aggarwal’s plans involve enrolling in the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme in policy and strategy, where he will complete four rotations in different areas within NHS. He also looks forward to obtaining a postgraduate diploma in health policy.

  1. Falina Ogada, Relief Pharmacist

What brought Falina Ogada to the UK was the lack of degree courses in health and life sciences in Malawi. She landed a scholarship to study MPharm at Cardiff University. Now, she spends her days working for a leading high street pharmacy checking prescriptions, ensuring patients receive the correct medication they need, and consulting patients on their lifestyles. As the years passed, she found herself taking on more responsibilities such as liaising with doctors or other healthcare professionals on improving the health of her patients. Ogada also supports and trains dispensing assistants as well as pre-registered pharmacists during their foundation year. According to her, studying is essential to having a successful career in pharmacy, but being a people person is just as important.

  1. Mohammad M. Rahman, Director of Medicines and Chief Pharmacist

Before winning various accolades (Pharmacist of the Year Award 2023 and General Practice Pharmacist of the Year 2023), and becoming one of the first Director of Medicines and Chief Pharmacists at Ashford Medical Partnership, Mohammad M. Rahman began his journey as a community pharmacist.

For more than a decade, Rahman has served as a healthcare advisor, dispenser, dispensary manager, pharmacist, and pharmacist manager. To prepare for the capricious landscape of pharmacy, he completed a postgraduate diploma in clinical pharmacy and independent prescribing while working as a community pharmacist. Rahman took it a step further when he began working in primary care and completed another postgraduate diploma in preventative cardiology. This allowed him to introduce a pharmacist-led preventative cardiology clinic in one of the general practices and primary care networks (PCNs), expanding the clinic’s capacity within primary care, and reducing the burden on secondary care.

Resources and Further Reading



  • Medicines, Ethics and Practice: The Professional Guide for Pharmacists (Royal Pharmaceutical Society)

  • Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics (Edited by Roger Walker and Nicki Colledge)

  • Good Pharmacy Practice in the UK (Edited by S. J. Kendrick et al.)

  • Mental Health Pharmacy: A Guide for Pharmacists (Edited by Jacqueline Hughes and Stephen M. Haig)


  • British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

  • International Journal of Pharmacy Practice

  • Pharmacy World and Science

Professional Bodies:

  • General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC): A regulatory body for pharmacists that sets standards for pharmacy practice and also provides detailed information and guidance for international pharmacists looking to work in the UK

  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS): A professional body for pharmacists that offers support, training, and resources for pharmacists, and advocates for the profession on a national level

Online Resources:

FAQs About Pharmacy Jobs in the UK

  1. What qualifications do I need to become a pharmacist in the UK?

You'll need a Master's degree in Pharmacy (MPharm) and you must register with the GPhC.

  1. How long does it take to become a pharmacist?

The MPharm program typically takes four years to complete, followed by a one-year pre-registration training period.

  1. Where can I find pharmacy jobs in the UK?

Most job boards like NHS Jobs, Indeed, and LinkedIn generally post healthcare positions. Pharmacist associations also advertise opportunities for budding and experienced pharmacists.

  1. Can I work as a pharmacist in the UK if I am qualified overseas?

Yes, so long as you undertake the Overseas Pharmacists Assessment Programme (OSPAP) and register with the GPhC.

  1. How can I maintain a healthy work-life balance as a pharmacist?

Look into openings with flexible working arrangements, prioritise your health by communicating boundaries with your employer, and leverage support networks within your workplace or professional associations. Alternatively, you can explore online pharmacist jobs if commutes end up taking a toll on productivity or apply for locum pharmacist jobs if tailoring your schedule is what works best for you.

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