Pharmacist jobs(Also known as Chemist, Dispensing chemist, Druggist, Pharmacologist, Posologist)
Pharmacists prepare and distribute drugs and medicinal items after going through the necessary training. They also provide advice about basic healthcare problems.
The role of a clinical/retail pharmacistPharmacists are practising health professionals. They often work from a particular premise and sell over the counter drugs or deal with prescriptions. Their primary role is to maintain public health through the distribution of drugs. However, there has been a growing trend recently for pharmacists to act as advisors for health issues and the relevant qualifications will allow individuals to offer basic advice. For many people, the local pharmacist will be the first port of call when they are suffering from a particular ailment. The role of a pharmacist is more varied than many people think and hospital pharmacists will often be called upon to advise medical and nursing staff on the correct drugs to use.
SalaryThe current pay scale (2008-2009) for pharmacists in the NHS is £23,458 to £31,779 a year. However, graduates should expect a starting salary of £19,683 on a pre-registration basis. The salary for a pharmacy consultant or pharmacy team manager working in the NHS could rise to approximately £75,000. Dispensing pharmacists are often self-employed and own their own business. Salaries will ultimately depend upon the success of the particular business. Pharmacists practising in the development of new drugs can expect very high salaries and bonuses from the private sector, depending upon the success and commercial viability of their work.
- Working with other medical professionals to help individuals recover from illnesses
- Distributing drugs and medicines
- Advising patients on the most appropriate drug for their symptoms and potential side-effects
- Monitoring the effectiveness of a particular drug, medicine, or treatment
- Preparing and checking medication
- Ensuring that drugs are stored properly
- Ensuring that drugs are administered correctly
- Orchestrating clinical trials and evaluating the claims of pharmaceutical companies
- Keeping a register of controlled medicines for legal reasons
- Providing basic testing services e.g. diabetes, pregnancy, blood pressure, and cholesterol
QualificationsMost individuals who wish to become professional pharmacists will undertake a 4 year undergraduate course in pharmacy, followed by a Masters in Pharmacy qualification (MPharm). There are currently twenty-five universities in the UK which offer an appropriate course but, to ensure that you will be licensed to practice, it is worth checking that the course you are interested in is approved by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (“RPSGB”). The RPSGB is the professional and regulatory body for pharmacists in the UK. A full list of accredited courses is available here. The minimum requirements for university entrance are usually 5 A-C grade GCSEs, as well as 3 A Levels. Most universities require A Levels in science subjects as well as mathematics. For those wishing to practise, the next step will be to complete one year of practical training. Applications need to be made to the NHS in order to take part in the one-year pre-registration programme. All students will be expected to spend at least six months in a hospital or similar medical institution before taking a final registration exam. Further details are available from the NHS and can be found by clicking here. There is an annual intake of students, so you will need to register early.
SkillsPharmacists will need to possess the following skills: Technical Skills – individuals will need to have a detailed knowledge of pharmacology. They should know how to prepare medicines and create artificial drugs. Furthermore, in-depth knowledge of biochemistry, the impact of drugs on behaviours and human function, drug distribution and dosage, and the legal regulations and governance of drugs will also be necessary. These skills will all be developed through appropriate study. Communication – strong inter-personal and communication skills are a must for this job. There will be many difficult situations occurring on a daily basis and it will be necessary to liaise with a wide range of different people. Tolerance, subtlety, tact, understanding, and patience are essential skills to possess. Detail – Pharmacists must be very precise in their distribution of drugs, as this may be a matter of life or death. Teamwork – you will be expected to work with a wide range of individuals, including nurses and doctors, to ensure that all patients are well-cared for. For careers in business and dispensing pharmacy, an in-depth knowledge of business practices will be very useful.
Working ConditionsMost pharmacists will be expected to work between the hours of 9-5 but they may also be asked to do shift work or be on call if working in a hospital environment. The job can be stressful but most individuals find it very rewarding and enjoy the knowledge that they are helping people to recover from illnesses.
ExperienceRegistration can be difficult and it is advisable to obtain relevant work experience in order to increase your chances of employment.
EmployersThe NHS is a major employer for pharmacists in both hospitals and GP surgeries. Business & Private Practices employ pharmacists and individuals interested in related careers. Universities are always looking for graduates to continue their studies and add to the current body of impressive research. Supermarkets and other businesses hire dispensing pharmacists to work in their stores.
Career ProgressionDepending upon particular areas of interest, it is possible to work in a wide range of roles within the pharmaceutical business. Some of these roles are detailed above (see the related jobs section). Several employment areas will require a background in biochemistry and pharmaceutical companies often employ graduates to work in the development of new drugs. Progression will often involve promotion within a particular business or within a large health body e.g. the NHS. The increasing demand for holistic health has also seen some independent pharmacists take on roles in GP surgeries.
Lizzie Owen is 40 years old, and works as a Dispensing Pharmacist at a GP surgery.