Job descriptions and industry overviews

Pharmacist: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Pharmacists provide advice and guidance on medicines to patients and medical staff. The role requires life-long learning to keep up to date with new drugs and treatments. Read our pharmacist job description for an overview of what the role entails.

The interior of a pharmacy shop: pharmacist job description.

What does a pharmacist do? Salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Skills

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals responsible for supplying medicines in the most economical and effective way possible, it is an applied medical science. Pharmacists monitor the quality, safety and the use of medicines, requiring a high level of involvement and interaction with patients. They also need to have a strong knowledge of legislation and professional codes of practice.

Pharmacists work in a variety of settings providing advice on medicines. Their day-to-day work depends on the area in which they work.

Typical duties include:

  • dispensing medications as prescribed by doctors and other medical professionals
  • reviewing prescriptions to ensure accuracy and to evaluate their suitability for the patient
  • providing information and advice about drugs, their side effects, correct dosage and proper storage
  • providing other health advice, such as guidance on stopping smoking
  • keeping records such as pharmacy files, patient profiles, charge system files, inventories, and registries of poisons, narcotics or controlled drugs
  • planning, implementing and maintaining procedures for mixing, packaging and labelling pharmaceuticals to ensure they meet legal requirements
  • assessing the identity, strength or purity of medications
  • working with other healthcare professionals to plan, monitor, review, or evaluate the quality or effectiveness of drugs
  • ordering and purchasing pharmaceutical supplies, medical supplies, or drugs.
  • maintaining stock and storing and handling it properly
  • analysing prescribing trends to monitor patient compliance and to prevent excessive usage or harmful interactions
  • advising patients on medication brands, medical equipment or healthcare supplies.

The focus of the role will differ depending on the type of organisation you work for. For example:

  • Hospital pharmacists are responsible for quality testing, storing and security of drugs and medicines in hospitals. They also advise doctors and patients on suitable medication and some hospital pharmacists can issue prescriptions.
  • Retail or community pharmacists supply prescribed and over-the-counter medicines to the general public in retail pharmacies and GPs’ practices. They also give advice to customers on using medicines safely and about possible side effects. Community pharmacists also monitor patients’ long-term conditions and provide advice on keeping well – for example, they may offer guidance and support on giving up smoking.
  • Industrial pharmacists work for pharmaceutical companies where they design, develop and test new medications. They’re also involved in marketing drugs.

There are also opportunities to teach and research pharmacy at university level.

Graduate salaries

According to Jobted, a pharmacist can expect an average starting salary of £26,500 and this can increase to an average earning of around £40,250. Those with 10-20 years of experience can earn around £66,000 and higher for those with 20 plus years’ experience.

If you work for the NHS, your starting salary as a qualified pharmacist will be around £32,000. NHS salaries are agreed by the government rather than individual employers, and the current agreement builds in an increase in salary after two years.

Typical employers of pharmacists

  • NHS trusts.
  • Private hospitals.
  • Clinics.
  • GPs’ surgeries.
  • Pharmacy chains.
  • Independent pharmacies.
  • Supermarket pharmacies.
  • Pharmaceutical companies.
  • Educational institutions.

Pre-registration training placements are advertised by the General Pharmaceutical Council, Health Education England, NHS Education Scotland and Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW).

You can also find training placements advertised on specialist jobs boards or the NHS jobs site.

Qualifications and training required

It takes at least five years to qualify as a pharmacist. The first step is an MPharm degree approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). The course is an integrated masters and takes four years (five if it includes placements). You’ll then complete one year’s pre-registration training in a pharmacy before sitting the registration assessment set by the GPhC. Finally, you’ll need to be registered with the GPhC to practise as a pharmacist.

Work experience isn’t essential but will boost your application and your skills. Beyond any pharmacy placements you can organise while studying, any experience working with customers or the general public will help you develop interpersonal skills and the ability to juggle priorities.

It’s possible for a school leaver to get an apprenticeship as a pharmacy technician, whose role is to prepare prescriptions under the supervision of a pharmacist. However, it’s not possible to become a pharmacist without a degree in pharmacy. To find out more about how you can get into this career via a school leaver route (for example, an apprenticeship or a school leaver training programme).

Key skills for pharmacists

  • Excellent communication skills, including the ability to communicate with people from all sections of the community.
  • Analytical skills.
  • The ability to think critically.
  • Strong numerical skills.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Observation skills.

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