Retail pharmacist: job description

Last updated: 26 Jun 2023, 10:39

Retail pharmacists provide general healthcare advice and supply prescription and non-prescription medication to the public in retail settings rather than in hospitals or GP surgeries.

An empty pharmacy shop: retail pharmacist job description.

What does a retail pharmacist do? Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Retail pharmacists (also known as community pharmacists) are responsible for dispensing and controlling both prescription and non-prescription medicine. They must work to legal and ethical guidelines to ensure that medication is kept secure and given to the correct patients in the right quantities.

Typical duties include:

  • providing advice about health issues, symptoms and medications in response to customer enquiries
  • processing and checking prescriptions, and dispensing medication
  • providing vaccinations
  • ordering and selling medicines and other stock
  • providing specialist health services such as smoking cessation guidance
  • meeting medical representatives
  • managing budgets
  • keeping statistical and financial records
  • preparing publicity materials and displays
  • recruiting, training and managing staff.

Retail pharmacies vary widely in their size, the services they offer and the communities they serve. Some are open 24 hours or until midnight, for example, which will call for shift work or antisocial hours. Others may offer a wide range of additional services in response to community need.

Graduate salaries

Salaries for graduate retail pharmacists range between £28,000 and £38,000, according to jobs comparison site Glassdoor. If you work for a large pharmacy chain, you may be entitled to additional benefits, such as a relocation allowance and annual bonus.

Typical employers of retail pharmacists

  • Independent pharmacies
  • Supermarket pharmacies
  • Pharmacy chains.

Vacancies are advertised by university departments and careers services. You’ll also find them in specialist jobs boards.

Pre-registration training placements are advertised online at

Qualifications and training required

It takes five years to qualify as a pharmacist. This includes a four-year degree course (an MPharm), one year’s work experience in a clinical setting and a registration exam, set by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). You’ll also need to be registered with the GPhC to practice as a pharmacist.

You’re likely to need at least three A levels (or equivalent) to join a pharmacy course. Many universities ask for A levels in specific subjects, such as chemistry, biology or maths, and most expect high grades. Some also request GCSEs (or equivalent) in certain subjects too.

In addition to the work experience you need to complete as part of your training, you may find other work experience helpful – for example, jobs involving contact with customers or the general public.

School leavers can join a pharmacy apprenticeship, which involves studying and working at the same time. When you’ve completed this, you can practice as a pharmacy technician.

Key skills for retail pharmacists

Successful candidates will be able to demonstrate:

  • attentiveness
  • excellent interpersonal skills, including the ability to communicate complex information and to be sensitive to people in pain or distress
  • organisational skills
  • commercial awareness
  • teamworking
  • the ability to meet professional standards
  • the ability and drive to continue to learn.

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