Study Pharmacy in the UK
Pharmacists specialize in the use of medicines and thus have a close relationship with other healthcare professionals. They typically work as community pharmacists in independent or chain stores or as hospital pharmacists. Pharmacists can also work in medical surgery centers, for pharmaceutical companies, or in universities and academic bodies.
But how to become a pharmacist in the UK? The profession is run by the General Pharmacy Council (GPhC) and you need specific and valid qualifications to enroll in pharmacy courses. Below we will take a look at the different educational pathways of this field.
Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) in the UK
The first step to becoming a general or hospital pharmacist is to complete a valid GPhC Master’s Degree in Pharmacy, more commonly known as MPharm.
MPharm Degrees are integrated courses that combine a bachelor’s and master’s degree into one program, typically lasting four years. It is not possible to enter this profession without a degree or only with an HND degree.
Various UK institutions offer MPharm courses. Accredited universities that regularly rank among the top institutions in the field include:
- Cardiff University
- Kingston University London
- Liverpool John Moores University
- Robert Gordon University
- Queens University Belfast
- University College London
- University of East Anglia
- University of Nottingham
- University of Ulster.
What will I Study in a UK Pharmacy Course?
You will do your studies both on campus and in modern lecture halls and laboratories as well as in clinical internships. A variety of teaching methods, including lectures, tutorials, seminars, practical classes, and problem-based learning, are used in the components of this course, supported by computer-assisted learning and self-study. You are regularly assessed with exams, class work, and projects over the course of four years. Within your final year, you will undertake a research project in an area which interests you.
What Do UK Pharmacy Graduates Earn?
- Average starting professional salary: £18,500
- Average starting non-professional salary: £16,800
Source: The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019.
UK Pharmacy Entry Requirements
Entry requirements for Pharmacy vary depending upon whether you wish to become a technician, assistant or pharmacist, but qualifications in maths, English and chemistry are usually required.
- Typical International Baccalaureate requirements: 34 points.
- Typical A-levels requirements: AAB.
- Typical IELTS requirements: 6.5 overall, with no lower than 6.0 in any one component.
Careers in Pharmacy
Pharmacists can work in a variety of fields, including designing, researching and producing new drugs in the pharmaceutical industry, providing medication to patients and advising them on how to use them in pharmacies and join the hospital ward team.
Also, some pharmacists are presently allowed to prescribe and write their own prescriptions. These pharmacists are increasingly working in general practitioners’ offices and running their own clinics. Pharmacists can also work in roles that are less relevant to patients, such as universities, research, publication of articles, government agencies, and the military.
If you hold a pharmacy license but no longer want to work directly in pharmacies, there are a number of options for you.
If you wish to pursue a career in health care, you can continue to work as a nutritionist or physician associate, as your MPHarm qualification meets the entry requirements. On the other hand, you can also work in the pharmaceutical industry by undertaking a graduate scheme in one of the leading pharmaceutical companies.
List of Job Options
Fields directly related to your degree include:
- Community pharmacist
- Hospital pharmacist
- Research scientist (medical)
Fields where your degree would be valuable include:
- Clinical research associate
- Higher education lecturer
- Medical sales representative
- Medical science liaison
- Product/process development scientist
- Regulatory affairs officer
- Research scientist (life sciences)
- Science writer
Pharmaceutical Work Experience
Gaining relevant work experience is important to show your passion to potential employers, and you can also apply the skills learned during your course at work.
Most retail chain stores offer six- to eight-week summer internships in urban pharmacies. Some employers hire trainees from these programs.
You can also get experience at a hospital pharmacy, though this may be unpaid work and can last from days to weeks.
Depending on your field of interest, there may also be opportunities to intern with a pharmaceutical company.
Gaining experience in a retail or volunteer environment at a health center enables you to develop valuable skills such as customer or client care and increase your knowledge of over-the-counter drugs.
Most community pharmacists in the UK work in large retail chain stores or independent pharmacies. Others work in small or medium-sized chain stores, general surgery centers or health centers.
Most hospital pharmacists work for NHS hospitals. Working in private hospitals is also possible.
Qualified pharmacists can work as a locum (temporary substitute) pharmacist, either on a self-employed basis or through an agency.
Pharmacy graduates are also hired by private sector organizations such as pharmaceutical companies and food and beverage companies to work in areas such as research and development, quality assurance, marketing, sales, and management.
Skills Needed as a Pharmacist
Studying pharmacy enables you to develop the specific skills required of a pharmacist, including:
- knowledge of facts and theories relating to the design and manufacture of medicines
- the ability to communicate effectively with patients and other health professionals
- production of pharmacy-specific scientific documentation
- operation of pharmaceutical instrumentation
- knowledge of the law and ethical concerns relating to the supply of medicines
- Analysis of medicines.
You also gain a wide range of skills that are appealing to employers in other sectors as well. Including:
- interpersonal skills
- the ability to work well as part of a team
- numeracy and computation
- problem-solving skills and the ability to think clearly and methodically
- time management and organizational skills
- Commercial awareness.
Further Study in UK Pharmacy Courses
Only a small number of pharmacy graduates go on to study after graduation. This is because you do not need a master’s or doctorate degree to work as a pharmacist and are rarely useful when applying for a job within this field.
Pharmacy graduates who wish to pursue research and scientific development can study for a master’s or Ph.D in fields such as pharmacy, prescribing and drug discovery or development, or in medical or chemotherapy sciences.
Graduates who choose to pursue their careers outside the pharmacy can pursue a professional or master’s course in order to extend their skills and knowledge in other fields.