How to Become a Pharmacist in the UK [Step-by-Step Guide]
Pharmacists, sometimes referred to as the unsung heroes of the medical world, play a vital role in society by helping people achieve and maintain their optimal health. As well as dispensing medicine and helping people understand their medications and possible side effects, they monitor patients' wellbeing and safety, and work with healthcare teams to optimise patient care.
If you aspire to become a pharmacist, the opportunities that lie ahead are vast and varied.
In this article, we delve into the world of pharmacy, outlining pharmacists’ key responsibilities, and the path to becoming one.
Table of Contents
Step 1: Meet the Requirements for the Right University
For a career as a pharmacist, you need a university degree. When it comes to entrance requirements, it's important to check specifics with any universities you would like to apply to, however, as a guide, the following are often required:
- Three A-levels or equivalent in Chemistry and a second science or Maths, with offers typically ranging from AAB to BBB (Pharmacy degrees with a foundation year may have lower grade requirements)
- A minimum of five GCSEs including Maths, English language and one science
- Some universities accept vocational qualifications such as BTEC Level 3, National Extended Diploma in Applied Sciences or the Access to HE Diploma
- If you are an international student, you will generally be required to have an IELTS score of 7.0 overall, with a minimum of 6.5 in all four elements.
It's essential to choose a reputable and highly-regarded institution that offers a Pharmacy degree program accredited by the General Pharmaceutical Council. This will not only provide the knowledge necessary to become a successful pharmacist but will also ensure employment opportunities after graduation. A list of the universities which are currently accredited can be found here.
There are specific Pharmacy and Pharmacology rankings for UK universities, for example in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide or Complete University Guide, which it’s important to look at too. Researching these will give you a useful idea of the universities currently considered best in the field.
The UCAS website allows you to search for courses and view entry requirements. Accredited courses must meet the GPhC’s standards but programmes differ in their content, the way they are structured, and how they are taught and assessed. The facilities available and amount of support and supervision may also vary from course to course. Find out more by looking at university websites and prospectuses, attending university open days and contacting admissions staff.
Step 2: Apply to the University to Acquire a Master’s Degree in Pharmacy
To become a pharmacist, you'll need to complete a master of pharmacy (MPharm) degree, approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council, which takes 4 years full-time. There are however some universities which offer five-year ‘sandwich’ courses that include a placement year in the workplace.
Applications for courses are made through UCAS, and, as is standard for most courses, involves writing a personal statement; an important component of the application which gives you an opportunity to talk about you, and your reasons for wanting to enrol on a Pharmacy course.
Universities will often expect you to attend an interview. You will also need to demonstrate that you have found out about the role of a pharmacist and understand what the work involves, and what types of skills are key. For examine, alongside advanced skills and knowledge of Mathematics and Science, a pharmacist also needs:
- to be thorough and have attention to detail
- sensitivity and understanding
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- excellent communication skills
The best way to find out about the profession in detail is to try to gain some work experience. Shadowing or work experience in any setting with healthcare professionals is useful but if you can gain it in a pharmacy, so much the better.
Find out more about the application process in the UK in our comprehensive guide to UK university admissions
Once you have been offered a place on a Pharmacy degree course, and successfully met the requirements, the learning begins!
Most Pharmacy degree courses bring together the science of pharmacy and the needs of the patient, with the following components:
- origin and chemistry of drugs
- preparation of medicines
- action and uses of drugs and medicines including physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology and pharmacology
- pharmacy practice, covering laws and standards, managing symptoms, promoting healthy lifestyles and advising on drug therapy and medicines use
Step 4: Complete Your Pharmacist Foundation Training Year
After successfully completing your MPharm degree, to register with the General Pharmaceutical Council GPhC and practice as a pharmacist, you must undertake a 12-month pre-registration training period. This can be in community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy or other settings, or a combination of these (sandwich degrees include this).
For pre-registration hospital pharmacist training in England and Wales, you should apply through Oriel.
Step 5: Register With the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)
Once you have completed both your one-year foundation training, and passed the GPhC registration assessment, you are then able to register as a pharmacist with the GPhC.
It’s the role of the GPhC to regulate pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacies in the UK. They make sure people receive safe and effective pharmacy care and have trust in pharmacy.
Step 6: Apply for a Job as a Pharmacist
After registration with the GPhC, you can look for a job. As you work as a pharmacist, you can build experience and essential skills you succeed, whether its as a hospital pharmacist, for the NHS (the UK National Health Service) for example, or as a community pharmacist ensuring the correct and safe supply of medical products to the general public and sometimes giving vaccinations. This could be either in chain stores or independent pharmacies of various sizes, or in a GP practice or other healthcare settings.
Once registered as a pharmacist, you can progress from one grade or band to another. You’ll need some experience first, but you can specialise in certain aspects of the work.
Clinical pharmacists are increasingly working as part of general practice teams. They are highly qualified experts in medicines and can help people in a range of ways. This includes carrying out structured medication reviews for patients with ongoing health problems and improving patient safety and outcomes.
A Pharmacy degree can also lead to roles within academia, the pharmaceutical industry and with regulatory bodies.
To remain registered with the GPhC you have to maintain its set standards. This includes taking part in continuing professional development (CPD).
After becoming a qualified pharmacist, you can join the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS). The RPS is the professional body for pharmacists. They support pharmacists with development and education opportunities.
How Kings Can Help You Become A Pharmacist
At Kings, we offer a range of programmes to prepare students for progression to a Pharmacy degree.
From traditional A-levels to the Advanced Level Foundation and Medical Foundation programmes, designed specifically for international students, we can cater for all needs and requirements. Irrespective of the course followed, all students at Kings benefit from:
- Expert teaching from subject specialists
- Specialist facilities and excellent resources
- Personalised support and learning
We hope that this article has helped you understand more about the steps involved with becoming a Pharmacist in the UK. You can find more detailed information about studying Pharmacy and potential career paths in the Subjects/Career Guides section of the Kings website.
You can also find detailed profiles of the top UK universities.
If you would like receive more detailed information about the Kings and our programmes, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.