Pharmacy- Explore Your Career Options

  • Pharmacy- Explore Your Career Options

What kind of jobs can I do?

Pharmacy:

The majority of pharmacy graduates become pharmacists with patient contact but there are also options within academia, regulatory bodies and the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharmacists are experts in medicines, how they're formulated, used and their effect on the human body.

On completion of an accreditated MPharm you must complete a period of one year pre-registration training which covers key competencies in areas such as medicines and health, personal effectiveness and interpersonal skills. You are required  to pass a registration exam to become registered to practice as a pharmacist in the UK.

Some typical careers areas:

Community Pharmacy Hospital Pharmacy Industrial Pharmacy 
Regulatory Pharmacy  Research  General Practice 
Science writing Teaching   

Pharmaceutical Sciences & Biotechnology:

The science and pharmaceuticals sector is one of the largest and most important in the UK - with approximately 380 pharmaceutical companies, employing around 70,000 people.  The British and Irish pharma industries have a strong reputation for research and development (R&D) of the very highest quality and there are major clusters of pharmaceutical companies in the north-east, north-west, south-east and east of England, Scotland, NI and the ROI where many key multinationals operate. 

Some typical careers areas:

Industrial Pharmacy and Biotech Industries Research  Regulatory Pharmacy
Science writing  Government and Defence  Pharmacy- Explore Your Career Options

Community Pharmacy

A community pharmacist is responsible for dispensing and distributing medicine. They work to legal and ethical guidelines to ensure the correct and safe supply of medical products to the general public. Some pharmacists will offer specialist health checks, such as blood pressure monitoring and diabetes screening, and run stop-smoking clinics and weight-reduction programmes. The majority of community pharmacists in the UK work in large, multiple retail chains or independent pharmacies of various sizes. The remainder are employed by small or medium-sized chain stores, GP surgeries or health centres.

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Hospital Pharmacy

Hospital pharmacists are experts in the field of medicines, how they're used and their effect on the human body. As well as being responsible for dispensing prescriptions, pharmacists are involved in the purchasing and quality testing of medicines. They work closely with medical and nursing staff to make sure hospital patients receive the best treatment, advising on the selection, dose and type of administration. They also provide help and advice to patients in all aspects of their medicines. The majority of hospital pharmacists in the UK work for hospitals in the National Health Service (NHS).

On completion of a General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) MPharm you must complete a period of one year pre-registration training which covers key competencies in areas such as medicines and health, personal effectiveness and interpersonal skills. You will then need to pass a GPhC registration exam to become registered to practice in the UK.

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Regulatory Pharmacy

Within regulatory pharmacy you ensure the appropriate licensing, marketing and legal compliance of pharmaceutical and medical products in order to control the safety and efficacy of products. They combine their knowledge of scientific, legal and business issues to ensure products, which are developed, manufactured or distributed by a wide range of companies, meet the required legislation.  such as MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency). You will need to have a thorough understanding of regulatory affairs and how drug development works. The Organisation for Professionals in Regulatory Affairs (TOPRA) run a one-day Basics of Regulatory Affairs course (also available online) aimed at those interested in getting into the profession. Student membership of TOPRA, which has a Young Regulatory Professionals Group, provides evidence of your commitment to the career and provides networking opportunities.

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Research

A number of research career opportunities exist within the pharmaceutical industry as well as universities, public sector bodies and charitable organisations. It may be possible with a good first degree to find work as a research scientist, but a PhD is likely to be required. It is recommended that students interested in this area try to get some experience of assisting on a research project, or gain additional laboratory experience.  The job profiles Research Scientist (life sciences) and Research Scientist (medical) have some more information about what the work involves, including case studies and typical employers.

It is recommended that, before applying for a PhD, students speak to lecturers and PhD students about what it involves. 

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General Practice (GP)

There are opportunities for pharmacists to work in GP practices. There are a range of roles that pharmacists can undertake as a practice-based pharmacist. If you are qualified as an independent prescriber you could hold clinics for patients and prescribe and review their medications. These clinics can be in any clinical area in which you specialise e.g. hypertension, asthma or pain management. You may also be involved in completing audits within the practice and supporting other members of the practice team, including GPs and nurses, on the safe use of medicines. 

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Science writing

Translating scientific and technical information into a style that is easy for others to understand requires specialist knowledge and strong communication skills. This job profile (Science Writer) has more details about the work, including case studies, entry requirements and typical employers. The European Medical Writers Association have produced a Careers Guide, and there is useful information on the website of the Association of British Science Writers, the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) and journalism.co.uk.

With a first degree in Science, a postgraduate degree in science, a journalism qualification or a specific Science Communication course can help ease the transition into writing.  You may find some advertised volunteering opportunities in journalism and PR, and some opportunities through The Gown.  It is also worth making proactive, speculative approaches to relevant magazines and newspapers. It is important to start building a portfolio of written articles. 

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Teaching

In Schools: A recognised teaching qualification is essential to find work in this area. The Department of Education Northern Ireland has general details about Initial Teacher Education (which includes the PGCE). The Universities and Colleges offering the training also have information on their websites which include how to apply and the closing dates e.g. Queen’s Initial Teacher Education (PGCE) information.

Chemistry is deemed a ‘priority subject’ by the Department of Education so if you are interested in undertaking teacher training in England you may be eligible for funding

PGCE courses are competitive to get into so interested students are recommended to: 

  • Gain experience of working with young people of the age group you hope to teach – usually gained through voluntary work.
  • Get an insight into what work as a teacher is like by trying to arrange to speak to a teacher to ask them about their job and try to get some classroom observation experience. You may also be able to arrange visits through personal contacts or with schools where you were taught. It may be possible to arrange with a local school via a speculative application.
  • Keep up-to-date with what’s happening in Education via the Times Education Supplement and the Guardian’s Education section.
  • Apply early.
  • These interview tips are useful when preparing for the course interview.

The Teach First Leadership Development Programme recruits high achieving graduates to work as teachers in some of the most disadvantaged schools in England and Wales.  Its 2 year programme combines this work with business skills training, internship and mentoring opportunities. At the end of the programme around 50% stay in the teaching profession in a leadership position, the other 50% are readily employed in a variety of business areas.

The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme is an official and prestigious Japanese government scheme that sends graduates to Japan in order to promote international understanding at grass-roots level and to improve foreign language teaching in schools. Although participants teach English to school pupils, applicants for the programme can come from any degree discipline providing they hold a full UK passport.  It is a tough application process that begins in the October preceding the departure the following summer.

The TET (Teach English in Thailand) programme offers students and recent graduates a 9 week placement opportunity as a Teaching Assistant in Thailand.

In Colleges: Further Education Colleges will sometimes hire people to teach without them having teaching qualifications. These teachers will often be expected to work towards a teaching qualification and will be expected to have other relevant (vocational) qualifications and experience to offer. Colleges list job vacancies on their own websites. You can find a list of colleges on the Department of Education Northern Ireland website.

In Higher Education: University lecturers will normally be expected to have or be working towards a PhD. An Academic Career provides more information about this career route. Jobs and some PhD studentships can be found on Jobs.ac.uk. More PhD opportunities can be found on findaphd.com.

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Industrial Pharmacy and Biotech Industries

Industrial pharmacists are involved in the research and development of new medicines, ensuring their safety and quality. Industrial pharmacy can be an extremely rewarding career path leading to managerial positions within pharmaceutical companies. Working in this exciting area of pharmacy means you will be using the latest technologies, processes and methods to develop new medicines for patients. Local opportunities for placement and direct graduate entry exist with Northern Ireland employers such as Almac, Norbrook and Randox. Large UK employers offering placement and graduate schemes in this area include GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) and AstraZeneca.

The growing biotechnology sector involves the application of chemical, biological and medical systems to solve problems and improve processes in the design, evaluation, production, and testing of medicines. The UK leads Europe in the industrial development of biotechnology and during the past decade there has been rapid and sustained growth in the number of specialist biotechnology R&D-based companies.  Roles in these companies range from Research and Development, Statistics, Quality Control, Method development.

The Northern Ireland Life Science company directory provides an overview of Northern Ireland based companies operating in this sector. The Irish Life Science directory provides an overview of the sector in Ireland and APBI provides listings for the UK. A UK sector overview can also be found on Prospects.

Government and Defence

Government departments hire science graduates into a variety of both scientific and non-scientific roles. DSTL– The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory have graduate scientist and graduate analyst roles for science graduates.  The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated training and development programme for graduates, placing them into a variety of departments within the Civil Service.  Government jobs locally are advertised via the NICS recruit website.

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