Pharmacists work either in a community or retail pharmacy or in a hospital or clinical pharmacy.
Community or Retail Pharmacist
You could be:
- supplying over the counter and prescribed medicines to the general public
- making sure that medicines are stored securely and correctly labelled
- checking that dosages and instructions on prescriptions are accurate and clear
- referring back to a doctor if there is a problem, for example a conflict with other medication the person is taking
- preparing prescriptions and advising people how to use medicines properly
- managing and training other pharmacy support staff
- advising customers on a range of health matters and referring them to their doctor or dentist if needed
- carrying out cholesterol and blood pressure checks and diabetes screening
- keeping records and business accounts up to date and handling cash.
Hospital or Clinical Pharmacist
You could be:
- making sure that drugs and medicines are stored securely and correctly labelled
- checking the quality of medical products
- preparing drugs and medical products and arranging for them to be delivered to various hospital departments
- maintaining and ordering supplies
- advising and informing staff and patients on the best drugs to use
- making rounds of the wards with other medical staff to see patients and discuss medication
- training and supervising pharmacy support staff
- keeping records and completing forms.
Pay rates can vary depending on whether the pharmacist works with the National Health Service (NHS), with a private practice, or is self-employed.
Pharmacists working within the NHS are on Agenda for Change scales. The current pay scales are from April 2019. Pre-registration pharmacists are normally on Band 5, £24,670 to £30,742 a year. After registration pharmacists are on Band 6, £30,401 to £38,046 a year. Clinical and specialist pharmacists are on Band 7, £37,570 to £44,688 a year. Senior pharmacists and team leaders are on Band 8a, £45,446 to £51,883 a year and Band 8b, £53,291 to £62,259 a year.
Salaries for community pharmacists range from £23,000 to £50,000 a year depending on experience and size of pharmacy.
- Community or retail pharmacists work in shops including chain stores and supermarkets – they may visit people at home.
- Hospital or clinical pharmacists work in laboratories or dispensaries and may visit patients in the wards or in residential homes – they may sometimes work in health centres.
- All types of pharmacists usually work regular hours although retail pharmacists may have to work at weekends or in the evening, and hospital pharmacists sometimes have to work shifts.
- Flexible or part time hours are possible.
- Pharmacists usually have to wear a white lab coat or other protective clothing.
Workforce Employment Status
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- You need a degree in pharmacy. In Scotland, the University of Strathclyde and Robert Gordon University offer a Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) degree course.
- Entry to Robert Gordon is 4 Highers at ABBB (but typically AABB) including English and Chemistry, plus two further science subjects or Maths.
- Entry to Strathclyde is 4 Highers at AAAB (English at B, Maths, Biology and Chemistry at A), plus Advanced Higher Biology and Chemistry at BB.
- Check with institutions for full details and for widening access entry.
- To work as a pharmacist you need to register with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). You can do this on completion of the necessary qualifications and one year pre-registration training (see 'Training' below).
Workforce Education Levels (UK)
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Job Outlook Scotland
Job Outlook Scotland and UK
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What Does it Take?
You need to be:
- methodical and pay close attention to detail
- accurate and precise – mistakes could be fatal
- a good organiser
- willing to take responsibility
- able to get on well with people, both colleagues and customers
- able to explain detailed and sensitive information to the public
- patient and understanding when dealing with the public.
You should have:
- IT skills
- a professional manner
- a good memory
- business skills if working as a retail or community pharmacist.
- After completing your MPharm degree, you would complete a one year pre-registration training course and pass a registration assessment to gain GPhC registration.
- Most hospital pharmacists go on to take a postgraduate certificate or diploma in clinical pharmacy.
- You need to keep up to date with research and development of new drugs.
- You will be required to keep your skills and knowledge up to date by undertaking continuous professional development (CPD) courses throughout your career.
- You could be self-employed, either as a locum or running a high street pharmacy.
- You can train as a supplementary prescriber, to work in a Primary Health Care Trust.
- There are opportunities to teach or do research.
- There are also opportunities in general management and advisory or consultancy work.
- You can take specialist postgraduate courses.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
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