What is Pharmacy
Pharmacy offers a rewarding career as a healthcare professional who is an expert in medicines and their use, and now is a particularly exciting time to enter the pharmacy profession. The NHS is facing a number of challenges, including an ageing population and increased public expectation, and pharmacists will play an important part in addressing these challenges.
Increasingly, pharmacists will work to ensure that medicines are taken effectively (this is called ‘medicines optimisation’) and to offer health support and advice for people in the community. Registered pharmacists can work either in a hospital or clinical setting (such as a GP surgery), as an NHS employee or in community pharmacies. Approximately 75% of pharmacists work in a community setting, (for example, in a high-street pharmacy) and so this is something you should bear in mind while applying to study pharmacy. A small proportion of qualified pharmacists also work in industry in the development and supply of medicines. A Master of Pharmacy also leaves you in good stead to pursue a science career, such as laboratory work, science journalism or medical sales.
To become a registered pharmacist you will need to achieve a Master of Pharmacy, or MPharm, which is the standard designation for a master’s degree in pharmacy. This is currently a four-year course and includes study of the origin and chemistry of drugs along with the preparation and use of drugs and medicine, and their effects on the body. The course will also help prepare you to practise as a pharmacist by teaching about the provision of advice to the public along with the laws and standards to which pharmacists must adhere.
Discussions are currently underway which may result in the MPharm becoming a five-year course which would include two six-month work placements. These proposals currently affect only England, however, the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales are considering the recommendations. Please see
here for further information.
Each pharmacy school will be searching for a variety of skills and attributes in their future students. Whether your qualifications are A-levels, Scottish Highers, the International Baccalaureate or other equivfalent qualifications, it is likely that pharmacy schools will be looking for a good result in chemistry, along with passes in mathematics, biology or physics.
It is important that applicants are able to demonstrate their literacy and numeracy through the award of GCSE grade A*–C (or equivalent) in English language and mathematics.
Applicants who do not have these qualifications may be able to complete a science access course, which is a course for those who have not taken a traditional route to a degree. Not all institutions offer this route and so you should consult with the individual institution if you are interested in accessing an MPharm course in this way.
The requirements to study pharmacy in the UK are the same for UK and non-UK applicants, with all applications going through UCAS. The non-UK equivalent grades that will be accepted can be found on the
UCAS website. If you are still unsure whether your qualifications will be sufficient then you may find it helpful to contact the Admissions Department at the pharmacy school where you hope to study, with links to their websites found on the right-hand side of this page.
It is possible that international applicants will be required to undertake the
International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Check with your chosen pharmacy schools individually in order to confirm this.
Overseas Pharmacists' Assessment Programme
The Overseas Pharmacists' Assessment Programme (OSPAP) is the first step for a pharmacist who qualified outside of the European Economic Area to register as a pharmacist in England, Scotland and Wales. It is a postgraduate course which can lead to either a Postgraduate Diploma (usually a nine-month course) or a Master’s degree (usually lasting a year). After the OSPAP you will need to complete a pre-registration training year, along with passing the registration assessment.
You should be aware that completing an OSPAP does not guarantee a pre-registration place or a job as a registered pharmacist. A student from outside of the European Economic Area is very likely to require a visa, and this can be dependent on meeting a number of conditions, including a minimum salary requirement.
There are six providers of the OSPAP in England, Scotland and Wales:
The OSPAP commences in September or October of each year. Applications of eligibility to study the OSPAP are administered by the General Pharmaceutical Council, the independent regulator for pharmacists in England, Scotland and Wales.
here for further information.
Different sources of funding are open to people in different circumstances. These links will be helpful to you in determining which loans, grants and bursaries you are entitled to. Some of these funding bodies are specific to certain countries within the UK, so make sure you have had a look at all of the possible sources of funding available to you.
After graduating, completing the pre-registration year and registering with the General Pharmaceutical Council, there are a number of options open to you. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has prepared these videos in order to demonstrate the different areas of pharmacy. Other videos can be found on the
What do hospital pharmacists do?
What do pharmaceutical scientists do?
What do academic pharmacists do?
Further information on careers in pharmacy can be found on the
Graduating Students page as well as on the
NHS Careers website.