A career in pharmacy can be highly rewarding, with many different paths available to you. You can make a difference to patients’ lives in various ways, working for many different organisations, from independent pharmacies to large retailers and hospitals. If you’re considering the next steps in your pharmacist career, there are a range of options you can look into.
In this article, we’ll outline the various routes your pharmacist career can take and the progression opportunities you can explore.
Pharmacist career paths
A pharmacist’s career path can take a variety of forms. These are some of the practice areas you can work in, one or more of which you may already have some experience in.
GP practice pharmacist
With a couple of years’ postgraduate experience in pharmacy work, you can become a GP practice pharmacist. You will work in a multidisciplinary team to provide advice and support to patients, dispense prescriptions and give clinical expertise to other professionals, such as recommending ongoing forms of treatment.
Care home pharmacist
Care home pharmacists help to support the safe and effective management and delivery of medicines within care homes. You’ll be responsible for giving expert advice to residents and other employees within the home. You may also develop training and guidelines for care home staff, and you’ll likely carry out assessments with residents.
Urgent and emergency care pharmacist
As an emergency care pharmacist, you could work for a hospital, NHS 111 service or GP out of hours service. This role involves helping to manage medicines, taking medication histories, and supporting patient safety. You’ll handle queries about medicine and optimise its delivery. By facilitating urgent care, you’ll help to reduce the need for emergency care.
Industrial pharmacists work in a variety of different areas within the pharmaceutical industry for companies that manufacture medicines. These areas include research, development, clinical trials, quality assurance, production, regulatory affairs, and product registration. You’ll be helping to develop and distribute new pharmaceutical products, usually starting in a laboratory-based role.
Community pharmacists dispense and distribute prescription medicines in a patient-facing role. You’ll also advise people on the correct use of medications, offering expert information on their health and specific conditions. Your key responsibilities include checking that medicines are safely supplied and communicating with doctors about patient prescriptions. You’ll also sell other medical products over the counter.
Hospital pharmacists are responsible for ensuring safe and effective medication use in hospital settings. Within this role, you’ll work in multidisciplinary hospital teams to promote high-quality patient care and medication management. Your duties will include dispensing medications, providing information on medications to healthcare professionals, monitoring patients and managing pharmacy operations.
As a locum pharmacist, you take on temporary or short-term work in healthcare settings. You’ll provide cover for pharmacists who may be absent due to illness, annual leave, or another reason. Locum pharmacists play an important role in maintaining uninterrupted pharmacy services and ensuring continuous patient care. This type of role also allows you to gain experience in different settings, working alongside different teams, and the freedom to choose your own shifts.
Pharmacist career progression opportunities
Once you have at least a few years of experience in pharmacy work, you will have gained a range of skills that will be attractive to new employers. After working your way up in the profession, you can go on to roles that will take your career to the next level.
Here’s a summary of the different ways you can progress your pharmacist career:
Become a qualified person (QP)
Move into a leadership role, such as a team manager or consultant
Become a consultant
Become an academic pharmacist
Study further and move into research
Keep reading to discover where your skills and experience could take you next as we explore the various progression opportunities on the pharmacist career path.
Become a qualified person (QP)
You can look to become a QP. This role is responsible for verifying the quality of medicines to meet legal requirements. You’ll apply analytical knowledge to investigate various issues in manufacturing medicines.
These types of roles are typically in pharmaceutical companies, but there are some opportunities within the NHS.
Move into a leadership role
If you want to move into leading teams, there are opportunities in a number of settings:
Pursuing a leadership position within a hospital pharmacy can involve becoming a lead pharmacist within a hospital, moving into management or taking on a teaching role within the hospital setting.
If you want to progress as a clinical pharmacist within GP practices, you can look to enrol on the primary care pharmacy education pathway (which has replaced the general practice pharmacy training programme). You'll then look to advance into a role as a lead clinical pharmacist, prescribing lead, or practice manager.
When working as a community pharmacist, you can look to become a pharmacist store manager. This involves overseeing the day-to-day functioning of a store while leading, coaching, and developing employees. You’ll take charge of administering immunisations and vaccines, ensuring that prescriptions are delivered correctly and safely. You can then go on to become a regional or national manager, taking responsibility for multiple stores and managing their performance.
Opportunities are also available within pharmaceutical companies. You can look to progress to become a chief pharmacy officer, clinical development director or business development manager when working within this industry.
Become a consultant
A consultant pharmacist is a senior professional with expert clinical knowledge that helps develop the future of healthcare. You’ll directly provide expert advice to patients with complex needs and will also supervise patient care teams. Within this role, you also consult with various pharmacists working in different locations, such as hospitals, medical and research institutions, and senior care facilities.
If you choose this path, you’ll work in clinical practice, leadership, research, and education. You’ll help drive change and influence a new generation of healthcare professionals by teaching and training junior pharmacists and overseeing medicine administration carried out by teams. You’ll also accept case referrals for medicine optimisation and ensure that medicines are used in line with organisational policies.
Become an academic pharmacist
If you move into academia, you can start by teaching and training other pharmacists as a lecturer and progress to become a senior lecturer, reader or professor. You’ll usually need a PhD in a relevant area to start out in teaching pharmacy. You can also become an examiner or write resources to support the training of pharmacists.
Move into research
If you can supplement your experience with a postgraduate qualification, you have the option of pursuing research roles. You’ll need a doctorate in a specialist area, such as toxicology or pharmacology.
As a research pharmacist, you’ll support investigators at all stages in the discovery of new medicines. Your role will be concerned with improving pharmacy practices and improving patients’ health outcomes.
Pharmacist career progression opportunities with Maxxima
At Maxxima, people are our priority, and we will always put you first. A dedicated recruitment consultant will take the time to listen to your needs and understand your career goals so that we can find you the right opportunities that align with your career goals.
We’re also the preferred and sole supplier to many NHS trusts and private healthcare organisations across the UK, meaning we can bring you pharmacy roles you won’t find anywhere else.
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