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Pharmacist career path options and opportunities

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A pharmacist career can be highly rewarding. With many career paths available, you can make a positive difference to people's lives in many different settings, from independent pharmacies to large retailers and hospitals.

If you’re thinking about the next steps to take in your pharmacist career, there are a range of options you can look into. In this article, we have outlined the different pharmacist career paths you can journey down and the progression opportunities you can explore.

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Different pharmacist career paths

Your pharmacist career path can take a variety of forms. There are many different practice areas you can work in, one or more of which you may already have some experience in, including:

There are also many different career progression opportunities available to you, including:

Interested in finding out more? We’ve put together information on these different pharmacy career options and opportunities to help you decide on what will be right for you and your future.

GP practice pharmacist

With a couple of years’ postgraduate experience in pharmacy work, you can become a GP practice pharmacist. Also known as a clinical pharmacist, this career path will see you:

  • Advising and educating both patients and healthcare professionals on medicines, including their doses, side effects, interactions, and alternatives

  • Reviewing medication for patients, including for those with complex or chronic conditions and who require multiple medicines

  • Managing, auditing, and reviewing prescriptions, including repeat prescriptions and high-risk medications

  • Supporting patients with the management of chronic disease, optimising medications, and providing advice and education

  • Assessing and treating certain minor ailments

  • Supporting with quality improvement projects within the GP practice

Essentially, when taking on the role of a GP pharmacist, you work alongside GPs, nurses, and other healthcare professionals to make sure that medications are taken safely and effectively.

Care home pharmacist

Care home pharmacists help to support the management and delivery of medicines within care homes. You’re responsible for:

  • Reviewing and monitoring the medication of residents to identify possible drug interactions and side effects, taking necessary action when needed

  • Providing advice and education on medicines and medication-related issues to residents, staff within the care home, and other healthcare professionals

  • Training care home staff on conditions as well as medication including administration techniques, side effects, and drug interactions

  • Liaising with healthcare professionals outside the care home to manage and optimise medication and prescriptions

  • Medication reconciliation when a resident is admitted to or discharged from the care home

  • Tailoring medication administration to the needs of residents, such as if they have difficulty swallowing

When working as a pharmacist in a care home, you make a positive difference to the residents you support, helping to improve safety and ensure the correct use of medication.

Urgent and emergency care pharmacist

As an emergency care pharmacist, you work within a hospital, NHS 111 service, or GP out of hours service. The role involves taking on the following tasks in each of these settings:

Hospital

You’re typically involved in medicines management, medicines reconciliation, and obtaining medication histories for patients, making sure the right people get the right medication at the right time. You’re also responsible for medication safety as well as providing advice and education around any medication-related questions.

NHS 111 service

In the NHS 111 service, you handle medicines enquiries so patients and healthcare professionals have the information they need regarding medication use, side effects, and drug interactions. Other important responsibilities include dealing with urgent repeat medication requests and providing advice for minor ailments. You also offer guidance around poisons and accidental overdoses, as well as advice about contraception.

GP out of hours service

Within a GP out of hours service, you work to improve medicines management so that it is effective and high quality. You also help to plan, run, and monitor the medicines services. You also provide pharmaceutical care for patients, supporting them either over the phone or in person. The role also includes giving advice to healthcare professionals, providing education and training so patients receive the best care and outcomes.

Industrial pharmacist

Industrial pharmacists can work in a variety of different areas within pharmaceutical companies that manufacture medicines. These areas include:

  • Research

  • Design and development

  • Clinical trials

  • Quality assurance

  • Production

  • Regulatory affairs

  • Product registration

  • Drug launch and sales

  • Business development

  • Marketing

A role within a pharmaceutical company can be an interesting pharmacy career path to follow, leading to alternative jobs that are a little bit different from traditional pharmacy roles.

Community pharmacist

As a community pharmacist, you dispense and distribute prescription medicines in a patient-facing role. You’re responsible for:

  • Advising people on the correct use of medications, their potential side effects, and other essential information that is needed

  • Offering expert advice and information on health conditions and health topics

  • Providing services such as blood pressure monitoring, cholesterol checks, diabetes management, and vaccination administrations

  • Checking that medicines are safely supplied

  • Ordering and managing stock within the community pharmacy

  • Communicating with other healthcare professionals about patient prescriptions to ensure high-quality patient care

A community pharmacy career can be a great option if you’re looking for regular, sociable hours, plenty of patient interaction, and a varied workload.

Hospital pharmacist

As a hospital - or clinical - pharmacist, you’re responsible for ensuring safe and effective medication use in hospital settings. Within this role, you:

​Work in multidisciplinary hospital teams to promote quality patient care and medication management

  • Dispense medications and monitor drug charts to ensure the right medication has been prescribed to the right patient

  • Provide advice and information on medications to healthcare professionals, patients, and their families

  • Liaise with other healthcare professionals to put together the right treatment plans for patients

  • Monitor patient prescriptions, conduct drug histories, and carry out medication reconciliation

  • Manage pharmacy operations, making sure that medication is stored safely, orders are fulfilled promptly, and medication is procured from suppliers efficiently ​

Taking on the role of a hospital pharmacist provides you with many diverse opportunities. You’re able to work as part of a wider multidisciplinary team, all collaborating to provide patients with the best care and treatment.

Locum pharmacist

As a locum pharmacist, you take on temporary or short-term work in healthcare settings. You provide cover for pharmacists who may be absent due to illness, annual leave, or training. You play an important role in maintaining uninterrupted pharmacy services and ensuring continuous patient care.

This type of role comes with many benefits, which include:

Flexibility – becoming a locum pharmacist allows you to work in many different locations and settings, while also having greater control over when you work

Increased pay – the rates of pay after often higher when you work as a locum pharmacist. You also have more autonomy over how much you earn, with the ability to work more or less as you want and need

Plenty of jobs – there is a demand for locum professionals, meaning that you will have many job opportunities available to you

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Pharmacist career progression opportunities

Once you have at least a few years of experience in pharmacy work, you will have a range of skills that will be attractive to new employers. Also, 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:

  • Move into a leadership role, such as a team manager or consultant

  • Become a consultant

  • Become a qualified person (QP)

  • 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.

Move into a leadership role

Hospitals

Pursuing a leadership position in a hospital pharmacy can involve becoming a lead pharmacist, moving into management, or taking on a teaching role within the hospital setting.

GP practices

If you want to progress as a clinical pharmacist in GP practices, you can enrol on the primary care pharmacy education pathway. This has replaced the general practice pharmacy training programme. You're then able to advance into a role as a lead clinical pharmacist, prescribing lead, or practice manager.

Community pharmacies

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 take charge of administering immunisations and vaccines while also 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.

Pharmaceutical companies

Opportunities are also available within pharmaceutical companies.

You can progress to become a chief pharmacy officer, clinical development director, or business development manager when working in this industry.

Become a consultant

A consultant pharmacist is a senior professional with expert clinical knowledge that helps develop the future of healthcare. You directly provide expert advice to patients with complex needs and also supervise patient care teams. You also consult with pharmacists working in different locations, such as hospitals, medical and research institutions, and senior care facilities.

If you choose this path, you will work in clinical practice, leadership, research, and education. You 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, ensuring that medicines are used in line with organisational policies.

Become a qualified person (QP)

When looking for pharmacist career progression opportunities, you can also look to become a QP. Within this role, you’re responsible for verifying the quality of medicines to meet legal requirements. You 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.

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 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. For this, you need a doctorate in a specialist area, such as toxicology or pharmacology.

As a research pharmacist, you 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.

Pharmacy career FAQS

Below, we have answered some of the frequently asked questions that people have about the pharmacy career path:

I’m a pharmacy assistant. How do I become a pharmacist?

If you’re a pharmacy assistant who is looking into becoming a pharmacist, you need to complete the 4-year full-time MPharm degree. You then need to complete a foundation training year in a paid work placement. There are other career progression opportunities open to you. You can become a senior pharmacy assistant, supervisor, or manager, as well as a pharmacy technician with further training.

What is the job outlook for pharmacists?

Pharmacists are in high demand in the UK, with employment opportunities available in many different locations and settings across the country. There is also a continued rising demand for locum pharmacists, making it a career option to seriously consider as you journey ahead.

Are there opportunities for pharmacists to work abroad?

As a pharmacist, there are plenty of opportunities for you to work in other countries. When researching this, we recommend that you:

  1. Look at the requirements of the country you are thinking of moving to

  2. Request a Certificate of Current Professional Status from the GPhC

  3. Take a look at the job opportunities within the country

  4. Investigate work permits and visas

What skills and qualities are essential for a successful pharmacy career?

There are certain skills and qualities that employers look for and that will help you get ahead in your pharmacy career. These include great communication, organisation, and clinical reasoning. You also need to be able to work as part of a team, problem-solve, and work under pressure.

Read our blog on the top pharmacy skills and qualities for more information on why they are so important for you to possess.

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.

Register today to speak to one of our consultants and browse our current pharmacy vacancies.

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