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How to become a pharmacist: Top tips and online courses

Pharmacists are at the forefront of cutting-edge medicine and help people live healthier lives. Find out more about what it means to be a pharmacist and how to become one.

A pharmacist stands in front of a pharmacy counter

Becoming a pharmacist is no easy task. It takes years of schooling and training, not to mention a lot of hard work and dedication. But it can be an incredibly rewarding career, helping people every day make better health choices and get the medication they need. 

If you’re thinking about becoming a pharmacist, here are some things you need to know first. We’ll cover how to become a pharmacist, what education and training you’ll need, the different types of pharmacist jobs, and more. 

So if you’re ready to learn more about this exciting and important career, read on!

What does a pharmacist do?

The main roles of a pharmacist are to dispense medication and provide advice on the proper use of drugs. In addition to dispensing medications, pharmacists also provide information on drug interactions, side effects, and dosage. 

This relies on principles of clinical pharmacokinetics, which are the study of how drugs are absorbed, metabolised, and eliminated by the body. To learn more about this, the Clinical Pharmacokinetics: Dosing and Monitoring course by Taipei Medical University will teach you everything you need to know.

Pharmacists may also provide immunisations and other preventive care services, as well as provide advice on quitting smoking and losing weight. Pharmacists play an important role in the healthcare industry and they are a valuable resource for patients and doctors alike.

Training to become a pharmacist

In order to become a pharmacist, you will need to complete an accredited pharmacy degree program — typically an MPharm or OSPAP. This type of degree takes four years, although some programs may be shorter or longer.

Studying for a pharmacy degree

During your studies, you will learn about pharmacology, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology. Medicinal chemistry is a particularly important subject, as it covers the chemical properties of drugs and how they interact with the body. 

The Discovering Science: Medicinal Chemistry course by the University of Leeds gives you a great overview and is a valuable resource for anyone interested in becoming a pharmacist.

During your studies to become a pharmacist, will also complete clinical rotations in various settings, such as hospitals, community pharmacies and long-term care facilities.

Completing your pre-registration year

After graduation, you will be required to complete a pre-registration year. You will work under the supervision of a pharmacy preceptor and they will help you to develop your skills and knowledge while preparing you for the registration exams. 

If you’re interested in becoming a pharmacy preceptor once you’re a licensed pharmacist, be sure to check out the Become a Pharmacy Preceptor course by Taipei Medical University. 

The pre-registration placements are typically competitive, so it is important to have a strong academic record. You can search for pre-registration placements through the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), as they have a list of approved training sites.

After completing your degree and pre-registration year, you will be eligible to take the registration examination administered by the GPhC. 

This exam includes a written and an oral exam, aimed at testing your knowledge of pharmacy practice, ethics, and law. Once you’ve passed, you’ll be registered as a pharmacist and can begin working as a registered pharmacist in the UK.

You may also choose to pursue additional training in order to specialise in a particular area of practice. For example, you could complete a postgraduate diploma or Master’s degree in clinical, hospital, or community pharmacy.

Alternatively, you could train to become a pharmacist prescriber, allowing you to prescribe medication for patients.

How to start a pharmacist career

There are multiple ways to start a career as a pharmacist. After completing your degree and pre-registration year, you can apply for positions in community pharmacies, hospitals, or other healthcare settings.

Pharmacist jobs

Pharmacists can work in a variety of settings and can also choose to specialise in a particular area of pharmacy. Here are some of the most common types of pharmacist jobs:

Community pharmacist

Community pharmacists play an important role in improving the overall health of their communities by dispensing and distributing prescription medications. They also provide information and education to patients about their medications, alongside advice on other health-related topics.

Community pharmacists often play a role in disease prevention and management initiatives. For example, they may provide vaccinations or screenings, or participate in programs to help people quit smoking.

They may also provide substance misuse services to their community. The Neurobiology of Addiction course by ASAM will teach you about the science behind addiction, developing your understanding of this important subject.

Hospital pharmacist

Hospital pharmacists are an important part of a hospital’s healthcare team. They work closely with doctors, nurses, and other staff to ensure that patients receive the medications they need.

They’re responsible for dispensing medications, monitoring patient drug therapies, and providing information about drug interactions and side effects.

They also collaborate with other health care professionals to develop individualised treatment plans for patients, while educating patients about their medications and how to take them safely.

By working together, hospital pharmacists and other healthcare professionals can ensure that patients receive the best possible care. The Good Pharmacy Practice: Introduction to Medication Delivery Systems course by Taipei Medical University is a great resource for those interested in learning more about this job. 

It covers different types of medication delivery systems used by hospitals and highlights the importance of pharmacy informatics for optimum patient care. Watch this video outlining how pharmacists are the key components in hospital pharmacy practice.

Industrial / pharmaceutical company pharmacist

These pharmacists work in the pharmaceutical industry, developing and manufacturing drugs and other medicinal products. They are also involved in research and development, quality control, and patient care.

In addition to their technical expertise, they must have strong interpersonal and communication skills and work effectively with a variety of people, including scientists, engineers and other health professionals. Read our how to improve your communication skills article to brush up on this essential skill.

As the pharmaceutical industry continues to grow and evolve, industrial and pharmaceutical company pharmacists will play an increasingly important role in developing new and innovative products that improve the lives of people around the world.

The Good Pharmacy Practice: Pharmaceutical Services course by Taipei Medical University delves into the exciting world of pharmaceuticals and assists you in becoming a competent professional.

Clinical pharmacist

A clinical pharmacist is a type of pharmacist that works in healthcare settings, like hospitals, clinics, and physician offices. Clinical pharmacists focus on the safe and effective use of medications. They work with patients, families, and healthcare providers to make sure that medications are used correctly and safely.

They also work to prevent medication errors and improve patient outcomes. To learn more about clinical pharmacy, explore the Good Pharmacy Practice: Introduction to Clinical Pharmacy Services course by Taipei Medical University. Watch this clinical pharmacist training video to get a better understanding of what this job is all about.

Research pharmacist

A research pharmacist is someone who specialises in conducting research on medications and their effects. Research pharmacists can work in academic or pharmaceutical settings, and their work involves clinical trials, drug development, or pharmacovigilance.

They are also involved in teaching and writing scientific papers. To become a research pharmacist, you’ll need to complete postgraduate training in pharmacy research.

Each of these positions requires different skills and knowledge. All pharmacists need to be able to understand and interpret prescriptions, dispense medication and provide advice on the use of medication.

Working as a pharmacist

For pharmacists, a typical day will involve interacting with patients, answering questions about their medication and filling prescriptions. Medication management constitutes a huge part of the job — from formulary management and procurement to drug safety and patient education.

The Good Pharmacy Practice: Medication Management course by Taipei Medical University gives you a comprehensive overview of medication management and its importance in the pharmacy setting.

During your shift as a pharmacist, you’re responsible for keeping the pharmacy clean and organised. This can include tasks such as stocking shelves and cleaning counters. You will also keep track of inventory and order new supplies as needed.

As a pharmacist, you have a responsibility to ensure that your patients receive the best possible care, and part of this is keeping up-to-date with the latest advancements in medication and treatment. It also means that you’ll be required to work effectively with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians and nurses.

Salary of a pharmacist

On average, a pharmacist in the United Kingdom earns £40,250 annually before taxes. The starting salary of a UK pharmacist is usually around £26,500 per year gross.

With experience and time comes greater earning potential, with some pharmacists in the UK making more than £85,000 per year (pre-tax). As the second best-paying healthcare job in the UK, a career in pharmacy is certainly a lucrative option. Added benefits include health insurance, paid holidays, and 401(k) retirement plans. 

Some employers also offer bonuses and other incentives. Working hours can vary, but most pharmacists work full time. You may also be expected to work evenings, weekends, or bank holidays.

Further education for pharmacists

Pharmacists are required to complete Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in order to keep their license. CE can come in many forms, such as online courses, seminars, and conferences. The CPD standards are explained in this useful video on the International Approaches to CPD, which includes the UK standards.

It’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in medication and treatment, as well as changes to pharmacy practice. It’s a good idea to take specialised courses to further your education and earn additional qualifications to maximise your pharmacist career.

CPD-approved courses:

Here are a couple of CPD-approved courses that can be completed online:

  • Essentials of Good Pharmacy Practice: The Basics course by Taipei Medical University: This course covers the basics of good pharmacy practice, such as preparation of sterile medication, hazardous drug handling and risk management in pharmacy.
  • Pharmacotherapy: Understanding Biotechnology Products course by Taipei Medical University: If you’re interested in learning more about how biotechnology is used to create medications, this course is for you. It covers topics such as the history of biotechnology, current applications and future trends.

To make the most of your online studies, make sure to read our blog on how to succeed with online learning. It’s packed with advice on everything from setting up a study routine to managing your time effectively.

Specialist courses

Additionally, some specialist courses such as the below can help you progress in your career or open up new job opportunities:

  • Exploring Cancer Medicines course by the University of Leeds: This course covers the use of cancer medicines, their side effects and how they are developed. It provides an opportunity to learn about the latest research and future directions in cancer treatment.
  • The Science of Medicines course by Monash University: Explore how medicines are designed, how they work in the body and the principles of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. This course is aimed at those who want to understand more about the science behind medicines and can help you progress in a career as a clinical pharmacist or a medicinal chemist.

Why not also explore our top five data analytics courses in healthcare? You’ll develop valuable skills that will come in handy as a pharmacist working with large amounts of data.

Final thoughts

Becoming a pharmacist is a rewarding career choice that comes with many responsibilities. As a pharmacist, you’ll play an important role in ensuring that your patients receive the best possible care.

While it requires a significant amount of education and training, the rewards are worth it. With experience, you can earn a high salary and enjoy job satisfaction knowing that you are helping others.

Want to know what the future looks like? This video about the obstacles and the future of pharmacists will give you some powerful insights and prepare you for a fascinating pharmacy career. Get started today!

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