In Summary - Pharmacist
Pharmacists typically work in the following Career Sectors:
Videos & Interviews
Rachel Berry, Pharmacist
Rachel Berry is working as a Pharmacist in University Hospital Galway. She studied for her A Levels in Banbridge Academy Northern Ireland and took her Pharmacy degree in Queens University Belfast. Initially she worked in retail but moved to a job as a dispensary/rotational C Grade pharmacist in a hospital in the NHS, for the next couple of years. Deciding that her career needed some direction and focus she applied to work for the HSE as a Basic Grade pharmacist and to start a Masters in Clinical Pharmacy.
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The Work - Pharmacist
Pharmacy is an applied science concerned with the chemistry and action of drugs, and their preparation and production for use in medicine. Central to pharmacy work is the science of 'formulation'. This is the process whereby a drug is combined with another substance, such as ointment, tablet, injection or liquid, for its use as a medicine. The formulation and dispensing of medicines require detailed understanding of the action of drugs and medicines on the body.
There are three main areas of work for Pharmacists:
1. Hospital Pharmacist
Hospital pharmacists are responsible for the ordering, quality testing, storing and security of drugs and medicines in hospitals. They must also ensure an adequate supply of medicine and that it is secure and accounted for. Hospital Pharmacists work closely with doctors and nursing staff to make sure that patients receive the best treatment. This includes discussing appropriate medicines, or safe combinations of drugs in a course of treatment.
In most hospitals, pharmacists have direct contact with patients on the ward, advising them how to take medicines and of any possible side effects. They also make sure that patients have enough information about their medicine to be able to safely take it when they have returned home. Pharmacists use computers widely. They help with day-to-day work, such as storing information, stock control and drug monitoring.
Pharmacists may also use the Internet and worldwide databases when answering drug queries from hospital staff and from patients. Pharmacists supervise the work of pharmacy technicians. Technicians prepare medicines according to a prescription, and dispense them to patients or to the hospital staff who treat patients.
2. Retail or Community Pharmacist
Community pharmacists supply prescribed and over-the-counter medicines to the general public in a retail pharmacy (such as a local chemist). They may give advice to customers on the safe use of medicines and their possible side effects.
They also advice on the treatment of minor ailments, such as colds or sore throats, and sometimes refer cases to the doctor. Most medicines are supplied ready-made by the manufacturer. However, some may need to be made up in the pharmacy, for example, when a particular strength dosage is wanted, or for very small quantities of potentially dangerous substances.
In most cases, pharmacy technicians (often known as dispensing technicians) carry out the routine work. The pharmacist checks that the dosages are right and that labels show the correct information.
Most retail pharmacists use computers for stock control and for producing labels. Some now have computerised databases that can hold information on regular customers' health and medicine records.
Retail pharmacists usually stock a wide range of other goods, such as perfumes, cosmetics, baby care products and photographic materials. In rural areas, the pharmacy may also sell agricultural, horticultural and veterinary products. The retail pharmacist is, therefore, involved in the wider role of retail management.
This includes supervising and training sales assistants to give an efficient service to the public, marketing goods, keeping records of stock, ordering new goods and maintaining accounts. This work carries a high level of responsibility.
3. Industrial Pharmacist
The aim of pharmacists in industry is to discover safe and effective new drugs. They also develop them into effective medicines, and market the finished product to customers.
Industrial Pharmacists also work on improving existing medicines and finding new ways of formulating old drugs. Industrial pharmacists work alongside pharmacologists, specialist chemists, microbiologists and other experts in the pharmaceutical industry.
Many industrial pharmacists work in the area of medicine formulation. This is the process of turning a basic medicinal compound into a useful product that can deliver a drug safely and effectively to the patient and set up processes used to manufacture on a massive scale. In order to find the most effective formulation of a medicine, industrial pharmacists have to rigorously check the concentration, impurity levels and stability of products. This checking is carried out throughout the production process, from the piloting stage (known as clinical trials) through to the manufacture and launch of the medicine.
Industrial pharmacists are also employed in quality assurance. They look at the processes and raw materials involved in making a medicine and assess the final product. For example, they carry out tests to establish the shelf life and stability of a medicine.
Industrial pharmacists may work in a pharmaceutical company's registration department. Before a new or modified drug can be marketed, its prospective manufacturer must get a licence from the Department of Health. In the registration department, the relevant data is collected for presentation with the licence application to the Department of Health.
Some pharmacists in the pharmaceutical industry provide an information service about the company's own and its competitors' products. They use on-line databases to search medical and scientific literature. In the course of their day-to-day work, they develop detailed knowledge of a company's products. They may use this knowledge to train medical representatives and write technical literature.
Most commonly reported Work Tasks
- Review prescriptions to assure accuracy, to ascertain the needed ingredients, and to evaluate their suitability.
- Provide information and advice regarding drug interactions, side effects, dosage, and proper medication storage.
- Maintain records, such as pharmacy files, patient profiles, charge system files, inventories, control records for radioactive nuclei, or registries of poisons, narcotics, or controlled drugs.
- Plan, implement, or maintain procedures for mixing, packaging, or labeling pharmaceuticals, according to policy and legal requirements, to ensure quality, security, and proper disposal.
- Assess the identity, strength, or purity of medications.
- Collaborate with other health care professionals to plan, monitor, review, or evaluate the quality or effectiveness of drugs or drug regimens, providing advice on drug applications or characteristics.
- Order and purchase pharmaceutical supplies, medical supplies, or drugs, maintaining stock and storing and handling it properly.
- Analyze prescribing trends to monitor patient compliance and to prevent excessive usage or harmful interactions.
- Advise customers on the selection of medication brands, medical equipment, or healthcare supplies.
- Compound and dispense medications as prescribed by doctors and dentists, by calculating, weighing, measuring, and mixing ingredients, or oversee these activities.
Most commonly reported Work Activities
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Interacting With Computers Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Processing Information Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Performing for or Working Directly with the Public Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
- Assisting and Caring for Others Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Interests - Pharmacist
This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:
The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.
Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their most productive under supervisors who give clear guidelines and while performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.
They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
The Social person's interests focus on interacting with the people in their environment. In all cases, the Social person enjoys the personal contact with other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.
Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.
In both hospitals and shops, pharmacists have direct contact with patients, customers and health care professionals. Therefore, you will need good communication skills. You will also need the confidence to talk about a wide range of general health matters.
When liaising with doctors and other health care professionals, you will need to use tact and discretion. A good aptitude for chemistry and an interest in studying chemical compounds and structures would be favourable to the career choice.
Industrial pharmacists work mainly in laboratories or manufacturing/production environments. The work involves using a wide range of specialist equipment and automated systems. You will need to have strong analytical skills and be able to develop a good understanding of health and safety in the workplace.
In areas such as production or marketing, your knowledge of pharmacy needs to be complemented by good management, communication and customer liaison skills. Research is very much a team effort, so it's important to enjoy working closely with colleagues as well as making use of your scientific knowledge.
Entry Requirements - Pharmacist
The model of pharmacist education and training in Ireland has changed in recent years. It now takes five-years to become a pharmacist here.
The qualification for practice as a pharmacist is a 5-year integrated Master's degree in pharmacy with a strong clinical focus. Students complete a four-year Bachelor's degree programme in a school of pharmacy accredited by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (PSI), followed by a one-year Internship Programme which results in the award of Level 9 Master's degree.
[Scholarships are available for the RCSI course - details here].
These new programmes provide a greater level of practical learning in work place settings.
Those who successfully complete year four of the programme will be awarded the B.Sc.(Pharm.) and may progress to a postgraduate fifth year which leads to the award of a M.Pharm.
The M.Pharm. is required for registration as a pharmacist with the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland.
Note: Students are subject to the postgraduate fees and costs payable for the fifth year.
Last Updated: October, 2017
Pay & Salary - Pharmacist
Salary Range (thousands per year)* 22k - 85k
Retail Pharmacist: 30+
Hospital Trainee Pharmacist: 22 - 24
Hospital Experienced Pharmacist: 31 - 62
Hospital Senior Pharmacist: 59 - 66
Hospital Chief Pharmacist: 65 - 81
Trainee: 24 - 45
Qualified: 55 - 65
Senior: 75 - 85
Last Updated: March, 2017
* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.
Labour Market Updates - Pharmacist
This group includes pharmacists, psychologists, dentists, radiographers, vets, and health services managers. While demand is strong for many healthcare professionals, shortages have only been identified for radiographers.
National Skills Bulletin 2018
Useful Contacts - Pharmacist
Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland
Irish Pharmacy Union
Health Service Executive (HSE)