NHS Careers > Explore by career > Pharmacy > Pharmacist > Training


To practise, pharmacists must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). For this, they need to undertake a five-year programme of education and training and successfully complete all of the following:

  • four years study at a school of pharmacy approved by the GPhC to complete a masters in pharmacy degree (MPharm)
  • work-experience totalling one year, in a clinical setting (known as pre-registration training)
  • a registration exam set by the GPhC.

Masters in Pharmacy degree programme

The main aim of the course is to provide students with the necessary theoretical knowledge and practical skills to practise pharmacy competently. During the programme, there is considerable emphasis developing a professional attitude and responsibility through links with practising pharmacists and other practising health professionals.

These ideals are addressed in three broad areas of the course:

  • how medicines work
  • how people work
  • how systems work. 
How medicines work

This area of study involves in depth study of applied physical, chemical and biological science, and includes:

  • therapeutics (how medicines are used)
  • pharmacology (the actions and uses of medicines and the effects that medicines have on the human body)
  • pharmaceutical technology, including manufacturing and engineering science
  • formulation (how drugs and other materials are used together in dosage forms).
How people work

This area of study looks at the characteristics of people and populations. It covers anatomy and physiology (how the human body works), pathology (the nature of disease and its causes, processes, development, and consequences), infection and infectious diseases and wound repair. It also includes some social and behavioural science and health psychology, covering areas such as symptom recognition and diagnosis, health promotion, disease prevention and drug misuse. Aetiology (the factors which produce or predispose toward a certain disease or disorder) and epidemiology (patterns of health-events and health-characteristics within in populations) are also covered.

How systems work

This area of study is concerned with the management of healthcare, how healthcare is regulated and the systems in place to ensure high standards of practice. It includes the organisation of healthcare within Great Britain, public health (the health of a population as a whole) and the professional and legal requirements governing pharmacy practice. It also covers the areas of clinical governance (maintaining and improving quality) and clinical management (working with patients to gain the best possible outcomes from any treatments or care).

How to apply for degree courses

Applications for degree courses in pharmacy need to be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Pre-registration training

Both the pharmacy and the tutor appointed to supervise the trainee must be approved by the GPhC for training purposes. The training can be undertaken in any pharmacy environment, provided at least six months is spent in either the community or hospital sector.

This practical experience has to meet certain requirements set by the GPhC and involves achieving and demonstrating a variety of competences which are essential to pharmacy practice. The competences are activities that the trainee must be able to perform reliably and consistently, and include dispensing medicines from prescriptions, problem solving, counselling patients and using certain apparatus. They fall under the three categories of professional and legal practice, clinical and pharmaceutical practice, and systems and procedures.

Students can choose to undertake their pre-registration training in an NHS hospital, a community pharmacy or other approved setting. You can find out more about pre-registration recruitment opportunities in NHS hospitals by going to www.pharmalife.co.uk

Pharmacy Foundation degree

The pharmacy foundation degree has been developed as a potential route into the MPharm. It is a two year full-time course which includes the content of year one of an MPharm degree and work experience placements. The purpose of the foundation degree is to equip students with the appropriate knowledge and experience to allow them to apply to enter an accredited MPharm degree directly into year two.

The foundation degree does not guarantee a place on an MPharm degree, however, it can be used as an entry route for anyone wanting to pursue a career in pharmacy who does not currently have the required qualifications to go straight into an MPharm degree.

Further details can be found on the General Pharmaceutical Council's website