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12 February 2017

Career change – thinking about a new career in pharmaceuticals?

Are you considering a career change? You’re not alone! But finding the right path and ensuring you have the necessary qualifications can be tricky. If you’re currently thinking about making a career change to the pharmaceuticals industry, read on for our top tips for reskilling and ensuring you’re ready.

The pharmaceuticals industry is at the forefront of evolutionary medicines on a global scale, and makes a difference to the quality of life of millions of citizens every single day. What’s more, recent data from the ONS shows the pharmaceutical industry is leading the UK’s industrial growth, meaning it’s an exciting, busy industry to be in.

Dependent on your current career and previous experience, it can be a tricky industry to break into, with some roles requiring you to take a four-year degree course. But the good news is that the industry is as varied as they come, with bountiful opportunities for those with varied qualifications and skill sets.

If you’re thinking of making the career move but aren’t sure you’ve got what it takes, read on for our break down of what the top three pharmaceutical positions entail and what you need to do to make a career of it.


This is the position that often springs to mind when people think of the pharmaceutical industry, and is one of the most popular! Amongst many other tasks, pharmacists are responsible for dispensing and distributing medicine, checking prescriptions are suited to the patient, and that their medications are compatible with other treatments they might be receiving. Pharmacists also advise customers on over the counter prescriptions, and keep in constant touch with Doctors and physicians around recommended medications.

Did you know that the types of pharmacies can vary? Some work in a local community pharmacy such as a high street store or a local surgery, and talk with the public both over the counter and at certain times, make a home visit. Others can be based within hospitals, and work closely with doctors to advise on the types of medicines they should be prescribing.

If you possess three A-Levels, preferably in Chemistry and two other sciences, then a career change to the pharmaceutical industry could be a good one for you. You’ll need a lot of dedication if you want to make it as a pharmacist, however – a Master of Pharmacy degree, which must be approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council, takes four years! You’ll then need to take a one-year pre-registration training course at a pharmacy, plus a subsequent registration exam.

However, this isn’t the only way to change your career path and make it as a pharmacist. If you don’t have the qualifications to get make it onto a pharmacy degree, you can take a pharmacy foundation degree, which lasts two years. From there, you can apply for a job as pharmacy assistant or technician, and then apply for the MPharm degree and go straight into the second year of study.

Check out the latest pharmacist roles here.

Pharmacy technician

The role of a pharmacy technician is similar to that of a pharmacist, but while the route to entry is faster, the job entails less responsibility. Day to day, pharmacy technicians make up prescriptions, weigh ingredients, and give advice to customers around medicines – all supervised by a pharmacist.

There’s no need for a degree, as long as you have four GCSEs in English, Maths and Science you can start as a pre-registration pharmacy technician at a community pharmacy. As well as receiving on-the-job training, you will gain a college qualification in Pharmacy Service Skills before becoming a fully qualified pharmacy technician.

Check out the latest pharmacy technician positions here.

Pharmaceutical sales representative

Not all pharmaceutical roles involve prescribing medicines. A popular job within the industry is a pharmaceutical sales representative, which can be a great move if your qualifications don’t sit within the sciences.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives usually work for a pharmaceutical or healthcare company, and sell their company’s products to medical institutions. Day to day, the job entails setting up appointments with both existing and new business clients, pitching your company’s products to them, and closing in on the sale. You’ll usually be based in a particular area of the UK, and will be required to travel around that part daily for on-site meetings. Pharmaceutical sales representatives most likely develop a particular area of expertise, such as oncology or gynaecology.

A pharmacy degree isn’t necessary to change your career path and make it as a pharmaceutical sales rep, however having a degree or experience in life sciences or business will help. What you will need is communication skills, the ability to budget and plan, have good commercial awareness, and the ability to work in a team as well as independently.

You will then be trained on the job, and gain a qualification from Medical Representatives Examination provided by the ABPI within one year of beginning employment.

Check out the latest pharmaceutical sales representative jobs here.

While one of the above roles might sound good to you, before you take the leap and change your job, it is a good idea to try shadowing someone for a day or two to really get a feel for the job. Or, if you have more time on your hands, apply for work experience positions to get more hands on with the tasks at hand.

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