Careers advice and options for pharmacy graduates fact sheet

This fact sheet would be useful for:-

  • pre-registration trainees who have failed the registration assessment three times
  • pharmacists who are not able to or not allowed to work as a pharmacist
  • pharmacists considering a career change
  • pharmacists taking a career break.


If you have failed your pre-registration assessment three times or you are a pharmacist who cannot register with the GPhC, rest assured that there are a number of alternative options available to you. Remember that you do have a good science degree as well as your own skills, knowledge and experience and many graduate vacancies do not specify particular degree disciplines.

The aim of this fact sheet is to:-

  • suggest other career options and ideas for further studies and research
  • signpost you to a range of professional help and pastoral support available when making your choices
  • propose ideas on how to spend your career break if you wish to continue using your acquired skills.

If you are not a UK national, you may still find the information useful.  If you are unable to register as a pharmacist in the UK for whatever reason, you could investigate the process for registering in your home country and consider returning to attempt to register there.

Careers advice

As a starting point, you may find it helpful to speak to a careers adviser to talk you through the possible options, taking into account your skills, knowledge, experience and interests.  We have listed here a number of professional services and dedicated websites that can help you with making your decisions.

Pharmacist Support – careers coaching programme

This programme provides one-to-one sessions with a careers coach. This is complemented by an on-line service offering a variety of tools and resources through a bespoke career management platform. This package includes webinars and e-workshops; guidance includes interview techniques, updating CVs, transferable skills and identifying suitable careers.

Pharmacists who may find this helpful can contact Pharmacist Support for further information on our enquiry line at 0808 168 2233, by emailing us at or alternatively you can ask us a question via live chat. Please note, places on this programme are limited.

University careers service

As a university graduate, you will be able to use your former university’s careers service so your first step could be to make an appointment with them. Even if you are no longer living in that area, the careers service may well have online information and interactive tools and they may offer advice remotely or be able to put you in touch with a university careers adviser nearer to your current home, so do contact them.

National Careers Service

The government’s National Careers Service offers help with identifying options, key strengths and skills, putting together a CV, possible funding and developing an action plan. There are also over 700 different job profiles giving information about the roles, entry requirements, skills and knowledge required and any training and development needed.

There are a number of ways in which you could speak to a careers adviser such as by phone on: 0800 100 900webchat via the website or by booking an appointment at a National Careers Service office. To find out other ways of using the service, please visit their website.

The Career Development Institute (CDI)

The CDI is the professional organisation for all practitioners working in the Career Development sector in the UK. There is a search facility on their website to find a careers adviser in your area but do note that the advisers will charge for their services.


Prospects is a graduate careers website provided by Graduate Prospects, the commercial arm of the charity Higher Education Careers Services Unit. The website has a wide range of careers advice material, including career options for your subject (you can search under Pharmacy) as well as lots of advice on CVs, applying for a job and interviews. There is also a graduate vacancies section.

Health Learning and Skills Advice Line

The Health Learning and Skills Advice Line provides free, independent and confidential careers information and advice to support people who work in, or are considering a career in healthcare. The advice line number is 08000 150 850.

NHS careers

Lots of people still wish to remain in healthcare, for example, studying to become a dietician or a physiotherapist. Having a first degree in science can lead to compressed study courses, such as a shortened postgraduate programme in dietetics.

The NHS careers website gives information on a range of career options within the NHS. You can search the site by career, for example, healthcare science (which includes pharmacists and pharmacy technicians) or by group, for example, recent graduates. There is also a careers A-Z where you can search for a particular role and see information on it including an introduction to the role, entry requirements, training and career development plus where to look for vacancies.

Career options: pharmacy-related work


Other areas where pharmacy skills and knowledge would be relevant but may require further training, include:-

  • clinical research
  • product or process development
  • regulation of pharmaceutical and medical products
  • pharmacology
  • toxicology
  • other work in a pharmacy, for example, as a pharmacy technician – see below
  • medical or science writing
  • journalism.

Here are some suggestions for organisations you can contact for further information in some of the areas mentioned above.

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) Careers website

The ABPI Careers website has information on a wide range of opportunities within the pharmaceutical industry. For further information see the ABPI website:

The Organisation for Professionals in Regulatory Affairs (TOPRA)

TOPRA is the professional membership organisation for individuals working in healthcare regulatory affairs. For information about starting out and developing a career in regulatory affairs see the TOPRA website: 

Medcomms Networking

Medcoms have produced a downloadable PDF guide titled From academic to medical writer. This is a useful guide on how to get started in medical communications:

Society for Editors and Proof-readers (SfEP)

The SfEP is a professional society for self-employed and employed copy editors and proof readers. If you are considering a career in scientific/medical proof writing they offer training and professional qualifications. See the SfEP website for further details:

Graduate training programmes

There are a range of graduate training programmes on offer. Here are some suggestions:-

Wellcome graduate development programme

Wellcome offer a two-year graduate development programme for recent graduates. Opportunities include funding, policy, finance and investments. For further information, see the Wellcome website.

Clinical Professionals clinical research graduate scheme

The Clinical Professionals Group offer a fully funded training programme to science graduates with an option to progress to  a Clinical Research Associate development course if successful. For further information, see the Clinical Professionals website.

Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) graduate development programme

Dstl recruit about 80 graduates every year from a wide range of scientific, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines and backgrounds. For further information, see the Dstl website.

NHS scientist training programme (STP)

NHS trusts offer a number of trining posts in areas of healthcare science such as life sciences and clinical bio-informatics. For further information, see the NHS website.

Pharmacy technicians

Pharmacy technicians are required to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and there are specific GPhC requirements. Further details about the requirements can be found on the pharmacy technician section of the GPhC website.

The following may also be able to provide further information on training and working as a pharmacy technician:

Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APTUK)

Buttercups Training

National Pharmacy Association

Career options: non-pharmacy-related work

Other work areas not specifically related to pharmacy but where the skills gained in your degree could be used might include:

  • computing
  • finance
  • accounting.

Large organisations such as the Civil Service (which is made up of government departments and agencies and non-departmental public bodies) recruit science graduates. Please see the recruitment section of the Civil Service for further information.

The Prospects website gives further information on a wide range of careers including job descriptions and entry requirements. Some of the options will require some further training.

It might also be helpful to talk to a careers adviser about options for other non-pharmacy graduate work. Please see the careers advice section above for a list of services.

Working in education

Science is a priority subject in schools but there is currently a shortage of science teachers and you may be entitled to a bursary while training. To become a teacher you need to be professionally qualified and in order to do this you can do a year of training, for example, a Postgraduate Certificate in Education ((PGCE) and an initial teaching year. Alternatively there is also the Graduate Teacher Programme which allows you to work in a paid teaching role and train at the same time. See the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDAS) website for the various training options and funding available.

Lecturing in further or higher education establishments is another option for pharmacy graduates. Whilst working in further education may require you to gain a formal teaching qualification, the requirements for lecturing in higher education take into account your knowledge and personal experiences for the role.

The Prospects website has more information about a career in education.

Further study and research

Undertaking further study could be an option for you to enhance your career opportunities. Depending on your original degree classification you could opt to study for an MSc (if you wanted to pursue science) an MA (for arts and education) or an MBA (for a business focus). You could also consider a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) – see the Working in education section for further info on teaching as an option. Obviously there are costs associated with this and you would need to consider carefully whether this is a feasible option for you.

You could also consider further study and retraining in a different area, such as nursing. Look at the Prospects website for further information.

If you achieved a 2.1 or higher, it might be possible for you to consider research, for example, a research assistant or starting a PhD. With a PhD or higher degree there will be more opportunities open to you in, for example, the pharmaceutical industry, research and development.

The website has general information on postgraduate study and life and you can search for and find further information on specific courses.

For information on identifying possible sources of funding for further research, including the RPS A-Z of funding index and government Career Development Loans see our Finding Funding fact sheet.

Take time out to volunteer

You may decide that you would like to take a break to think things through and may wish to consider volunteering overseas. Volunteering abroad can be a mind-opening and satisfying experience that would enable you to gain new skills and knowledge or even inspire you with ideas for a new career. Some organisations or projects may have a minimum work experience requirement, but some, particularly for shorter projects will not.

Volunteering organisations include:

International Voluntary Service (IVS)

Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)


Someone to talk to


If you have failed your pre-registration assessment three times, your pre-reg supervisor in your most recent six months of work may be able to make some suggestions. You might also consider contacting your personal tutor at your university to talk through your concerns.

Listening Friends

Pharmacist Support’s Listening Friends service can provide a listening ear if you would like to talk to someone in confidence. Contact them on: Tel: 0808 168 5133

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society Professional Support Service. 

The RPS team can also provide you with support if you are a member. Contact them on: Tel: 0845 257 2570 or Email:

RPS mentoring service

The RPS mentoring service gives members the opportunity to talk with a mentor in confidence about career options. Mentoring can help improve your confidence and lead to a positive impact on your career development.

You can access the mentoring service via:-

  • an online database; or
  • contacting the RPS Professional Support Service.

For further information, see the mentoring section of the RPS website.

To access the LPF route, follow the link from the Mentoring page, login in and then select the Mentoring tab which can provide local contacts and help you access the mentoring service.

RPS suggest that before you register on the mentoring database you may wish to consider the following points:-

  • what have been my most notable achievements so far
  • what has worked well for me
  • what might I need to change/develop in order to achieve new goals/aspirations
  • what do I want to achieve from my mentoring relationship
  • do I need support with this single issue (shorter term relationship) or a longer term involvement
  • am I looking for a formal or informal mentor
  • how do I prefer to communicate with my mentor (eg face to face only or combination of communication routes).

Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE) coaching support

The CPPE has a team of trained coaches who can help pharmacists with a specific work-related goal. This is a free service aimed at helping pharmacists with work-related issues, problems and barriers. For further information, see the CPPE website.


We are very grateful to our volunteers and to the RPS Support team for all their help in producing this factsheet.


Your comments and additional suggestions on this fact sheet are very welcome. Contact us on: Tel: 0808 168 2233 Email: