This fact sheet will be useful for pre-registration trainees who have failed the assessment three times and MPharm graduates who do not want to train to become a pharmacist.
If you have failed your pre-registration assessment three times or do not wish to train to become a pharmacist, 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 graduates to a range of professional help and pastoral support available when making their choices
- propose ideas on how to spend a career break for people who wish to continue using their acquired skills.
Graduates who are not UK nationals may still find the information useful. International graduates who are unable to register as a pharmacist in the UK could investigate the process for registering in their home country, and consider returning to attempt to register there. For a full list of pharmaceutical regulators in other countries, see our Working abroad fact sheet.
As a starting point, it may be helpful to speak to a careers adviser to talk through the possible options, taking into account graduate skills, knowledge, experience and interests. We have listed here a number of professional services and dedicated websites that can help graduates to make a decision.
University careers service
All university graduates are able to use their former university’s careers service so a first step could be to make an appointment with them. Graduates do not have to be living near their university in order to get in touch with them. University careers services may well have online information and interactive tools and they may offer advice remotely or be able to put graduates in touch with a university careers adviser nearer to their 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 people can speak to a careers adviser such as by phone on:0800 100 900, webchat 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 local 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.
Lots of people still wish to remain in healthcare, for example, studying to become a dietitian 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.
Below we have an in depth look as just a few of the opportunities available via the NHS.
NHS Physician Associate
Physician associates support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients. Physician associates might work in a GP surgery or be based in a hospital, but wherever a physician associate does work, they will have direct contact with patients.
Graduates will need to undertake post-graduate training in order to qualify as a physician associate. The MPharm fulfils the entry requirements for post-graduate training to become a physician associate. The training will also involve working under the supervision of a doctor and day-to-day tasks will include:
- taking medical histories
- diagnosing illnesses
- analysing test results
- performing examinations
- developing management plans.
The post-graduate degree and/or diploma in physician associate studies is available at a wide range of universities throughout the country. Graduates can search for universities offering this degree and/ or diploma with the NHS course finder.
Graduates who are interested in training to become a physician associate should contact individual universities with any queries about course fees and eligibility for NHS funding.
NHS scientist training programme (STP)
MPharm graduates might want to have a look at the NHS scientist training programme. Graduates can opt to train in any of the following areas:-
- clinical bioinformatics
- life sciences
- physical sciences and bio-mechanical engineering
- physiological sciences
Training lasts for three years and once completed candidates would be eligible to apply for suitable healthcare science posts. For further information about the scientist training programme, see the National School of Healthcare Science website.
NHS Leadership Academy
The NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme is a scheme for graduates who are interested in a management career within the NHS. Graduates can opt for any of the following areas:-
- finance management
- general management
- health analysis
- health informatics
- human resources
- policy and strategy.
Training lasts for two years, however, graduates should note that if they opt for finance management, training is two and a half years. For further information about the scheme, see the NHS Leadership Academy website.
Careers in industry
There are many pharmaceutical companies in the UK, most of whom offer employment opportunities to graduates. Some firms will also have special graduate schemes. Here is a list of some of the main pharmaceutical companies for graduates who are interested in working in industry:
- Ipsen Limited UK
- Merck, Sharp and Dohme
- Novo Nordisk
Graduates can also have a look at the ABPI member list for further details of pharmaceutical industry organisations.
There are numerous career opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry, ranging from technical scientific jobs to commercial roles in sales and marketing. For further information on the wide range of opportunities within pharmaceutical industry, see the ABPI website.
Below we have an in depth look as just a few of the opportunities available via industry.
Health economists are professionals who investigate how resources are used in healthcare. Health economists can work for the public side of health care or they can work for privately owned companies. This role would suit people who have an analytical mind and are motivated by a desire to improve the health of the public.
In the public sector health economists might investigate and assess how health care policies are delivered and monitor the quality and cost effectiveness of public services.
In the private sector health economists can provide services for organisations such as bio-technology companies, private health insurance companies and international organisations. They might use their skills to ensure that companies are cost effective and sustainable and help with strategic plans for new technology and/or products.
Graduates may want to consider undertaking a masters in health economics in order to further their career in the health sector. At the moment there are 34 post-graduate degrees offered by 18 universities in the UK.
For the full list of courses available, see the Postgraduate search website.
Medical sales representative
Medical sales representatives sell products which include medicines, prescription drugs and medical equipment to a range of health care professionals including doctors, pharmacists and nurses. This role would suit people who are confident and out-going and who like travelling and meeting new people.
Medical sales representatives work for private companies and the work involves contacting customers, identifying their needs and matching these needs with the right products.
Whilst this career option is open to all graduates, graduates with a degree in pharmacy will be considered particularly suitable for this role.
Any initial training should be provided by the employer, however, medical sales representatives must take the Medical Representatives Exam within one year of commencing work. This exam is provided by the ABPI, and comprises of a Level 3 Certificate in the promotion of prescription medicines and the Level 3 Diploma in the promotion of prescription medicines.
For further information about the exam, see the APBI website.
Whilst there are very few degree courses that deal specifically in toxicology, graduates with a degree that gives them a good understanding of chemistry and biological systems can opt to train as a toxicologist. Graduates who want to train to be a toxicologist could look for roles that offer on-the-job training.
Toxicologists who work in the pharmaceutical industry are likely to be involved in the study of any possible side effects on patients of any new medicines. This role would suit people who are concerned about the impact chemicals may have on public health.
Graduates might also want to consider a post-graduate qualification in toxicology and forensic science in order to further their careers.
At the moment there are 21 post-graduate degrees available at a selection of universities in the UK. For the full list of courses available, see the Study Portals website.
For further information on becoming a toxicologist and course options, see the British Toxicology Society (BTS) website.
Other graduate science training programmes
There are a range of graduate training programmes on offer. Here are some suggestions:-
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.
Careers in regulatory affairs
Regulatory professionals are responsible for all the appropriate licensing, marketing and legal compliance of pharmaceutical and medical products. Although not essential, it could be advantageous to have an additional qualification, such as the MSc in Regulatory Affairs to help further a career in regulation.
Here are The Organisation for Professionals in Regulatory Affairs (TOPRA) top tips for those just starting out in a career in regulatory affairs:-
- be prepared to take another role in the drug development process as a stepping stone
- review your CV for skills and experience that would be particularly transferable, for example, good communication, project management and the ability to synthesise information
- enrol with a specialist regulatory recruitment consultant who can advise you about job opportunities.
TOPRA also runs an online one-day Basics of Regulatory Affairs course aimed at those who are interested in getting into the profession. They also have comprehensive guidance for anybody who is interested in a career in regulatory affairs.
For further information, see the careers section of the TOPRA website.
Scientific or Medical Writer
There are a number of opportunities available to graduates with an interest in scientific or medical writing. These include communications and journalism. Below we have a look at some of the careers options in scientific and medical writing for MPharm graduates.
There are a range of opportunities in press, radio, television and on-line journalism. Journalists will need to write quickly and clearly and will also need to be able to adapt their style to suit a variety of publications and audiences.
There are any number of post-graduate options available to anybody with an interest in a career in journalism. For further information about the study options available in the UK, see the Postgraduate Search website.
There are a number of organisations that could prove helpful for graduates who want to progress in journalism. Below is a list of suggestions for organisations that might be of interest.
National Council for the Training of Journalists
The National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) website has a range of helpful guides and tips about making a start in journalism. The NCTJ also offers a selection of courses, including on-line and bespoke courses. For further information, see the NCTJ website.
The Medical Journalists’ Association
The Medical Journalists’ Association (MJA) membership covers a range of healthcare professional journalists, this includes pharmaceutical journalists. Membership of the MJA offers a range of opportunities including, network, training and career development and access to useful resources. For further information, see the MJA website.
Medical and/or Scientific Proofreader
There are no set requirements, however, employers will expect proofreaders to have a degree in a relevant subject. Proofreaders will also need to demonstrate skills such as attention to detail, the ability to concentrate for long periods and an excellent grasp of language.
There is also the possibility for proofreaders to work on a freelance basis from home. There are several organisations that would be of interest to people who want to learn more about proofreading or the publishing industry in general. Please see below for the list.
The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP)
The CIEP is a professional society for self-employed and employed copy editors and proof readers. For those who are considering a career in scientific/medical proof writing they offer training and professional qualifications. For further details, see the CIEP website.
Women in Publishing
Women in Publishing works to promote the status of women working in publishing and related trades by helping them to develop their career. They offer opportunities for women to learn more about their area of work, share information and expertise and to participate in practical training for both career and personal development. For further details, see the Women in Publishing website.
The pharmaceutical industry employs a whole range of people to help them to promote their products. People wishing to go into a career in medical communications will be involved in the education of stakeholders such as doctors, patients, nurses and hospital managers about innovations in healthcare. Specialist areas include:-
- regulatory affairs
- health economics
- public relations
- medical education
- advertising and branding.
An organisation such as Medcomms Networking can offer further guidance to those who are interested in a career in communication. Medcomms Networking is a global initiative that facilitates networking and dialogue amongst individuals working in and around the pharmaceutical industry and medical communication.
For further information about starting out, including a downloadable PDF guide, see the MedComms Networking website.
There are a number of other organisations that might prove useful to those who are looking to start out in medical communications. See below for some suggestions.
Medical Affairs Professional Society
The Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS) provides a range of educational and information resources. Members also benefit from training and networking opportunities and will be able to attend MAPS events. For further information, see the MAPS website.
Pharmaceutical Marketing Society
The Pharmaceutical Marketing Society (PM Society) promotes marketing excellence throughout the healthcare and life science industries. Membership benefits include access to training modules and access to a growing network of healthcare professionals. For further information, see the PM Society website.
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.
There are a number of organisations that can provide further information on training and working as a pharmacy technician. See below for a list of suggestions.
Association of Pharmacy Technicians
The Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APTUK) is the professional leadership body for registered pharmacy technicians working in the UK. For further information, including advice about continuing professional development, education and indemnity insurance, see the APTUK website.
Buttercups offer a range of training opportunities, including pre-registration pharmacy technician and accuracy checking training. For further details, see the Buttercups Training website.
National Pharmacy Association
The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) offers a range of courses for people who are interested in training as a pharmacy technician. These include a course in Accuracy in Dispenser, with enables pharmacy technicians to carry out the final accuracy check on prescriptions. For further information, see the NPA website.
Working in education
Science is a priority subject in schools but there is currently a shortage of science teachers and graduates who choose teaching may be entitled to a bursary while training. Teachers need to be professionally qualified and in order to teach graduates will need to undertake 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 people 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.
Teach First gives graduates the opportunity to teach for two years in challenging schools, after which people can opt to stay in teaching or move on to other roles. For further information, see the Teach First website.
Further Education (16-19 years)
The Further Education (FE) sector is one of the widest educational fields in the UK. There are a variety of settings to choose from including:-
- work based learning – teaching skills in the workplace
- adult and community learning – delivering courses based mainly in community
- justice sector – delivering courses to people who are in prison
- further education colleges – teaching in colleges.
The teaching qualification needed for the FE sector is the level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET) but if this qualification is undertaken at a university or even at some FE colleges it may be called a PGCE or a Cert Ed. For full details of the courses currently available and information about current bursaries, see the FE advice website.
People who are interested in training to become an FE teacher can also take a look at the UCAS website. Not all teacher training courses are listed on UCAS, however it will give candidates an idea of what is available.
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:
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.
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:
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.
This fact sheet was last reviewed on 28 July 2021.