Placements and working whilst studying

This webpage contains information about finding a summer placement and working whilst you are studying.

Many students will look to do a placement within a pharmacy setting whilst completing their degree, and most students do some form of employment too. This page looks at both summer placements and working whilst studying.

Summer placements

Working whilst studying

Summer placements

Most summer placements are advertised very early in the year and priority is often given to third year students. Do not get too disheartened if you do not get a placement within a pharmaceutical environment. Any work experience you gain during your studies will enhance your CV and give you valuable life skills. It will also give you an understanding of working life, for example, not every day is a good one, work can be very hard, and you will sometimes feel very tired at the end of the day. Double check with your student union, they often have very good contacts and details of possible vacancies or may even be looking to fill part-time positions within the union.

Hospital summer internships

Most hospitals offer unpaid work experience between June and August each year to MPharm students. Summer internships are not essential in order to apply for hospital pharmacy foundation pharmacist training.

Community summer placements

Paid employment is not always available; however, community pharmacies are frequently willing to accept students as volunteers. Some of the larger retailers also offer summer placements for first and second year students. Some of the larger chains now recruit some or all of their foundation trainees from people who have participated in their summer placement scheme. For further information on community vacancies, visit the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) website. Lists of community pharmacies in a preferred area are available on the NHS website and from your Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) website.

Industrial summer placements 

Students who are interested in a split industrial foundation placement will need to be aware that some companies only allow those who have completed a summer placement to apply for a foundation training position. Many of the industrial foundation placements are offered a full year in advance of commencement. See below for contact details for industrial opportunities.

AstraZeneca offer summer placements at their Macclesfield and Alderley Park Sites. During this placement, students will be offered the chance to apply for one of their foundation training placements. For further details, visit their website.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) offer summer internships and industrial placements. For further information, visit their website.

MSD offer summer placements and graduate opportunities. For further information, visit their website.

Pfizer offer an industrial trainee placement scheme, for further details, visit their website.

Students should bear in mind that often the relevant information will only be available on company websites whilst applications for positions are open. University careers support services should have further information available for students.

Check out our job vacancy sites webpage


Completing a summer placement in a pharmacy gives you a good idea of what to expect if you become a fully-qualified pharmacist

This webpage contains information about finding a summer placement and working whilst you are studying.

Working whilst studying

Most students take on part-time employment to cover their expenses and at the same time gain valuable skills that can be used in the future. Most jobs in the retail industry offer flexible work shifts so students are able to revolve their work around their course. In addition to the usual sources, your university may provide information and contacts for potential employers. Here is some important information on working whilst studying.

Employment rights

As an employee, you will have employment rights, for example, the right to be paid the minimum wage, right to holiday pay, right to protection from discrimination. It is useful to know your rights to ensure fair treatment at work. If you are faced with issues at work and are unsure of your rights, Pharmacist Support can help by referring you to our specialist employment adviser. If you wish to use this service, please contact us on 0808 168 2233 or email

Advice from your trade union

It is a good idea to have a think about joining a trade union. They can offer support and advice on employment rights. Membership of the PDA is free to all students and trainees. They can also offer advice on fitness to practise issues and provide a study package for students. For further information, see the PDA website.

Tax and national insurance (NI)

Students who work will be liable to pay income tax and NI on any income above the government threshold. Employers will deduct the income tax and NI contributions from your wages via the PAYE (pay as you earn) system. Students who only work during the holidays and are returning to full-time education after the holiday, may not need to pay tax through PAYE if their wages for the year are below the personal income tax allowance. They will, however, still have to pay NI. Paying NI contributions is important as without these contributions certain benefits, such as contributions based job seekers allowance and statutory sick pay, cannot be claimed. For further information on paying tax as a student, see the government website.  Students who have paid too much tax over the year may be entitled to a refund.  The HMRC website has a tax checker where you can check if you have paid too much tax and there is also information on how to claim the tax back.

Writing a CV

Ideally, students should write a CV in the first year of their studies and then update it regularly to reflect new experiences. It is best to use a simple, clear format that is easy for prospective employers to read. CVs should reflect all of your skills, abilities and experience, including that not directly relevant to pharmacy. Good interpersonal and communication skills are also important. All universities have a careers advisory service and students can contact them for assistance with CVs. The Student Room has lots of suggestions about what to include in your CV.

Job interviews

Most people feel nervous before a job interview. A little advance preparation can make all the difference. Find out where you are going in advance and ensure you know how to get there and how long the journey is likely to take. Prepare answers for questions that will almost always come up at interviews, for example, what are your main strengths/weaknesses, why are you interested in the role and what can you bring to the role. Be prepared to give examples of situations that have required you to use your skills. It is not enough to say where you have worked, prospective employers will want to know how you handled work place scenarios and what you learnt from them.

Find out more about building relationships in the workplace

This webpage was last reviewed in July 2023.

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