How to become a pharmacist

Dispense and educate customers on prescribed medications in pharmacies or hospitals.

Pathways to this career

Have you been mulling over your next step? If you’re exploring the medical field, but aren’t sure about becoming a doctor, find out a bit more about pharmacy careers. In these roles, you’ll play a key role in helping people improve or manage their health.

To become a pharmacist:

  1. Complete a Bachelor of Pharmacy in Australia. You may also start with a course such as this Diploma of Pharmacy Studies or a science based undergraduate degree, which would help you pathway into a pharmacy degree.
  2. Already have a bachelor degree? If your degree is in science, you could potentially apply for graduate entry into a Bachelor of Pharmacy (and finish it within 2–3 years). If you didn’t study science, a Master of Pharmacy may be the better option.
  3. Apply for provisional registration with the Pharmacy Board of Australia (PharmBA).
  4. Obtain and complete a year-long paid internship with a registered pharmacist.
  5. During that internship, you must also take up an Intern Training Program (ITP) that has been accredited by the Australian Pharmacy Council. Upon successful completion, you’ll receive a Graduate Certificate in Applied Pharmacy Practice.
  6. After finishing your internship and Intern Training Program, you will need to pass a written and oral exam before applying for general registration as a pharmacist.
  7. Congrats! You’re a fully-fledged pharmacist.
  8. A few years into your career, you may choose to specialise. If you’d like to do this online, consider this Master of Clinical Pharmacy. Or, start conservatively with a graduate certificate or graduate
    diploma.

Want to dip your toe in the profession? Consider a diploma or certificate in pharmacy, such as this, which qualifies you to work as a pharmacy assistant or technician.

What does a pharmacist do?

The two pharmacy roles that come to mind most easily are pharmacists who work in hospital pharmacies or at retail pharmacies (a.k.a. ‘chemists’—for more on the difference, read this). In these roles, they’re responsible for dispensing medications that have been prescribed by doctors.

At retail pharmacies, they also offer advice on what over-the-counter medications a customer should buy.

There are also other, less customer-facing pharmacist roles, but more on that later!

Duties and tasks

  • Receive prescriptions, check patients’ medical history and ensure optimal dosage and method of administration as well as drug compatibility before dispensing.
  • Prepare and label liquid medicines, ointments, powders, tablets and other medications to fill prescriptions.
  • Advise customers on potential side effects of medications.
  • Advise customers on best over-the-counter medication for their symptoms.
  • Review and monitor medicine therapy of patients and assess its effectiveness.
  • Conduct research that helps develop or improve pharmaceuticals.
  • Develop standards for drugs used in pharmaceuticals.
  • Manage a team of pharmacy technicians, interns and pharmacy sales assistants.
  • Depending on the type of pharmacist you become, your duties and tasks would encompass some but not all of the above. Read more about life as a pharmacist here.

Industry bodies

Pharmacy Board of Australia

PharmBA regulates all our pharmacists and pharmacy students, develops the standards, codes and guidelines for the profession and handles complaints.
You must be registered with PharmBA to practise.

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd 
PSA is the peak national professional pharmacy organisation, representing over 32,000 pharmacists in Australia. They also run Australia’s most popular Intern Training Program (ITP), so you may study with them one day.

Australian Pharmacy Council
APC, as authorised by PharmBA, is focused on pharmacy education (like accrediting course and training providers) and assessing the skills and competency of those who want to practise pharmacy. 

Landing pharmacy jobs

Between 2021–2026, the demand for pharmacists is expected to grow 9%, which means we will need 3100 more qualified pharmacists very soon. Pharmacist shortages are most critical in rural and remote Australia. If you’re willing to relocate, chances are you’ll earn significantly more.

When you’re ready to start your job search, try browsing Medical Jobs Australia, as well as the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) Jobs Board. Of course, you should still look on LinkedIn and Seek.

Careers in pharmacy

Pharmacists work in a wide range of sectors, from retail to healthcare and pharmaceutical manufacturing or testing.

For example, as a clinical trial pharmacist, you may take part in investigational product management of research projects—ensuring that activities strictly follow protocols so that patients and participants are safe.

Here’s a list of pharmacist and pharmacy-related roles:

  • Hospital pharmacist
  • Clinical trial pharmacist
  • Quality pharmacist
  • Operational pharmacist
  • Emergency department pharmacist
  • Oncology pharmacist
  • Pharmacist manager
  • Research scientist
  • Pharmacy technician or assistant (for those who have completed TAFE level qualifications)
     
Other careers where your pharmacy degree could be useful:
  • Medical sales representation
  • Pharmacologist (responsible for developing the drugs that pharmacists safely dispense to patients)
  • Science writer

Online pharmacy degrees

Undergraduate TAS-PHA-DIP-2023

Diploma of Pharmacy Studies

Postgraduate UOQ-CLP-GCE-2023

Graduate Certificate in Clinical Pharmacy

Postgraduate TAS-CPH-GDI-2023

Graduate Diploma of Clinical Pharmacy

Postgraduate UOQ-CLP-MAS-2023

Master of Clinical Pharmacy

Online pharmacy subjects

Undergraduate USA-BIOL1052-2023

Foundations of Human Biology 1

Undergraduate RMI-SCB210-2023

Biological Chemistry

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