Employment: Pharmacist


By Warren Heggarty

“I love being a pharmacist because it involves doing things that I am good at and enjoy. These include explaining how people are to use medicines, organising medication packs and scripts and accurately entering information into dispensing programs. Don’t do pharmacy for the money or because other people want you to do it. Pursue what you love and are good at instead.”

Cheryl Tang , Pharmacist

Pharmacists (also known as chemists) dispense medicines and advise people on their correct use. Originally, pharmacists would even manufacture some medicines in their shops, but nowadays practically everything is pre-packaged. The two main types of medicines are those requiring a doctors’ prescription and “over the counter” medicines which do not. Pharmacists can advise patients about both types. 

Community Pharmacists – what we usually think of when we think of Pharmacists – work in shops and have a lot of contact with the public as well as health care professionals. As well as dispensing prescription medicines, they also provide primary health care advice as well as supporting and educating customers on health promotion, disease prevention and the proper use of medicines.

Pharmacists also work in hospitals, for government and in industry. You need to complete a degree in pharmacy at university. HSC subjects that will help you gain entry to the course are Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. 

Cheryl Tang, who accesses Flourish Australia’s Buckingham House, is a pharmacist. She says that you can expect to do a police check and have vaccinations as part of the qualification process. 

‘The options for the degree would be either 4 years Bachelors or 2 years Masters’ says Cheryl. 

Pharmacologists are more involved in research and may require a degree in biomedical science, medical science, pharmaceutical science or a degree with a major in pharmacology. 

Pharmacists have to be registered through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). To gain full registration, pharmacy graduates must successfully  record 1,824 hours of supervised practice.

‘The Intern Training Program [ITP] needs  to be undertaken whilst doing supervised practice, either run by the University of Sydney, The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia or by the Pharmacy Guild’ says Cheryl. 

‘A written exam and an oral exam set by The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency also need to be attempted after checkpoints in the number of hours have been passed. Those checkpoints are 30% for written and 75% for oral.’


Pharmacist is one of the more trusted professions. The duties of a pharmacist allow for quite a lot of meaningful interaction with patients and customers, although the more routine transactions are often handled by a pharmacy assistant. 

Some pharmacy assistants are part timers who are still at school, however many pharmacists are looking for people who have experience in sales or in dealing with customers. There is obviously a lot you can learn by taking on such a role.

What are the personal qualities that would make you a success as a pharmacist?

Being able correctly to interpret doctors’ prescriptions 

Detail oriented

A good memory – you need to have a grasp of drug nomenclature, side effects and interactions

Business oriented (especially if managing your own private retail pharmacy)

Able to be a “front-line” educator in the field of health, keeping abreast of new developments

Kind, patient and empathetic – people often visit pharmacists after receiving bad news…think about it (Tuten, 2011)

For further information…

Pharmacy Board of Australia 1300 419 495, www.pharmacyboard.gov.au

Pharmaceutical Society of Australia 02 6283 4777 www.psa.org.au

The Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia 03 9486 0177 www.shpa.org.au


Job Guide. (2014). Job Guide NSW/ACT . Sydney: Australian Government .

Tuten, T. (2011, February 11). Top Ten Traits of a Highly Effective Pharmacist. Retrieved from blog.Soliant.com

Additional Reporting Grant J Everett


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