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Pharmacy master’s degree guide

Study for a masters or doctorate in pharmacy and propel your skills to the next level – whether that be in research or the workplace. This guide takes you through the postgraduate study options for pharmacy.


What is a pharmacy master’s degree?

A postgraduate pharmacy course will develop your understanding of how to deliver high-quality patient care in the pharmacy environment. Courses are suitable for skilled pharmacists and graduates from related areas.

You'll enhance your drug knowledge and clinical skills in various therapeutic areas, such as dermatology, oncology and metabolism. You’ll learn how to:

  • Ensure patient safety
  • Introduce workplace change
  • Conduct research
  • Teach and manage other pharmacists

You’ll also build a strong awareness of the role pharmacy has within our national healthcare system.


Why do a master’s degree in pharmacy?

A master's or doctorate pharmacy degree will greatly advance your pharmacy career. You’ll have the opportunity to specialise in certain areas and take part in practical placements, which will boost your career prospects.

Courses are often approved by, or are in line with frameworks set by, organisations like the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Alongside expert clinical skills, you’ll build transferable skills such as:

  • Ability to work well under pressure
  • Attention to detail
  • Critical awareness
  • Customer service
  • Problem-solving
  • Verbal communication


What qualifications can you get?

Qualification options include masters, doctorates, certificates and diplomas in pharmacy. Each has a slightly different focus and style of teaching.

Taught masters in pharmacy

The most common pharmacy masters is the Master of Science (MSc). It’s a taught course where you spend time learning from qualified professionals and tutors in various practical environments.

Research in pharmacy

Pharmacy doctorate options include Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Doctor of Pharmacy (DPharm). These are research programmes where you undertake independent research projects with guidance from supervisors and registered pharmacists.

Certificates and diplomas in pharmacy

Postgraduate certificates (PGCert) and postgraduate diplomas (PGDip) are similar, but shorter versions of an MSc. Qualified practitioners often choose a PGCert or PGDip to help in their current careers, without having to commit to a full masters.


What jobs can you do with a master’s degree in pharmacy?

Most masters graduates go into roles as clinical pharmacists or continue their studies and gain a doctorate in pharmacy.

Students often continue as researchers, scientists or medical writers, as academics or in the pharmaceutical industry.

Employers include organisations like:

  • The Armed Forces
  • AstraZeneca
  • Cancer Research UK
  • Johnson and Johnson
  • The NHS


What are the pharmacy master’s degree requirements?

To qualify for a master’s course, you’ll usually need:

  • MSc – bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) with upper second-class honours (2:1) in a subject relevant to pharmacy

Depending on the course and university, you might need relevant work experience or to submit a research proposal. Health and background checks might also be required, especially if your course involves working with the public.

For other postgraduate courses, you’ll usually need:

  • PGCert/PGDip – same as for a masters
  • MPhil/PHD – same as for a masters along with a relevant master’s degree (or equivalent). You may need to submit a research proposal


What pharmacy courses are there?

Examples of postgraduate degrees in pharmacy on offer in the UK:

  • Clinical Pharmacy MSc/PGCert/PGDip
  • Pharmacology MSc
  • Pharmaceutical Science MSc/PGDip
  • Postgraduate research in Pharmacy PhD


What do you learn in a pharmacy master’s degree?

Areas you could be taught in or choose to focus your research on include:

  • Drug discovery
  • Health economics
  • Medicinal chemistry
  • Mental health
  • Paediatrics
  • Pharmaceutics
  • Pharmacy practice
  • Public health 


How will you be taught and assessed?

If you’re on a taught course (MSc/PGCert/PGDip), you could learn through lectures, seminars, practical sessions, clinical placements, group work and workshops. Assessment could be through coursework, case studies, clinical portfolios, research projects, presentations and exams.

On a research degree (MPhil/PhD/DPharm), you’ll work with a supervisory team but receive less support than on a taught course. You’ll be assessed on an independent research project (thesis) and an oral exam (viva).


How long is a master’s degree in pharmacy?

It depends on your chosen course, and many courses are available part time to suit those already working professionally. Generally, full-time courses last:

  • MSc – one to two years
  • MPhil – one to two years
  • PhD – three to four years
  • PGCert – around 15 weeks or one term
  • PGDip – around 30 weeks or two terms

Part-time courses can last twice as long.

Similar subjects to pharmacy

  • Biological sciences
  • Biomedical sciences
  • Chemistry
  • Chemical engineering
  • Natural sciences
  • Pharmaco logy 

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