• 03 November 2020
  • 12 min read

How To Become A Pharmacist In Ireland

  • Áine Mac Grory
    Pharmacist
    • Mat Martin
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Aine Mac Grory
    • Dana Dovey
    • Emer Kelly
    • Caitriona Lemass
    • Audrey Rice
    • Sorcha Morris
    • Richard Gill
    • Mary Faulkner
    • Mary Mac Grory
    • Rosie Holohan
    • Amanda Loughlin
    • Rebecca Doyle
    • Louise Kelly
    • Bridget Cullen
    • Karen Gahan
  • 8
  • 1246
"Having the ability to be resilient is vital in pharmacy."

Locum Pharmacist, Áine Mac Grory, details the first steps to becoming a Pharmacist in Ireland, with advice on how to gain experience and insights into what the role is actually like.

Topics covered in this article

First Steps To Becoming A Pharmacist

What Qualifications Does A Pharmacist Need?

What You Can Do To Gain Experience Before Applying For A Pharmacy Job

My First Post As A Pharmacist

What To Expect From Your Job As A Pharmacist

What Kind Of Person Makes A Good Pharmacist? (Key Soft / Personal Skills)

First Steps To Becoming A Pharmacist

In order to practice as a Pharmacist in Ireland you must be a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland.

This can be achieved in a number of ways depending on the route you take with the most common being via the CAO application process.

If you are a resident in Ireland undertaking the Irish Leaving certificate and wish to practice in a career as a Pharmacist you will be required to obtain the B.Sc. (Pharm.) Honors Bachelor Degree and M.Pharm (NFQ Level 9).

This takes 5 years to complete in total.

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The first four years will be spent achieving the BPharm through lectures, labs, tutorials and placements.

The fifth year will be spent on achieving the MPharm through thesis and placement.

There are currently three Schools of Pharmacy offering this course; Trinity College Dublin, University College Cork and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Each school has individual entry requirements outlined below.

(It should be noted that these requirements are subject to change but were accurate at the time of writing this article in October 2020)

Trinity College Dublin

In 2019 the minimum CAO points requirement was 555.

This means that a combination of the best 6 grades achieved must yield at least 555 points along with the obligatory grade requirement and subject choices outlined below.

A minimum grade of O4 or H6 in mathematics.

A minimum grade of H4 chemistry or physics/chemistry.

A minimum grade of H4 in physics, biology, mathematics, applied mathematics, geography, geology, computer science or agricultural science.

University College Cork

In 2019 the minimum CAO points requirement was 577.

A minimum grade of H4 in Chemistry.

A minimum grade of H4 in Physics or Biology.

A minimum grade of O6/H7 in four other subjects including English and Irish(unless exempt).

Royal College of Surgeons

in Ireland In 2019 the minimum points requirement was 555.

A minimum grade of H5 in Chemistry.

A minimum grade of H5 in another subject.

Minimum grades of 06/H7 in four remaining subjects which must include English, Mathematics, a third language and one other recognised subject.

For mature students or graduate students entry requirements differ on an individual basis.

Pharmacists within the EU but outside of Ireland are eligible to register with the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland upon completion of a language competency test and presentation of a recognised academic qualification.

Non-EU applicants and qualifications are individually assessed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland.

What Qualifications Does A Pharmacist Need?

Upon completion of your final year you are required to sit an exam.

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Passing this exam makes you eligible to become a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and with this membership you can begin your career as a Pharmacist.

What You Can Do To Gain Experience Before Applying For A Pharmacy Job

During your studies you will have taken part in numerous placements which can be used to highlight relevant experience on your CV when applying for a job.

To further boost your chances it would be of huge benefit to get part-time work in a community pharmacy.

Not only will this entice potential employers but it will also give you first hand experience in so many aspects of the pharmacy course.

The pharmacy course is not just a theory based learning activity.

Assessment styles within the pharmacy course modules include OSCE (objective, structured, clinical, exam) which is essentially a role playing exercise.

The invigilator will assess your communication and problem solving skills as well as your clinical knowledge based on the scenario presented to you.

Working in a community pharmacy will present you with real life scenarios that are often replicated in the OSCE assessments.

If working in a pharmacy is not a possibility working in any public facing role will still benefit you.

Interactions with the public aren’t always straightforward experiences.

They can present numerous challenges (often at times a test of patience)!

Experience working in a public facing position improves your communication, listening and problem solving skills - all useful in life and especially in your pharmacy career.

In community pharmacy you will be working in a diverse team.

You are often forced to think on your feet and it can be a fast paced environment particularly in more recent times.

You have to be able to adapt to change quickly.

Potential employers are aware of this and will be attracted to someone who is comfortable working in similar work environments.

Whether you choose to work in hospital, community or industry the skills you can gain from time in a public facing role are transferable to all areas of pharmacy practice.

A pharmacist is required to be autonomous and is the one who makes final decisions with all responsibility of the outcomes resting on their shoulders.

Extracurricular activities are always pleasing to a potential employer’s eye.

Group sports and involvement in activities like speech and drama, debating, chess and public speaking are all great ways to improve self-confidence which is needed to work independently.

If you wish to work in Industry or hospital then summer placements or internships are invaluable in gaining experience for future jobs.

They also offer insights to several aspects of the profession which can direct you to the field you have most interest in.

My First Post As A Pharmacist

As soon as my membership for the PSI was confirmed I wasn’t sure where I wanted to work.

I registered with the Locum agencies and began working immediately.

My first Locum position was in the pharmacy department of a hospital in Dublin.

I then went on to cover days in pharmacies and hospitals all over Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Meath, Kildare and sometimes Donegal!

Working as a Locum Pharmacist was a true baptism of fire.

Every dispensary is run differently using different software, different processes, different staff, different doctor’s surgeries and different patients!

When you work in one pharmacy you tend to be exposed to the same medicines and therapy choices every month.

As a Locum I was able to gain so much experience in different medicines and conditions.

I was eager to soak up as much experience as I could.

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I loved the variety being a Locum offered.

I had the opportunity to work in communities where patients with substance abuse issues were common and as a result I would interact with them in various stages of recovery which is both challenging and rewarding.

There was another area that happened to have a higher prevalence of cystic fibrosis patients giving me the chance to learn about very patient specific therapy choices.

Some pharmacies dispensed large volume of fertility prescriptions which gave me an education in therapies I would have only touched on during my studies and were often unique to one specific prescriber.

I continued working as a Locum for about 2 years before moving on to a Support Pharmacist role.

As newly qualified Pharmacist the experiences I gained as a Locum were invaluable.

What To Expect From Your Job As A Pharmacist

Put simply your career in pharmacy will begin in one of 3 fields of practice – Community, Hospital or industry all of which have their own sub categories!

The majority of Community Pharmacists work in the dispensary of a pharmacy.

Community Pharmacists can be sub categorised into Locum, Support, Supervising and Superintendent Pharmacists the latter 2 positions requiring 3 years post registration experience.

Locum Pharmacists act as stand ins when the regular Pharmacist in the dispensary is off.

Support Pharmacists work under the Supervising Pharmacist and are responsible for the safe and effective running of the dispensary in the Supervising Pharmacist’s absence.

The Supervising Pharmacist and Superintendent Pharmacist are more senior positions that come with more responsibilities than either a Locum or Support Pharmacist.

The role of a Community Pharmacist is incredibly dynamic and is largely focused on prescription and healthcare service provision.

A typical day generally involves counselling patients on their new or current medications, liaising with doctors over patient or prescription queries, ensuring the smooth, safe and legal running of the dispensary and dispensing of prescriptions and provision of numerous healthcare services.

Services provided include blood pressure monitoring, provision of emergency contraception, vaccination administration, cholesterol testing, blood glucose monitoring, compliance aid provision and addiction services such as methadone supervision.

The Pharmacist carries out the majority of these services throughout the day in tandem with the running of the dispensary.

A Community Pharmacist is often the first person a member of the public will seek health advice from and patients will call upon you for help with minor ailments or information on medications regularly.

Hospital Pharmacists work for the pharmacy department in public and private hospitals.

Some Hospital Pharmacists will work in a clinical capacity doing medication reconciliations, medicine use reviews, offering advice on therapy choices to doctors and completing drugs and therapeutic reviews which involve evaluating the clinical use of medicines and developing policies for managing medicines.

They work in a multi disciplinary team alongside other healthcare professionals.

Another option for Hospital Pharmacists is specialising in one clinical field such as psychiatry or oncology.

Other Hospital Pharmacists will be involved in the dispensary – dispensing medicines and giving relevant counselling to patients and looking after the medicine stocks for each ward.

Some hospitals have an aseptic unit in which a Hospital Pharmacist will often compound or prepare specific medicines.

Industry Pharmacists work in numerous different roles.

An Industry Pharmacist can work in areas such as drug development and research, quality control, quality assurance, clinical trials, manufacturing and regulatory affairs.

What Kind Of Person Makes A Good Pharmacist? (Key Soft / Personal Skills)

A good Pharmacist is someone who has the ability to care for other people.

You need to be level headed and reasonable.

Pharmacists need to be comfortable making tough decisions that patients or staff may not necessarily agree with or like.

Communication skills are crucial in all aspects of your pharmacy career.

As a healthcare professional it is impossible to avoid interacting with sick people in the community.

People who are sick can often be frustrated and at times difficult.

Empathy and a calm manner can be invaluable here.

Organisation skills, leadership skills, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and negotiating skills are all useful to have in this profession.

The profession and role is constantly changing and Pharmacists need to be able to adapt.

Having the ability to be resilient is vital in pharmacy.

Let me know in the comments your thoughts on becoming a Pharmacist and what I've said about it above - let's chat there!

Oh, and please Like this article to let me know you enjoyed it - thank you!

About the author

  • Áine Mac Grory
    Pharmacist

Áine has been working in community pharmacies in Ireland for over 14 years. In 2014 she completed her MPharm degree in the UK and went on to register with the Pharmaceutical Soceity of Ireland. Throughout her career she has worked as a Community pharmacist in various locum, support and supervising positions in Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Kildare, Meath and Donegal.

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About the author

  • Áine Mac Grory
    Pharmacist

Áine has been working in community pharmacies in Ireland for over 14 years. In 2014 she completed her MPharm degree in the UK and went on to register with the Pharmaceutical Soceity of Ireland. Throughout her career she has worked as a Community pharmacist in various locum, support and supervising positions in Dublin, Wicklow, Wexford, Kildare, Meath and Donegal.

  • 8 Comments
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    • Karen Gahan 21 days ago
      Karen Gahan
    • Karen Gahan
      21 days ago

      Great read, really informative

    • Bridget Cullen 22 days ago
      Bridget Cullen
    • Bridget Cullen
      22 days ago

      Great info in here, shows a great insight into pharmacy life

    • Bridget Cullen 22 days ago
      Bridget Cullen
    • Bridget Cullen
      22 days ago

      Great to have all this information in one post - excellent article

    • Rebecca Doyle 22 days ago
      Rebecca Doyle
    • Rebecca Doyle
      22 days ago

      Love seeing the terms : communication and community mentioned here. If every healthcare professional focused more on these two things, ... read more

    • Amanda Loughlin 22 days ago
      Amanda Loughlin
    • Amanda Loughlin
      22 days ago

      A Fantastic written and informative read

    • Rosie Holohan 22 days ago
      Rosie Holohan
    • Rosie Holohan
      22 days ago

      Very useful article and a great insight, so much information on the ins and outs of pharmacy!

    • Mary Faulkner 24 days ago
      Mary Faulkner
    • Mary Faulkner
      24 days ago

      Very interesting and great detail thanks!

    • Caitriona Lemass 25 days ago
      Caitriona Lemass
    • Caitriona Lemass
      25 days ago

      Excellent and interesting read!

        • Aine Mac Grory
        • Mary Faulkner
        • Mat Martin
        • Amanda Loughlin
      • Post a reply
      • Thank you Caitriona I hope you’re keeping safe and well.

        Replied by: Aine Mac Grory