Pharma, which is derived from the word ‘drug’ in Modern Greek, which is also a part of pharmacology is a branch of medicine and biology that is concerned with the study of drug action. A drug can be broadly defined as a man-made, endogenous or natural substance. Pharmacy is the techniques and science of preparing and dispensing the drugs studied and created by pharmacologists. It connects chemical science with health studies to ensure effective, but safe use of pharmaceutical drugs.
Drugs and medication play a vital role in maintaining and protecting the health of society, and individuals. They are used to combat diseases and illnesses, from chest infections to brain tumours. Pharmaceutical drugs and products are crucial in preventing, controlling and curing a wide range of medical conditions.
A pharmacist studies aspects of pharmacology, as well as how medications and drugs can be used to aid people, and illnesses, and looks at the dosage and how drugs are administered. Pharmacologists focus on drugs and the way that they work on and in the body, and how the body reacts to them.
Similar to medicine and dentistry degrees, pharmacy and pharmacology courses require prospective candidates to hold science subjects and some institutions will ask for additional sciences on top, either, biology, mathematics or physics. University grade requirements will be higher, due to the intensity of the course, and universities will ask for B and above in certain subjects. However, each institution will ask for different grades and students are advised to check before applying to ensure they understand what they need to gain admission.
If students wish to become a pharmacist, they need to ensure they are choosing an accredited qualification and to gain full accreditation by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain; individuals will need to study a four-year MPharm course – there are approximately 26 institutions in the United Kingdom that offer accredited MPharm degrees. Students should double-check to make sure their chosen courses are approved, allowing them to be registered as a pharmacist and to practice after graduation. To gain registration, students tend to take an MPharm degree which lasts for four years and then follow this up with a pre-registration year. However, some universities offer an MPharm course as a five-year sandwich course which includes the pre-registration year.
Whereas most pharmacology degree courses last three years in length and will be very scientifically focused, and there is an option to study pharmacology as part of a life sciences degree if you wanted to explore certain aspects of the area, instead of focusing on it for the entire time.
The degrees available are in Bachelors of Sciences (BSc), Masters of Science (MSc), and Masters of Pharmacology (MPharm) degrees, including, pharmacology, pharmacy, research in pharmacology and pharmacology and biosciences.
Students will study an array of modules from the medical sciences, chemistry, cell biology, and pharmacology. Some universities allow students to tailor their degrees and pick modules from similar or related courses, and offer individuals flexibility.
Lectures will be taught based, and students will spend a lot of time studying a combination of maths, chemistry and biology. There will also be opportunities to take part in pharmacy placements throughout the year which provides valuable hands-on experience, and aids students in the application of theoretical knowledge to practical situations, as well as witness day-to-day running of a pharmacy. Placements also provide confidence to apply for summer internships or work experience during the non-term time which can help employment prospects after graduation.
Students will be evaluated through a mixture of written examinations, coursework, presentations and team projects. Most students undertake a pharmacy or pharmacology research project during their final year, including laboratory research.
Candidates will learn about time management, and how to act professionally in all areas of life. The practical elements will provide dispensary experience, including, labelling, consultation skills and clinical checks. Problem-based learning aids individuals to work under pressure, and prepares them to understand how to behave in all scenarios. Other skills include the preparation of scientific reports, the use of computer software, producing figures and diagrams as well as data handling.
There will always be a demand for pharmacologists and pharmacists and the need for an improved quality of life, as well as for drugs to fight illness and diseases. Candidates will be at the forefront of medical and drug research, evaluate new generation medication, and solve problems related to drugs and the treatment of illness.
This subject area is ideal for individuals who are passionate about science, medicine, or even specifically pharmacy and pharmacology. Although medicines can make society live longer, they need to be heavily researched and studied to ensure they aid the body’s defence system and not harm it.
Graduates have many career options available, and the majority of students tend to work as pharmacists and pharmacologists – once they are registered and fully accredited.
Some graduates choose to work in medical and health research for pharmaceutical companies, while others stay in education to obtain a Doctorate qualification (PhD).
This degree course produces intelligent, competent and able individuals in an increasingly demanding employment area.
Particular jobs in this area include; pharmacologist, pharmacist, teacher or lecturer, analytical chemist, clinical researcher, medical sales representative, science journalist, or a toxicologist. Also, organisations offer positions for graduates, such as the National Health Service (NHS).
Other science-related career paths are administration, publishing, medicine and roles within the pharmaceutical industries.
For students wishing to continue their education after obtaining their undergraduate degree, there is the option to gain a postgraduate qualification, in the form of a Master’s degree; Masters of Arts (MA), or Masters of Science (MSc) or Masters of Pharmacy (MPharm) degrees. These degrees include; pharmacology, pharmacy, specialist healthcare, applied drug discovery and analytical science.
John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola, was a trained pharmacist who created the substance to counteract his addiction to morphine. Initially, the famous drink contained alcohol and was marketed as ‘Pemberton’s French Wine Cola’.
Famous author, Agatha Christie worked as a pharmacist in a hospital and during her time there, became intrigued by poisons and used her expertise in the medical profession to create her stories.
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