Pharmacists form the link between pharmaceutical manufacturers and medical doctors, between doctors and patients, and between patients and their communities. Their role in the health team is to manufacture, prepare and supply suitable and safe medicinal products for the prevention or cure of illness in people.

The nature of pharmacists’ work varies depending on their field of employment:

Retail Pharamacists works in a retail setting rather than in a hospital or at a doctor's surgery. Retail pharmacists provide general healthcare advice and supply prescription and non-prescription medication to the public. Retail pharmacists work for large retail chains and outlets which have taken over from many the smaller community pharmacies.

Community pharmacists work closely with medical practitioners and the general public. They make up medicines according to doctors’ prescriptions, as well as on their own initiative. They check the prescribed dosage, see to it that the safety margins are not exceeded and that different medicines that are prescribed together, do not interfere with each other’s functions, since some medicines cannot be taken together. These pharmacists advise patients concerning their health, and also supply medicine for less serious illnesses without a doctor’s prescription.

Industrial Pharmacists are responsible for controlling the production of medicine. It involves checking all the ingredients, and checking the procedures that are used in the manufacture of medicine. New products are constantly developed and tested to ensure that they are safe and effective. These pharmacists also perform some administrative tasks, such as the preparation of information about new products for submission to the Medical Control Board, the provision of information to physicians, and the planning and marketing of products.

Hospital pharmacists are employed by provincial, private or state hospitals, where they are responsible for routine dispensation of medicine, surgical material and instruments, as well as administrative duties.

Pharmacists are found in a wide variety of settings. They may work in a hospital or retail (private) pharmacy, or in a classroom. Where emergency services are provided, employees are required to work after-hours. Pharmacists also work in laboratories or as pharmaceutical manufacturers. Those who work as sales’ or manufacturers’ representatives travel to the offices of doctors and dentists and to a variety of health care facilities.

Personal Requirements

  • enjoy working with people
  • business sense
  • scientific aptitude
  • very responsible and accurate
  • professional integrity
  • good health and stamina

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Science
Recommended subjects: Life Sciences

What to Study

Degree: BPharm - UWC, RU, NMMU, NWU, UKZN, Wits. UL and TUT jointly offer BPharm.

A year of internship needs to be completed in an approved institution, such as a retail pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, teaching institution or laboratory in the pharmaceutical industry.

After pharmacists have completed both their degree and practical training, they need to register with the South African Pharmacy Council.


  • retail (private) pharmacies
  • hospitals and clinics
  • government departments
  • provincial administrations
  • Department of Health
  • Transnet
  • research institutes
  • pharmaceutical manufacturers
  • universities
  • self-employment, with enough experience and capital, can start own business

Further Information

South African Pharmacy Council
591 Belvedere Street
Arcadia Pretoria
Tel: 086 172 7200 

Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa
435 Flinders Lane
Tel: (012) 470-9550

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a pharmacy, hospital, nursing home or health care facility
  • arrange to speak to pharmacists in different fields about this type of career and ask to observe them at work

Programmes by Study Institutions


Related Occupations

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