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:

Community pharmacies: these 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.

Wholesaler pharmacies and the manufacturing industry: pharmacists in this industry 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 pharmacies: 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.

Some pharmacists are involved with training and research at various training institutions, whilst others work in retail pharmacies and civil service pharmacies; in the latter case, as administrators and inspectors in government departments.

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.


  • 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

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


National University of Lesotho, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, North-West University, Rhodes University, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Tshwane University of Technology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Limpopo, University of Malawi (College of Medicine), University of Mauritius, University of Namibia, University of the Western Cape, University of the Witwatersrand


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