Pharmacology and pharmacy are two similar, yet different careers that people may consider pursuing.
Both careers revolve around drugs and their administration of them to patients.
Pharmacology is the study of drugs and their effects, while pharmacy is the practical application of pharmacology. So which career is better for you?
What is Pharmacy?
Pharmacy is the clinical health science that links medical science with chemistry. It is charged with the discovery, production, disposal, safe and effective use, and control of medications and drugs.
The practice of pharmacy requires excellent knowledge of drugs, their mechanism of action, side effects, interactions, mobility and toxicity.
In short, pharmacy has a wide scope but is largely concerned with the art and science of drug preparation from natural and synthetic sources, suitable and convenient for distribution and use in the treatment and prevention of disease.
What is Pharmacology?
Pharmacology on the other hand is the study of medications, including their interactions with other substances in the body and physiological effects, is known as pharmacology.
Pharmacologists are also widely involved in drug discovery and the industry of pharmaceutical sciences.
Pharmacology is often described as a multidisciplinary field since it combines the study of drugs with other disciplines such as medicine, biochemistry and cell and molecular biology.
The two subfields of pharmacology are pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.
These are the two primary branches of pharmacology that aim to paint a complete picture of the efficacy and safety of a drug.
Differences between Pharmacy and Pharmacology
Pharmacy is the study of drug production, drug dispensing, and safe patient care.
Pharmacology is the study of drug action and how it affects the body.
The main goal of a pharmacist is to dispense medication to patients, whereas pharmacologists conduct research on new medications, drug interactions, side effects, and safety implications.
The two are easy to confuse as they have a similar degree name, they both work in the medical field, and they both have a similar pool of general knowledge after graduation.
Pharmacists however typically graduate with a master’s degree, as opposed to a BSc, and the job opportunities are different between the two.
Which is better for you?
Degree differences between Pharmacy vs Pharmacology
Pharmacy and pharmacology are two different degrees that can be earned in the science field.
One difference between pharmacy and pharmacology is that pharmacy is typically a four-year integrated master’s degree, while pharmacology is a three-year bachelor of science degree with honours.
There is often a choice to study a 4-year pharmacology program which will sandwich a year of placement work.
This is the recommended choice since it will improve your job prospects and expose you to the day-to-day routines of a pharmacologist.
Pharmacologists typically do research on new drugs and how they work in the body, and therefore there is a greater need for skills in chemical engineering, problem-solving, and research.
MPharm or Master of Pharmacy degrees typically have similar entry requirements to pharmacology degrees (A*AA-ABB), however, the degree contents can be quite different.
the first year will be largely similar, spending a large proportion of time on body systems, including molecular biochemistry and molecular biology.
As the years progress, especially in pharmacy degrees, there is more focus on the patient, and combining professional practice and clinical practice.
In the case of Pharmacology, there is little expectation of developing patient practice, and this is reflected in the curriculum.
Instead, most of the specialism is in course content, with students spending much of their later years studying specialist subjects like endocrinology, immunology, and neuropharmacology.
Both subjects require a research project output.
Most students believe pharmacology is the harder subject since there is a greater pressure to master vast amounts of content across multiple medical disciplines.
Other students agree that pharmacy is the more difficult subject since it is a master’s level qualification that lasts almost as long as a medical degree.
Jobs prospects of Pharmacy vs Pharmacology
Since pharmacy is a job more related to patient care, and pharmacology is a research-based career, the job prospects and job security can be quite different.
In terms of job prospects and demand, pharmacy is likely the more favoured subject. There is always a need for pharmacists in the community, despite the country you are in.
This means that whether you choose to stay in your own country of training or choose to relocate for a better life, your studies and qualification will always be recognised.
the same is potentially true for pharmacology, however, job openings for a pure pharmacologist are far and few between.
Instead, you will likely be applying for cross-disciplinary roles in pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and university research facilities.
This opens you up to a wide selection of roles to apply to, however, it also means that the competition pool is larger, and may consist of biomedical scientists, pharmaceutical scientists, pharmacy students, and even pharmacology graduates with a ph.d. degree or more experience.
Lifetime earnings of Pharmacy vs Pharmacology students
Pharmacologists in the UK earn an average yearly salary of £87,224, which could range from £27,274 to £176,800.
This is quite a large range, but it reflects the diversity of roles that a pharmacologist may engage in after graduating.
The lower range may reflect lab assistant roles, whereas the higher range reflects managerial roles in pharmaceutical research and production.
Pharmacy on the other hand is more clear-cut in terms of potential earnings after graduation.
A pharmacist can expect to make an average of £38,000, according to payscale.com.
There is a relatively limited progression in pay once you become a pharmacist, especially within community settings, however, that isn’t to say a pharmacy graduate can’t go on to do work in drug development for pharmaceutical companies.
Pharmacy graduates are well positioned to leverage their study of pharmacy for more financially profitable fields including medicinal chemistry, independent pharmacy, work for biotechnology companies, and even clinical pharmacology.
It is important that pharmacy students know all their options, and make informed decisions about how to apply their studies, or change direction to other more lucrative industries.
The option to enrol on more postgraduate courses is always there, whether to embark on further study for a doctor of pharmacy degree or to change fields and develop on your pre-existing knowledge.
|Job||Pay Grade (Average – £)|
|Pharmacist (Community)||£32,000 – £38,000|
|Medicinal Chemist||£22,700 – £33,000|
|Senior Research scientist||£47,000 – £60,000|
Work-life balance of Pharmacy vs Pharmacology
Pharmacists typically work fewer hours than pharmacologists but due to the diversity of roles possible in pharmacology, this may differ.
Community pharmacists can expect to work around 48 hours a week, while pharmacists working in a hospital setting will work 37.5 hours a week.
Pharmacologists, on the other hand, may have more control over their schedules depending on their roles.
A pharmacologist in an entry-level position can expect to work a standard 9-5 pm job, whereas a more involved role as a medical scientist who practices endocrine pharmacology may be on call 12 hours a day.
It all depends on the role and employer, but typically the workers who complain most about poor work-life balance have either decided to take on more shifts voluntarily, have chosen high-impact roles, or work for a company with poor working practices.
Healthcare providers and researchers in charge of laboratory work usually have strict rules about overworking team members since this can have a direct negative impact on the work being carried out.
Overall, the work-life balance of pharmacy is better than that of pharmacology. Pharmacists typically have more time off and can usually plan their schedule around their personal life.
The demand for Pharmacy vs Pharmacology graduates
While unemployment rates aren’t always an accurate measure of job demand, they can give a pretty good idea of employment odds after graduating.
Recent studies have shown that the unemployment rate of pharmacy graduates is around 4%, while for pharmacology graduates, it is around 1-3%.
These figures are quite similar which suggests both courses produce graduates that are well employed.
These are current figures, however, things may change in the future, particularly for pharmacy.
A government-commissioned report in the UK warned that universities may need to reduce their pharmacy intake sizes to combat the surplus in pharmacists projected over the next 20 years.
With a surplus, there potentially may be too many pharmacy graduates than full-time training positions available.
This is an issue that some are facing today.
In conclusion, pharmacy and pharmacology are both integral parts of the medical field, but they have different focuses.
Pharmacists dispense medication while pharmacologists research and develop new drugs.
Both careers are important, and choosing between them depends on your interests and goals.
It is possible for pharmacy graduates to work as a pharmacist or in a related field after graduating, whether in the UK, or the United States.
It is however more difficult for an individual trained in pharmacology to later find work as a pharmacist, as they may lack the necessary requirements to get a training post and register professionally.
The job description and role of pharmacists and pharmacologists are vastly different and therefore it is necessary to carry out the research and make informed decisions.
From a purely vocational perspective, pharmacy offers a direct route into employment, however, pharmacology offers a diversity of career opportunities including work in research science, chemistry, pharmacology, and biomedical science.