Meet the professionals: The alternative career paths within pharmacy

There is a misconception that all pharmacy students go into community pharmacy after graduating and that if you want to do anything different, then you may as well pick another degree. Here to dispell that myth are two pharmacy graduates who have gone on to do two completely different jobs, both unrelated to community pharmacy… 


Zahra Mahmood

Course background

I loved it! I enjoyed making friends and the company I got to keep – I even made friends with the members of staff. The teaching experience was excellent; it varied from lectures to labs to seminars which meant there was a way of learning that benefitted everyone on the course.

One of the biggest things I took away from my course was respect. Respect every single person you come across because, at the end of the day, it’s a relatively small world that you’re working in and everyone will know everyone by the end of your degree. Secondly, I learnt the importance of communication and how things can easily break down if you cannot properly communicate what it is you have to offer and where it is that you need help. It can become a slippery slope if you don’t let some know that you are struggling, so take advantage of your academic advisors, ask for a chaperone if you need one and above all else, listen.

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Current role

I work as a Clinical Trials Pharmacist in Gene and Cellular Therapies, so not only do we set trials up but we also make sure that everyone has the prescriptions and medications that they need, as well as carrying out pharmacovigilance after the fact. I also sit in on the Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre (ATTC) pharmacy meetings which I find really insightful because they are responsible for helping to write the guidelines for these therapies.  I absolutely love my job.

How the course has helped

I believe that this course has done more than prepare me, it has made me a better person. I’ve become more understanding of different groups and types of people, and has made me a compassionate worker within a clinical field. Looking to the future, I feel I have the skills to not only finish my contract but to go on to be an advanced therapist pharmacist, and I know that the University will be just one email away if I need support.


One of the biggest pieces of advice I could give to new students is don’t be shy! Talk to people, ask questions and get involved: I took on every extra-curricular activity I could outside of study; I treated the library like it was my best friend. Most importantly, however, don’t be afraid to fail: it’s not only part of life but it plays a big part in success.


Balvinder Matharu


I originally did my pharmacy degree in London, with my exposure to Manchester coming when I completed my postgraduate degree in Intellectual Property after I became interested in patenting drugs that I had invented. Thanks to this course, which I thought was a fantastic one year programme, I have been able to transition into my current role as a Patent Attorney.


After graduating from Kings College in London I worked in Community Pharmacy at Boots. I enjoyed it but I wasn’t using my scientific knowledge as much as I wanted to. So I went back to kings and did a PhD in drug delivery. A pharmaceutical company up here sponsored some of the PhD work and I moved up here and joined them in the drug delivery team. Then, over the last six or seven years, I moved into intellectual property (IP) and now I’m a Patent Attorney.


I had no idea what a patent was when I was studying for my degree but as soon as you start working in the industry you start to realise how important it is. Whenever you invent anything they’re always interested in whether it’s patentable and I got exposed to that as an inventor on a couple of things. I played a part in the creation of an Anti-cancer medicine – I invented one of the formulations for it. It’s interesting because you obviously understand the science but you have to think of a way to be clear in your description of the science to prevent someone from ripping it off.



I currently work for an IP company where I work with universities and other companies who are inventing different drugs and medicines. I help them patent their work and ensure that no one else is copying them. I’m just looking to become more experienced in this line of work and will look to continue to develop my skills.


Don’t get too stressed out about what you want to do at the end yet, during your time at university you’re going to find your own path and realise what you’re interested in so don’t worry if you’re unsure at the moment. You’re going to perhaps get the community and hospital route pushed in your face more than anything else but that doesn’t mean you have to do that, figure out yourself what you’re interested in and go for it!

For further information on what some of our pharmacy graduates have been up to, check out more of our Meet the Professionals blog posts.

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