Pharmacy vs Pharmaceutical Science

If your favourite subjects at school include chemistry and biology, you’ve probably had people telling you that both pharmacy and pharmaceutical science would be good courses to investigate once you finish.

But what exactly are they? What’s the difference between them? And what kinds of careers does each lead to?

Pharmacy: It’s about patient health

Pharmacists are medicines experts who work with teams of other healthcare professionals to ensure patients get the most out of their medicines.

The most important word in that sentence is “patients”. One way or another, the patient is at the centre of everything a pharmacist does.

That means good interpersonal skills are essential. You’ll need them to help patients understand the things they need to know, but also to work effectively with your colleagues from other professions.

That’s why the Monash pharmacy course, which is Australia’s only combined Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons)/ Master of Pharmacy, has a strong focus on skills development. You’ll still cover all the essential science around how the body works and how medicines work, but you’ll also get a hefty dose of training in things like problem solving, communication, teamwork, and building your research skills.

Pharmaceutical Science: Designing and developing new medicines

If you enjoy solving problems, love chemistry or biology and want to improve human health, then a pharmaceutical science degree could be your calling.

We’ll equip you with the powers to improve lives the world over by researching and developing new treatments and improving old ones.

In order to do that, we give you lots of time in the lab, so you can complement your theoretical knowledge with finely honed skills on industry-standard instrumentation.

The third year offers the chance to specialise in one of three majors: drug discovery biology, medicinal chemistry or formulation science, enabling you to deepen your skills and knowledge even further.

In fact, although the major difference between pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists is that one works directly with patients and the other doesn’t, the ability to specialise is another key point of differentiation.

A pharmacist is almost by definition a generalist: because their patients may be taking any kind of medicine, they need to know about all of them.

Pharmaceutical scientists, by contrast, can specialise if they want to. They can choose to focus on a particular class of drugs or receptors, a particular disease, or a particular stage in the drug discovery process.

Overlapping degrees, overlapping career paths

The two degrees have completely different sets of units – if you’re enrolled in one, you’ll never share a classroom with students from the other. Nonetheless, a lot of the material they cover is the same or similar, so there’s a lot of overlap in the careers they can prepare you for.

What pharmacists do

Any place there are medicines, there are pharmacists. Here are five of the dozens of career paths that our graduates pursue:

Aged-care pharmacist: Helping older people navigate their complex medication needs.
Clinical trials pharmacist: Supporting the management and delivery of trials of new medicines.
Complex care coordinator:  Providing early post-discharge medication review and follow-up plans for high-risk patients.
Women’s and newborns’ pharmacist: Providing safe and effective dosing and administration of medications during pregnancy and for infants.
Antimicrobial stewardship: Fighting superbugs by promoting the appropriate use of antibiotics.


What pharmaceutical scientists do

The Monash Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science is primarily focused on equipping you with an understanding medicines, but the skills you learn can translate to a range of chemistry-related or biomedical research opportunities.

Biomedical researcher: Investigating how the human body works with the aim of finding new ways to improve health.
Clinical research associate: Running experiments, gathering data and documenting the results during clinical trials.
Forensic scientist: Applying scientific research to help investigate crime.
Skincare and cosmetics developer: There are plenty of opportunities in this fast-moving industry.
Patent attorney: Using your scientific knowledge to protect intellectual property (little-known fact: you don’t need a law degree to be a patent attorney).

Prerequisites, course length and other details

All undergraduate degree programs offered by Monash Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences require English, Chemistry, and either Mathematical Methods or Specialist Mathematics. Required study scores can be found at

CourseYears of StudyATAR*IBMonash Guarantee
Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons)/ Master of Pharmacy590.053484
Bachelor of Pharmacy (Hons)/ Master of Pharmacy Scholars Program59840NA
Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science384.053175
Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science Advanced (Honours)490.953484
Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science Scholars Program49840 NA
Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Science/ Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)593.753686

*ATARs shown are indicative only. More details about entry requirements can be found at

To learn more visit our virtual Open Day Saturday 29 – Monday 31 August.