What is possible with a foreign pharmacist's diploma without a BIG registration?

To work as a pharmacist in the Netherlands, you must have a BIG registration. Dutch pharmacy training often differs greatly from most foreign pharmacy training. As a result, it is often necessary to complete a three-year master's degree in pharmacy (often together with a pre-master's) before recognition of the diploma and subsequent BIG registration is possible.

But there are also opportunities to work in the Netherlands in the field of interest of a pharmacist without a BIG registration. You can do this without following the long master route. It does mean that you will not practice the traditional profession of pharmacist.

Below you will find various possibilities in the area of ​​interest of the pharmacist:

  • Many activities that are close to the work of a pharmacist often do not require a BIG registration. A research master's degree is usually sufficient. A research master takes 2 years, an academic master, such as the pharmacy course, takes 3 years. Because the bachelor's education is a scientific basic education and a wide range of research master's can be added to it, the requirements of the pre-master are often more limited. The Master's in Pharmacy is a full-time study, a Research Master's is often better completed part-time and is often more flexible. In addition, it is sometimes possible to (partly) complete the research project at the current/future workplace. An example is the Master drug innovation, biopharmaceutical sciences, pharmaceutical technology. See also [in Dutch] Choosing a Master's - Study Choice123, [Dutch: Master kiezen - Studiekeuze123]. 
  • For many tasks and positions in industry also no BIG registration is necessary. The Dutch Industrial Pharmacists have their own Dutch website: Association of Dutch Industrial Pharmacists - Objective (industrieapothekers.com), [Dutch: Vereniging van Nederlandse Industrie-Apothekers - Doelstelling (industrieapothekers.com]. Through this association it is possible to gain insight into which tasks and functions there are for industrial pharmacists. They can also tell you what is a sensible way to meet the desired level of education. This can often be done through partial courses or individual courses.
  • There are many courses at the ECA for all kinds of activities as a QP (Qualified person), authorized to release medicines. See website GMP Training, GMP Guidelines, GMP Trends - ECA Academy (gmp-compliance.org).
    They also have a good English newsletter to stay up-to-date on all kinds of changes and training regarding GMP.
  • There are many vacancies for pharmacists and qualified persons on LinkedIn. Here you can also find out which requirements someone must meet so that you can see where you need to complete your profile in order to be eligible for certain vacancies.
  • It is also possible to submit an application for a certificate of professional competence as a pharmacist's assistant. This is an MBO profession and is therefore of a lower level than the pharmacist in the Netherlands. The pharmacist's assistants committee will then compare your diploma with the Dutch training for pharmacist's assistants. The committee will assess whether you may need to follow additional training or whether you can immediately start working as a pharmacist's assistant. If you still have to do additional training, this will be shorter than with an application as a pharmacist.

Professional organization for pharmacists

It is possible to use the mentor network of the KNMP to support the choices for work as a pharmacist other than public and hospital pharmacy. The KNMP is the professional organization of pharmacists in the Netherlands. See [Dutch] https://www.knmp.nl/.
Access to this can only be obtained through someone who is a member of the KNMP. The committee can support this.

Background information

The Committee on Foreign Qualified Public Health (CBGV) [Dutch: Commissie Buitenslands Gediplomeerden Volksgezondheid (CBGV)] sees that Dutch training as a pharmacist differs greatly from most training courses for pharmacists followed abroad. The curriculum abroad is quite traditional compared to the Dutch curriculum. As a result, a number of subjects that are important for the work of the Dutch pharmacist are missing.

This concerns medication guidance, pharmaceutical patient care, medication assessments, auditing, medication reviews, specific ICT skills and communication. In addition, foreign education is often at bachelor's level, the Dutch education is at master's level and lasts 6 years.

We know from experience that due to these major differences, the committee almost always imposes a three-year master's degree in pharmacy, often together with a pre-master's, before a Certificate of Professional Competence can be issued. In combination with the recognition process at the CIBG, this is a long way to be able to work as a pharmacist in the Netherlands. Depending on the personal situation, it may therefore be useful for some pharmacists trained abroad to opt for other work within the pharmacist's field of interest.