Objectives: In light of pharmacy workforce shortages in Great Britain, the profession's regulatory body commissioned a programme of longitudinal work to explore pharmacy career decision-making in relation to influences on career choice and intended career paths. Our objective was to gather data on career intentions that could be used to produce robust predictions about pharmacist supply. Methods: Two annual surveys conducted with the same cohort of pharmacy students in 2005 and 2006. The questionnaires sought to clarify influences on respondents' career intentions and their early career plans. Results: Only two-thirds of respondents intended going straight into British pharmacy practice after training, with fewer white men (57%) than ethnic minority men (71%) intending to go straight into practice. Preferences for early careers reflected existing occupational segregation, with 41% of white females hoping to work in hospital pharmacy and a similar proportion of ethnic minority men (40%) hoping to work for a large multiple community pharmacy after training. Conclusions: A sizeable proportion of pharmacy students do not intend entering the profession for which they have trained, a proportion which is much larger than estimated by other studies. This has significant implications for workforce planning. Existing gender and ethnic segregation in the profession may have occurred as a result of personal choice rather than being a function of constraints operating within the pharmacy labour market. © The Royal Society of Medicine Press Ltd 2008.