Pharmacists are individuals who have obtained a PharmD degree. They fulfill an essential role in the healthcare system as they monitor patients’ health and treatment plans by dispensing medications and optimizing their responses. Pharmacists also educate patients on the use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs and they often advise physicians, nurses, and other health professionals on medication therapies. Many pharmacists work in pharmacies located within drug, general merchandise, and grocery stores, but they can also be found in hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
Students interested in the discovery and development of new drugs should pursue graduate studies in pharmacology and other pharmaceutical sciences. These graduate programs typically lead to a career as a research scientist. Students interested in learning more about such graduate programs should search the PHARMCAS Graduate Degree Program Directory.
Majors and Coursework
Pharmacy schools do not give preference to particular majors over others, nor do they give preference to students with multiple majors or minors. Likewise, they do not give preference to a Bachelor of Science degree over a Bachelor of Arts degree. Most pharmacy schools seek to construct a class of students that is diverse in academic and experiential backgrounds. They look at the depth and richness of a student’s undergraduate experience rather than the quantity of titles and certifications earned. As such, pre-pharmacy students should select their majors based on their interest in a subject and their passion for studying it.
Although pharmacy schools do not give preference to certain types of majors over others, there is a common set of prerequisites that students must fulfill regardless of their area of study. Generally, the requirements for pharmacy school include:
- 2 Semesters of General Chemistry with Lab
- 2 Semesters of Organic Chemistry with Lab
- 2-3 Semesters of Biology with Lab
- 1 Semester of Microbiology with Lab
- 1 Semester of Anatomy and 1 Semester of Physiology
- 1 Semester of Physics with Lab
- 1 Semester of Calculus and 1 Semester of Statistics
In addition to the core Biology-Chemistry-Physics sciences, many pharmacy schools require courses in other subject areas. Due to the variation among the pharmacy schools’ requirements, students are encouraged to identify what schools they plan to apply to early in their junior year in order to determine the specific requirements they need to complete over their last two years as an undergraduate student. The most common requirements include:
- 1 Semester of Biochemistry
- 1-2 Semesters of English Composition
- 1 Semester of Economics
- 1 Semester of Public Speaking
While slight differences exist (e.g. the majority of pharmacy programs require only one semester of physics), the recommended sequence of courses for pre-pharmacy students is similar to pre-medical students and can be found on the Medicine page. The sequences cover the most common requirements.
Deciding to pursue a career in pharmacy is a significant commitment. Although the personal and professional rewards of the career can be great, so are the demands. As such, gaining formal exposure to the practice of pharmacy is an essential component of a student’s exploration of the field. While most pharmacy schools do not stipulate a minimum amount of job shadowing/work hours, they expect applicants to have spent some time observing the work of pharmacists. It is recommended that applicants complete at minimum of 50 hours of job shadowing/work during their undergraduate career. In addition to shadowing or working in traditional pharmacies found in drug, general merchandise, or grocery stores, students are encouraged to take advantage of the campus area hospitals by shadowing in their pharmacy departments.
The application cycle for pharmacy schools is an extensive process that takes over a year (including preparation of application materials) and requires numerous, well-informed decisions and keen attention to details. Support for the application process is provided by healthcare careers advisors. Students are encouraged to schedule an appointment to discuss any matter related to the application process. Individual appointments may be scheduled in My Journey and questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.