1. What do pharmacists do?
Pharmacists are medication experts who enhance patient care and promote wellness. You will use your professional knowledge as a pharmacist to prepare and dispense prescriptions, ensure medicines and doses are correct, prevent harmful drug interactions, and counsel patients on the safe and appropriate use of their medications. As a pharmacist, you will have unique and specialized expertise about the composition of medicines, including their chemical, biological, and physical properties, as well as their manufacture and use. Other health care professionals will rely on you to select and administer medications that offer the best results and quality of life for a particular patient. As a pharmacist you may prepare personalized medications, participate in patient rounds at the hospital, reduce the spread of infections, conduct research or clinical trials, or focus on a specific patient population or disease state (e.g., diabetes, heart disease, asthma, HIV, and pain management). Pharmacists help people live better, healthier lives! .
2. Can pharmacists specialize?
Yes! A growing number of licensed pharmacists are choosing to become board certified as a way to demonstrate expertise in a specialty area of practice in pharmacy: Ambulatory Care, Cardiology, Compounded Sterile Preparations, Critical Care, Geriatric, Infectious Diseases, Nuclear, Nutrition Support, Oncology, Pediatric, Pharmacotherapy, and Psychiatric. Pharmacists may choose to focus on general care or a specific patient population or disease state, such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, HIV, and pain management.
3. What are the traits of a successful pharmacist?
- Attention to Detail: To ensure patient safety and prevent drug interactions and side effects.
- Commitment to Care: To make a positive difference in the quality of life of patients.
- Critical Thinking: To analyze information from multiple sources, determine the effects of medication therapy on patients, and identify the best solution to meet their health care needs.
- Good Communication: To understand the needs and health history of patients and educate them on the appropriate use of their medications.
- Integrity: To uphold the moral obligations and virtues of the pharmacy profession.
- Scientific Aptitude: To understand the chemical, biological, and physical properties associated with medications and their effects on individual patients based on their health history.
- Team Work: To collaborate with other health care professionals and determine the best treatment plan for every patient.
4. Should I become a pharmacist or pharmaceutical scientist?
Ask yourself – Do I want to have direct patient contact as part of a health care team OR work primarily in a research setting to create new drugs and drug therapies? Only licensed pharmacists can work with patients in a health care setting. Both pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists are found in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, universities, regulatory agencies (e.g., FDA), and national laboratories (e.g., NIH). Pharmaceutical scientists work in various fields, including:
- analysis and pharmaceutical quality,
- clinical pharmacology and translational research,
- drug design and discovery,
- formulation design and development and pharmacoengineering,
- pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and drug metabolism,
- physical pharmacy and biopharmaceutics, regulatory sciences, and
- social and behavioral pharmacy, pharmacoepidemiology, and pharmaceutical outcomes
1. What do I need to do to be a pharmacist?
To practice pharmacy in the U.S., you must earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited pharmacy institution and pass a state pharmacy licensure exam. U.S. pharmacy institutions are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). A degree in pharmaceutical science or related discipline will not prepare or permit you to practice pharmacy in the U.S.
2. How long does it take to earn a Pharm.D. degree?
The Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree program requires at least two years of specific undergraduate college study followed by four academic years (or three calendar years) of professional pharmacy study. Most students enter a pharmacy degree program after completion of three or more years of college. Learn more.
3. Can I earn a Pharm.D. Degree in less than four years?
A few programs offer an accelerated Pharm.D. degree program to students. The “2-3” program structure includes a minimum of two-years of pre-pharmacy study followed by three-years of accelerated professional study leading to a PharmD degree. The professional curriculum is scheduled year-round, so students may complete the PharmD degree within a shorter timeframe. Visit the PSAR Table 1 for a list of 2-3 programs.
4. Can I go to pharmacy school right after I graduate from high school?
Some pharmacy schools offer “0-6/7” programs in which students are admitted directly from high school and may advance to the professional phase of the program via an expedited process, if they successfully complete all of the program’s pre-pharmacy and interview requirements. Pre-pharmacy study is completed in 2-3 years and the Pharm.D. curriculum is completed in 4-years for a total of 6-7 years.
Additionally, some pharmacy schools offer an “early assurance” pathway for the Pharm.D. degree. Undergraduate students at the same institution as the pharmacy school are invited to participate or enroll in this pathway during their first 1-2 years of college. If accepted, these early assurance students advance to the professional phase of the Pharm.D. program via an expedited process, if they successfully complete all of the program’s pre-pharmacy and interview requirements. Pharmacy schools do not typically fill all or the majority of seats in the Pharm.D. program with early assurance students and also encourage regular applicants to apply.
5. Do I need a bachelor’s degree before I apply to a Pharm.D. degree program?
No, you are not required to earn a bachelor’s degree in order to apply to most pharmacy schools. The Pharm.D. degree requires at least two years of undergraduate study and most student pharmacists complete three or more years of college before starting a pharmacy program. Some pharmacy schools do give preference to students who have earned a bachelor’s degree. Individuals who hold a bachelor’s or other advanced degree must still complete all four academic years (or three calendar years) of professional pharmacy study. Learn more.
6. I already have a degree in healthcare (or related science). Can I finish pharmacy school in less time?
Generally, a degree in a related discipline does not reduce the time it takes to complete the Pharm.D. degree program. Applicants who have earned an undergraduate or graduate degree in a related field must still complete the entire pharmacy degree program (four academic years or three calendar years). Please contact the institution directly to determine if you are eligible for course waivers.
7. I want to be a pharmaceutical scientist or pharmacy researcher. What degree should I earn?
If you’re interested in a career in pharmaceutical research, you generally need a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical science, biology, chemistry, medicine, engineering, epidemiology or other related fields. After you earn your bachelor’s degree and/or Pharm.D. degree, you will generally need a master’s degree and/or Ph.D. degree in a pharmacy science field. Find programs and learn more.
8. How can I find pharmacy schools in my area?
Visit the following webpages:
1. What college courses do I need before applying to pharmacy school?
Course prerequisites vary significantly by pharmacy school. Visit the PharmCAS School Directory for school-specific requirements. The most common, college prerequisite courses are as follows:
- Chemistry I & II
- Biology I & II
- Anatomy and Physiology
- English I & II
- Communication or Public Speaking
2. Do I need to major in pre-pharmacy or chemistry before I enter pharmacy school?
This definitely isn’t the case! In fact, only 10 percent of accepted applicants in the last PharmCAS pool were chemistry majors. Additionally, biology majors made up 21 percent of accepted applicants and the remaining 69 percent of applicants were from a mix of majors, including psychology, English, business, biochemistry, and pharmaceutical science. All students, no matter their college majors, are invited to explore and pursue pharmacy school and careers in pharmacy! If the pharmacy prerequisite courses are not required as part of your undergraduate major, you may need to complete these courses as electives.
3. What is the minimum college GPA considered?
GPA requirements vary by pharmacy school. Visit the PharmCAS School Directory to view the minimum overall GPA considered at each PharmCAS school.
4. Will pharmacy schools consider my class rank?
Colleges and schools of pharmacy, in considering applicants for admission, may give attention to the relative position of students within their class-near the top, in the middle or near the bottom. Colleges of pharmacy are interested in enrolling students who have demonstrated exceptional work in school and have the potential to contribute to the profession.
5. How do pharmacy schools calculate repeated courses?
Policies regarding forgiveness of repeated coursework vary by institution. If you did poorly in a required science course prerequisite, you may want to consider retaking the course in order to improve your prerequisite GPA and chances for admission. The pharmacy school may consider the most recent course grade or include both course attempts to calculate your GPAs.
6. What kinds of experiences, paid and volunteer, will help me get into pharmacy school?
Pharmacy colleges encourage or require applicants to have volunteer or paid experience working with patients in a pharmacy or health-related setting (hospital, nursing home, etc.). Ongoing work or volunteer experience in a pharmacy setting may be an important factor in the admissions process. Students who have trouble identifying a pharmacist to shadow are encouraged to contact pharmacy colleges and schools in their region for assistance and guidance.
7. Do pharmacy schools require letters of reference for admission?
Many pharmacy degree programs require 1-4 letters of recommendation (also known as “evaluations” or “letters of reference”) as part of the pharmacy admissions process. Schools may require you to submit letters from particular individuals, such as a pharmacist, professor or academic advisor. If letters are required, select individuals who know you well and can speak to your maturity, dependability, dedication, compassion, communication-skills, leadership and any hands-on experience in the field. Visit the PharmCAS School Directory to view the evaluation requirements by institution.
8. Do pharmacy schools require an interview during the admissions process?
Yes, all pharmacy schools require competitive applicants to participate in an interview as part of the admissions process.
9. What should I expect during the pharmacy school interview?
The interview format varies by institution. Pharmacy admission officers may require you to speak with a single faculty member, a student, a pharmacist, a panel of interviewers, or to participate in an orientation program. If invited, you should be prepared to discuss why you have chosen to pursue a career in the pharmacy profession and your perceptions about the role of the pharmacist in healthcare. Those who have researched and gained direct exposure to the profession will be better prepared to respond to the interview questions. During these interviews, you may be rated on your oral communication skills, how you present yourself and interact in a group, your knowledge of the profession of pharmacy, your ability to solve problems, and your motivation to pursue a career in pharmacy. Your written communication skills may be measured with an on-campus essay exercise.
10. What happens if I miss my interview?
Applicants who cannot participate in a scheduled interview with a pharmacy school for any reason must cancel at least two business days before the interview date. Any late cancellations or no-shows will be noted as “Unprofessional behavior – Interview No-Show” in the PharmCAS system. Each pharmacy school will independently decide whether to act on this conduct violation. Emergency situations are exempt from this policy. Learn more.
11. Is there a common application for Pharm.D. programs?
Yes, the vast majority of pharmacy schools in the U.S. participate in the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS) for admission. Please visit the PharmCAS Web site to learn more about the admissions process and requirements.
12. Is there a common application for graduate (M.S./PhD) programs in pharmacy science?
The Pharmacy Graduate Application Service (PharmGrad) is a centralized application service to apply to multiple M.S. and Ph.D. programs offered by colleges and schools of pharmacy.
13. Is there a common application for 0-6/7 and early assurance programs?
The Pharmacy Direct Entry Application Service (PharmDirect) is a centralized application service designed for high school applicants and/or early assurance candidates. PharmDirect offers a simple, efficient process to apply to direct-entry Pharm.D. degree programs (0-6/7 and early assurance) using an online application.
14. Do pharmacy schools give preference to “in-state” applicants?
Some U.S. pharmacy institutions give preference to in-state (resident) students. Out-of-state (non-resident) and foreign applicants may vie for a limited number of positions or may be ineligible for admission, depending on institutional and state policies. Private pharmacy institutions may offer out-of-state and foreign applicants a greater number of positions within the program as compared to state-supported, public institutions.
15. Are there many returning adult students in pharmacy programs?
A growing number of pharmacy applicants are returning adult students who are interested in changing careers. Your previous work experience may or may not be a factor on the admissions process. Pharmacy schools do not usually offer course waivers for individuals who hold a degree or have work experience in a related healthcare field. Admission offices may require science and math college coursework to be less than 5-10 years old, depending on the institutional policy. If your prerequisite courses were taken more than five years prior, be sure to check with the pharmacy admissions office directly to determine if you must re-take the classes to be eligible for admission. Admission offices do not consider your age in the evaluation of your application.
16. If I have a criminal record, can I go to pharmacy school and become a pharmacist?
Contact the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) to determine if a felony conviction will prevent you from obtaining a license to practice pharmacy in a particular state.
National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
1600 Feehanville Drive
Mount Prospect, IL 60056
Pharmacy schools may ask applicants to disclose any previous felony or misdemeanor convictions as part of the application process. A criminal record will not necessarily prevent you from enrolling in a pharmacy school; however, failure to disclose any past or pending charges may be grounds for dismissal. Many pharmacy schools require criminal background checks and/or drug tests in order to verify and individual’s suitability to participate in experiential education rotations, to confirm a student’s eligibility for pharmacy licensure and to ensure patient safety. Contact your designated pharmacy schools directly for specific policies.
1. What is the PCAT?
The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is a standardized exam administered by Pearson and is required by many, but not all, pharmacy institutions. It measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for the PharmD curriculum. The content areas measured by the PCAT include: Biological Processes, Chemical Processes, Critical Reading, and Quantitative Reasoning multiple-choice subtests are a few experimental items that are not counted toward your score.
2. What types of knowledge or skills does the PCAT measure?
The content areas measured by the PCAT include: Biological Processes, Chemical Processes, Critical Reading, and Quantitative Reasoning multiple-choice subtests are a few experimental items that are not counted toward your score.
3. Which pharmacy schools require the PCAT for admission?
Visit the PharmCAS School Directory to determine the PCAT requirements per school.
4. What are the minimum PCAT scores considered?
The minimum PCAT scores considered for admission vary by institution. Review the directory pages for each institution on the PharmCAS School Directory for more information.
5. How do I register for the PCAT?
To register online for the PCAT or to request your scores to be sent, visit the PCAT Web site.
19500 Bulverde Road
San Antonio, TX 78259
1. What tests are non-native English speakers or international students required to take?
International (non-U.S.) applicants, if considered for admission, may be required to send Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Test of Spoken English (TSE), or other test scores to demonstrate English language proficiency. Visit each pharmacy school Web site for instructions.
2. Can foreign-trained pharmacists practice pharmacy in the United States?
It can be difficult for graduates of international pharmacy degree programs to obtain a pharmacy license in the U.S. because most non-U.S. pharmacy schools only offer the equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. All new pharmacy degree graduates in the U.S. must earn a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. Foreign pharmacy graduates that wish to practice in the U.S. must complete the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Certification (FPGEC®). FPGEC provides a means of documenting the educational equivalency of a candidate’s foreign pharmacy education. Foreign-educated pharmacists must earn their professional degree from a five-year curriculum program in order to apply for FPGE Certification. Questions regarding equivalency exams (FPGEC®) and licensure for graduates of foreign pharmacy programs should be directed to:
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy
1600 Feehanville Drive
Mount Prospect, IL 60056
Many states have additional testing requirements and you should contact the Board of Pharmacy in the state that you will be practicing to learn more. The NABP Web site provides contact information for each state board.
1. What are the best schools of pharmacy? How are they ranked?
AACP does not rank the institutions that provide pharmacy education in the United States, nor endorse any publication that ranks pharmacy degree programs. Each college and school of pharmacy in the U.S. undergoes an extensive accreditation process as required by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) to ensure that the program meets very high minimum standards of excellence. The educational needs of prospective students vary considerably from person to person. The subjective factors that should go into any ranking system are not adequately addressed by any of the known publications that currently rank schools.
You should carefully choose a pharmacy degree program based upon factors that are important to your own learning needs. You may wish to consider program content, geographic location, faculty, facilities, experiential training opportunities, class size, student demographics, extra-curricular opportunities and cost in your decision to apply to any program at any institution. To help narrow down your list of potential schools, visit the PharmCAS School Directory.
The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) does not accredit U.S. or international pharmacy degree programs. To determine the most recent accreditation status for a particular institution, contact ACPE directly:
Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education
20 North Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60602-5109
1. What is the difference between a “precandidate” and “candidate” pharmacy school?
A newly instituted professional program of a college or school of pharmacy may be granted one of two preaccreditation statuses, precandidate or candidate, depending upon its stage of development. In the instance of a newly founded college or school of pharmacy, the programs generally progress through both statuses.
Precandidate: A new program that has no students enrolled but has a dean may be granted precandidate accreditation status. The granting of precandidate status indicates that a college or school’s planning for the Doctor of Pharmacy program has taken into account ACPE standards and guidelines and suggests reasonable assurances of moving to the next step, that of candidate status. Granting of precandidate status brings no rights or privileges of accreditation. Full public disclosure by the college or school of pharmacy of the terms and conditions of this accreditation status is required.
Candidate: A new program that has students enrolled but has not had a graduating class may be granted candidate status. The granting of candidate status denotes a developmental program, which is expected to mature in accord with stated plans and within a defined time period. Reasonable assurances are expected to be provided that the program may become accredited as programmatic experiences are gained, generally, by the time the first class has graduated. Graduates of a class designated as having candidate status have the same rights and privileges as graduates of an accredited program.
2. Should I enroll in a new pharmacy school?
Pharmacy institutions are ineligible to become fully accredited programs until they graduate their first professional class. Students who attend a new pharmacy institution may be taking a risk if the institution does not achieve candidate or full accreditation status at that time. Graduates from unaccredited institutions are ineligible to sit for the state pharmacy license examination or practice pharmacy in the U.S. The list of Associate AACP member institutions represents those new pharmacy colleges and schools that have chosen to join AACP. Not all of the new or emerging pharmacy degree programs are members of AACP. All precandidate, candidate, and fully ACPE-accredited pharmacy programs are Regular members of AACP.
1. How much does pharmacy school cost?
Tuition and fees vary from each pharmacy program and are influenced by whether the institution is private or public, and you are an in-state or out-of-state resident. For more information on tuition and fees for Pharm.D. Degree Programs, visit the Pharm.D. Tuition Trends Interactive Dashboard . For a list of all pharmacy schools, visit the PharmCAS School Directory.
2. Does AACP offer financial aid?
The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) does not administer any financial assistance programs directly to students. Federal and state grants and scholarships, although widely available, are generally reserved for the most economically disadvantaged students. Your college advisors are often the best sources of information about loan, grant and scholarship programs. Additionally, pharmacy colleges and schools may offer financial assistance. Learn more.
1. Can I complete my Pharm.D. degree online?
Currently, distance-learning programs, including those that are Web-based, are designed primarily for B.S. of pharmacy graduates (practicing pharmacists) who wish to return to school to earn a Pharm.D. degree so they may enhance their skills. For entry-level Pharm.D. candidates, colleges and schools of pharmacy require four academic years (or three calendar years) of full-time classroom based study. Other pharmacy degree programs may offer satellite campus options or part-time degree programs. Two pharmacy schools offer an online program for entry level candidates.
Please visit their Web sites for more information:
1. I am a practicing pharmacist with a B.S. in pharmacy degree. Is it possible to earn my Pharm.D. online and/or in less time?
Some pharmacy colleges and schools have nontraditional educational programs which award a Pharm.D. degree to practitioners who complete them. For more information on these programs, refer to PSAR table 2.