Admission to pharmacy schools is similar to admission to other professional degree or graduate school programs. In this case, it involves completion of a pre-pharmacy curriculum, standardized testing, essays, interviews, and references.
While one is not required to have a bachelor’s degree in order to apply to pharmacy school, one must complete a pre-pharmacy curriculum. These courses focus on the sciences, and they can differ from one pharmacy school program to another. Those interested in applying to pharmacy school should familiarize themselves with these requirements.
Standardized testing is also required by the majority of pharmacy schools, but not all. Generally, the testing required is the Pharmacy College Admission Test, PCAT. This exam is designed to assess the test taker’s knowledge of basic science. The PCAT has six basic content areas, including verbal ability, biology, reading comprehension, quantitative ability, chemistry, and writing. For those schools requiring the PCAT, admissions committees typically look for scores above the 50th percentile.
Like most other college and university programs, admission requirements to pharmacy schools typically include an admission essay, references, and interviews. The essay provides the applicant an opportunity to describe wy he or she decided to apply to pharmacy school and it should detail the life experiences that will help describe himself or herself to an admissions committee. Ultimately, the essay serves to tell the admissions committee about one’s motivations, goals, and experiences. Letters of recommendation further help describe the applicant in relation to the pharmacy field. The interview is the final opportunity for the applicant to impress the admissions committee. While this is their opportunity to hear the applicant’s goals and experience firsthand, it is also the applicant’s opportunity to tour the school and meet the faculty and students.
Applying to pharmacy school is not markedly different from applying to other institutions of higher learning. It is likely that essays, references, and interviews will be required, and one will probably need to take the PCAT to begin the process. Most important, though, is the completion of the pre-pharmacy curriculum.
Pharmacy School: Undergraduate Path
For those interested in becoming pharmacists, there are many avenues of education one can pursue. Someone already enrolled at a four-year college or university might look at pharmacy school admission requirements and design a course work track to fulfill those goals. Others can enroll at colleges with a pre-pharmacy major, and some may choose a combined undergraduate and doctoral program.
In order to be accepted to pharmacy school, one must complete a pre-pharmacy course of study. Traditionally, this is accomplished by taking prerequisite course work in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree, but a bachelor’s degree is not required by all pharmacy schools for admission. For some schools, the completion of all necessary course work, even in the absence of a bachelor’s degree, is sufficient. For this reason, some programs offer a combined pre-pharmacy and PharmD program lasting six years, where the first two years serve to complete what would otherwise be considered prerequisite course work for PharmD admissions.
As is often the case for those looking to enter medical school, the so-called “pre-pharmacy major” does not exist at many schools. This phrase, instead, refers to a complement of course work thought to be necessary for admission to pharmacy school. Biology is probably the most common major of those intending to apply to pharmacy school because it allows one to fulfill the prerequisites most easily. However, one does not need to major in biology to complete the course work track or apply to pharmacy school. Pharmacy schools will accept students from a variety of related educational backgrounds, even business.
Some pharmacy schools have a pre-pharmacy program that covers the prerequisite courses necessary for admission to pharmacy school. Others admit students based on the completion of similar courses at another accredited college or university. Regardless of where these courses were completed, the regimen typically overs topics in general and advanced biology, microbiology, human anatomy, human physiology, calculus, statistics, general and organic chemistry, and physics.
Due to the nature of pharmacy work and its dependence on communicating with others, additional courses in social and behavioral sciences, writing, and public speaking may be required, along with an ethics class. Some schools with pre-pharmacy programs include an economics course to prepare future pharmacists for the business side of the job.
These types of classes cover the basic building blocks of chemistry and biology and lay the groundwork for the practical applications of pharmacy. The goal of this course work is to get students thinking about the structure of compounds and the synthesis of simple compounds into more complex ones.
Acceptance to pharmacy school is dependent upon completion of a pre-pharmacy course of study. While there are several routes one may take to complete this course work,the basic requirements remain the same.
Essays, References, Interviews, etc.
In addition to prerequisite course work and standardized tests, many pharmacy schools require admission essays, references, and interviews. These are opportunities for the applicant to express his or her goals and experience to an admissions committee.
The essay provides the applicant with an opportunity to describe why he or she decided to apply to pharmacy school, and it should detail the life experiences that help describe himself or herself to an admissions committee. Ultimately, the essay serves to tell the admissions committee about one’s motivations, goals, and experiences.
Letters of recommendation further help describe the applicant in relation to the pharmacy field. The references can be college professors, supervisors from an organization where one has done volunteer work, or a pharmacist one has worked under. These references should be asked in advance if they are willing to speak on behalf of the applicant, in case they are called upon by the pharmacy school. Some schools will require written letters of recommendation submitted with the pharmacy school application. This requires a greater time commitment from the person the applicant is asking to serve as a reference. The applicant should be sure that these individuals are willing and able to speak about the applicant’s experience and desire as it relates to the pharmacy field.
The interview is the last opportunity for the applicant to impress the admissions committee. Not all schools require interviews. Those schools that do conduct interviews will typically invite only the most promising applicants to interview. While this is the school’s opportunity to hear the applicant’s goals and experience firsthand, it is also the applicant’s opportunity to tour the school and meet the faculty and students.
Essays, references, and interviews are all methods that pharmacy schools employ to get to know an applicant better than they could through a general application. These methods provide the applicant with an opportunity to showcase the strength of his or her interpersonal and communication skills, important characteristics of a pharmacist.