In order to become a pharmacist, one must first complete a four-year program at an accredited pharmacy school. These schools have prerequisites for admissions and cover the material necessary to receive a Doctorate in Pharmacy, PharmD, and to become a pharmacist.
There are currently more than 100 pharmacy schools in the United States that one can choose from. All pharmacy schools require that certain science courses be completed prior to enrollment. The purpose of this is to focus the time spent in pharmacy school on an advanced science curriculum. It is expected, and required, that the basic courses be completed prior to applying to a pharmacy school.
These prerequisite courses focus on the sciences. Typically, this course work consists of basic and advanced biology, along with general and organic chemistry, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, high-level mathematics, including calculus and statistics, 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.
In addition to prerequisite course work, most pharmacy schools require one to take 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. Not all schools require the PCAT for admission, but the majority of schools do.
Typically, one can complete a PharmD program in four years, although the course of study is often rigorous and it combines both time in the classroom and time spent gaining practical experience. The purpose of the advanced science classes is to educate students about all aspects of pharmacy, including how to teach patients the correct use of prescription medications, understanding drug interactions, ensuring drug safety and appropriateness, explaining drug information to patients, and working with health-care providers. About a dozen schools offer an accelerated, three-year PharmD program.
In addition to the science courses, PharmD students will likely have classes covering pharmacy ethics, public health issues, and business. Pharmacy schools offer the professional degree program required to become a practicing pharmacist. These programs can be completed in as few as three years, but they typically take four years to complete. Generally, the set course work, when combined with practical experience, is designed to prepare one for work in the field of pharmacy.
Pharmacy Schools Intro
Pharmacy School Guide
- Online Pharmacy Schools
- Top Pharmacy Schools
- Pharmacy Schools Accreditation
- Optional Postgraduate Residency
- Admission To Pharmacy Schools
Pharmacy School Exams
- Preparing For the PCAT
- PCAT Practice Tests
- Additional State Pharmacy Exams
- Study Tips
- Test Anxiety
Pharmacy Schools and Getting Licensed
Careers Available to Graduates of Pharmacy Schools
- Professional Specialties
- Acute Pharmacist
- Ambulatory Pharmacist
- Clinical Pharmacist
- Floater Pharmacist
- Hospital Pharmacist
- Independent Pharmacist
- Long Term Care Pharmacist
- Managed Care Pharmacist
- Nuclear Pharmacist
- Pharmaceutical Sales
- Pharmacy Director
- Manager Pharmacist
- Retail Pharmacist
Pharmacist Job Responsibilities
Pharmacy Schools and Financial Aid
- Financial Aid for Pharmacy Schools
- Pharmacy School Scholarships
- Cost Of Pharmacy School
Steps to Becoming a Pharmacist
There are several important steps to becoming a pharmacist. These include completion of a pre-pharmacy undergraduate program, completion of pharmacy school, practical experience, licensure, and an optional postgraduate residency.
Completion of a pre-pharmacy program is required by many pharmacy schools. Many pharmacy schools have an approved pre-pharmacy program required for admission, and some will allow pharmacy school admission based on completion of set course work fulfilled at any accredited college or university. Typically, this course work consists of the following:
- General Biology with lab
- Microbiology with lab
- Human Anatomy
- Human Physiology
- Advanced Biology
- General Chemistry with lab
- Organic Chemistry with lab
- Social and Behavioral Sciences
- English Composition
- Ethics or Philosophy
- Public Speaking or Interpersonal Communication
Completion of pharmacy school is required to earn a Doctorate in Pharmacy, or PharmD, which is required to become a pharmacist. Most PharmD programs require four years of study, but accelerated programs are available, as are programs that combine prerequisite course work with the PharmD course work. The latter programs typically take more than four years to complete.
Practical experience for pharmacy school students comes largely in the form of pharmacy internships. These internships are available at most major pharmacies and are usually geared towards the student’s level of study. For example, in a student’s first year, an internship might include functioning as a pharmacy technician and learning about how the pharmacy business operates, as well as focusing on customer service. By contrast, in a student’s fourth year, the internship might include more specific training in leadership and work on a business expansion model project.
To become a licensed pharmacist, one must meet the requirements of one’s state. The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX®), the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE®), and internships are all items that should be looked into when seeking state licensure.
Some individuals will choose to complete an optional postgraduate residency. These programs are typically two years in length and are undertaken after completion of the PharmD degree. Pharmacy residency programs allow for specialization within the practice of pharmacy in areas such as pharmacy practice, community pharmacy, and managed-care pharmacy.
There are several steps to becoming a licensed pharmacist, including completion of a pre-pharmacy course of study, pharmacy school, and internships. Residencies, while available, are not required for licensure.
In order to become a licensed pharmacist, one must complete a PharmD program and accrue many hours of practical experience under a licensed pharmacist. This practical experience provides a hands-on learning environment where one can learn the science, business, and patient interaction components of being a pharmacist. Pharmacy schools aid in providing this experience to students.
Many programs require students to begin their practical experience in their first year of pharmacy school. Different programs offer different opportunities for practical experience. Since each state has different licensing requirements for pharmacists, it would behoove the student to become familiar with the requirements of the state they wish to practice in. For instance, Missouri requires only 480 hours of practical experience, while Wyoming requires 2,000 hours. Most states, however, require 1,500 hours of practical experience in the form of an internship.
Because there are different types of pharmacies, there are different types of pharmacy internships available as well. Many retail pharmacies, including Walmart and Rite Aid, offer internships. Some major hospitals, like Johns Hopkins, also offer pharmacy internships. The goals of an internship at a retail pharmacy will focus on customer service, personnel management, and business development. By contrast, the goal of a program like Johns Hopkins’s is to provide comprehensive exposure to pharmacy practice in a hospital or health system.
Regardless of the pharmacy school chosen or the state one decides to practice in, a pharmacy student will be required to obtain a certain amount of practical experience designed to supplement the core curriculum.
Individuals currently enrolled or applying for enrollment in pharmacy school today will be awarded a Doctorate of Pharmacy, or PharmD, upon graduation. Prior to 2003, this was not necessarily the case, as individuals were able to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy.
Today, there are no Bachelor of Science degrees in pharmacy at colleges and universities in the U.S. The reason for this is that a bachelor’s degree is no longer sufficient to apply for a pharmacist license. For those who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy prior to 2003, licenses will be awarded without continuing education for a Doctorate of Pharmacy degree. By the year 2000, most, if not all, Bachelor of Science in pharmacy programs had been discontinued.
For those attending pharmacy school now, the degree awarded at the end of study is a Doctorate of Pharmacy, or PharmD. This degree is required to become a licensed pharmacist in the U.S. While not required to do so, some individuals who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy have elected to go back to school to earn their PharmD. This is usually presented in an accelerated course of study and may be taken online.
While there are currently licensed pharmacists that have a Bachelor of Science in pharmacy only, there are not two different degree programs currently available to students. The only option for today’s student is the PharmD degree.
Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD)
Individuals enrolled in pharmacy school will be awarded a Doctor of Pharmacy, or PharmD degree, upon completion of study. The PharmD course of study aims to produce competent pharmacists through a rigorous training process.
While the course work at different pharmacy schools is similar due to the accreditation process, the course work will not be identical at all institutions. There is, however, a common core of subjects found in every pharmacy school program. While certain programs emphasize some subjects, others will place a greater emphasis on others. However, if one looks carefully, a common curriculum will be evident. The PharmD degree program requires at least two years of prerequisite course work, followed by four years of professional study at a pharmacy school. For this reason, pharmacy schools may accept students directly from high school or after college, depending on when the prerequisite course work can be completed.
The major areas of instruction to obtain a PharmD degree include:
- Pharmaceutical chemistry
- Business management
- Pharmacy practice
- Clinical application
This course of study is designed to prepare graduates to distribute medications, communicate medication information to patients, and be involved in community health initiatives. Overall, the PharmD degree prepares graduates to provide comprehensive pharmaceutical care to patients.
After completion of a pharmacy school program, one is awarded a PharmD degree and is eligible to apply for licensure. This deems that one is prepared to apply the principles and science learned in school to real-world situations.
Bachelor of Science (B.S.)
While one might walk into his or her pharmacy and find that his or her pharmacist holds a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, it is not possible for students enrolled in pharmacy school today to earn such a degree.
In 1990, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) dictated that individuals wishing to become pharmacists obtain a PharmD degree and decreed that a Bachelor of Science degree would no longer be sufficient to apply for a license. The AACP stopped providing accreditation for Bachelor of Science in pharmacy programs in 2004. By the year 2000, most, if not all, Bachelor of Science in pharmacy programs had been discontinued.
For those who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy prior to 2003, licenses will be awarded without continuing education for a Doctorate of Pharmacy degree. For this reason, one can find practicing pharmacists with either a Bachelor of Science in pharmacy degree or a PharmD degree.
Some individuals who graduated from accredited Bachelor of Science in pharmacy programs prior to the change have chosen to attend classes and earn their PharmD degree. Survey studies have indicated that those who complete their PharmD degree after having completed their Bachelor of Science in pharmacy degree can expect to earn an additional 1-3% more than those who have not completed a PharmD degree.
While it may be confusing to interested students to see both a Bachelor of Science in pharmacy and a PharmD degree being discussed in education materials, it is important to acknowledge that the only degree available to individuals at pharmacy schools today is the PharmD degree program.