Why pharmacy? There has never been a better time for students to consider a rewarding career in pharmacy. The demand for trained pharmacy professionals has increased in recent years due to the rapid growth of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, especially for the growing elderly population. The number of pharmacists in healthcare services is also increasing as pharmacists become more actively involved in drug therapy management for patients of all ages.
1. What can I do with a pharmacy degree?
Approximately 62 percent of pharmacists work in community pharmacies, however, pharmacists are found in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, managed care, public health, armed forces, pharmaceutical industry, government and more. While responsibilities vary among the different areas of pharmacy practice, the bottom line is that pharmacists help patients get well. Pharmacist responsibilities include a range of care for patients, from dispensing medications to monitoring patient health and progress to maximize their response to the medication. Pharmacists also educate consumers and patients on the use of prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, and advise physicians, nurses and other health professionals on drug decisions. Pharmacists also provide expertise about the composition of drugs, including their chemical, biological, and physical properties and their manufacture and use. They ensure drug purity and strength and make sure that drugs do not interact in a harmful way. Pharmacists are drug information experts ultimately concerned about their patients' health and wellness.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Do I need a bachelor’s degree before I apply to pharmacy school?
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.
5. What are the traits of a successful pharmacist?
In addition to academic preparation, you should evaluate your personal qualifications to meet pharmacy’s demands for judgment, dependability, and conscientious performance. Pharmacists must be able to pay attention to detail. As with others on the health care team, the pharmacist’s decisions and actions affect human life and well being. Pharmacists, by law, are entrusted with the proper handling and dispensing of potentially dangerous and habit-forming substances. They must have high ethical standards, communicate well with patients and other healthcare providers, maintain reliable records, and be knowledgeable about existing and new medications on the market to ensure each patient has optimal drug therapy results.
6. How can I find pharmacy schools in my area?
Visit the Pharmacy School Locator.Back to top
7. Can I enroll in a pharmacy school right after high school?
Yes. Some pharmacy schools accept students immediately after they graduate from high school. Pharmacy schools that accept all or most students directly from high school are referred to as “0-6” programs because these students can complete their pre-pharmacy and professional study within six years after high school. Students enrolled in a “0-6” program who successfully complete the first two years of pre-professional study (and any other stated contingencies) are guaranteed admission into the four-year professional pharmacy degree program. Below are AACP institutions classified as “0-6” degree programs.
8. If I enroll in a “0-6” program, am I guaranteed a position in the Pharm.D. class?
Students enrolled in a “0-6” program who successfully complete the first two years of pre-professional study (and any other stated contingencies) are guaranteed admission into the four-year professional pharmacy degree program. If a student fails to maintain the necessary GPA or not meet other school requirements during the freshman and sophomore year, then the student may lose his/her position in the professional pharmacy degree program.
9. What is an “early assurance” program? How does it differ from a “0-6” program?
In addition to the “0-6” programs listed above, there are many other pharmacy colleges and schools that offer “early assurance” (also known as “early admission”) status for selected high school students. As with “0-6” programs, students who enroll under an “early assurance” program and successfully complete the first two years of pre-professional study, are guaranteed admission into the four-year professional pharmacy program. These programs are not categorized as “0-6” because the majority of students enrolled are admitted as “transfer” students after completion of at least two years of college. See Table 1 of the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) book.
10. What high school courses should I take to prepare for pharmacy school?
A sound education in science and math is essential in the preparation for the study of pharmacy. High school science classes are helpful in preparing students for the advanced science courses required in the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree curriculum. High school courses in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics are especially desirable. High school students considering a career in pharmacy should also have good written and verbal communication skills. Prospective student pharmacists are encouraged to take college preparatory classes in areas such as literature, history, government and humanities in order to become well-rounded individuals. These skills will help create an educational foundation on which to grow. Contrary to popular belief, Latin, while helpful in many aspects, is not essential to admission to pharmacy school.
11. What tests do high school applicants need to apply to a “0-6” (or early assurance) program?
Pharmacy admission offices may require you to submit Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), SAT, ACT or other test scores. Visit the pharmacy school Web site for instructions.
12. Can I apply as a college transfer applicant to a school that has a “0-6” program?
College students or graduates who have completed the pre-pharmacy course requirements at another institution may apply for any open positions at a 0-6 pharmacy school. Depending on the number of students who stay in the program after the first two years, these pharmacy schools may have limited or no spaces available for college transfer students. Back to top
13. What college courses do I need before applying to pharmacy school?
The undergraduate classes required for admission into a pharmacy degree program vary significantly from one institution to the next. Due to the variations in admission requirements and procedures among the colleges and schools of pharmacy, it is advisable to research different pharmacy programs. Visit the pharmacy school Web sites for course requirements. School specific information is also available on the PharmCAS site and in the AACP annual publication, “Pharmacy School Admission Requirements” (PSAR).
14. Should I choose pre-pharmacy or chemistry as my college major?
You are not required to major in “pre-pharmacy” in college to be eligible for admission to a pharmacy degree program. Chemistry is a common major for pharmacy applicants because many of the course prerequisites for pharmacy are often incorporated into the standard chemistry curriculum. Student pharmacists, however; come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, including those who majored in English, business, communications, biology, etc. If the pharmacy prerequisite courses are not required as part of your undergraduate major, you will need to complete these courses as electives. Contact your designated pharmacy programs directly to determine whether the admissions office distinguishes between classes taken at a community college versus a four-year institution.
15. What is the minimum college GPA considered?
Most pharmacy schools have a minimum grade point average (GPA) and test score requirements. Due to the high number of applications received in recent years, the minimum GPA may be quite low as compared to the average GPA of applicants offered admission. Visit the PSAR Table 8 for a list of average GPAs for the most recent entering class. Also visit the school pages on the PharmCAS Web site for the expected GPA of accepted students and minimum overall GPA considered at each PharmCAS school.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. 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. If you are unable to gain work or volunteer experience directly related to pharmacy, contact your selected pharmacy school admission offices to determine what other experiences they might accept that will adequately demonstrate your knowledge of the profession.
19. Do pharmacy schools require letters of reference for admission?
Many pharmacy degree programs require 1-4 letters of recommendation (also known as “letters of evaluation” 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. Your selected pharmacy schools may require your evaluators to use a school-specific evaluation form in lieu or in addition to the letter from the evaluator. Pharmacy schools generally require evaluators to submit and sign letters on the evaluator’s official business or university letterhead. Review the admission requirements of each pharmacy school for instructions.
20. Do pharmacy schools require an interview during the admissions process?
Pharmacy schools will require competitive applicants to visit the campus for an 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 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 how you perceive 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.
21. Is there a common application for pharmacy school?
Approximately two-thirds of all pharmacy degree programs 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.
22. 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.
23. Are there any accelerated Doctor of Pharmacy degree programs?
The following institutions offer a three-calendar year Pharm.D. degree program to students who have completed all college-level prerequisites for admission. Please contact the institutions directly for more information.
24. 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.
25. 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. In 2007, first-year student pharmacists ranged in age from 17-60.
26. 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 Pharmacy1600 Feehanville Drive Mount Prospect, IL 60056 847-391-4406 Fax: 847-391-4502 http://www.nabp.net/
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.Back to top
27. What is the PCAT?
The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), an exam developed by PsychCorp, a brand of Pearson Assessment, Inc. is a specialized test that helps identify qualified applicants to pharmacy colleges. It measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for the commencement of pharmaceutical education. The PCAT is constructed specifically for colleges of pharmacy. The PCAT consists of approximately 240 multiple-choice items and two writing topics. Candidates are given approximately four hours to complete the test (plus administrative time for instructions and time for a short rest break about halfway through the test).
28. What types of knowledge or skills does the PCAT measure?
The six content areas measured by the PCAT include: verbal ability, biology, reading comprehension, quantitative ability, chemistry and a written essay. The test is divided into six subtests, including an experimental element.
29. Do all pharmacy schools require the PCAT for admission?
No. More than 75 percent of all pharmacy programs require applicants to submit scores from a standardized test known as the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). To determine which colleges and schools require the PCAT, review Table 9 of the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) handbook. Minimum PCAT scores may be required for admission consideration. (High school applicants applying to a “0-6” or early assurance program are not required to take the PCAT for admission. Other tests may be required).
30. What are the minimum PCAT scores considered?
The minimum PCAT scores considered for admission vary by institution. Review the school narratives for each institution in the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) handbook.
31. 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. Pearson AssessmentCustomer Relations-PCAT19500 Bulverde RoadSan Antonio, TX 78259800-622-3231http://www.pcatweb.info Back to top
32. 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.
33. 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 DriveMount Prospect, IL 60056 847-391-4406Fax: 847-391-4502http://www.nabp.net/
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.Back to top
34. 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 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, use the search and compare U.S. pharmacy degree programs tool on the AACP Web site.Back to top
35. Where can I find out if a pharmacy school is accredited?
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 StreetSuite 2500Chicago, IL 60602-5109312-664-3575http://www.acpe-accredit.org/
36. 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.
37. Should I enroll in a new pharmacy school? Pharmacy institutions are not eligible 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. Back to top
38. 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 if you are an in-state or out-of-state resident. The average tuition of a public program for a resident of that state is $13,000. The average tuition for a private institution is around $28,000. For a list of all pharmacy schools and access to their Web site, please visit the AACP Web site. 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. Back to top
39. 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. Creighton University is the only institution to offer an online program for entry level candidates. Please visit the Creighton Web site for more information at http://spahp.creighton.edu/. Back to top
40. 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. Other programs offer practitioners the opportunity to enroll in specific academic courses or educational programs specifically designed to impart a defined set of practice competencies to practitioner/students. These latter courses are often called "certificate programs" because a certificate of completion is given to practitioners who complete the requirements of the programs. The following schools offer nontraditional Pharm.D. programs and MAY also offer certificate or specific courses to practitioners.
For pharmacy school contact information, use the pharmacy school locator.
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