Preparing for the Pharmacy Admissions Process
There has never been a better time for students to consider a rewarding career in pharmacy. The demand for trained pharmacy professionals has increased 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 decision-making for patients of all ages.
LENGTH OF PROGRAM
The Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree program requires at least 2-years of specific undergraduate college study followed by 4-academic years (or 3-calendar years) of professional pharmacy study.
The majority of programs accept students into the professional pharmacy degree program after the completion of the college course prerequisites. The majority of students enter a pharmacy program with 3 or more years of college experience. Some pharmacy admission offices require or give preference to applicants who have previously earned a baccalaureate (B.S./B.A.) degree. Individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree must still complete the full 4-academic years (or 3-calendar) years of pharmacy study.
HIGH SCHOOL COURSES
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. Courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics are especially desirable. High schools 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 for admission to pharmacy degree programs.
You are not required to major in “pre-pharmacy” in college to be eligible for admission to pharmacy degree programs. Chemistry is the most common major for pharmacy applicants because the course prerequisites for pharmacy are 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.
COLLEGE COURSE REQUIREMENTS
The classes required for admission into a pharmacy program vary significantly from one degree program to the next. Due to the variations in admission requirements and procedures among the degree programs of pharmacy, it is advisable to research different pharmacy programs. Visit the PharmCAS School Directory for course requirements. Degree-specific information is also available in the AACP annual publication, Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR).
Most pharmacy degree programs have 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. Policies regarding forgiveness of repeated coursework vary by degree programs. Visit the PSAR Table 5 for list of average GPAs for the most recent entering class.
RETURNING ADULT STUDENTS
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 in the admissions process. Generally, pharmacy degree programs do not offer accelerated pharmacy programs for individuals who hold a degree or have work experience in a related healthcare field. Admissions offices may require that your science and math college coursework be less than 5-10 years old, depending on the institutional policy. If your prerequisite courses were taken more than 5 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.
PREFERENCE FOR IN-STATE RESIDENTS
Some U.S. pharmacy degree programs 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 degree programs may offer out-of-state and foreign applicants a greater number of positions within the program as compared to state-supported, public degree programs.
PCAT AND OTHER TESTS
More than 80% of all pharmacy programs require applicants to submit scores from a standardized test known as the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). To determine which Pharm.D.programs require the PCAT, review PSAR Table 6. Minimum PCAT scores may be required for admission consideration.
In lieu or in addition to the PCAT, some pharmacy admission offices may also require you to submit Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), College-Level Examination Program (CLEP), SAT, ACT, GRE or other test scores. International (non-U.S.) applicants, if considered for admission, may be required to send Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or other test scores to demonstrate English language proficiency.
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.). On-going 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 admission offices to determine what other experiences they might accept to demonstrate your knowledge of the profession.
Many Pharm.D. programs require 1-4 evaluations (also known as “letters of reference” or “letters of recommendation”) as part of the pharmacy admissions process. Pharm.D. programs may require you to submit letters from particular evaluators, 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 related experience in the field. All references submitted to PharmCAS must be submitted using the online reference process. Be sure to review the admission requirements on the individual School Directories for instructions.
Pharm.D. programs, in considering applicants for admission, may give attention to the relative position of students within their class-near the top, in the middle group, or near the bottom. Schools and colleges of pharmacy are interested in enrolling students who have demonstrated exceptional work in school and potential for contributing to the profession.
Apply early! Some Pharm.D. programs are on a “rolling admissions” process, and give special consideration to applicants who submit applications earlier in the admissions cycle. Review the PharmCAS School Directory.
The interview format varies by Pharm.D. program. Pharmacy colleges 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 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.
Professional attire is recommended for the interview. You are discouraged from wearing jeans, shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, tennis shoes, or other attire that is considered inappropriate in a business environment. Bring personal identification (e.g., driver’s license), your letter of invitation from the college, and a pen. Be sure to contact the pharmacy admissions office immediately if you are unable to attend the interview on time or as scheduled, or if you are no longer wish to be considered for admission in accordance with the Interview No-Show Policy.
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 healthcare team, the pharmacist’s decisions and actions effect 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.Back to Top