Students interested in becoming pharmacists have numerous obligations including the development of a strong science foundation and involvement in diverse extracurricular activities. It can be a bit daunting, however, it is possible to do everything you need to do by starting now and working consistently throughout your undergraduate years.
Please read the basic information we have provided while recognizing that the majority of support the Prehealth Advising Office provides students is through face-to-face advising appointments. We would be happy to meet with you to discuss your journey to becoming a pharmacist and go over any questions you may have.
An undergraduate degree may or may not be required for admission to pharmacy school, depending on which school you are applying to. Regardless, many pharmacy students have completed four years of college and have an undergraduate degree. Pharmacy graduate programs do not require ANY specific major. We encourage you to consider a major that interests you and will provide you an alternative pathway if you change your mind about pharmacy as a career.
Keep in mind that there are many aspects of pharmacy. For example, if your goal is to own an independent pharmacy, a background in business may be helpful. Ideally, your undergraduate degree will prove functional regardless of what career choices you make. No matter what you choose to major in, you will be most prepared if you counsel with both your major advisor and your health professions advisor.Find a Degree Major Exploration
The most common question we get asked is “what classes do I need to take to prepare for pharmacy school?” This question is complicated to answer because each school varies slightly in their prerequisite requirements. The table below lists common requirements. Please note: this table is NOT all encompassing. You may need to take more courses or less courses for the schools that you are interested in applying to. Because of this, we encourage you to thoroughly investigate specific schools to see what courses they require.
A common misconception students have is that pharmacy schools will admit you based only on your GPA and PCAT score. While those metrics are certainly an important part of your application, they are not enough on their own to earn you a place in pharmacy school. Your extracurricular preparation is a vitally important aspect of your application. To help you best prepare, we have broken down extracurricular activities into the areas listed below.
While not all pharmacy schools require you to have exposure to health care, most highly recommend that you do. Pharmaceuticals are a daily part of many people’s lives, and it is likely that no matter what aspect of health care you are involved in (CNA, EMT, MA, pharmacy technician, etc.) you will encounter the complexities involved with medication.
That being said, we strongly encourage you to have exposure to pharmacy settings regardless of what other health care experiences you choose to participate in. How important is communicating with insurance companies in the daily life of a pharmacist? How can you help patients who struggle to afford medications they need? How do you keep high profile medications safe in the pharmacy? How important are federal laws and regulations in the practice of pharmacy? Having pharmacy experience will help you answer the questions above, give you insights into what pharmacists face on a day-to-day basis, and help you determine if a career in pharmacy is the right fit for you. Plus, pharmacy schools commonly require one of your letters of reference to be written by a licensed pharmacist, so be sure to develop positive, professional, and consistent relationships with health care professionals you come in contact with!
Becoming a successful pharmacist includes developing a service-oriented outlook. Because of this, pharmacy schools are looking for how you have developed this character trait through various activities. The ability to listen, understand, and empathize with others is crucial in patient counseling, and many pharmacists will tell you that service plays an imperative role in their ability to be successful in this area of their jobs.
Your service and volunteer repertoire need not be limited to pharmacy related exposure; rather, find things that you are passionate about and be mindful of volunteer and service opportunities that arise.
Oh no- the “R” word! Typically, pharmacy schools don’t require research experience for admission. However, we feel that involvement in research is a great way to distinguish yourself as it demonstrates that you have an intimate understanding of the scientific method. Being involved in research will help you develop critical thinking skills and will allow you to be an informed consumer of new research studies that will be presented to you as a pharmacist. Plus, there’s no better way to solidify concepts you learn in class than actively applying them in the lab. (And it’s fun, too!)
All health professionals are leaders to some degree and pharmacy schools appreciate students with these skills. There is no one way to gain leadership experience, but some common ways are getting involved in a club and participating in club administration, student government, working as a tutor, TA, SI, etc. Remember, demonstrating leadership doesn’t always come with a “title”! You can demonstrate leadership many different ways and through many different activities.