The UAAC encourages all pre-pharmacy students to meet with a health professions adviser during their freshmen or sophomore year to discuss their plan to pursue a career in pharmacy. Click here to schedule an appointment!
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- Professional Responsibilities
- Resources: Learn More About Pharmacy
- Professional education
- Applying to Pharmacy Programs
Do the following words/phrases describe you? If so, pharmacy may be a good fit:
- Enjoys working with people
- Conscientious and dependable
- High ethical standards
- Strong communication skills
- Would like to work with other health care professionals
- Interested in the chemical, biological and physical properties of medications
- Would like a well-compensated career ($94,520 national median salary)
Pharmacists are drug information experts who:
- Dispense medications
- Monitor patient health and progress
- Educate consumers/patients about prescriptions and over-the-counter medications
- Advise physicians, nurses, and other health professionals on drug decisions
- Provide expertise about the composition of drugs, including their chemical, biological, and physical properties and their manufacture and use.
- Ensure drug purity/strength and help prevent harmful drug interactions
On their website, the American Pharmacists Association provides information on over 20 career pathways for pharmacists.
Resources: Learn More About Pharmacy
- Degree Offered: Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D).
- Years of Study: 6-8 years (2-4 years undergraduate education plus 4 years professional education at a college of pharmacy)
The majority of programs accept students after three or more years of college and the completion of college course prerequisites; some pharmacy schools require or give preference to applicants with a bachelors (B.S./B.A.) degree. Pharm.D graduates must pass a state licensure exam as well as a national pharmacy law exam in order to practice.
Applying to Pharmacy Programs
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Courses required for admission vary significantly from one institution to another. The following courses are mentioned frequently as being required and/or recommended:
- 1 year biology with lab
- 1 year inorganic chemistry with lab
- 1 year organic chemistry with lab
- 1 year English (including public speaking and composition)
- 1-2 courses in physics with lab
- 1-2 courses in calculus
- Courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, economics, statistics
Some courses may not be available at Northwestern University and may have to be taken elsewhere.
For information on specific pharmacy schools' requirements see:
- Pharmacy School Admissions Requirements (PSAR) - Available online; a copy of the PSAR is also available at the UAAC.
- Pharmacy coursework prerequisites by school (PDF) - This chart is compiled by the AACP.
- Directory of pharmacy schools' requirements - PharmCAS, the centralized pharmacy program application service, provides this service for their participating schools.
Pharmacy students come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds. Applicants are not required to major in "pre-pharmacy" or any specific major in college to be eligible for admission to a pharmacy degree program.
However, because pharmacy programs vary so much in required coursework, students should begin researching possible programs early to determine if their choice of major will fulfill all or most of the pharmacy requirements. If the pharmacy prerequisite courses are not required as part of an applicant's undergraduate major, these courses will need to be completed as electives.
Choosing A Pharmacy Program
Choose a pharmacy program carefully based upon factors that are important to your own learning needs. Consider program content, geographic location, faculty; facilities, experiential training opportunities, class size, student demographics, extracurricular opportunities, and cost.
For state-supported public institutions, legal residence may have a significant impact on admissions decisions. Private institutions may offer out-of-state and foreign applicants a greater number of positions as compared to state-supported, public institutions.
1. Academic Ability
- Successful completion of prerequisite coursework, usually with a grade of C or above.
- Average GPAs for accepted applicants are typically 3.0 - 3.5 or higher.
- Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) scores are required by two-thirds of all pharmacy schools. The PCAT is offered in June, August, October and January and requires advanced registration.
2. Pharmacy-related Experiences
Volunteer or paid experience working with patients in a pharmacy or health-related setting is required by many schools and encouraged by all. Pharmacy-related experience allows applicants to test their career decision and be confident that it is a good fit. Applicants who have researched and gained direct exposure to the profession will be better prepared to write a compelling application and respond to the interview questions.
Obtaining pharmacy experiences:
- Many hospitals and community clinics may offer pharmacy-related volunteer experiences.
- Review the Extracurricular Opportunities section on this web site for possible pharmacy-related volunteer opportunities.
3. Letters of Recommendation
Many pharmacy degree programs require 1-3 letters of recommendation. Schools may also require that these letters come from particular individuals, such as a pharmacist, professor, or academic advisor, and may require evaluators to use the PharmaCAS forms or a school-specific evaluation form. Ultimately, applicants should check each school's specific directions regarding letters or recommendation.
Although the University Academic Advising Center offers a recommendation file service, this service may not be the best option to use to submit letters of recommendation for pharmacy programs.
If asked to interview for a pharmacy program, you should be prepared to discuss why you are pursuing a career in the pharmacy profession and how you perceive the role of the pharmacist in health care. You are most likely to be rated on how you present yourself and interact in a group, your knowledge of the profession, your ability to solve problems, and your motivation to pursue a career in pharmacy. Your written communication skills may also be measured with an essay exercise.
- Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS)
Approximately half of all pharmacy degree programs participate in this centralized application service
- Direct Application
Non-PharmCAS schools require you to apply directly to their programs
- Supplemental Application
Some PharmCAS participating schools may also require additional materials and supplemental applications sent directly to their institutions
The majority of programs have deadlines in November, December, January and February for admission in the following fall; some programs have early decision and/or rolling admissions.