So You Want to Be a Pharmacist: Pharmacy Colleges and Degrees
Pharmacy colleges provide students with the training, degree, and/or licensing necessary to work as a pharmacist. At the end of the program, students typically receive a Doctorate in Pharmacy. Though the programs may require a significant financial investment, many feel that the end result makes the sacrifices worthwhile.
Undergraduate Coursework for Potential Pharmacists
Pharmacy colleges do not usually require their students to have bachelor’s degrees before beginning the professional pharmacy program. However, all colleges have a list of prerequisite courses, most of which focus heavily on the sciences. Some undergraduate schools offer a pre-pharmacy major of some sort, but students who wish to attend a pharmacy program are free to major in whatever subject they’d like. Many students choose chemistry related majors because the subject requirements often overlap with the pharmacy prerequisite courses.
Admissions to Pharmacy Colleges
In addition to completing perquisite courses, potential pharmacists need a good GPA. The average admitted student has a GPA above 3.0. Overall GPA is considered and a special emphasis is placed on the GPA for prerequisite courses. Many schools also require their applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test, or PCAT. Though students can be accepted with a score as low as the 50th percentile, most applicants score in the 70th percentile or above. In addition, prospective students will have to submit recommendation letters and personal essays, and/or be interviewed.
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Degrees and Licensing
In order to become a pharmacist, students need to graduate from an accredited college with a Doctorate in Pharmacy, or Pharm.D. There are also some exams required for licensing, such as the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE). Many states require hours of internship as well, with the majority of states requiring 1500 hours. The details of the licensing process vary from state to state. The state where the school is located may have different regulations than the state where the job is.
Obtaining a Pharm.D.
A Pharm.D. usually requires six years of schooling, two years in an undergraduate program and four years of professional studies. The two years of pre-professional study includes the prerequisite courses required for admission. Some colleges have 0-6 programs, meaning they accept students directly from high school for a six-year program, which includes both the two years of pre-professional study and a four-year pharmacy degree program. Other schools offer a three year accelerated program instead of the typical four years of professional study.
The Cost of Pharmacy Colleges
The cost of schooling varies greatly from school to school. As a general rule, private schools are more expensive than public or state universities. Public colleges may also offer discounts for residents who live within the state or county, with a resident being someone who can prove that s/he has lived there for at least a year. Once students have been accepted to the program, they can apply for loans or grants. Whether the student is eligible and the amount of money awarded depends on income, the state of the college, the student’s state of residence, and the college being attended.
Pharmacy colleges provide their students with the opportunity to earn a Pharm.D. Students are also given the knowledge needed to pass the various licensing exams and to practice as a successful pharmacist. There are many programs available and they vary in cost, program design, and admission requirements. Admissions are competitive, so good GPA and good PCAT scores are important.