Office of Pre-Health Advising

Pre-Pharmacy

General Information

Pharmacy is a profession that is primarily concerned with the formulation and distribution of drugs and medications. Pharmacists provide advice on dosages, interactions, and side effects of drugs, and help instruct patients on safe and correct usage of their medications. Many pharmacists also give information to patients about diet, health, and management of common conditions from poison ivy to diabetes. Most pharmacists work in a retail pharmacy setting or in a healthcare facility such as a hospital, clinic, or long-term care facility. Retail pharmacists may work for a larger chain of drugstores or may start their own independent pharmacy business. Many pharmacists are directly involved in the management and business aspects of their pharmacy practice.

There are areas of specialization within the field of pharmacy, such as intravenous therapy, oncologic pharmacy (cancer drugs), geriatric pharmacy, nuclear pharmacy, and psychiatric pharmacy. Specialization is optional. There are also job opportunities with the government, public health organizations, military, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. For pharmacists interested in research and/or teaching, it is possible to do graduate work after pharmacy school and obtain a master’s or even PhD degree.

In order to practice pharmacy, a state license is required. In order to obtain a license, the prospective student must first graduate from an accredited college of pharmacy with a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. The next step towards licensure is to successfully pass both a national pharmacist board exam and a national (or state) jurisprudence exam (test of pharmacy law). Individual states may have additional requirements for receiving a license.

There are 7 accredited schools of pharmacy in New York:

For a complete list of accredited schools of pharmacy in the US, click here: Pharmacy Schools

Planning the Program of Study

Length of Study: The Doctor of Pharmacy degree, also known as the PharmD degree, requires a minimum of 2 years of pre-pharmacy coursework followed by 4 academic years of professional study at an accredited college of pharmacy. A small number of pharmacy schools offer the professional curriculum over 3 calendar years rather than 4 academic years.

Although it is possible to complete the pre-pharmacy requirements in 2 years, the majority of students now entering pharmacy school have 3 or more years of college coursework. The “2-year plan” is highly demanding, and only exceptional students are successful in getting admitted in this accelerated timeframe. The current trend is towards completion of a bachelor’s degree prior to entering the professional PharmD program.

College Major: The majority of accepted students have completed a bachelor’s degree by the time that they enter pharmacy school. Most students major in biology or chemistry, because the prerequisite courses for pharmacy school are science-intensive. However, there is no requirement for a science major; students can major in any subject as long as they complete all of the prerequisite courses for the pharmacy schools that they intend to apply to.

Prerequisite Courses: There is a similar “core” of classes that most all pharmacy schools require. Beyond this core, each school may have additional classes that they require or highly recommend. A complete listing of schools, websites, and prerequisite courses is available at http://www.aacp.org/

The common “core” of classes includes:

General Biology-one year   BIO 166 & 167 (with labs)
General Chemistry-one year CHE 166/167 & 168/169 (with labs)
General Physics-one year  PHY 166 & 167 (with labs)
Organic Chemistry-one year   CHE 232/233 & 234/235 (with labs)
Anatomy & Physiology    BIO 181 & 182
Microbiology  BIO 230
Calculus – at least one semester  MAT 175/155 & 176/156. (with labs)
Statistics – at least one semester  
English – one year  ENG 110 & 120
Humanities/Social Sciences 12-15 semester hours  

Often required classes:

  • Psychology 1-2 semesters
  • Business/Economics 1-2 semesters
  • Cell Biology 1 semester
  • Biochemistry 1-2 semesters

IMPORTANT NOTE: All science courses should be pre-professional level courses designed for science majors.

Admissions Process

There are 3 basic steps in the application process:

Step 1: Primary Application

Usually done through the centralized, web-based application service known as PharmCAS (http://www.pharmcas.org/). The applicant fills out one online application and tells PharmCAS which pharmacy schools to distribute the application to. The application must be completely filled out before it can be submitted, and includes biographic information, a listing of extracurricular activities, work experience, and the Personal Statement. In addition, you must list all colleges that you have attended, every college course taken, and the credit hours and grade for every college course. PharmCAS verifies your official transcripts and calculates your “official” GPAs.

PharmCAS application forms are available on-line beginning in June each year. The service generally begins allowing submission of the forms on June 1; this marks the beginning of the official application season (or ‘cycle’). The closing deadlines to apply are controlled by the individual schools, and range from November 1 to March 1.

Pharmacy school applications are filed up to a year in advance of when you wish to begin (ie, apply in 2010 for entry into pharmacy school in 2011). Most students begin the application process at the end of the junior year for entry into pharmacy school in the fall following the senior year. The end of the junior year is also when most students take the PCAT exam; PCAT scores are a required part of the formal application to most pharmacy schools (see section below).

If a pharmacy school participates in PharmCAS, you must apply through the service. To see which schools use PharmCAS, view the School Pages at the PharmCAS website: http://www.pharmcas.org/. To apply to non-PharmCAS schools, you must contact the admissions office or school website for instructions on the application procedure and application forms.

Many pharmacy schools use a “rolling admissions” approach. In other words, applications are processed and acted upon as they are received. Many schools begin interviewing in the fall, and make decisions about accepting students soon after their interview. If you wait until the last minute to meet a school’s deadline, you will likely be competing for fewer openings than were available earlier in the year, effectively decreasing your chances for acceptance. If possible, APPLY EARLY!!!

Step 2: Secondary Application

After the primary application has been received by the pharmacy school, the next step is the secondary (supplemental) application. The pharmacy school requires the applicant to submit additional information and pay an additional fee. Letters of recommendation usually are requested at this stage.

Step 3: Interview

After review of application materials, each school’s admissions committee will narrow the applicant pool down to a group of top candidates. Those candidates will be invited for a personal interview. The interview is the final step in the admissions process. After the interview, the admissions committee makes the final decision to accept the applicant, place the applicant on a waiting list, or reject the applicant.

Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT)

The PCAT is required by many, but not all, pharmacy schools. The test measures academic ability and comprehension in the following areas:

  • Verbal Ability
  • Biology
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Quantitative Ability
  • Chemistry
  • Writing

Coursework in biology, general and organic chemistry, and math should be completed before attempting the PCAT. The usual time to take the PCAT is in summer between Junior/Senior year or fall of the senior year, however, the individual pharmacy schools specify deadlines for PCAT scores. Refer to the school websites for deadline dates.

Detailed information about the PCAT is online at http://www.pcatweb.info/. This site describes the test content, fees, application process, and has a sample test available. This is also the site used to register for the test.

The test is available 4 times per year (January, June, August, and October) at designated Test Centers. You must first register for the test at the website above, and when you are approved, you will receive a preliminary Admission Ticket with your test center location.

Official score reports are mailed to you and the schools that you designate within 4-5 weeks. If you take the test more than once, all scores within the last 5 years will be recorded on your official test score transcript and will be sent to the pharmacy schools as part of your official score report. You may not exceed 5 attempts of the test without special permission from the testing agency.

What makes a competitive applicant?

Many factors are involved in selecting candidates for pharmacy school. Admissions committees make their decisions based primarily on academic record (GPA), admissions test scores (PCAT), pharmacy experience, letters of reference, personal interview, and extracurricular activities. Admissions are competitive.

Extracurriculars

Pharmacy schools are interested in “well-rounded” students who have excelled not only academically, but also outside of the classroom. Participation in clubs, organizations, and community service are highly desirable.

Especially important is exposure to the day-to-day environment of a pharmacy. Students should obtain volunteer (or paid) experience working or observing in a pharmacy. Experiences should be fairly regular, to demonstrate devotion and interest in the profession. Students should also become familiar with issues and current topics pertaining to the practice of pharmacy. A letter of recommendation from a licensed, practicing pharmacist may be expected by some schools at the time of application.

Resources & Links

Last modified: Nov 23, 2011

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