Career Advice: So you wanna be a Pharmacist?
January 20, 2011 9 Comments
One of my roles as a Faculty member is that I also get to serve as an advisor for students who are interested in professional programs after undergrad. Mainly I deal with students who want to go to Pharmacy school, Medical school and Graduate school. So I’ve decided to give my advice in a written way on this blog.
Today’s case: Pharmacy School!
What classes do I need to take as an undergrad to get in to Pharmacy school?
Here’s the first thing you should know about Pharmacy school: EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM IS DIFFERENT.
At least if you’re going to Medical School there is a generally accepted list of classes that you should take. For Pharmacy school each school has it’s own list of required classes. A fantastic link for what classes are required for each school can be found at the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (the bottom link on this page).
While there are some schools that require different things there are a few set of classes that are universally required: General Chemistry I & II, Organic Chemistry I & II, Calculus (at least I, some require a second semester), first year biology courses.
After that, there are a few classes that MOST schools require: Microbiology, Physics, Economics, English Comp (I & II), Public Speaking/Speech.
If you take these classes you’re well on the way to fulfilling the requirements of most schools. After this there are a lot of schools that require different classes. As with ANY degree program, make sure you find out BEFORE you start taking classes which ones you’ll need for the schools you’re interested in. If you want to apply to 3 or 4 schools, make sure you fulfill the requirements of ALL of those schools.
How well do I need to do in my classes?
As with ANY professional school, the better you do the better your chances are of getting in.
According to US PharmD, the average GPA of a Pharmacy student is between 3.1-3.7. The better the school the better that average GPA will be.
Do I need a BS or a BA to go to Pharmacy school?
The short answer: No! There are many exceptions to this and a few Pharmacy schools require a BS or a BA. However, for the a lot of cases completing an undergraduate degree is NOT required for Pharmacy school. (Again, be sure to check with the schools you are interested in! A lot of the “good” schools still require a BA or BS).
So what programs are available for Pharmacy school?
2+4 Programs. In a 2+4 program you spend two years at your undergrad taking the prerequisite classes. You HAVE to be able to start out as a freshman with Calculus to be able to complete the pre-req classes in 2 years and you have to do a lot of meticulous class schedule planning. For the most part, it would be pretty difficult to get everything done in two years. But not impossible. The +4 part of the program is the four years you’ll spend in Pharmacy School.
0+6 Programs: Some Pharmacy schools offer a 6 year program that essentially “skips” the undergraduate process all together! You take two years of undergraduate classes at the school with the Pharmacy school and then in most cases if you maintain a certain GPA you’re then guaranteed admission to the Pharmacy school. If you decide that Pharmacy school is not for you, you can drop out after the second year of the 0+6 school and be right at the same point as a biology or a chemistry major at any “normal” 4-year school.
4+4 Programs: This is your traditional “earn a bachelor’s degree” then go to Pharmacy school plan. The “plus” to doing this is you have an undergraduate degree to fall back on. The “minus” is that you’ll spend more time in school than a 0+6 or 2+4 program.
What do I need to do to get in to Pharmacy School?
You’ll need a decent GPA (as discussed before), you’ll need to have completed the prerequisite classes for that particular school, you’ll need to take and do well on the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (this will test your knowledge of your science prereq classes), you’ll have to write some essays on why you want to be a pharmacist and do an on-campus interview. I highly recommend that you do some mock interviews with professors or teachers at your local school (high school for 0+6 or college for the others) to prepare you for the admissions interviews. They can be very personal and sometimes the questions aren’t what you’d expect. We do mock interviews with all of our pre-pharmacy students at least once a year.
One thing I would absolutely recommend is some sort of life experience that has given you the ability to know that Pharmacy school is what you want to do. Working as a Pharmacy technician in a local pharmacy (these jobs rarely require experience) or even volunteering to shadow a pharmacist for a summer. You absolutely should have one of these things done before you write your essays and before you go on your campus interview to use as a personal experience of why you know this is what you want to do in life.
The last thing you’ll need is letters of recommendation. Usually 3 or 4. I would suggest you get your science teachers to write these. Also, the person whom you worked for or shadowed in the pharmacy. These people’s opinions mean a lot – so be sure to stay on a good footing with them! If they say anything negative about you in your letter it is unlikely that you will get in to any Pharmacy school.
My best advice:
Know what school(s) you want to go to before you take your first undergraduate class. This will help guide your schedule at the undergrad level. The course load for a pre-pharmacy student who is going to go to a 2+4 program is a lot different than a student who is planning on doing a 4+4 school. Your adviser should know which one you are looking at doing before you take your first class.