Pharmacists dispense medications prescribed by physicians and provide an important avenue for patients to talk about their treatments with a health-care professional. They may work in retail pharmacies or in hospitals and are often called upon to advise patients or physicians about the use and effectiveness of medications, drug interactions, side effects, etc. A pharmacist must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree, which usually requires three years of study in a pharmacy program.
Unlike most allied-health fields, pharmacy schools do not require completion of an undergraduate degree. Students can enter a pharmacy program with as little as two years of undergraduate study, if prerequisite courses are completed. However, admission is competitive, and the majority of applicants who are actually accepted have completed an undergraduate degree.
No specific major is required, but specific coursework is needed (see below). A North Central student planning to enter pharmacy school after two years might choose to only complete the prerequisite courses and not pursue a major or general education. For students wishing to complete a four-year degree, a BS or BA in Biochemistry would provide the best preparation, with a BS in Biology as another possibility.
Pharmacy schools are not as consistent as medical schools in the courses they require. You should identify schools that interest you early on (in your first year, if you plan to be here only two years) and be sure your academic plan will meet their entrance requirements. Typical requirements include:
Additional courses that programs may recommend or require:
Most pharmacy schools require the PCAT exam, which tests biology and chemistry knowledge as well as verbal, reading and mathematical skills. The average composite score for accepted students is 66%. GPA is also very important; competitive applicants have GPAs above 3.3. The standardized application for pharmacy schools is the PharmCAS.
Pharmacy programs look for relevant experience to demonstrate your genuine interest in the field. Experience can be gained by "shadowing" a pharmacist on a volunteer basis or by working in a pharmacy as a pharmacy technician; it is recommended that you have 60 hours of such experience. Our Pre-Health Organization (PHO) can be helpful in finding these kinds of opportunities.
Some pharmacy schools specifically require that your experience include patient contact. Be sure to check the requirements of the schools you would like to apply to in time to plan your extracurricular activities.
Pre-pharmacy students spending only the minimal amount of time at North Central probably would not have time for research experience. If you are completing a four-year degree, however, research would be a great way to strengthen your application. In particular, consider working with a faculty member whose research involves organic chemistry, biochemistry or physiology, or think about an off-campus summer experience in a pharmacy, pharmacology or biochemistry program. See the Biology research page for more information on working with NCC faculty mentors, applying for an off-campus summer research program or finding a research internship.
Service and Leadership
Extracurricular activities that are important to pharmacy admissions committees include significant volunteer service and demonstrated leadership potential. NCC's Ministry and Service programs can connect you with local service opportunities or take you around the country. Accepted pharmacy students usually can show that they have completed about 45 hours per year of volunteer service.
Volunteer work does not have to be in a medical setting, but this is certainly a good way to demonstrate your dedication; for example, you might work in a clinic in an underserved community. Leadership activities might include being a student lab assistant or preceptor, serving as an officer in a student organization, tutoring or leadership roles in employment.
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Pre-health advisor Marguerite Degenhardt