How Hard Is Pharmacy School
Pharmacy school can be challenging to get through as many external factors can contribute to students’ stress.
For starters, it is expensive to attend a pharmacy school, whether public or private. The pharmacy programs have set criteria for admission, and students fear that they might not do well or thrive in the program.
Pharmacy school can be challenging, as it is a rigorous program that requires a strong foundation in the sciences and a commitment to learning. Pharmacy students are required to complete coursework in subjects such as chemistry, biology, pharmacology, and anatomy, and must also complete hands-on training through internships and clinical rotations. In addition, pharmacy students must pass a series of exams in order to graduate and become licensed pharmacists.
Here’s an in-depth discussion of how hard pharmacy school is. We will also cover the acceptance rate of pharmacy schools, the cost involved, and the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a pharmacist.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Pharmacy Degree?
To obtain your pharmacy degree, you have to go to pharmacy school. You can do this directly after school or do an entry-level job to get a feel of the work environment first.
These programs are offered at universities or colleges, and the Accreditation Council accredits them for Pharmacy Education.
You need to take specific steps to become a pharmacist. First, you must complete an undergraduate degree. It all depends on the type of pharmacy program you choose. Some universities/colleges offer a 6-year program, and other pharmacy schools offer a 2+4 year program.
The program of 6 years means students will enroll and complete the six years without taking a Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). Students can also choose to do two years of an undergraduate program and then apply to take the PCAT before enrolling for the next four years of pharmacy school.
Once you have completed your undergraduate degree, the next step is to get your PharmD. This is your degree course which is also known as a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
Before you can enroll in a pharmacy degree, you must complete two years of undergraduate studies to be eligible to commence your pharmacy education. Usually, the degree is four years, but it differs with different pharmacy schools. With this being said, some pharmacy schools offer a 3-year undergraduate program and a 3-year pharmacy program.
However, to become a licensed pharmacist, you must complete four years of the PharmD degree.
So, how hard is pharmacy school? Let’s discuss the requirements of what you need to qualify for pharmacy school in the next section.
What Are The Requirements to Qualify for Pharmacy School?
These are the basic requirements that all people should have and complete when wanting to become a pharmacist. They make the application process quicker and give the applicant a headstart in preparing themselves for a career in the pharmacy industry.
These requirements should be ticked off before you enroll in pharmacy school:
Complete the prerequisite courses
As there are different pharmacy schools, each prerequisite course might contain different subjects or coursework that needs to be covered before enrolling for a PharmD.
These are often subjects you might have done in high school, such as maths, physics, and sciences. Do your research before applying to the pharmacy school of your choice to ensure that your prerequisites match those of the pharmacy school.
Meet the undergraduate requirements
You do not have to have a completed bachelor’s degree when enrolling in pharmacy school. However, you do need to have completed two years of undergraduate study before applying to a PharmD program.
Work with patients to gain experience
A pharmacy student could volunteer their time or try to get an entry-level medical job to gain experience working with customers. This can also help when you are looking for a pharmacy residency program in your final year.
Adding this experience to your resume can boost your chances of getting into a top program and positively affect your learning and training as a pharmacist.
Apply to job-shadow pharmacists
This can give you the much-needed exposure you need to learn more about the role and responsibilities of pharmacists.
Before starting your course, this experience will lead to skills you can have outside the classroom and within the industry.
Get recommendation letters
Most colleges require letters of recommendation as part of the application process. You can ask to get a letter from of the pharmacists you might have shadowed, the pharmacy company you might have volunteered for, or even your professors during your graduate program.
Having at least three letters of recommendation can strengthen your application.
Take the PCAT
Taking the pharmacy college admission test is another important aspect before applying to pharmacy schools. This exam can be taken up to five times before there is a restriction placed on your registration.
Ensure that you are well prepared for the exam before you take it, as your GPA and test scores will assist the pharmacy schools with accepting or rejecting your application.
Submit your pharmacy application
Many pharmacy schools do not have a standard application form for their pharmacy program, so they use the PharmCAS application.
These applications open in mid-July every year. Here are the most important documents you need to attach when submitting your application:
- Your personal statement
- Letters of recommendation
- High school diploma/College transcripts
- PCAT score
- PharmCAS application form
- Academic achievements and experiences
Complete assessment interview
After you have completed and sent in your application, you will be contacted for an interview. This interview is done to ensure that you are the right fit for the course you are applying for and will also help you understand what is expected of you.
Try to be ready for the interview by preparing for it beforehand. Read through all information you can find about your school, potential teachers, and coursework, as this is the standard process of most pharmacy schools.
What Courses Do You Need To Do Before Pharmacy School?
Below are some of the prerequisite coursework that some pharmacy schools might require. With that being said, it all depends on where you enroll:
- General Physics
- Biochemistry Course
- Biology & Other Life Sciences Sequence; Organic Chemistry and Inorganic Chemistry
- Anatomy and Physiology
- General Education
Each curriculum will differ depending on the school you enroll in, it is best to check that you have completed the course before applying.
What is The Acceptance Rate of Pharmacy Schools?
Over the last 14 years, the acceptance rate of pharmacy schools has increased, which means that more people can enroll at pharmacy schools. Most students already have their bachelor’s degree when planning to further their education.
Despite the many pharmacy programs, there are a lot of factors that affect whether you get into a pharmacy school or pharmacy program. They are dependent on the respective school and include:
The undergraduate major that you choose
Choosing the right undergraduate major can help boost your chances of getting into pharmacy school.
Biology is the one top major that benefits students in getting accepted. Some of the other majors include:
- Organic Chemistry
- Biological Sciences
- Health Sciences
Not listing pharmacy as your major can still get you into pharmacy school as long as it is in the healthcare field.
Grade Point Average (GPA)
Most pharmacy schools have a minimum GPA requirement when wanting to apply to Pharmacy Degree Programs.
The minimum requirement is usually between 2.5/3.0. Your GPA would help the colleges you are applying to decide whether they want to accept or reject your application.
The higher your GPA score, the more likely you will be accepted into a program. On average, most students accepted to these pharmacy schools have higher scores.
0-6 year programs
The acceptance rate requirements might differ depending on the course you are applying to. Students who enter 0-6 programs are the students who are allowed to enroll directly after finishing high school.
These programs set out to combine your undergraduate and post-graduate degrees into six years of studying. This saves time and money as you don’t have to enroll for two years to complete your undergraduate course and then reapply for your professional course, which is the remaining four years of studying.
Students who enroll in a 0-6 years program have guaranteed admission into Pharmacy Degree programs once they have completed an undergraduate course at the same university/college.
This differs from the early assurance and the 0-6 years programs. An early decision application method means that a high school kid applies for a professional program during its regular application period but does not attend until they are done with school.
By doing this, you promise to attend the pharmacy school in response to receiving an acceptance early.
Early assurance programs
An early assurance program differs in that the guaranteed admission into a Pharmacy Degree program is for pharmacy students who are doing their undergraduate studies in another college/university.
At times other pharmacy schools might have a better program or a program closer to where you might move to; applying for an early assurance program can save you time when looking for a PharmD program last minute.
The Pharmacy College Admissions Test is a requirement by 85% of pharmacy schools. This test is taken to gain acceptance.
The test’s score is 200-600 and includes five sections. The test is four hours long and is designed to measure potential pharmacy students’ skills and abilities that they would need to complete a pharmacy degree.
The five sections in the pharmacy college admission test are as follows:
- Biological Processes
- Critical Reading
- Chemical Processes
- Quantitive Reading
This test is available several times a year from a Pearson company at locations across both U.S. and Canada. You can register on Pearson’s website to take the test.
Your results do not determine whether you fail or pass. The pharmacy school you apply to will check the PCAT results and decide whether or not you are accepted.
A higher score puts you in a higher percentile, giving you the advantage of being accepted by the school of your choice. You can take this test up to five times.
The program that you are enrolling for
Most students enroll for a pharmacy degree as their first professional undergraduate degree and then do a post-graduate PharmD program after completing the course.
If you already have a Pharmacy Degree and want to continue your education in the pharmacy and health sciences, do thorough research to ensure you meet all the requirements of both the programs and the pharmacy school.
What Are The Difficult Subjects in Pharmacy School?
Depending on the pharmacy program and how you are coping, there are some subjects that students have been known to find extremely difficult.
This subject is the study of the routes of chemicals in plants. This can be difficult as you must be able to remember and write the various chemicals and their enzymes.
Pharmacy Jurisprudence: Clinical Pharmacy and Administration
This is the study of pharmacy law. Students need 60% to pass this subject. This subject involves ethics, patient rights, medical personnel rights, and other laws.
The study of the different hormones in the body, as well as being able to identify the signs and symptoms when there is a reduction or an increase of hormones in the body.
Other Factors That Could Make Pharmacy School Hard
There are other factors that can contribute to how hard pharmacy school can be. Here are a few of these that affect almost every pharmacy student.
It all depends on your work ethic
Having missed class a few times and poor attendance can make it harder to get through an undergraduate program and pharmacy school. Relying on video technology to catch up on classes that you have missed instead of attending the classes physically can also have you to fall behind with lectures.
Pharmacy school can be difficult if you don’t put in the extra time to learn and train.
Getting a part-time job in the field can be helpful in expanding your knowledge while still completing your coursework. This can make pharmacy school hard and add extra pressure to the pharmacy program. However, it benefits as you show ambition and get one step closer to becoming a pharmacist.
Some subjects can be more difficult than others. One of the hardest things to note about being in pharmacy school is the amount of information thrown at you to remember.
During the last year of pharmacy school, pharmacy students do their pharmacy residency. Some rotations are harder to fit into as there are extra hours a week, and they take extra effort to complete.
Depending on where you work, working in a retail store pharmacy is easier than working at a hospital.
Poor time management skills
Having good time management skills can help make pharmacy school less challenging. Poor time management will leave you with an overloaded schedule and no free time for extracurricular activities.
This can affect your studies as attention gets drawn to emotional stress factors outside pharmacy school.
This can include factors such as:
- Relationship issues
- Financial strain
- Family commitments
- Illness (mental or physical)
- Having too many responsibilities, both professional and personal
- Employer demands
These factors can all affect your academics. Sometimes they can even cause people to fail and drop out of pharmacy school.
Poor studying methods
Finding the balance between being an undergraduate student and becoming a pharmacist can be difficult to maintain when it comes to preparing for tests and doing rotations.
You should be able to know your studying methods and which strategies work best for your to retain knowledge most effectively. Last-minute studying can put a lot of extra and unnecessary stress on you and will not aid in knowledge retention.
Make sure your time management carved out some extra time to study. Also, know when you study best: some people are better learners in the morning, while others are extremely good at knowledge absorption at night. Knowing this can help a lot with your time management.
How To Get A Pharmacy Licensure?
You are not a pharmacist unless you are registered and licensed. Aside from doing your PharmD at a pharmacy school or college, you also have to take the North American Pharmacy License Exam (NAPLEX). This is the licensing exam that you have to pass before you can start practicing as a pharmacist.
This licensing exam assesses the pharmacy students’ skills and abilities to be a pharmacist. To prepare for the exam and pass it, pharmacy students can take a pre-NAPLEX exam to practice. It has 100 questions and takes about 140 minutes to complete. This is just practice for the actual exam, as the scores calculated do not count as part of the NAPLEX exam’s marks.
Another test that you have to take is the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE). This test is taken through the National Association Boards of Pharmacy.
This is a multiple-choice test and assesses the pharmacist’s knowledge of the dispensing laws of medicine.
The Cost of Pharmacy School
On average, student debt for pharmacy students is $215 000, depending on the pharmacy school they attend.
A public pharmacy school could cost, on average, $120 000, which is a low cost when compared to a private pharmacy school which, on average, is $300 000.
At this point, it is important to note that the quality of education does not depend on the cost of the school you attend.
At U.S Schools, tuition costs between $3000-$20 500 per year for in-state residents and between $14 800-$82 000 for a four-year program.
Public schools are funded by local taxes, which helps as local students pay between $9 950-$32 800 per year.
Over a four-year study period, private pharmacy school tuition can cost between $74 800-$160 000 and $18 700-$40 000 annually.
Extra Costs to Pharmacy School
There are additional costs when it comes to being in pharmacy school. For instance, the PCAT (Pharmacy College admissions test) costs $125. The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence License is $250, and the NAPLEX exam fees are $575.
Depending on the school you attend, books and supplies are additional costs of $300-$600 per year. The price of the pharmacist license is different in each state.
Extra fees costing $1800 per year include but are not limited to the following:
- technical services
- lab fees
- professional liability insurance
There is also an additional cost of $2300 per year if students need to purchase their health insurance through the university.
Scholarships, grants, and financial aids
Some pharmacies offer their employees a tuition reimbursement plan if they work for them and are accepted into pharmacy school. This agreement might include having a pharmacy student commit to working for at least two years before moving on to another job opportunity.
Students can also apply for scholarships from The American Association of Pharmaceutical Education.
Alternatively, they can apply to the government for financial assistance if they cannot secure sufficient finances to study: the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Their form can be filled out online and starts the application process for financial aid assistance.
Advantages Of Studying To Be A Pharmacist
Here are some of the advantages of becoming a pharmacist:
There are many opportunities within the pharmacy industry. Since there is a high demand for pharmacists, there is always an opportunity to have a full-time or part-time job.
There is also an expectation of job growth for pharmacists. You can also choose which section/field of pharmacy you want to work in.
There are many hospitals and clinic pharmacy vacancies, so you can decide to do research or work in a retail pharmacy.
You do not need a pharmacy license to do all pharmacy jobs
Depending on which field in the pharmacy industry you want to work in, not all positions require a license. You can work as a pharmacy assistant, a pharmacy technician, or become a medical writer.
The salaries differ depending on your state, but a pharmacist can earn up to $120 000 per year on average.
Disadvantages Of Studying To Be A Pharmacist
Here are some of the disadvantages of becoming a pharmacist:
It takes 6-8 years to become a licensed pharmacist.
The pharmacy industry is competitive as the demand for pharmacists increases. There might be competition to get into the pharmacy school you want to attend or have some competition when applying for a job vacancy.
Going to pharmacy school can be stressful, affecting the outcome of a student’s academics and causing them to fail.
Licensing exams are mandatory
Pharmacists must take two mandatory exams, the multistate pharmacy jurisprudence exam (MPJE) and the NAPLEX.
After passing these exams and becoming a qualified pharmacist, the pharmacist must keep current knowledge of new medications, and this is paid for out of the pharmacist’s pocket. At times, some companies will assist with these courses.
According to state requirements, pharmacists need to renew their licenses every few years to remain practicing.
What Happens After Pharmacy School?
One of the most popular choices is to do a pharmacy residency. This is a two-year post-graduate program.
In your first year of the residency program, you will be trained on the general aspects of pharmacy, and then in your second year, you will be exposed to your specific interest in pharmacy.
You can do a pharmacy residency in different settings. Some students choose to gain experience in hospital settings, long-term care facilities, or even home care.
The specialties to choose from are between the following but not limited to:
- Drug Information
- Nutrition Support
- Emergency Medicine
- Geriatric Informatics
- Ambulatory Care
- Critical Care
Once you have chosen your specialty, you can focus on that while working towards being a qualified pharmacist.
Although doing a pharmacy residency is not a requirement, it does help students get into job vacancies outside of their community pharmacies.
Things to consider before doing a pharmacy residency program
Before you start applying for a residency program, you should consider how it might affect your career as a pharmacist.
Here is a list of things you should consider before applying for a program.
The type of residency
Finding the best residency program for you can help you get your career kickstarted. After completing the first year of the residency program, most students get jobs in the clinical section of the pharmacy, while others move on to specialize in a field.
- Community Pharmacy Residency Program
If you have decided to work in a community pharmacy, then there is no need for you to do a community pharmacy residency program.
Getting into a community pharmacy without wasting your time is quite simple. Pharmacies require 60 hours a week for the whole year.
- Hospital Pharmacy Residency Program
If you want to work in a hospital environment and handle the clinical side of pharmacy, then this program is the right fit for you. Keep in mind that not all pharmacists who work in a hospital environment have completed a hospital residency.
It is, however, beneficial to have completed the residency program to better your chances of getting your permanent position as a pharmacist.
Determine your career goals and expectations
Deciding which field you want to work in before applying to a residency program is key to understanding the path you want to take with your career.
Advantages of doing a pharmacy residency
Most commonly, students choose to do a pharmacy residency as it is expensive to do another degree or go and study further.
By choosing to do the pharmacy residency, you can gain experience and receive a stipend while you work towards getting a pharmacist vacancy.
The pharmacy residency program is for those students who want to work in a clinical position at a pharmacy- this can help them get into the clinical focus program.
A pharmacy residency program allows you to use your skills and obtain new ones.
Doing a pharmacy residency program gives you a competitive advantage over other students who haven’t done them. Most employers now prefer to employ students who have completed the residency program over those who have yet to finish them.
It helps you plan your career
This is another advantage of enrolling and completing a pharmacy residency program. Being in the work environment can help you decide the route in which you want to take your career as a pharmacist.
Gives you an opportunity to network
Networking is an important part of finding opportunities and vacancies when it comes to job placements.
Although the program is only two years long, pharmacy residents do receive a stipend and other benefits.
For the program’s first year, the annual salary is estimated at $43 000, and in the second year, the estimated salary is $45 000.
Here are the benefits that pharmacy residents receive:
- Vacation holiday
- Life Insurance Plan
- Sick Leave
- Professional Leave
The salaries/stipends do vary depending on the program you are enrolled in. The benefits are not limited to the amount you are being paid, but they, too, can vary from program to program.
How do you choose the right residency program?
To be sure that you are in a quality program, you need to check whether the program is accredited. You can also check how competitive it is by comparing the residency program to others.
To know if a program is accredited, you can check that they are partnered with pharmacy associations. This includes AMCP, APhA, and ACCP.
Another thing that you need to check for is the patient population and the services offered by the pharmacy at which you want to do the program. Then, you need to check if the program offers the right amount of teaching.
You can look up reviews of previous residency programs and the institution’s services and reputation to help you assess the quality of the program you are applying to.
Take note of the workplace’s general atmosphere when you are in the pharmacy for an interview.
Is A Pharmacy Residency Program Worth Doing?
A pharmacy residency program is beneficial to your learning experience and provides hands-on training. This is vital for newer pharmacists who need to gain experience in the work environment.
It also pays a stipend and can be a great step to take if you are not ready to add more debt to your financial responsibilities before you go and study further.
What Happens When You Don’t Get Into Pharmacy School?
Unfortunately, this can happen.
You might not be accepted into pharmacy school immediately despite completing all the requirements beforehand. This happens as there is a lot of competition and some programs fill up faster than others.
Before you can reapply to pharmacy school, there is a one-year waiting period. Here are some of the steps you can take in the meanwhile to improve your application.
Finish your undergraduate studies
If you still have enough time to complete your degree, do it before reapplying. An important thing to know is that some pharmacy schools do not only always look for a degree in pharmacy.
You can also have a different degree background, but it shows that you are committed to finishing your studies.
Improve your GPA and your grade scores
You can improve your GPA or retake any classes where your grades might have been low. Taking extra classes in the science field can also improve your chances of getting into pharmacy school the next academic year.
Improve your PCAT test results
Since you are allowed to take this test up to five times, you can improve your score until you are satisfied that it is high enough for you to get into pharmacy school.
Although 85% of pharmacy schools want to see your PCAT test scores, you should check the pharmacy school’s requirements to know how high your scores should be.
Work more to gain experience
You can work as a pharmacy technician to gain more work experience and also learn from working directly under pharmacists.
The role of a pharmacy technician helps you get experience and prepares you for the responsibilities that you will have as a pharmacist.
Volunteer more to add to your work experience and CV
Helping out in your local community by volunteering can add to your work experience and shows your willingness to work in the field. It also shows that you have the time management abilities to take part in extracurricular activities.
This will also reflect positively on your resume.
Try out another health field
Since you have the prerequisites done, you can also explore other health fields. This can be done until you get into pharmacy school.
Is There A High Demand For Pharmacists?
Some people might feel that there are too many pharmacists. However, statistics according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that there are, on average 13, 600 job openings in the U.S. for pharmacists every year.
There is also growth projected for this industry at 2% from 2021-2031. This is a slow growth expectation, but since most pharmacists are either moving away, changing their jobs or retiring, the vacancies are still available.
Should I Become A Pharmacist?
If you are wondering if this is the right career path for you and you don’t want to be sitting with high student loan debt, then going through the above information and doing more research can help you make a decision.
A pharmacist has many roles and responsibilities and the time spent studying might feel like the equivalent of becoming a medical doctor. After all, you will be responsible for people’s physical and mental health at many times; therefore, being knowledgeable, certified, and well-trained is of the utmost importance.
However, pharmacists have great benefits. If you want to become a pharmacist, following the steps and working hard while in the pharmacy program can bring you closer to becoming a pharmacist.
How many years do I need to study to be a pharmacist?
You must study for six to eight years to obtain a pharmacist degree. Two years are for an undergraduate degree, and then four years in pharmacy education.
However, some students take three years in an undergraduate program before starting a pharmacy degree.
What is the minimum GPA score to get into pharmacy school?
Although most pharmacy schools accept students with a higher GPA score, the minimum GPA is between 2.5-3.0.
What does it cost to be in pharmacy school?
The cost of pharmacy programs depends on the college or university program you decide to enroll in. You have to take into consideration whether you will be attending an in-state or out-of-state school or whether you are going to attend a private or public university or college.
The average public cost of pharmacy schools for in-state students is $18 233, and for out-of-state students, it is $34 409. Privately, it is $34 196 for in-state students and $34 409 for out-of-state students.
Is pharmacy school harder than medical school?
Medical school is much longer than pharmacy school and can definitely be more difficult. However, they are both in the healthcare field and follow similar career and education paths, so you should choose the one you feel suits you best.
How hard is it to get accepted into pharmacy school?
It definitely does not come for free or easily! You have to complete all your prerequisites before being accepted into pharmacy school. Be sure to check the pharmacy school requirements of your choice before enrolling.