How to Get Your PharmD Degree in California

Pharmacists are an integral part of the health care industry. They form an essential bridge between doctors and their patients. Beyond dispensing prescription medication, pharmacists can help you make decisions regarding common medications and let you know if any prescriptions may work against each other, including safe and proper administration.

Pharmacists can serve many different roles in other parts of the health care industry. They teach in universities, dispense medication in hospitals, and conduct research or work for government agencies and insurance companies. Someone interested in becoming a pharmacist will be happy to know that the profession is in high demand, and there are multiple different career choices for a new graduate.

The role of a pharmacist falls under public trust, so those who want to enter the field must endure quite a bit of schooling. On average, students can expect to spend six to eight years completing their degree, but those requirements result in a rewarding career for those who choose to put in the work.

What is Required

To be licensed as a pharmacist in California, you must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the California Practice Standards and Jurisprudence Examination for Pharmacists (CPJE).

Students must first apply to the California Board of Pharmacy with this application which can also be found here. You will also need to apply directly through the National Association of Boards of Pharmacists (NABP). This will be used to determine whether you are eligible to sit the Licensure exam.

To be eligible to sit the California licensure exam, you must meet the following criteria:

  1. Be 18 years of age
  2. Have graduated from a domestic school of pharmacy or a foreign school and have been certified by Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee (FPGEC).
  3. Have completed at least 150 hours of collegiate credit, 90 of which must come from a pharmacy school.
  4. Hold at least a Bachelor’s degree in a program devoted to pharmacy.
  5. Have 1,500 hours of approved pharmaceutical experience as a registered intern or one year of experience as a licensed pharmacist in another state.   

Choosing a Program

Before entering a Doctor of Pharmacy program, students must complete a bachelor’s degree in either pharmacy or a related topic. However, if a pharmacist career is your end goal, a bachelor of science in pharmaceuticals is a good path to take.

Once you’ve completed your B.S, you can begin your application to sit your licensure exams. Of course, you will still need to complete your Doctor of Pharmacist degree, and when choosing a program, there is a lot to consider.

If you want to study in California, the following five institutions are highly rated and offer an exceptional experience to their students.

Top Programs

University of California, San Diego

Located in La Jolla, the university’s four-year Parma D program doesn’t just teach traditional pharmacology; it also emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration with the university’s medical school and the other health science schools on campus.

Some of the emerging topics that the program focuses on are computational biology, pharmacogenomics and bioinformatics. Interested students must apply by November first for the following fall semester. Students who are being considered will be invited for an interview in December, and the program starts in late August of the following year.

Year one builds a foundation of courses in the practice of pharmacy. In their third year, all students begin placements in local and international research institutions, clinics and hospitals. These placements give them the necessary experience to become successfully employed immediately after graduation.

University of California, San Francisco

Located in downtown San Francisco, the university’s three-year program is one of the most competitive in California. The program was switched from four years to three in 2018 yet consistently ranks among the top ten programs across the nation.

Students are exposed to a well-rounded curriculum that includes both hands-on patient care skills as well as experiential learning. In their first year of study, students focus on the respiratory, renal, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems. In their second year, their studies turn to oncology and infectious disease and psychiatry. Near the end of the second year, students will choose their own area of study to focus on for a discovery project.

Right from year one, students are exposed to working in real-world situations. The first and second years are introductory work experience in community clinics and health systems. In year three, students are exposed to more advanced working conditions and are well prepared to enter the industry upon graduation.

Western University of Health Sciences

The university is a small private health-focused institution located in Pomona, situated in the greater Los Angeles area of California. The four-year program offers students the chance to study in state-of-the-art classrooms and research facilities.

Students spend the first and second years immersed in a block-style curriculum that allows students to master each subject before moving on to the next. In the third and fourth years of study, intensive clinical practice is introduced, allowing students to build a solid knowledge base before beginning their rotations. Most rotations are located in the U.S, but there are opportunities for international placements.

Throughout these four years, students are instructed by a diverse faculty that brings a wide range of industry experience into the classroom. Beyond studies in science, students learn through clinical practice, small group discussions, lectures and workshops.

University of the Pacific

Located in the city of Stockton in California’s central valley, the university offers students the chance to specialize in three different areas of pharmacy over the course of three years. Students can focus on either Pharmacy Practice, where students prepare to work as a pharmacist in their community; Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry, where students prepare for a career in the pharmaceutical industry; and Physiology and Pharmacology, which prepares students for an academic career.

The university was the first in the U.S to offer an accelerated three-year program. Students build their patient care skills right from the beginning of the program. Clinical rotations take place in different local health care sites depending on the course focus of the student.

For students who wish to be considered for early admission, the application deadline is September fourth. For everyone else, the deadline is January seventh, and the program commences in the fall.

University of South California

Located in downtown Los Angeles, USC is a private research university that offers students the opportunity to pursue a PharmD degree while concurrently pursuing an M.B.A, J.D, or MPH at the same time.

The first three years of the program focuses on course in social-administrative, clinical, biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences. At the end of the third year and into the fourth, students begin Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPE) in healthcare settings throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

The school prides itself on constantly reviewing and enhancing its courses to keep up with the ever-advancing sciences and health care industry. Students can choose from six areas of specialization within the Pharma D program. Those areas are Comprehensive Medication Management and High-Risk Populations, Education, Health Systems and Care Management, Pharmaceutical Industry, Experiential Courses and Research.

Online Options

Location is a huge factor to consider when choosing where you’re going to study. Sometimes the schools available in your area do not meet your requirements, or perhaps you can’t travel to study on campus. If this is the case and you are looking for an online Pharma D program, you should consider applying to St. John Fisher College. This program is remote and allows you to study from the comfort of your home without needing to worry about a commute.

Over the course of the four-year program, students have the opportunity to complete 151 credits. Although the vast majority of the program is delivered online, 30 percent of the program consists of experiential learning. Students learn skills in the pharmaceutical sciences and the administrative aspects of healthcare and pharmacy. Interested students also have the opportunity to work with underserved communities during their time with Fisher College, giving them valuable experience to take with them into their professional lives.

Career Outlook and Salary Expectations

New graduates in California should be happy to learn that the state employs the highest number of pharmacists of any state across the U.S. They will also be interested to know that when it comes to top paying urban areas for pharmacists, cities in California also occupy all spots on the list of top ten paying metropolitan regions.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacists can expect to make an average of $146,140 per year, which works out to about $70.26 per hour. This is also the highest average wage for pharmacists across most US states. Across the nation, most pharmacists can expect to make around $128,710 per year.

The pharmaceutical profession is seeing a bit of a downturn, yet the career outlook in California is trending upwards at six percent, which is about average. From 2018-2028 there are expected to be about 1,740 openings.