Becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy in Washington, D.C.

The proper use of medication is of the utmost importance in treating patients. Because of this, pharmacists play an essential role in the healthcare system. They are responsible for developing drugs, filling out prescriptions and ensuring patients don’t take medicines that negatively interact with one another. They also warn patients about side effects and are trained to deal with even the most uncommon illnesses.

Pharmacists must have a variety of abilities to handle such a demanding job. A good pharmacist has excellent chemistry, biology, and interpersonal skills. Thankfully, these skills can be cultivated by receiving the proper education and getting the right certifications. These skills are also maintained with continuing education programs.

Becoming a doctor of pharmacy in Washington, D.C., boasts myriad benefits. In addition to providing a vital service to the community, pharmacists in D.C. have a median salary of $159,351. Entering the pharmaceutical field is no easy challenge, but the results are worth the effort.

Pharmacy Schools in Washington, D.C. (Howard University)

If you are looking for an in-person pharmacy school, Howard University is the choice for you. This is the only pharmacy school available for in-person learning in the area. Though Howard University is a historically black college, anyone who meets the requirements can apply and may be admitted to the school. About 15% of all students are non-black, so there are enough ethnic groups that one will be able to build one’s own social circle comfortably.

First Steps in Becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy in Washington, D.C.

Those wishing to apply to the Howard PharmD program should have completed or should be on track to complete their undergraduate degree in a related major such as biology or chemistry. Howard also requires that students take certain Pre-Pharmacy Prerequisites before applying for their PharmD program. The courses include English, Biology, Organic Chemistry, Calculus and several others.

Further, applicants must be in good academic standing with any current or prior accredited learning institutions. A 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale is required in all pre-pharmacy courses. Additionally, applicants must provide a personal statement of at least 250 words, two letters of recommendation (one from a science professor and one from a non-relative), transcripts and PCAT scores.

PCAT (Pharmacy College Admissions Test)

The Pharmacy College Admissions Test, or PCAT, is necessary for acceptance into most pharmacy schools in the U.S. The test is three and a half hours and divided into five sections. You will be assessed in writing, biological processes, chemical processes, critical reading, and quantitative reasoning.

Thankfully, Howard does not have a minimum PCAT score. Still, the average national score is about 400 out of 600 for each section. Earning around or above 420 points in most areas will put you in the competitive range for pharmacy schools. PCATs are administered throughout the year and operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Check the official website for more details. Please note that Howard requires that the PCAT is taken no later than October of the year before admission.

Howard University Enrollment Options

Howard offers several programs to accommodate many different kinds of students. Depending on your current achievements, you should pick the program that suits you and your goals the best.

  1. B.S./PharmD Program

This program is ideal for students already attending a feeder institution (check the above link for a list of eligible schools) and who want to transition into Howard’s PharmD program. This unique program allows students to complete the prerequisites at another institution and finish off their studies at Howard. Further, this program only takes seven years in total, instead of the traditional eight years. Those currently attending the schools listed on the website should greatly consider this option as it will save them time and energy in the long run.

  1. Four-Year Entry Level PharmD Program

For those already enrolled in or who have completed their undergraduate degrees from a non-feeder institution, this program will allow you to receive your PharmD at Howard. Make sure you complete the prerequisites mentioned above before applying. You do not have to have a completed Bachelor’s degree to apply, but it will supplement your application.

Early decision is also available for this program. If you apply to the university early and are accepted, you are legally bound to attend. The benefit of applying this way is that the admission rate is higher because Howard knows you are dedicated to attending its institution. This is a good option for people who know exactly where they want to study and want to secure their future educational plans early.

  1. Five-Year PharmD/MBA Program

Howard also has an option for people interested in pursuing both a PharmD and an MBA at the same time. This program requires a lot of dedication and academic excellence, but the results are worth the effort.

The requirements for this program differ slightly from the others, as a 3.0 GPA, partial competition of the Pharmacy Professional Program and a GMAT score are necessary. For the GMAT, a score of 650 and above is competitive, while a score of 550 to 649 is considered average, but Howard has no minimum requirement. Consider this option if you are interested in careers such as Healthcare Administrator, Hospital Director, Pharmaceutical Industry Administrator and the like. Having both a PharmD degree and an MBA will set you apart in the highly competitive job market.

  1. Non-Traditional Doctor of Pharmacy (NTDP) Program

This program is for students who seek a bit more flexibility with their learning. This program is more cost-effective and only takes two years to complete. NTDP’s hybrid learning plan includes online learning as the major source of its curriculum. Participants will walk away with an accredited PharmD degree and the knowledge needed to pursue a career in pharmaceuticals. These credits are also approved for continuing pharmacy education (CPE). Each cohort starts in the fall semester, and a three-day in-person trip to the university is required to learn how to use the online learning materials.

As you can see, no matter where you are on your journey to becoming a pharmacist, Howard University has an appropriate course for you.

As of 2022, the approximate cost per year to get a PharmD degree at Howard is $30,842. Howard also offers various grants and scholarships to help students cover their tuition.

The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and The Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE)

The next step in becoming a pharmacist is taking the NAPLEX and MPJE exams. These are both required to practice pharmacy in Washington, D.C. Before taking these exams, one must apply and get approval from The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and have their scores sent to the NABP.

The NAPLEX is six hours and consists of 225 questions administered via computer. The purpose of this exam is to use scenario-based questions to determine if test-takers are fit to practice entry-level pharmacy. Scores are scaled, and 75 or higher is considered passing. The exam fee for the NAPLEX is $575.

The MPJE is taken soon after you receive your degree and is designed to test your knowledge of the law with respect to pharmacy. It is two and a half hours and consists of 120 computer-based questions. Like the NAPLEX, a passing score is 75 or higher. The exam fee for the MPJE is $200.

Continuing Pharmacy Education (CPE)

Now that you are a licensed pharmacist, you must upkeep your skills by renewing them every two years. You are required to take 40 hours of courses to maintain your license. Of those 40 hours, two must be about HIV, two must be about medication safety and dispensing errors, and two must be on cultural competency, which includes specialized training for LGBTQ+ patients.

There are a wide variety of courses for you to report to the CPE Monitor once the time comes. Use these courses as an opportunity to hone your skills and keep them sharp.

Pharmacist Organizations

Once you start working or looking for a job as a pharmacist, it might be in your interest to join some official organizations. These groups provide a wealth of knowledge that is indispensable to those working in the field.

The Washington D.C. Pharmacy Association has various membership levels and offers perks such as a quarterly newsletter, CPE seminars for professional development, and networking opportunities. It even has a discounted fee for recent graduates, so be sure to take advantage of that offer.

The American Pharmacists Association (APhA) is another organization one might consider. APhA offers advocacy, education, and well-being programs for pharmacists. It even provides savings for certain services such as car insurance, access to help with repaying student loans, and discounts for exclusive members-only content. This is great for people who want to take advantage of a wide network of peers and seek advice for their career goals.