How to Get into Pharmacy School as a PharmD Candidate

A doctorate in pharmacy, also called a PharmD, is a doctoral degree that prepares graduates to work as pharmacists. Pharmacists provide patients with prescription medications, give directions on how to properly take medications and explain any side effects a patient may expect from medication.

If you’re interested in a pharmacy career, PharmD school can help you achieve your professional goals. Use this guide for tips to get into PharmD school as you research and apply to schools.

Earn Your Pharm.D. Online From St. John Fisher College

The Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College is proud to offer a clinically oriented hybrid Pharm.D. program online. The program features a strong foundation in the sciences and experiential learning that prepares you for a career in any pharmacy setting. PCAT scores optional.

  • Experientially focused curriculum — more than 30% experiential
  • Students are prepared to pursue licensure 
  • ACPE-Accredited and NYSED-Approved

info SPONSORED

What Does Pharmacy School Entail?

Doctor of Pharmacy programs typically include classroom instruction and clinical rotation experience so students can practice the field of pharmacy in real-life settings. Typically, a Doctor of Pharmacy degree program takes about four years to complete, depending on the program. Some schools admit high school graduates into a six-year program. A typical path might be at least two years of specific undergraduate work followed by several years of professional pharmacy study, which may include a residency at a clinical or commercial pharmacy.

Before entering pharmacy school, students will typically need to have completed prerequisite courses in biology, chemistry, life sciences or other science-based courses. Using this foundation, students build upon those courses and learn more advanced pharmacology topics.

Pharmacy school curriculum includes courses on:

  • Pharmaceutical sciences and medicinal chemistry, including medicines, medical reactions and how to calculate dosages.
  • Clinical skills, including patient care.
  • Pharmacy and healthcare administration, including pharmacy law and hospital/health systems.
  • Ethics and professionalism in pharmaceutical settings.

During advanced rotations, students will practice pharmacy work in real-life settings. Upon graduation from pharmacy school, a student will have a PharmD degree.

Pharmacy school prepares graduates to obtain state licensure to work as an entry-level pharmacist. To work as a pharmacist in the United States, you’ll need to pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE) to demonstrate competency to practice as a pharmacist.

Typical School of Pharmacy Admissions Requirements

You may be wondering what you need to become a PharmD student in a Doctor of Pharmacy degree program. You don’t necessarily need a master’s degree or even a bachelor’s degree to gain admittance into some online healthcare degree programs. School of pharmacy programs have different requirements, but typically you’ll need at least two years of post-secondary schooling with courses focused on science to meet prerequisite requirements.

There may be some pharmacy programs that accept high school graduates. These programs would last longer than four years; around six years total.

Some schools may also have testing, recommendation letter, interview and background check requirements when you apply. Consider the following so you can be prepared.

PharmD school application materials

To get an idea of what’s required for pharmacy school, here are some of the typical application requirements you can expect.

  • Completed application: You’ll need to fill out the application form for whatever college you want to apply to. Some schools may charge a fee to apply.
  • Official transcripts: You’ll need to send official transcripts for schools you’ve previously attended.
  • Letter of recommendation: Some schools may require a letter of recommendation (or several) to be considered. Typically, these must come from past college instructors or past employers.
  • Personal statement: The pharmacy school you’re applying to may request a personal statement. A personal statement is a written summary of why you’re applying to pharmacy school, what your professional goals are and how your past experience makes you a qualified candidate.
  • School prerequisites: You typically need to have completed a certain number of credits or semester hours at a college or university. These previous credits will likely need to cover general course requirements in subjects such as English/literature, speech/public speaking/interpersonal communications, economics, humanities/social/behavioral sciences, science and math. Science course prerequisites will typically require lab components. In some cases, you may be able to complete school prerequisites without necessarily completing a bachelor’s degree program.
  • Minimum GPA: Some schools may require that you achieved a minimum GPA in your past studies.
  • PCAT test scores: The PCAT is the Pharmacy College Admission Test. Some pharmacy schools may require you to take this and submit your scores.
  • GRE test scores: The GRE is a graduate school readiness exam that some pharmacy schools may require applicants to take.

Some pharmacy schools also may require that you complete an interview with staff or faculty during the admissions process.

4 Steps to Become a Competitive Pharmacy School Applicant

If you want to get into a school of pharmacy, it helps to prepare. While none of the following steps guarantee acceptance, they may help you become a more competitive pharmacy school applicant. Here’s what you might consider doing from high school through undergrad to applying to PharmD school.

  1. Improve your GPA.

    Your grade point average from your most recent school will likely be a determining factor in pharmacy school acceptance. Because science and math courses are so important as prerequisites, focus on improving your grades in classes like biology, chemistry, math and science labs.

    The St. John Fisher College Pharm.D. Online program states that while cumulative and science GPAs of 2.75 are generally considered minimally competitive, most students who are accepted into their program have performed at a much higher level. You might look into tutoring, honors and advanced placement classes if there are opportunities to increase your GPA.

  2. Get pharmacy experience.

    Work or volunteer experience in the field of pharmacy can help you stand out as an applicant. If you’re in high school, you might try getting a part-time job at a pharmacy. Or you can volunteer in a healthcare setting like a hospital.

    If you’re in college, check with your career services department about hands-on pharmacy opportunities such as an internship. There may also be student organizations based in pharmaceutical sciences that you can join, so you can connect with resources and professionals in the field and find opportunities to gain pharmacy experience.

  3. Prep for the PCAT.

    Excellent PCAT scores can help you stand out as a candidate. Even if they’re not required, some pharmacy schools state you can submit your scores if you think they’ll help show your academic preparedness for a PharmD program. Check with your school’s recommended score for admittance so you know what to aim for.

    Tips to prepare for the PCAT include:

    Researching the test format and using study guides, like those from Kaplan.
    Completing coursework that’s covered on the PCAT before taking the exam.
    Taking the PCAT as early as you can, so you have the opportunity to retake it if you need to before applying to school.

    You may wish to study for the PCAT for 90 minutes a day for a month leading up to your test. Be consistent with studying, so you retain more information and increase your chance of a better score.

  4. Practice for an interview.

    Before an interview as part of the application process, practice can help you prepare. A 2020 survey of 2,018 people by JDP found 93% of Americans have anxiety related to job interviews. A grad school interview is like a job interview. You’ll be asked about your past experience, what your goals are and why you’re qualified for PharmD school.

    To ease any nerves, practice interviewing with someone before your pharmacy school interview. You might ask a teacher or professor to help you since they’ll likely know what types of questions you might be asked and may provide helpful feedback. Get a good night’s sleep before your interview, so you’re focused and energized. Take some deep breaths and try to exude confidence during your interview.

How to Write a Compelling Personal Statement

Use this as an opportunity to express what makes you a good candidate for the program. The following tips won’t guarantee admission, but they may help you as you craft your personal statement.

  • Talk about your pharmacy-related experience. If you’ve worked or completed volunteer or internship experience in a pharmacy or healthcare setting, mention that. Explain how your experience prepares you as a student and how it has contributed to your interest in becoming a pharmacist.
  • Detail relatable skills. Pharmacy is a science-based field that also requires skills like organization and customer service in order for a pharmacist to succeed. Talk about any soft skills, like communication, that will contribute to your experience as a student and work as a pharmacist.
  • Tell your story. Explain why you’re applying to pharmacy school and what instilled your passion for the field. You might talk about how you want to make a difference and contribute in your career.

Also, consider having a mentor read over your personal statement to proofread and provide advice before you submit it.

How to Obtain a Strong Letter of Recommendation

These tips won’t guarantee admission to a PharmD program, but they can help you obtain meaningful letters of recommendation.

  • Ask relevant people who know your best academic or professional work to write your letters. Think about people who have observed you in the classroom or at work in a pharmacy or healthcare-related setting. These people will be able to speak to your work ethic, commitment and attention to detail.
  • Provide guidance. Provide the writer with the prompt for the letter of recommendation, if one is given. That way they can make sure to include all pertinent details. You might also provide your resume and transcripts to the letter writer, so they can reference your academic and professional experience.
  • Give the writer plenty of time. Don’t force the writer to rush creating your letter of recommendation. Give them as much advance notice as possible.

Preparing for the Pharmacy School Interview

Many PharmD schools require interviews to get an idea of how you’d fit into the program and to better understand you as a candidate. Since it’s normal to feel nervous before or during an interview, practice for the interview by reviewing the following questions. It may help to practice answering these with a mentor.

Typical school of pharmacy interview questions

  • Why are you applying to our school? Describe what motivated you to choose that particular school, based on factors like recommendations, reputation, what you know about the program, etc.
  • Why do you want to be a pharmacist? Discuss why you’re interested in a pharmacist career and what motivated you to go to pharmacy school in general.
  • What makes you capable of succeeding in pharmacy school? Talk about how you manage your time between studying and classes. Detail what type of learner you are and how you hold yourself accountable for academic success.
  • What current events in the pharmacy industry interest you? You may be asked to talk about your opinion on current pharmacy trends. Consider setting up a Google Alert for “pharmacy news,” so you can keep up with issues you might discuss.
  • What do you enjoy doing outside of school? This question gives you an opportunity to share more about who you are as a person. You might consider talking about your volunteer activities, community events and/or personal details, such a hobby you enjoy.

Be prepared for a mix of general questions about yourself and what you’re like as a student, as well as questions that relate to your interest in pharmacy school.

Tips for Applying to Pharmacy School

Use these general tips when preparing to apply to pharmacy school. They don’t guarantee entry into a program, but they may help position you as a qualified candidate.

  • Try to get the best GPA and grades possible, particularly in science and math courses.
  • Gain volunteer, internship or work experience in a pharmacy or healthcare setting.
  • Cultivate relationships with at least two mentors who may be able to write you positive letters of recommendation. These should be people who have substantial knowledge of how you perform academically or professionally.
  • Take the PCAT as early as possible. Consider taking it more than once so you can get the best grade possible.
  • Stay out of legal trouble, since a background check may be required.
  • Practice a pharmacy school interview before participating in the actual interview. You may wish to ask peers and/or mentors to be present as you practice and give feedback—or maybe they will even run you through a mock interview.
  • After you write your personal statement, have an advisor read it and edit it if they’re willing.

You may also be able to get tips from the pharmacy school’s admissions advisors on how to position yourself as a standout candidate. Contact them as early as possible so you can prepare.

Is a PharmD School Program Right for You?

Besides advising people on the safe use of prescriptions, pharmacists may conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations and offer advice on healthy living. If you enjoy science and working as a pharmacist appeals to you, PharmD school can help you achieve your career goals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a PharmD degree is required in order to be a pharmacist and get licensed.

Preparing for school as early as possible can help position you to succeed as an applicant. By focusing on grades, credentials, recommendations, experience and interviewing skills, you may successfully gain entry into pharmacy school.

Earn Your Pharm.D. Online From St. John Fisher College

The Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College is proud to offer a clinically oriented hybrid Pharm.D. program online. The program features a strong foundation in the sciences and experiential learning that prepares you for a career in any pharmacy setting. PCAT scores optional.

  • Experientially focused curriculum — more than 30% experiential
  • Students are prepared to pursue licensure 
  • ACPE-Accredited and NYSED-Approved

info SPONSORED

Last updated February 2021