Can A Biology Major Become A Pharmacist?

"I just got accepted into college, and I’m thrilled, because it’s a really good school, but now I’ve started to narrow down my career interests, and I’m not sure how this is going to work. I’m thinking of becoming a pharmacist, but my school doesn’t offer any sort of pre-pharm degree (if there is even any such thing). I was thinking of majoring in biology and just taking it from there. Would that work?"

asked by Molly from Memphis, TN

There are actually pre-pharm programs out there, but they are relatively uncommon and tend to be offered only at schools that offer pharmacy programs. These programs may save you time by keeping you along a focused track toward a pharmacy degree. There is nothing at all wrong with taking a different route, though. Many pharmacy students are accepted to pharmaceutical programs by admissions boards who see that they have a different undergraduate degree. The major is not particularly important. It does not even necessarily have to be scientific.

What is important is that you fulfill all the requirements for prerequisites. These requirements may vary from school to school, but in general you will probably need a year of biology (with labs), two years of chemistry (including labs and organic chemistry), a year of biochemistry, another year of microbiology, a year of calculus, and a year of English.

Check with any specific pharmaceutical programs you are strongly considering applying to in order to find out whether they have additional requirements for you to fulfill. It is essential that you take every course required in order to gain acceptance.

Because these are the requirements, many students will opt for a scientific degree because that way the courses which are counting toward their prerequisites are also counting toward their undergraduate degree. If you prefer to major in another field, however, you can fill your elective spaces with these prerequisite classes instead.

What is more important than your major is your GPA. Maintaining a GPA of around 3.5 or higher will keep you competitive among your peers. Some states like California are particularly competitive.

Whatever you study, decide on a plan for presenting yourself as an applicant to the admissions board of the pharmaceutical school where you will be applying. If you study science, present yourself as someone who loves science, and did not just use it as a means to an end. If you studied something more unusual, like English, come up with an explanation for how you believe those studies can help you excel as a pharmacist.

It can be very helpful to work with an adviser throughout your education. An adviser can make sure you are on track and completing all the prerequisites you need in the most efficient manner possible. This can help you to get into pharmacy school faster and start on the path toward your future career. Biology is a fine major for becoming a pharmacist, as are many others, so don’t feel too constrained in your choices.

Career Spotlight: Pharmacist

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