What Do Pharmacists Major In?

"I am a biology undergraduate right now, and I’ve been thinking of becoming a pharmacist after school. I’m pretty sure though I’m on the wrong track, because even though I’m learning a lot of the right stuff, doesn’t becoming a pharmacist require a specific degree? Not a biology degree? Tell me what kind of degree I need to get to become a pharmacist, and whether I’m on the right track or not."

asked by Ellen from Madison, WI

If you want to become a pharmacist, you will need to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (PharmD). The degree will need to be earned through an accredited program. The organization which gives out the accreditation is the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. There are a range of pharmacy programs, but most are either four or six years long.

Technically, all programs are six years long, because the four-year programs require you to pass a number of prerequisites before entering. You probably are actually getting a lot of those done right now.

If you were fresh out of high school and not yet enrolled in a program, it would make sense to get yourself enrolled in a six-year program. But since you are already a biology major in your first year, what is more important right now is to make sure you are taking the perquisites you need to qualify for a four-year PharmD program (even if it is at another school). Most require a variety of general education type classes, like math, English, history, and economics. You will also have more specific requirements like Biology 101 and general and organic chemistry.

It is a good idea to start looking for a program (or several) to apply to now, so you can plan to take the rest of your prerequisites as quickly and logically as possible. That way you can ensure that you will get into a pharmacy program of your choice.

Once you get into the pharmacy program, you will take classes which are specific to the pharmaceutical field. For example, you might take classes like Oncology, Immunizations, and Pharmacy Lab Skills. Part of your coursework will entail clinical work at hospital pharmacies and other professional environments.

Note that to get into a pharmacy school, you may have to take an exam called PCAT. Not every school requires you to take the PCAT, but it is very common. Admissions boards will also consider your current GPA. Each school will have its own set of entry requirements. Once you do earn your PharmD degree, you will need to become licensed in your state. This involves taking several licensing exams and tests. After that (or before, while you are in school), you’ll need to complete a number of practical experience hours.

So right now, you are on the right track to become a pharmacy student. Do some research and look up what specific prerequisite courses you need to apply to the program you want to enter, and plan your coursework accordingly. Good luck on your new career path!

Career Spotlight: Pharmacist

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