"To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease."  —Andrew T. Still, MD, DO

"As a family physician, my job is listening to people's stories."
—Jon S. Hallberg, MD


Career Info

Pharmacists are health care professionals who strive to improve the quality of a patients’ life through medication with minimum risk. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), pharmacists “consult with physicians and other health professionals in the process of pharmacotherapeutic decision making; selecting an appropriate dosage form for a given patient; determining the dose and dosage schedule; preparing the medication for administration to the patient; providing information about the medication to the patient; advising the patient to assure the medication is used correctly for maximum effectiveness; and monitoring the patient to prevent or detect harmful side effects.” Pharmacists must understand the use, composition, and clinical effects of drugs. In addition to dispensing medications, pharmacists also work in pharmaceutical research, marketing, and quality control. In 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual wage for pharmacists was $132,750, and the demand for pharmacists is expected to increase 3% by 2032. 

More Information

Outlook: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm

O*NET: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-1051.00

Education & Training

A license to practice pharmacy is required in all states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. To obtain a license, one must graduate from a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, complete an internship under a licensed pharmacist and pass a state licensing examination.  43% of pharmacists work in pharmacies and drug stores, 23% in hospitals, 8% in drug stores, 6% department stores and 5% in other areas.  In addition, the AACP states, “pharmacists are also employed by firms that discover, develop, and produce chemicals, prescription and non-prescription drugs, and other health products.  Pharmacists in the pharmaceutical industry conduct research, develop and market products, maintain quality control and administer programs.  In government, pharmacists hold staff and supervisory posts in the United States Public Health Service, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Armed Services.  Some pharmacists perform highly specialized tasks such as advertising, technical writing, magazine editing and science reporting.  Pharmacists with legal training serve as patent lawyers or experts in pharmaceutical law.  There are pharmacists in America’s space laboratories and aboard ships; others direct manufacturing firms or specialize in medicinal plant cultivation.” Important qualities of pharmacists include: analytical skills, communication skills, detail oriented and managerial skills.

The PharmD degree program requires at least 2-years (the majority of students have 4 years) of specific pre-professional (undergraduate) coursework followed by 4-academic years (or 3-calendar years) of professional study.  Some schools do not require a bachelor’s degree, but most applicants will have one. The majority of all pharmacy schools also require scores from the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT); however, California schools do not. There are currently 138 colleges and schools of pharmacy offering the PharmD degree, including 12 schools in California. In the 2019-2020 application cycle, the average GPA for students entering Pharmacy school was a 3.28 cumulative and a 3.13 science GPA.

Course Requirements

Note:  Admission prerequisites vary by institution.  Some schools will not accept AP credit for prerequisites.  Check requirements carefully!

See below for an example of admission course prerequisites that may be required at CA programs. Please research professional programs for the specific admission requirements. If you need guidance on how to search for schools, please see the Peer Advisors during drop-in hours. 

Biology: Bio 161, 162, plus one additional course.

  • Most schools require 1 year of general biology, however which additional course is required varies by school. Check school requirements carefully.
General Inorganic Chemistry: Chem 127, 128, 129 
  • Note: Engineering & Physical Science majors should enroll in Chem 124, 125, 126
Organic Chemistry: Chem 216, 217/220, 218/223 
  • Note: Biochemistry & Chemistry majors should enroll in Chem 216, 217/221, 218/324

Biochemistry: Chem 369 (previously known as Chem 371)

Microbiology: Mcro 221 or 224
  • Note: Bio, Bchm, Mcro, and Msci majors should enroll in Mcro 224
Physiology: Bio 361 or 231 & 232 
  • Note: Physiology requirements vary widely between programs. Some programs prefer upper-division physiology (Bio 361), and others also require human anatomy as a prerequisite course. View prerequisite requirements closely on program websites to determine which course(s) to enroll in.

College Mathematics: Math 141, 142 or 161, 162

Physics: Phys 121, 123 or 141, 143

Psychology: Psy 201 or 202 (E)

Social Sciences: Soc 110 &/or Ant 201

  • These are sometimes an alternative to Psy 201/202 and sometimes required on their own. They fulfill GE area E (2021 - 2022 Catalog). Please check each schools prerequisites carefully.

Statistics:  Stat 217/218

Economics:  Econ 221 or 222

English:  2-3 quarters (requirements vary by school)

Last updated: 09/08/2022.

Professional Association Links

For more information, such as admission requirements and career information, visit the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy website at https://www.aacp.org

Cal Poly Pharmacy and Drug Development Club

To get involved with the Cal Poly Pharmacy and Drug Development Club, email cppharmacyclub@gmail.com, visit their website (calpolypharmacyclub.wixsite.com/mysite), or follow them on Instagram (@calpolypharmacyclub).

Cal Poly Alumni in Pharmacy

Related Content

Pre-Health Canvas Page

Stay up-to-date with pre-health events and opportunities by joining our canvas page! Email prehealth@calpoly.edu to be added!

Canvas Page Info

Drop-in With a Peer Advisor

Hours are subject to change each week, so please check the "Contact Us" page regularly!

Pre-Health Peer Advising

Pre-Health Calendar

View and sign up for upcoming application workshops, personal statement workshops, presentations, and other events hosted by our office!

Pre-Health Events

Pre-Health Blog Posts

Visit our Pre-Health Blog to stay up to date on pre-health events, opportunities, articles, workshops, and more!

Cal Poly Pre-Health Blog

Pre-Health Reading List

Reading is a great way to learn new perspectives and develop yourself as an applicant.

Pre-Health Reading List

DEI in the Bailey College

Learn More