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 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the mean annual wage of pharmacists in the United States was $126,120.
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 130 colleges and schools of pharmacy offering the PharmD degree, including 12 schools in California. In the 2012-2013 application cycle, the average GPA for students entering Pharmacy school was a 3.38 cumulative and a 3.26 science GPA.
Note: Admission prerequisites vary by institution. Some schools will not accept AP credit for prerequisites. Check requirements carefully!
Biology: Bio 161, 162, plus one additional course, check with each school
Note: Engineering & Physical Science majors should enroll in Chem 124, 125, 126
Note: Biochemistry & Chemistry majors should enroll in Chem 216, 217/221, 218/324
Biochemistry: Chem 371
Note: Bio, Bchm, Mcro, and Msci majors should enroll in Mcro 224
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, 133
Psychology: Psy 201 or 202
Economics: Econ 221 or 222
English: 2-3 quarters (requirements vary by school)
CA Pharmacy Schools
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.