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So You Want to Go to Pharmacy School

So, you've decided to become a pharmacist and you want to know how to move forward. Well, you've definitely come to the right place! We know how elusive online information can be when it comes to explaining the requirements you need to successfully enroll in pharmacy school. We promise this post won't be a boring block of useless information - and by the end of it, you'll be fully equipped with the info you need to fill out your admissions papers, study for the right exams, and find the right school. If you're prepared to take on a rewarding and well-paying job helping people, read on!  

Admission Requirements

To become a licensed pharmacist in the US, you need a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from an accredited school of pharmacy. This is a four-year degree. Most applicants to pharmacy school already have a Bachelor of Science degree in a related field, such as chemistry. Some students apply after finishing a shorter pre-pharmacy undergraduate program, which can be completed in two years.   When you find the pharmacy school of your choice, you'll have to fulfill their specific entrance requirements. It is important to note that while we'll tell you the basic entrance requirements, all schools have their own individual requirements and they may differ slightly from each other in key areas, so do your homework. Now with that being said, let's crack on:  

Applications

It goes without saying that any school you apply to will have an application to fill out for enrollment. This standard application requires information such as your personal details, school transcripts, and course choice. Before filling out the application, you should obtain a copy of the school's admission requirements, such as minimum grade point average, completion of pre-enrollment classes, reference letters, and ACT scores.  

The PCAT

Before you can sail through school and graduate with the title "Pharmacist," there is one very important test you have to pass, and this is the PCAT. The PCAT examination is used to determine whether you need additional classes before commencing pharmaceutical coursework. The PCAT tests information such as general knowledge (similar to the ACT and SAT) and scientific knowledge.  The school will tell you the registration dates and the location of the nearest PCAT testing center if they don't administer it themselves. You MUST bring two forms of I.D. and be on time!  

Pharmacy School Tuition Fees

The dreaded tuition talk. This is where things get slightly more somber, but the reward is a six-digit salary and the satisfaction of helping people understand their medications and treatment plans! So let's get into it. First, you can apply for grants and financial aid to assist you in gobbling up some of these fees for you, and we would highly suggest that. There is no real way to sail through pharmacy school for free, but if you can reduce the tuition fees each year, why not do that? The AACP lists pharmacy school tuition as follows:

First and Second year -  Between $20k and $40k each year (most schools are well below $40k)

Third Year - Between $16k and $38k (tuition getting lower, you can start drinking at Starbucks again).

Fourth Year - Between $6 and $38 (Huge difference in tuition depending on the location of the school at this point)

Post Grad - Between $698 and $750 per credit hour

M.S./Ph.D - Between $400 and $1000 per credit hour

Please remember that these are estimates and every school varies.  

Researching Schools

Now, when looking for a school to get your degree on, it's important to know that graduating from a researching school often lands you a job with a higher pay. It is also important to know that if you enroll in one of these schools, the fees and tuition are a bit higher, so be prepared to budget a bit. Before you decide on a school, research job placement rates for different pharmacy programs, and talk to an academic counselor.  

Pharmacists vs. Pharmacy Technicians

If you just want to work in pharmaceuticals, but not as a pharmacist, you can always work as a pharmacy technician. While pharmacy techs make less money ($28,400 per year), it is still a rewarding career option. Since a high school diploma is all that's needed to work as a pharmacy technician for some employers, this may be a good option for hands on training while attending school to become a full-fledged pharmacist.