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Requirements for Pharmacy School: What to Know Before You Apply

Published on: Nov 6, 2022
By: Hong Chen, PharmD
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As you begin researching the different pharmacy school pathways, one common question is: what are the course requirements needed to apply to a PharmD program?

The simple answer is that every school will have different requirements for pharmacy school regarding what an admissions committee wants its prospective students to have on their applications. One topic we mentioned in a previous article is the PCAT.

While many schools might not require students to take the Pharmacy College Admission Test anymore, taking it can provide a boost to the applicant’s profile. Some pharmacy schools may require that you only complete the minimum number of credit hours to be eligible, while others only look at students who have completed a bachelor’s degree. We’ll discuss the standard pre-pharmacy courses that admissions committees require of students when applying to schools.

(Just a note, this will be a broader view of this topic as many schools have similar course requirements for pharmacy school but differ in separate areas of their application process.)

During the research process, your best friend will be PharmCAS, a site that we have mentioned and referred to many times. While this site is used for the application process to over 130 pharmacy schools around the nation, it also provides the most up-to-date information on the school's application requirements, just not in full detail.

Your other resource to refer to would be the prospective pharmacy school’s website, as the individual pharmacy program requirements tend to change every few years. The admissions committee may be particular about prerequisite course eligibility.

Some pharmacy school programs, for instance, will only accept a human anatomy or physiology course, but the admissions committee will not accept a combined human anatomy/physiology course.

Before we dive too deep, high school students entering a 0-6-year pharmacy program will have their pre-pharmacy courses laid out for them. Students following a more traditional pathway will work with their academic counselor to create a plan that encompasses their degree requirements and the prerequisite requirements for pharmacy.

What Admissions Committees Look For

Our brains are trained to think of science when we think of pharmacy. Naturally, students who enjoy science-related courses (chemistry and biology) migrate toward the healthcare field or pursue a science degree. However, we aren’t here to say that to gain admission to a PharmD program, you must work towards a specific science degree. Admissions committees like to see a wide variety when reading through the pool of potential applicants. It’s safe to say that you can major in business or art history, and as long as the prerequisite pharmacy courses are taken, you will be considered.

If you are pursuing the minimum credit hours required to be eligible, the prerequisite courses are the only ones you need to take. The admission committee generally likes to see a well-rounded candidate with various academic and non-academic interests. Such a well-rounded student is best suited for success in the future intensive pharmacy education he or she will pursue.

Prior Coursework in Sciences

As previously mentioned, pharmacy programs want students to have a strong background in general science and, quite possibly, the advanced sciences before starting the pharmacy curriculum. When we think of “general sciences,” chemistry, biology, physics, and human physiology come to mind. General Chemistry, along with a lab portion, is an entry-level course that your university will offer. 

Many pharmacy schools will require taking the first and second levels of the general chemistry series. General biology is similar because you will likely take two semesters of the entry-level series and the lab portion. Depending on the pharmacy school, physics is generally only required for one semester, although some schools may want to see two semesters. Human physiology or human anatomy (depending on the school) is a general science course that pharmacy schools may require so that students understand the human body before learning how medications may affect the body. These general science courses may be like classes you completed in high school and are a refresher/intro to more advanced concepts not taught in high school.

Advanced science courses could encompass organic chemistry, microbiology, biochemistry, and pharmaceutical science. Organic chemistry and its lab portions are generally taken for two semesters. Organic chemistry, for those who may not know, is a branch of chemistry that focuses on organic compounds' structures, properties, and reactions. This will be a newer concept to students and thus can be a complicated subject to master, preparing you to understand the structures of drug molecules in pharmacy school. Microbiology, as the name suggests, focuses on microorganisms studied under a microscope, a more specific branch of biology. Many schools want students to take at least a semester of this course.

Biochemistry studies the different chemical processes that occur within living organisms. Many schools offer this as a specific course for certain health professions, such as pharmacy or nursing. A course in pharmaceutical science may be found in an undergraduate curriculum focused on a pre-pharmacy degree (similar to pre-medicine or pre-law).  It provides a broad-stroke overview of the discipline. Other pre-pharmacy coursework may include the history of pharmacy, pharmacy law, or pharmacy practice. Depending on your university, you may take the specific one, or the general course offered to all students. PharmD programs generally expect students to take one semester of this.

Remember that most of these are the general requirements of most pharmacy programs. If you would like to familiarize yourself with additional science requirements, you can check the pharmacy schools' own page or the PharmCAS directory.

Other Coursework

Outside of science courses, students must also meet other general prerequisite requirements. You might have thought that all this focus on the sciences may be enough. However, students need to be well-rounded in all aspects. We are discussing general understandings of English composition, mathematics, social science, etc. If you have taken advanced placement (AP) courses in high school and achieved a passing score on the exams, you could use those as a credit to cover most of these general courses.

This can allow you to focus more on the science courses that pharmacy admissions tend to look at more during the application process. Entry-level calculus, statistics, writing courses, humanities, history, public speaking courses, and social sciences are just some of these general prerequisites that may be required. Also, remember that some pharmacy schools may require a minimum credit hour for general elective courses, which could be courses that you find interesting during your time at university.

Closing Thoughts

As mentioned, you can use the PharmCAS website before the application process starts. Many students like to wait until then to look at what may be left in their required courses. Early research can help you gain an upper edge as you can plan out all the different courses you must complete. If you found a few pharmacy programs that you may want to apply to in the future, look at their respective websites, as well, as there may be information not listed on PharmCAS. 

portrait of Hong Chen

My name is Hong Kui Chen and I am a graduate of The Ohio State University Pharmacy Class of 2022. I am currently working as a clinical research associate at Medpace, Inc, a contract research organization based in Cincinnati, Ohio. My work mainly consists of traveling to various sites around the country and providing protocol training on new clinical trials or monitoring data. While I enjoyed the traditional pharmacy role of working in retail or hospital, I wanted to expand and pursue this non-traditional role to see how clinical trials operate. I have a passion for being able to impact patients in a grand scale and even though I don’t have the 1-on-1 patient interaction, the work that I do can have long lasting contributions to overall patient health. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on PharmDDegree.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer.

Education: Doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD), The Ohio State University
Knowledge: Clinical Pharmacy, Digital Health