Pre-Pharmacy FAQs

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**2019 Update of Frequently Asked Questions to Prepare Pre-Pharmacy Students for Admission and Familiarization with the Application Process**

Deciding if Pharmacy is the Career Path for You: (Statistics) -

What does it take to become a pharmacist?

What practice areas will I be able to choose from if I decide to become a pharmacist?

How can I get work experience in a pharmacy?

What should I do if I am interested in job shadowing?

How much money do pharmacists make? (Note hourly vs salary has significant differences)

Choosing Which Pharm.D. Schools to Apply To

Which schools offer the Pharm.D.? (As of July 2019)

Which schools offer 3-year Pharm.D. programs?

Appalachian College of Pharmacy
Chapman University School of Pharmacy
Duquesne University School of Pharmacy
Ferris State University College of Pharmacy
Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine School of Pharmacy
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences – Manchester
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences – Worcester
Midwestern University College of Pharmacy-Glendale
Pacific University School of Pharmacy
University of the Pacific Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy
University of Saint Joseph School of Pharmacy
South College School of Pharmacy
South University School of Pharmacy
Sullivan University College of Pharmacy

Which schools offer 6-year Pharm.D. programs?

What are the prerequisites at different schools? (Use this School Locator for up to date requirements)

What is the "best" pharmacy school?

Are there any online Pharm.D. programs?

How much do different schools cost to attend? (Constantly Check-up between each term / semester)

Is there a list of NAPLEX Passing Rates for the various schools of pharmacy?

MPJE Passing Rates

Preparing to Apply

What factors do pharmacy schools consider in the admissions process? (Be Familiar with the PharmCAS Application Portal)

What Schools Require No PCAT? (As of 2018)

California Northstate University
Findlay (OH)
Idaho State

Keck Graduate Institute
Lebanese American University (Lebanon)
Loma Linda (CA)
Manchester University (IN)

Marshall B. Ketchum University

Northeastern University- Massachusetts
Ohio Northern
Oregon State
Purdue University (IN)
Rhode Island University
Rutgers (NJ)
South Dakota State

South Georgia State College
St. John’s University (MA)
Touro University (CA)
Touro University (NY)
University of California-San Diego
University of California–San Francisco
University of Southern California
University of the Pacific (CA)

Washington State University
West Coast University
Western University of Health Sciences
Western University of Health Sciences (CA)

The Application Process

Login to PharmCAS portal and look through requirements put out by pharmacy programs

Drug and Medical References:



Top 200 Drugs of 2019 Stats:

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Getting Pharmacy Work Experience:

You are most likely to find entry level work experience in a retail or hospital setting. In some states you may be able to find employment as a pharmacy technician without prior experience or schooling. In other areas, schooling or on the job experience may be required. In those areas you are most likely to begin as a cashier or pharmacy assistant. Matching up with an employer is often a matter of luck.

When looking for a hospital pharmacy position you will often deal directly with a personnel department and all open positions will be made public. Calling the hospital personnel department or the pharmacy department secretary is often the best way to find out if a position is open or anticipated. Volunteering is in a hospital pharmacy sometimes a good way to move into paid position.

To find out who is hiring for retail positions in your area you can call or drop by stores that you are interested in. Calling is often the most efficient way to sort through potential employment sites. Be sure to ask for the pharmacy manager, as they do the hiring and may be open to a new employee but not actively looking. To create a positive first impression, avoid calling during busy times such as just after opening or the midafternoon to early evening. If you drop by to pick up an application, be sure to dress as you would for a job interview and to be prepared with a resume. It is a good idea to go out in the late morning to early afternoon to increase the chances that you will meet the pharmacy manager and to avoid stressing the staff by coming during a busy time.

When you speak to a potential employer, mentioning that you are interested in eventually attending pharmacy school can give you an advantage over other candidates. Many employers are interested in developing positive relationships with potential pharmacy students, in the hopes that they will eventually become pharmacists with their company. Other times, employers may prefer someone who does not anticipate leaving for school. It is best to be up front about your ambitions, especially if you plan on asking your employer for a letter of reference during the application process.
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Graduates of today's Pharm.D. programs have numerous practice areas to choose from. Below are some career guides and descriptions of practice areas to help you explore your options within the field. Some specialties may require additional training.

Career guides:
Pfizer Career Pharmacy Career Guide (requires Adobe Reader)
Becoming a Pharmacist: Career Opportunities for Pharmacists
(presented by Purdue University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences)
Pharmacy Career Options presented by The University of Charleston (requires Adobe Reader)

Specific practice sites and specialties:
Academia...more ... and more ... and even more
Ambulatory Care ... and more
Association Management
Clinical Pharmacy ... more ... and more
Chain Community Pharmacy (Management)
Chain Community Pharmacy (Staff)
Community Health Center
Community Pharmacy (Independent)
Compounding ... and more
Contract Research Organization
Corporate Management
Critical Care
Drug Information ... more
Home Care
Home Health
Hospice... and more
Hospital (Overview)
Hospital (Staff) ... more
Hospital (Management)
Infectious Disease ... more
Intensive Care
Long Term Care
Managed Care ... and more
Mail Service
Medical Science Liaison
Neonatal Intensive Care
Nuclear Pharmacy ... more
Nutrition Support
Oncology... more
Operating Room
Pediatric Oncology
Pharmacy Benefit Management
Poison Control
Primary Care
Psychiatric Pharmacy
Research and Development
Public Health Services Commissioned Corps
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The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) does not endorse any pharmacy school rankings, as a matter of policy. School rankings based on the opinions of academic professionals can be found on US News & World Report.

It is important to keep in mind that is no single school that will be "best" for everyone. All accredited pharmacy schools will enable you to pursue a variety of pharmacy career paths. You must decide which school is the best fit for you.

Factors that may influence your choice of school include:
*Class size
*Cost of attendance
*Curriculum (certification programs, dual degree programs, available electives)
*Location (residency, desirability)
*Networking potential
*Personal impression of the school
*Prerequisites required
*Program length
*Transfer student acceptance
*Where recent graduates of the school are being hired
*Your likelihood of receiving an offer of admission

AACP and allows you to search and compare pharmacy programs.
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Schools may consider the following factors during the application process:

*Academic rigor
*Extra curricular activities
*GPA (overall, prerequisite, or both)
*Interview quality
*PCAT score
*Personal motivation for pursuing pharmacy
*Pharmacy experience
*Prerequisites complete or planned for completion
*Recent academic performance
*Research opportunities
*Special achievements
*Volunteer work

Extenuating circumstances may also be considered by some institutions.
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Extracurricular activities that can help you to become a competitive applicant include:

*Club/organization membership or leadership (academic, community service, social, etc)
*Community education programs
*Cultural activities
*Forum membership (Go SDN!)
*Musical performance
*Political activism
*Professional organizations
*Unique experiences or attributes
*Volunteer work (especially in a pharmacy or medical setting)
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Currently, no schools require pharmacy work experience as a condition of acceptance. However, work experience can give you unique insights into the field and increase the competitiveness of your pharmacy school application. If you choose to apply to a pharmacy school without pharmacy experience you simply need to be prepared to explain why you have chosen and committed to pursuing pharmacy as a profession.
Be sure to register on time. Test dates, locations and deadlines can be found on

To get a feel for the PCAT, you can take the PCAT practice test. The test is online, half the length of the PCAT, and requires a fee.

Many people do not finish the math portion of the exam. Practice until you are able to do simple math problems (decimals, fractions, ratios, etc.) very quickly.

To increase your vocabulary score, you might try memorizing the GRE top 200 words list, or studying Latin and Greek word roots.

Helpful study guides include:
Kaplan PCAT - very highly recommended
Barron's PCAT
Master the PCAT by Peterson's
The Princeton Review
Crack the PCAT (Dr Collins) - very highly recommended
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Many students are offered admission to a Pharm.D. program before completing their prerequisite coursework. Acceptance is conditional, meaning that all required coursework must be completed with satisfactory grades according to school policy, generally prior to your first professional year. Your school will tell you what grades you must achieve in each remaining course to retain your offer of admission.

Whether or not you choose to apply before completing your prerequisites depends on whether you feel that the grades you will receive in the remaining coursework are necessary to make you a competitive applicant. If you are relying on your remaining prerequisites to raise your GPA to a competitive level, you are not likely to be admitted before you have proven yourself academically. If you feel that you have a competitive application despite the remaining prerequisites, there is no advantage in waiting to apply.
PharmCAS is a centralized application service which allows applicants to submit the same basic information, transcripts, and test scores to multiple schools. The service charges a fee based on the number of schools being applied to through PharmCAS. Participating schools may also require a supplemental application and separate application fee.

Schools not utilizing PharmCAS must be contacted individually for application information.
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Selecting good references is a critical part of the application process. Generally, your references will be academic (professors) or professional (pharmacists). When your recommendation is considered by a school, more than the strength of the recommendation is considered.

Your relationship to the recommender is key. An impersonal recommendation from a prestigious professor you had for a single course is not likely to go as far as a well thought out, sincere letter from a professor who worked with you closely for an entire year at a community college. Be sure to pick the people who you feel are most strongly connected to you.

Even a well qualified candidate needs to take steps to ensure that his or her references have the material necessary to author strong a letter of recommendation. At the bare minimum, you should provide a resume/CV and a copy of a letter of intent or admissions essay to each reference. Ideally, you will sit down for ten to fifteen minutes and discuss your motivations, areas of interest, activities, achievements, personal values, and other qualifications. A letter from a well informed reference will strengthen your application by supporting the assertations in your personal statement.

It is best to choose references and request letters early in the application process. Etiquette dictates that you give each reference at least one month to write your letter. You should provide the recommender with a stamped pre-addressed envelope in which to mail your recommendation. You can also provide each reference with a stamped post card addressed to yourself to be mailed with the recommendation. Asking for the letter to be completed by a specific date earlier than the due date is also advisable.
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Potential components:
*Attributes that will help you succeed in pharmacy
*Areas of interest within the profession
*Discussion of prior extenuating circumstances (this can be deferred to the interview)
*Unique or special attributes that make you an asset to the field
*What motivates you to pursue pharmacy

Things to do:
*Answer the prompt completely
*Be enthusiastic
*Be memorable
*Be positive
*Exercise good communication skills
*Explain why you are an excellent candidate
*Have at least two people read your essay and give you feedback
*Make a formal statement of your goal to pursue pharmacy as a career
*Show your personality
*Write formally

Things to avoid:
*Assuming that the reader is familiar with the rest of your application
*Beginning multiple sentences with "I"
*Content out of the scope of the prompt
*Grammatical errors
*More than one topic per paragraph
*Negativity of any sort
*Obvious exaggeration
*Parentheses, except when defining an acronym that will be commonly used
*Repeating the same phrase
*Spelling errors
*Unconventional punctuation
*Undefined acronyms
*Wishy-washiness (i.e.: saying "I believe/think/feel that I am an excellent candidate because... " when you should say " I am an excellent candidate because...")

Your personal statement should be proofread and critiqued before submission. You should check and correct the spelling and grammar in your statement before asking others to read it. Aside from being courteous, this preparation allows those critiquing your essay to focus on content and style rather than basic writing skills.

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The Pharmacy School Interview Feedback Page contains information on the interview experiences of other SDN members. You can find out students' impressions of the school, the style, length, and stress level of interview, the number of interviewers, memorable interview questions, and more.

In general, you can expect to sit down with one or more interviewers and be asked a series of pre-determined questions designed to assess your value as a candidate for admission. Questions generally focus on your goals and interests, experiences, and opinions. Scenario questions are also used to assess your problem solving skills and values. A list of common interview questions can be found on the website of The Ohio State University and also in this thread. A business suit is the recommended attire for both women and men, although a dress shirt and slacks can be worn instead. Some schools may also ask you to write a brief essay during the interview.

You may find the interview tips on the Pharmacy Times website to be helpful, although they are aimed at Pharm.D. graduates.
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Your pharmacy school will require you to provide documentation showing that you are adequately immunized and to complete any missing vaccinations as a condition of entry to your professional program. As a healthcare professional, you will be exposed to individuals suffering from infectious diseases. It is important that you be adequately immunized, not only for your own safety, but to preserve the health of your patients and co-workers. Because immunization requirements have changed over the years, and because immunity can wane, the childhood vaccinations which you received may not be adequate.
A Curriculum Vitae (CV) is similar to a resume, but more comprehensive. A CV essentially catalogs every aspect of your entire professional experience, with no time constraints. You will most likely be expected to provide a CV when applying for a position as a pharmacist. Although many pharmacy internships may not require a CV, submitting one may enhance your chances of being selected for the position.

Because a CV is such a comprehensive document, it is important to establish a CV now and add your experiences as they occur. Keep your CV current by updating it every few months. After a 25 year career, it is not uncommon for the document to span many pages. Your lifetime professional experience is not abridged in a CV.

Basic sections include:
*Name and contact information
*Goals statement/Career objectives
*Professional certifications and licensure
*Professional work history
*Professional organization membership
*References (optional)

Sections to be included if applicable include:
*Leadership roles
*Committee membership
*Publications authored or edited
*Presentations given at professional meetings or other gatherings
*University affiliation (ie: adjunct faculty status)

Sections specific to current pharmacy students include:
*Conference attendance
*Extracurricular activities not covered above

Recent experiences should generally be catalogued in a linear fashion with the most recent experience at the top of the document. Work history can alternatively be sorted by skill type. However, unless your employment history has large gaps, this approach is not recommended.

Important information should be located earliest in the document. Basic sections, with the exception of references, are generally included before the work history, while other sections typically follow the work history. References are always the final portion of the document. While you may choose to include full contact information for your references, it may be adviseable to simply note that "references are available upon request". This strategy allows you to know who will be contacting your references, so that you can advise them ahead of time. Some prefer not to include references on their CV.

Care should be taken to make your CV clear and concise. Formatting should be performed in a manner so that section headers can be located easily and pertinent information can be read with minimal effort. Short sentences, indentation, and bulleted items can increase reading ease. Use of bullets should be sparse.

Typeface differences, case, and text layout are used to distinguish sections. Underlining section headers is not necessary. Sans-serif fonts (non-footed) such as Arial, Helvetica, or Verdana are ideal for section headers. Bold font can be used in headers, if desired. Serif fonts (footed) font such as Times New Roman or Garamond are ideal for section content. It is best to avoid monospace, script, or decorative fonts, as they distract from the content of your CV.

The document should be printed in black and white on a quality grade of plain white or off-white paper. To remove the underline and color from a web address, place the cursor after the last character of the address and hit the backspace key one time to deactivate the hyperlink. Only if you are submitting an electronic CV should you leave the hyperlinks active.

Be sure to check for spelling errors both electronically and manually.

A cover letter should nearly always be submitted along with your CV. The exception would be when you distribute your CV to many different potential employers at a job fair and have no opportunity to prepare a cover letter. If you are invited for an interview after a job fair, bring another copy of your CV to the interview, along with a position specific cover letter.
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References to additional Membership / Subscription Manuals to better assist in Therapeutic Management and Drug Write-ups:

American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (ASHP membership required for full text)
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
Facts & Comparisons (subscription required)
HIV Drugs
Hospital Pharmacy Journal
MD Consult (subscription required)
Medscape (free subscription required)
The Merck Manual
New England Journal of Medicine
Orange Book
Pharmacotherapy (Journal)
Pharmacy and Therapeutics (P&T) Journal
The Pink Book
StatREF! (subscription required)
UptoDate Online (subscription required)
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In the event that you are not accepted to a school of pharmacy the first time you apply, there are many things you can do to improve your chances when reapplying for the following cycle. Below is a list of suggestions that you could use in order to improve your competitiveness.

- Reapply early! This is one of the most important things you can do when reapplying. Many schools have rolling admissions, so the earlier your application and supplemental materials are in, the sooner your application is reviewed and the less competition you have.

- Contact the school(s) to which you applied. Ask questions as to why you weren't accepted and how you can improve your application.

- Take more classes. If you only have the bare minimum prerequisites completed, continue to work on a bachelor's degree. Take upper-level science and math courses to show that you are capable of successfully completing more challenging coursework.

- If you have any C's, D's, or F's on your record, retake those classes. Depending on the school(s) to which you apply, one of two things could occur by doing this: 1) the school will average the lower grade with the retake, or 2) the school will replace the lower grade with the higher one. Either way, your GPA will improve.

- Try to gain pharmacy experience if you are lacking it. You can either apply for a job as a technician, volunteer at a pharmacy, or shadow a pharmacist. Any way you go about it, you can't be wrong in having pharmacy experience.

- Apply to more schools. This, theoretically, increases your chances of being interviewed and subsequently being accepted. Be prepared, however, that applying to more schools does increase the potential to receive more interview invitations, so it's best to only apply to places to which you are willing and financially able to travel. Also, If you previously applied to school(s) that do not require the PCAT, plan on taking the PCAT in order to apply to more schools.

- If your PCAT score is not where you would like for it to be, retake the test. It is offered several times a year, and most schools take the better score for their evaluation.

- Increase your volunteering activities. Your volunteer experiences do not have to be pharmacy related. Many applicants have volunteering experiences from all across the board, from pharmacy to animal shelters to soup kitchens to tutoring. The important thing is to do something that you enjoy and fits into your schedule.

- In the case of being rejected after having an interview, or if you are just nervous about interviewing in general, practice! If you currently have a job, speak with your boss about interviewing tips. A pre-pharmacy advisor is another person that is helpful. Gather one or more of your friends and/or family members to engage in a mock interview. Some people benefit by taping a mock session and then critiquing it (either themselves or a third party) while watching it. Many applicants prepare by reading typical interview questions and formulating their own answers. And finally, some undergraduate schools offer a course on interviewing that can include tips on interviewing and even a mock interview.

- Practice writing essays. Most applications require some sort of essay, as do many interviews. The interview essays are generally timed, so practice writing under a time constraint. If it's been a while since you've written an essay, review the proper formats and techniques. Improvement in spelling or grammar skills, if needed, are always a plus.
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Declining an offer of admission:

For those of you accepted (& paid deposits) at multiple schools, how are you informing them of you declining your acceptance/matriculating to another pharmacy school?
Ideally you would send a signed letter to the school. You should do this as soon as possible, out of respect for other admission candidates.

Dear ____,

I am writing to inform you that I no longer plan on attending XYZ School/College of Pharmacy this fall, as I have recently been accepted to another program. Please feel free to release my spot in the class of 2015 to another candidate. I appreicate your offer of admission and understand that my previously paid deposit remains non-refundable.

Best Regards,

Your Name

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