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The pharmacist is a professional specialist in the science of drugs who possesses comprehensive knowledge of all medications.

Some areas of knowledge include:

  • chemical and physical properties of drugs
  • the composition, manufacture and uses of pharmaceuticals
  • the effect of drugs on the normal and the sick body

Job duties include

  • educating patients about prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • advising other health care professionals on drug decisions for patients
  • providing expertise about the composition of drugs, including chemical, biological and physical properties, as well as usage
  • ensuring drug purity and strength
  • ensuring drugs do not interact in a harmful way

Although the pharmacist's role has traditionally been linked to the dispensing of prescriptions, increased technology and improved healthcare delivery have opened up new careers in addition to the retail pharmacy for licensed pharmacists.

Mirroring trends in other health sciences, curricula in pharmacy schools have moved from an emphasis on drug information to a more holistic approach that emphasizes the application of this knowledge to the care of patients.

Other pharmacy careers that are open to licensed pharmacists include an academic pharmacy, consulting pharmacy, government agencies, hospice and home care, hospital and institutional practice, long-term care, managed care pharmacy, medical and scientific publishing, the pharmaceutical industry, trade and professional associations and public health service.

Pharmacy Education

The minimum educational requirement for licensure as a pharmacist is a doctor of pharmacy, or pharm.d., a degree from an accredited school of pharmacy. This is typically a three- or four-year program. To take the state licensing exam, one must complete the minimum educational requirements.

Types of Programs

The pharm.d. program requires a minimum of two years pre-professional study plus three to four years of professional study and includes training in different settings of pharmacy. A pharm.d. is necessary for administrative work, research and college teaching.

PharmD Programs

There are currently eleven pharmacy schools in California. Any student may enter the program with or without a baccalaureate degree provided they have completed the minimum units of coursework required at an undergraduate institution before beginning the pharmacy program.

However, statistics show a significantly higher percentage of acceptance for students with baccalaureate degrees.

Some out-of-state pharm.d. programs require a Bachelor's of Science in pharmacy for entry. Please see the school’s website for further information.

Master's and Doctoral Programs

These advanced-degree programs require undergraduate degrees before admission, but it need not be in pharmacy. These graduate degrees are research degrees and do not qualify the graduate to be a licensed pharmacy practitioner unless the student possesses a Bachelor's of Science in pharmacy or a pharm.d. degree as well.

Joint-Degree Programs

Some pharmacy schools offer joint-degree programs to allow pharmacy students to expand their knowledge in management, research, law or public health while pursuing their pharm.d. degree.

Examples of the joint degree programs are pharm.d./Ph.D.; pharm.d./Master's of Science; pharm.d./Master's of Business Administration; pharm.d./Doctorate of Jurisprudence; and pharm.d./professional certificate programs.

Please see the Pharmacy School List Handout and check out each school's website for available programs provided.

Basic Requirements for All Pharmacy Schools


One year of general chemistry w/lab CHEM 2 – General Chemistry I (includes lab) and
CHEM 10 – General Chemistry II (includes lab)
One year of organic chemistry CHEM 8/L – Principles of Organic Chemistry with lab and
CHEM 100 – Organic Synthesis and Mechanism with
CHEM 100L – Organic Chemistry lab
One year of biology with lab

Effective Fall 2023:
BIO 11/11L - Introduction to Molecular Biology (with lab) and
BIO 12/12L - Introduction to Introduction to Organismal Biology (with lab)

Prior to Fall 2023:
BIO 1/L –  Contemporary Biology (must take lab) and
BIO 2/L – Introduction to Molecular Biology (must take lab)

One year of physics PHYS 8 – Principles of Physics I or
PHYS 18 – Principles of Physics I for Biological Sciences
PHYS 9 – Introductory Physics II or
PHYS 19 – Introductory Physics II for Biological Sciences
One year of calculus MATH 21 – Calculus I for Physical Sciences and Engineering and
MATH 22 – Calculus II for Physical Sciences and Engineering or
MATH 11 – Calculus I for Biological Sciences and
MATH 12 - Calculus II for Biological Sciences

Additional Required Courses


Upper-division biological science BIO 101 – Biochemistry I
BIO 120 and 120L – General Microbiology
BIO 161 – Human Physiology
BIO 164 – Human Anatomy^
One year of English WRI 10 – College Reading and Composition and
WRI 100 – Advanced Writing or
WRI 116 – Science Writing in Natural Sciences
One semester of anthropology, psychology or sociology ANTH 1 – Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology or
PSY 1 – Introduction to Psychology or
SOC 1 – Introduction to Sociology
One semester of economics ECON 1 – Introduction to Economics
One semester of public speaking No course available at UC Merced (see the pre-health advisor for assistance)

^Course currently unavailable at UC Merced. May be taken at community college.  Check with intended schools for more information.

Course requirements vary from school to school. You should refer to the individual school catalogs and/or websites for specific information.

Each school of pharmacy has its specific requirements and deadlines, which are subject to change from year to year.

It is each applicant's responsibility to determine the requirements of the school(s) of his/her choice and to fulfill these requirements before the projected date of entrance. Check each school’s website for applications and deadlines.

It is imperative to apply in a timely manner. If a student applies to more than one pharmacy school with different application deadlines, he/she must arrange to complete the application and send the transcripts by the earliest deadline established by the selected pharmacy institutions.

GPA Calculator 

Professional and graduate schools, and the application services they use, expect you to report all attempted classes as part of your overall GPA calculation. Please refer to the "course work" sections of the instruction manuals -- available below -- for how to accurately compute your Math-Science or Science GPA and overall GPA based on your professional goals.

PharmCAS for applicants to Pharmacy Schools:

  • Overall Cumulative GPA:  Combined Undergraduate, Graduate, and Professional Study
  • Course Subject GPAs:   Biochemistry, Biology, Inorganic Chemistry, Math, Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, Other Science, Physics, and Social Science
  • GPAs by Academic Status:   Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, Post-BS, Graduate, and Professional
  • College/University GPA:  Separate GPA for college/university attended based on PharmCAS GPA calculation rules.

Work Experience

Although not specifically required, it is strongly recommended that each pharmacy school applicant have some exposure to the field of pharmacy, especially when the school asks for a recommendation letter from a pharmacist. This exposure is important because it ensures that each individual is aware of what the pharmacy profession entails.

Students are encouraged to gain pharmacy experience as early as their freshman/sophomore years. Activities on and off campus are also strongly recommended. The Center for Career and Professional Advancement can assist with placements in local pharmacies and hospitals, and pre-pharmacy students can find volunteer or paid work in the community and/or with a practicing pharmacist on his/her own.


PharmCAS is a centralized application process that allows students to apply for multiple pharmacy schools with a single application, although not all pharmacy schools participate in PharmCAS. If the schools you are applying to participate in PharmCAS, you will send all of your undergraduate schools’ transcripts there as well as your letters of reference (depending on the pharmacy school’s instructions). For more information be sure to visit the PharmCAS website.

Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)

The PCAT is designed to measure general academic ability and scientific knowledge. The examination includes verbal and quantitative ability, biology, chemistry and reading comprehension. California schools do not require the PCAT, but more than half of the out-of-state pharmacy schools do.

Letters of Reference

Most pharmacy schools require that each applicant send two or three letters of recommendation. It is advisable that one letter be from a pharmacist, preferably one with whom you have worked. The others should be from science professors and/or former employers.

Useful Resources