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.
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.
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.
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||BIO 1/L – Contemporary Biology with lab and
BIO 2/L – Introduction to Molecular Biology with lab
|One year of physics||PHYS 8 – Principles of Physics I or
ICP 1B – Integrated Calculus and Physics: Physics 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.
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.
- California Health Sciences University College of Pharmacy
- California Northstate College of Pharmacy
- Chapman University - School of Pharmacy
- Keck Graduate Institute - School of Pharmacy
- Loma Linda University – School of Pharmacy
- Touro University – College of Pharmacy
- UC San Diego – Skaggs School of Pharmaceutical Sciences
- UC San Francisco – School of Pharmacy
- University of the Pacific – Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
- USC – School of Pharmacy
- Western University of Health Sciences – College of Pharmacy