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What is Pharmacy?

Pharmacy is one of the most accessible health care professions. Pharmacists go through extensive training to become medication experts in order to provide patient care and therapeutic interventions in a multitude of settings. The pharmacy field has advanced throughout the years and there are numerous career paths within the profession. Clinical rotations are part of the PharmD curriculum and allow current students to explore various specialties. These career paths include Ambulatory Care, Cardiology, Community Care, Compounding, Emergency Medicine, Geriatric Care, Hospital, Infectious Disease, Nuclear, Industry, Poison Control, Psychiatry, Veterinary, etc. Learn more about each of these career paths here. These direct interventions contribute to optimal patient-care outcomes, as well as reducing the strain and costs to the healthcare system. Be sure to check out the Additional Resources section below and visit the governing bodies’ home page for selected specialties.

Pharmacists are responsible for a variety of tasks, such as: 

  • Ensuring the safety and appropriateness of medication therapies prescribed to patients.

  • Providing education and counseling for patients on the use of prescribed and over-the-counter medications  

  • Collaborating with other members of the healthcare team in order to provide recommendations on drug decisions and improve patient outcomes

Things to Consider When Searching for a Pharmacy School:

Doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD) Program Search:

  • Diversity:

    • Although numerous PharmD programs will emphasize diversity and inclusion, it is important to understand what that means. During your search of PharmD programs, don’t be afraid to ask “what does diversity look like within this program?”, “what efforts has this program made in the last 5 years to show their commitment to a diversified student body and administration?”, “what resources are in place to maintain a diverse academic environment, both inside and outside of the classroom (workshops/ lectures on diversity-related topics, community outreach, clinical rotations, inter- and intra-disciplinary collaborations, etc.)?” Students often forget that while programs are assessing whether you are a good fit for them, it is equally as important for YOU to assess whether the program is a good fit for you. PharmD is a rigorous program, so make sure that you are selecting a program that is committed to your success, supports you, and provides you with the resources and tools you need for retention.

  • Dual-Degree Opportunities:

    • Various pharmacy programs offer collaborative dual-degree opportunities for students interested in diversifying their training. These combined degree programs usually allow PharmD students to complete an additional degree at a lower cost and in a shorter duration. The most common dual-degree programs offered by pharmacy schools include PharmD/MBA (Master of Business Administration), PharmD/MPH (Master of Public Health), PharmD/Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy in pharmaceutical sciences). The following is a compilation of 2019-2020 pharmacy institutions and the dual-degree programs offered.  

  • Cost:

    • Significant factors to consider in regards to cost include expected tuition increase based on the yearly budget, scholarship opportunities, as well as living expenses and cost of living. Some institutions offer the opportunity for out-of-state students to request state residency status for “tuition purposes” based on specific criteria—you can find out more about this from the school’s Office of Registrar. Being able to obtain state residency for “tuition purposes” allows students to pay in-state tuition rates. Find out about this opportunity as early as you can during your search, as the eligibility requirements can be strict. Furthermore, check out the Financial Aid & Scholarships section below. 

  • Other Factors:

    • It is also important to explore the structure of the curriculum, national ranking, accreditation, and class-size. In addition to the program overview, the program’s website may also have a student ambassador-run blog addressing various topics for prospective students. Questions to consider in evaluating program curriculum:

      • Does the curriculum seem innovative and/or progressive? When was the last time there was a change in curriculum?

        • Do you prefer traditional lectures, online learning, break-out workshops, case studies, or another method? Does this curriculum offer a learning style that works for you? (Keep in mind that your learning style may change throughout pharmacy school, as this is a rigorous program.)

          • Do you prefer to work/study independently or to work with classmates on projects? (Programs aim to distribute learning evenly among both methods, but ultimately utilize one more than the other at various stages in the curriculum.)

Things to Consider

Tips for Prospective Students

Tips for Prospective Students
  • Being a Strong Applicant: 

    • PCAT Prep: While there are numerous prep materials, Dr. Collins PCAT Prep Class is a great study tool—the practice questions are very similar to the actual PCAT, and the information is presented concisely. Some of the practice questions can also be found on Quizlet. 

    • While PCAT scores and GPA are important factors, being a well-rounded applicant plays a more significant role (community involvement, extracurricular activities, work, and life experiences, in addition to academics). 

    • Letters of Recommendation (LORs): Having STRONG LORs is important—the content of your LOR is just as important, if not more than the title of your reference. Be sure that your references can advocate for you strongly and positively speak to your experiences.

    • Pharmacy Experience: While having previous experience as a pharmacy technician is preferred, it does not exclude you as an applicant. Shadowing in various pharmacy disciplines is another option to gain experience, make sure that these are experiences you can confidently speak to (bonus if you can shadow over an extended period of time to build a network). The takeaway here is that interviewers want to see that you have explored the profession to make an informed decision and you are motivated to pursue a pharmacy degree program. 

    • Social Media: Be mindful of how you utilize social media. Believe it or not, programs do check sometimes. If you use your social media to follow pharmacy-related accounts and wish to engage with them, be sure to keep it professional (this includes current students, organizations/associations, official program accounts, etc). 

      • Dose of Melanin is a social media platform highlighting Black pharmacists and student pharmacists. 

    • Be Informed About the Profession: There are various ways to be informed—this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to know everything pharmacy. Ultimately you should keep up with topics that interest you and “hot” topics in the profession. Some podcast suggestions are listed below:  

      • Brown Skin Stories: highlights Black Women Pharmacists practicing in various fields of pharmacy (Season 2 focuses on the field pharmacy)

      • Pharmacy to Dose: discusses various topics related to Critical Care Pharmacy

      • Talk to Your Pharmacist: presents current healthcare topics and leadership stories from industry leaders

      • TED Talks related to pharmacy 

Financial Aid &  Scholarships

  • The College of Pharmacy’s financial aid office is often the best resource for inquiries about loans, grant, and scholarship programs. Pharmacy colleges may offer scholarships provided by local or state pharmaceutical associations, practicing pharmacists, drug manufacturers, and wholesalers, memorial funds and foundations, alumni associations, etc.

  • Furthermore, you can independently search to find if individual drug manufacturers, insurance companies, and pharmacy associations offer scholarships, internships, or other forms of financial aid.

  • Top Degrees Online is another great resource; this is a list of 25 scholarships available to current pharmacy students.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

Additional Resources

Additional Resorces
  • Pharmacy is Right for Me: an educational campaign that aims to inspire and foster the next generation of pharmacy leaders in the United States. Provides interactive tools, resources, and first-person testimonials that give insight into the exciting and diverse career opportunities that exist within the field of pharmacy

  • National Pharmaceutical Association (NPhA)

  • Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP)

  • American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)

  • American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP)

  • American Pharmacists Association (APhA)

  • American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)

  • College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP)

  • National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA)

  • Society of Infectious Diseases Pharmacists (SIDP)

Contributions by: Sawada Nageye, PharmD and Ariana Chambers, PharmD

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