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General Overview

Pharmacists actively engage in activities to maintain or improve health through medication services, immunizations, and clinical services.  Pharmacists must be fully acquainted with the physical and chemical properties of medications, biologicals and vaccinations.  This includes proper dosing, safety issues, interactions, side effects, and storage.   A pharmacist also serves as an information source for their patients and other medical practitioners about medications, vaccines, prescription insurance, and the laws that govern dispensing of medications.  They actively encourage their patients to comply with their medication therapy through counseling and monitor their therapy for medication adherence, interactions and duplications. 

Career options in pharmacy include academic pharmacy, community practice, government agencies, hospice and home care agencies, hospital and institutional practices, long term care, clinical practice, scientific research, at insurance companies and at mail-order pharmacies.

There are 141 colleges and universities offering accredited professional programs that lead to the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree and 1 additional program has pre-candidate status.  A student may also obtain additional certification by doing a residency, or completing a dual degree program.  Some schools offer a Master’s degree or a PhD in a specialized field such as Health System Pharmacy Administration, Medicinal Chemistry, Pharmaceutics, or Regulatory Affairs.

Pharmacy programs require at least two years of pre-professional (undergraduate) study followed by three to four years of professional study. Most pharmacy students complete three or more years of college before starting a pharmacy program. Some pharmacy schools give preference to students who have earned a bachelor’s degree. Requirements for admission vary. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) publishes annually an admission requirements guidebook entitled the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR). You can view concise information about unique features and important details related to admissions requirements and processes for schools through information provided by AACP. You can also find admission information published on each individual school’s website.  The requirements vary by school and each student is urged to be familiar with the requirements of the school/s that they wish to attend. 

Choosing a Major

Many pre-pharmacy students obtain a Bachelor of Science (B.S) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A) degree while completing the requirements for admission to pharmacy school.  Pharmacy schools do not require or prefer a particular undergraduate major, as long as applicants have completed the course requirements and demonstrated proficiency in Biology, Chemistry and Physics and Math as evidenced by their science GPA.

Pre-Pharmacy Coursework

Pre-Professional Health Advising has developed requirements for the Pre-Pharmacy Program based on the pre-requisite courses of 32 pharmacy schools in the District of Columbia and 8 states (CT, MA, MD, NC, NJ, NY, PA, and VA). The review of pre-requisite courses to develop the requirements for the Pre-Pharmacy Program below was completed in spring semester 2022. You should look at individual pharmacy schools' list of pre-requisites to assure completion of all pre-requisite coursework. Because these courses are pre-requisites to pharmacy programs, pharmacy school admissions committees will use your academic success in these courses as a metric of your ability to achieve success in pharmacy school.

If you have credit for any of the following courses by earning Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), Cambridge International Exam (CIE), community college credit, or departmental test credit, please read the Non-JMU Coursework for Pre-Requisite Coursework.

Biology Coursework (24 credits)

  • BIO 140 + 140L: Foundations of Biology I and Lab (4 credits)
  • BIO 150 + 150L: Foundations of Biology II and Lab (4 credits)
  • BIO 245 + 245L: Microbiology and Lab (4 credits)
  • BIO 290 + 290L: Human Anatomy and Lab (4 credits)
  • BIO 270 + 270L: Human Physiology and Lab (4 credits)

At least 4 credits of intermediate (200-level) and advanced (300- and 400-level) Biology coursework is strongly recommended to be a competitive applicant. Pre-Professional Health Advising strongly recommends students to complete at least one of the following courses: 

  • BIO 240 + 240L: Genetics and Lab (4 credits)
  • BIO 304: Cell & Molecular Biology (3 credits)
  • BIO 343 + 343L: Immunology and Lab (4 credits)
  • BIO 480: Molecular Biology (4 credits)

Chemistry Coursework (19 credits)

  • CHEM 131 + 131L: General Chemistry I and Lab (4 credits) 
  • CHEM 132 + 132L: General Chemistry II and Lab (4 credits)
  • CHEM 241: Organic Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242: Organic Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242L: Organic Chemistry Laboratory (2 credits) 
  • CHEM 361: Biochemistry I (3 credits)

Physics Coursework (8 credits)

  • PHYS 140*: College Physics I (3 credits) or PHYS 240: University Physics I (3 credits; Physics majors only)
  • PHYS 140L*: General Physics Laboratory I (1 credit) or PHYS 240L: University Physics I Lab (1 credit; Physics majors only)
  • PHYS 150*: College Physics II (3 credits) or PHYS 250: University Physics II (3 credits; Physics majors only)
  • PHYS 150L*: General Physics Laboratory II (1 credit) or PHYS 250L: University Physics II Lab (1 credit; Physics majors only)

* Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends that you take the PHYS 140-150/140L-150L sequence rather than the 240-250/240L-250L sequence, unless your major requires otherwise. The PHYS 140-150/140L-150L sequence is the non-calculus sequence in general physics. The 240-250/240L-250L sequence is the calculus sequence that requires MATH 235-236 as co-requisites, respectively. Because it is not the calculus sequence of Physics, PHYS 140-150/140L-150L is able to cover more breadth within Physics than the 240-250/240L-250L sequence.

Mathematics Coursework (6 credits)

Pre-Pharmacy students are required to complete 3 credits of a 200-level Calculus class and 3 credits of a 200- or 300-level Statistics. 

Calculus: There are four 200-level Calculus options at James Madison University. There are two calculus "pathways"; the 231-232 sequence, 233-234 sequence, and 235 prepare you for more advanced calculus courses. MATH 205 does not prepare you for more advanced calculus courses. Your ALEKS score may require that you take MATH 155 or 156: College Algebra beforehand, or that you take MATH 199: Algebra/Precalculus Gateway in conjunction with one of the following courses to be successful.

  • MATH 205: Introductory Calculus I (3 credits)
  • MATH 231: Calculus with Functions I (3 credits)
  • MATH 233E: A Modeling Approach to Calculus, Part A (3 credits)
  • MATH 235: Calculus I (4 credits)

Statistics: There are two statistics courses that Pre-Medicine students are encouraged to take at James Madison University. Your ALEKS score may require that you take MATH 105: Quantitative Literacy and Reasoning beforehand to be successful in these courses.

  • MATH 220: Elementary Statistics (3 credits)
  • MATH 229: Introduction to Applied Statistics Using R (3 credits)

Behavioral and Social Science Coursework (6 credits)

Pre-Pharmacy students must complete 3 credits of Psychology and 3 credits of Sociology. Students are encouraged to utilize opportunities to take Psychology and Sociology coursework that will also count for General Education's Cluster 4: The Global Experience and General Education's Cluster 5: Sociocultural Domain.

  • PSYC 101: General Psychology (3 credits)
  • PSYC 160: Life Span Human Development (3 credits)
  • SOCI 110: Social Issues in a Global Context (3 credits)
  • SOCI 140: Microsociology: Individual in Society (3 credits)

English, Literature, and Writing Coursework (9 credits)

Typically, students complete this requirement while completing General Education's Cluster 1: Writing and General Education's Cluster 2: Literature requirements. Courses that can fulfill the 6-credit pre-requisite that many pharmacy schools require can include:

  • WRTC 103: (3 credits)
  • any ENG course (3 credits)
  • HUM 200: (3 credits)

Public Speaking Coursework (3 credits)

Typically, students complete this requirement while completing General Education's Cluster 1: Human Communication

  • SCOM 121: Presentations (3 credits)
  • SCOM 122: Individual Presentations (3 credits)
  • SCOM 123: Group Presentations (3 credits)

Economics Coursework (3 credits)

  • ECON 201: Microeconomics, or
  • ECON 200: Macroeconomics
Admissions Criteria and Academic Record

Students will, as part of the application process, be asked to submit a transcript of all college/university course work. The overall grade point average (GPA), as well as the GPA in math and science courses, will often be used in the review of the application. Many pharmacy programs have a minimum GPA requirement to apply to their program. Please refer to individual program prerequisites for details.

Preparation Timeline

Most applications for pharmacy programs will need to be completed during the fall semester of the year the student is applying. Students should have a vast majority of the prerequisites completed by the time of application. Both the chemistry and physics requirements involve yearlong sequences. Students need to carefully plan each semester to ensure that all requirements can be met within the chosen time frame.

Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)

This test is offered in July, September, October, January, February and March/April.  It is only required by 10 pharmacy schools in the United States.  Other schools may require that a candidate take the test to boost their application or if the candidate has been out of school for over 5 years. The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) consists of the following content sections: Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension, Writing, Biology, Chemistry, Quantitative Reasoning.

PCAT Test Prep Resources

Source

Cost Level

Pearson

Free - Low

Mometrix Test Prep

Free - Low

Coursesaver

Low

PCAT Destroyer

Low

Crack the PCAT

Low - Mid

The PCAT Prep Class - Dr. Collins

Mid

NextStep Test Prep

Free - High

Kaplan Test Prep

Free - High

PharmCAS: Pharmacy College Application Service

The entire application process lasts approximately 12-14 months, which spans a full academic year. Whether you plan to apply immediately after your 3rd year, 4th year, or after graduation, this timeline begins with preparation in the fall prior to your application submission in late summer. 

PharmCAS opens each year in early to mid July. Although there are 5 regular degree program application deadlines from November to March, you should apply as early as possible due to the application verification process and rolling admission cycle. 

PharmCAS School Directory 

Gaining Experience

Pharmacy programs encourage or require applicants to have volunteer or paid experience working with patients in a pharmacy or health-related setting (hospital, nursing home, etc). Experience in a pharmacy setting will be an important factor in the admissions process and will demonstrate the student’s familiarity and dedication to the profession. Students are encouraged to begin acquiring this experience as soon as possible.

Letters of Recommendation or Evaluation

All pharmacy programs require the submission of letters of evaluation (LOE) as part of the application. Students should establish relationships with faculty within the university as well as with employers in a pharmaceutical work place setting, since letters of evaluation from a professor or health care professional are typically preferred over personal references.

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