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General Overview

Pharmaceutical care encompasses the full range of pharmacists' skills, knowledge, and ability in providing medication services to patients. Pharmacists must be fully acquainted with the physical and chemical properties of drugs and their mechanism of action within biological systems. Pharmacists often serve as educators in the proper use of drugs both for the public and health practitioners. The principal goal of pharmaceutical care is to achieve definite outcomes from medication use that improve patients' quality of life. Pharmacists are professionals committed to public service and the achievement of this goal. Career options in pharmacy include academic pharmacy, community practice, government agencies, hospice and home care, hospital and institutional practice, long-term care, consulting pharmacy, medical and scientific research, and uniformed (public health) services.

There are 119 colleges and universities offering accredited professional programs that lead to the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree; and additional 25 programs have candidate or pre-candidate status for accreditation. Pharmacy programs require at least two years of pre-professional (undergraduate) study followed by 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 that participate in PharmCAS through information provided by AACP.

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 have demonstrated proficiency in the sciences as evidenced by the science GPA and the scores on the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT)


Pre-Professional Health Advising has developed requirements for the Pre-Pharmacy Program based on the pre-requisite courses of 33 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 fall semester 2018. 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 below.

Biology Coursework

Students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Biology with labs. 94% of pharmacy schools required General Biology I as a pre-requisite; 67% of schools required General Biology II.

  • BIO 140: Foundations of Biology I (4 credits)
  • BIO 150: Foundations of Biology II (4 credits)

Microbiology is also a requirement, because 70% of pharmacy schools reviewed listed Microbiology as a requirement.

  • BIO 245: Microbiology (4 credits)

Human Anatomy and Human Physiology are also requirements for Pre-Pharmacy students. 67% of pharmacy schools required Anatomy, and 82% of these schools specified Human Anatomy. 73% of pharmacy schools required Physiology; 79% of these schools specified Human Physiology.

  • BIO 290: Human Anatomy (4 credits)
  • BIO 270: Human Physiology (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; therefore, it is required for the Pre-Pharmacy Program. Of pharmacy schools reviewed, Genetics, Immunology, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology are listed as strongly recommended or a requirement example. Therefore, when choosing 4 credit hours of intermediate and advanced Biology coursework, Pre-Professional Health Advising strongly recommends:

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

Chemistry Coursework

Pre-Pharmacy students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Chemistry with labs. 100% of the pharmacy schools reviewed listed 4 credits of General Chemistry I as a pre-requisite; 100% of pharmacy schools reviewed listed General Chemistry II as a pre-requisite.

  • CHEM 131: General Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 131L: General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit) or CHEM 135L: Special General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit; Chemistry majors only)
  • CHEM 132: General Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHEM 132L: General Chemistry Laboratory (1 credit) or CHEM 136L: Special General Chemistry
         Laboratory (1 credit; Chemistry majors only)

Students are also required to complete 8 credit hours of Organic Chemistry with lab. 100% of pharmacy schools reviewed listed Organic Chemistry I and II as a pre-requisite. 100% of pharmacy schools reviewed listed Organic Chemistry lab as a pre-requisite. Please notice, Pre-Pharmacy students do not take CHEM 241L (1 credit), because CHEM 242L is a 2-credit laboratory that covers Organic Chemistry I and II laboratory learning outcomes.

  • CHEM 241: Organic Chemistry I (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242: Organic Chemistry II (3 credits)
  • CHEM 242L: Organic Chemistry Laboratory (2 credits) or CHEM 287L and 288L: Integrated Inorganic/Organic
          Laboratories (4 credits; Chemistry majors only)

Students are required to complete 3 credits of Biochemistry, because 27% of pharmacy schools reviewed required Biochemistry. 13% of pharmacy schools also required a Biochemistry lab. At JMU, the Biochemistry lab to complete for Pre-Pharmacy students would be CHEM 366L (2 credits).

  • CHEM 361: Biochemistry I (3 credits)

Physics Coursework

Students are required to complete 8 credit hours of General Physics with labs. 90% of pharmacy schools reviewed listed Physics I as a pre-requisite. 73% of schools listed the Physics I lab as a pre-requisite. Additionally, 18% of pharmacy schools reviewed listed Physics II as a pre-requisite; 18% of schools listed the Physics II lab as a pre-requisite.

  • 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

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. There are two considerations when choosing appropriate calculus and statistics courses.

  1. Double-Counting with Other RequirementsRefer to major and minor requirements in the Undergraduate Catalog to determine if there are specific calculus or statistics courses required for your major or minor requirements. Most of these classes will fulfill General Education: Cluster 3: Quantitative Reasoning, but this may also be a consideration.
  2. Your Math Placement Exam (MPE) ScoresUtilize the MPE Matrix to determine the appropriate calculus and statistics courses to take. You can find your MPE for calculus and statistics within the Student Center of MyMadison. You can watch a video to learn how to find your MPE scores.

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 MPE - Calculus 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 MPE - Statistics 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 318: Introduction to Probability and Statistics (4 credits)

Behavioral and Social Science Coursework

Pre-Pharmacy students must complete 3 credits of Psychology and 3 credits of Sociology. 30% of pharmacy schools listed Psychology as a a pre-requisite requirement, recommendation, or requirement option. 27% specifically required General Psychology, therefore, Pre-Pharmacy students are required to take 3 credits of Psychology, and Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends General Psychology (PSYC 101) or Life Span Human Development (PSYC 160).

10% of pharmacy schools required Sociology coursework, and of those that required Sociology, 67% specify introductory Sociology. An additional 3% recommended Sociology, and 28% listed it as a requirement option. Therefore, Pre-Pharmacy students are required to take 3 credits of Sociology, and Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends Social Issues in a Global Context (SOCI 110) or Microsociology: Individual in Society (SOCI 140).

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

Pre-Pharmacy students must complete 6 credits of English, literature, or writing. 70% of pharmacy schools listed 6 credits of English as a pre-requisite, 15% listed 4 credits as a pre-requisite, and 16% listed 3 credits as a pre-requisite. 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

Pre-Pharmacy students are required to complete a public speaking course, because 64% of schools required 3 credits of public speaking as a pre-requisite. 

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

Economics Coursework

Pre-Pharmacy students are required to complete 3 credit hours of Economics coursework. 55% of schools required an Ecnomics course. An additional 15% of schools specifically required Microeconomics (ECON 201), and one school recommended it. Therefore, 3 credits of Economics is required, and Pre-Professional Health Advising recommends Microeconomics (ECON 201).

  • ECON 201: Microeconomics
  • 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.

Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)

More than 75 percent of all pharmacy programs require applicants to submit scores from the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). The six content areas measured by the PCAT include: verbal ability, biology, reading comprehension, quantitative ability, chemistry, and a written essay. Please refer to individual program requirements in the PSAT for any required alternate standardized tests. 

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 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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