Pharmacy

A career in pharmacy is much more than counting pills. Pharmacists provide pharmaceutical care to millions in patient-centered, outcome-driven settings. As a member of the total health care management team, the pharmacist is uniquely qualified and positioned to positively impact patient outcomes. 

With thousands of prescription and over-the-counter drugs being sold in the U.S., the pharmacy has evolved into a consultation center where patients learn more about their medications and ways to increase safety and effectiveness of treatments. 

Providing excellent care is further challenged by the fact that many patients take a variety of drugs and see several health care specialists, placing the pharmacist in the critical position to monitor and advise both patients and physicians.

Thinking about Pharmacy School?

Different Pharmacist positions

Pharmacists work in a wide range of settings. While the retail pharmacy may be the most familiar setting (65%), pharmacists also work in hospitals (22%), research facilities, home health care, compounding pharmacies, veterinary, mail order, government and nuclear pharmacy settings. The American Pharmacists Association provides Career Option Profiles which discuss not only the characteristics of each career setting, but also provide survey results from pharmacists about working conditions and duties. 

Pharmacist job outlook

The job outlook for pharmacists is expected to grow more slowly than other employment sectors and job prospects are expected to decline slightly according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of pharmacists is expected to grow 3% between 2014 and 2024. Median wages of pharmacists in May 2015 was $121,500, with 90% of pharmacists earning more than $86,790 per year. Demand will also grow for additional pharmacists in mail order settings, outpatient care centers, doctor offices, and nursing care facilities. 

The number of pharmacy schools has grown in recent years, creating more pharmacy school graduates and therefore more competition for jobs. Students who choose to complete a residency program gain additional experience that may improve their job prospects. Certification from the Board of Pharmacy Specialties or as a Certified Diabetes Educator may also be viewed favorably by employers.

Pharmacist job ranking

Pharmacists rank #23 in Best Health Care Jobs for 2017, #36 in The 100 Best Jobs for 2017, and #20 in Best Paying Jobs, according to the U.S. News & World Report, January 2017.

Talking with a Pharmacist

If you are thinking about Pharmacy School, one of your first steps should be talking to a pharmacist. In doing so, you will find that pharmacists travelled various paths to the profession. For instance, older pharmacists may have earned a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree rather than the current Doctor of Pharmacy degree. At many schools, including University of Texas, University of Houston, and Texas Southern University, students typically began their studies at the freshman level and were 'admitted' to the professional phase. Thus, while older pharmacists did not worry about choosing majors and other items related to the junior and senior years of college, they have decades more experience to share! Younger pharmacists did earn Pharm.D.s and may have broader experiences as a group. 

Many who are thinking about pharmacy are also considering other health care careers. The good news is that your observational or volunteer experience in one is also beneficial when looking at others. Keep a notebook or digital reference of all of your healthcare experiences, no matter how small. This will be invaluable when you become an applicant.

What should I major in?

Finally, at Texas A&M, over 80% of Aggies who attend Pharmacy School will have graduated from Texas A&M; therefore, you need to think about selecting the right major for your education. Pharmacy schools do not prefer one major over another when deciding whether to grant admission. Popular majors for pre-pharmacy at Texas A&M include: Biology Department majors, Biomedical Science, Biochemistry/Genetics, Chemistry, Health, Nutritional Sciences, and Psychology.

Research Pharmacy Schools

PharmCAS

Earning a Pharm.D. typically takes 4 academic years. Currently, an applicant can enter some pharmacy schools without a bachelor's degree, but this is slowly changing. Most Aggies entering pharmacy school have at least 3 years of undergraduate study, and over 83% have a bachelor's degree. 

A good source for information about all U.S. Pharmacy Schools is the Pharamcy College Application Service website, known as Pharmcas. In the school directory, you can look for schools which meet your needs. This directory contains a wealth of information about accreditation status, prerequisite courses, costs, supplemental applications, and deadlines. Each school will have its own section and includes information about program statitstics. Currently, there are 9 pharmacy schools in Texas and 143 schools in the U.S.

Prepare to Apply

Prerequisites

Pharmacy schools expect applicants to arrive with a solid foundation of both science courses and humanities. Most pharmacy schools require:

  • One year of Biology

  • One year of General Chemistry

  • One year of Organic Chemistry

  • One semester of Physics

  • One semester of Microbiology

  • One semester of Statistics

  • One semester of Calculus

  • One semester of Public Speaking

  • One to three semesters of upper-level biological sciences, such as Genetics, Anatomy and/or Physiology

  • One to three semesters of English, including literature

Please note that many schools have additional course requirements, such as Economics, Calculus II, Medical Terminology, or Biochemistry. Additionally, those planning to enter without a degree will need to be Core Curriculum Complete in Texas, and perhaps in other states as well.

If you are looking for course equivalencies for Texas colleges and schools of pharmacy, the 
Texas Common Course Numbering System can be very helpful. Remember, if you took a course at a community college or other university, you need to check under that school, NOT how Texas A&M transfers the course. ENGL 1302 is sometimes transferred to Texas A&M as a literature course, but it will generally NOT count as a sophomore literature course for most pharmacy schools.

Exposure to the Pharmacy Profession

As with any career field, the more exposure and experience you have, the better your outcomes. Unlike many other health professions, pharmacy observation and experiences requires more steps and procedures. Because of state and federal laws, pharmacies will generally not open their doors to students who wish to 'shadow' because of the liabilities. In fact, most national pharmacies have strict prohibitions to this. Hospitals also dislike accepting the risk of allowing you behind the counter.

Therefore, we strongly encourage any student interested in pharmacy to obtain their Pharmacy Technician License, which involves taking a national test from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), followed by submitting your application for a license to the Texas State Board of Pharmacy (TSBP) (or other state board).  This process takes several weeks, so plan well ahead. Many Aggies work in pharmacies as PharmTechs while they are undergraduates. The pay is above average for a part-time job and can help you decide if a career in pharmacy is right for you.

Texas A&M Faculty

All students should get to know some faculty well. At a large school like Texas A&M, students are often daunted with larger classes and feel that faculty may not be interested in them. Nothing could be further from the truth! Get to know both science and non-science faculty early-on in your undergraduate career. This will be beneficial in finding a mentor, learning about special opportunities, and having relationships with those who will write your recommendation letters for Pharmacy School. 

Volunteerism

Pharmacists are seen as valued members of their communities and one of the most trusted professions nation-wide. For those reasons, among others, Pharmacy Schools look for volunteer work on your application, in both health-care settings and in general settings. Find ways to regularly donate your time to a good cause, on or off campus.

The PCAT

What is the PCAT?

The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is a computerized admissions test given in testing centers several times per year, concentrated in January, July and September. The test covers:

  • General Biology

  • Microbiology

  • Physiology & Anatomy 

  • Chemisty

  • Organic Chemistry 

  •  Math (including calculus)

  • Reading

  • Verbal Abilities


Although each section is graded and scaled, most schools discuss the PCAT in terms of your composite percentile. Thus, when a school indicates that their minimum expected PCAT score is a 75, they are referring to the percentile, not the percent correct answers.  When planning when to take your PCAT, special attention should be given to the content of the exam. Those hoping to start pharmacy school before graduation can be at a disadvantage if they have not completed organic chemistry, microbiology, or other upper-level sciences.

Kaplan Test Prep is endorsed by the AACP as the official test prep for PCAT and they offer a free practice PCAT online about every two weeks. You should take your first practice PCAT at least 4 months before you plan to take the real PCAT. After taking the exam, you should be able to determine whether you will take a commercial prep course (in-person or on-line), or prepare yourself (Dr. Collins self-prep is popular). Most applicants will take the PCAT in January or July, prior to applying to pharmacy school. This leaves the September PCAT slot available in case a retest is necessary.

Application Process

How to prepare

With all Texas Pharmacy School utilizing the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS), applying to pharmacy schools is manageable. The PharmCAS typically opens mid-July to begin accepting applications. All work is completed online and Aggies are encouraged to:

  • Bring their personal statement/essays to the Health Profession Essay Reviews, held each spring/summer semester

  • Attend a Pharmacy application workshop, held each spring sememster

  • Attend a Health Professions Interview Workshop, held each summer/early fall sememster

In general, applicants will complete several sections on the application, including biographical, educational, experience and extracurricular activities. Three letters of recommendation (LOR)  will usually satisfy most school's needs. If you are still in school, at least one letter should be from a science faculty member, one from a pharmacist, and one from any category. You will designate the names and email addresses of your LOR writers in your PharmCAS application. When ready, you will click the send button and they will receive the information via email.  You will have official transcripts sent from every institution you have ever attended, including summer school and high school dual credit. Once PharmCAS has all of your materials, they will transmit them to the pharmacy schools you designate. Most schools have a supplemental application, so be certain to inquire at each school for additional requirements. 

Early Decision Programs

Growing in popularity, Early Decision programs enable applicants and schools to make a decision early in the fall semester, one year prior to matriculation. If you are certain that a particular pharmacy school is best for you, AND that pharmacy school participates in Early Decision, you may apply to only that one school. You will be notified quickly if you will be interviewed, and shortly after the interview, you will know if you are admitted. If you are denied admission at that school, you have plenty of time to complete other applications before deadlines.

Interviews

Interviews are the final decider on whether you are admitted to a particular school. Most interviews are late fall, or early spring. Using the PharmCAS School Directory, you can examine the interview dates of various schools and how their interviews are organized. Many times the interview will be a half-day affair and could contain individual interviews with faculty, group interviews, a writing exercise, an application file review, multiple mini interview (MMI) and other group dynamic assessments. A good source of interview questions may be found at StudentDoctor.net.  Don't forget to dress for success!  If you need business attire please visit the Texas A&M Career Closet to learn how you can borrow them.

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