If you want to be a pharmacist in the United States, you will need to get a Pharm.D., or Doctor of Pharmacy, degree. You must have this degree before you can become a licensed pharmacist, though the licensing itself is another step. A Pharm.D. degree is a graduate-level degree, which means you must complete undergraduate college coursework before you can enter into a Pharm.D. program. The specific courses required depend on the program, but at least 90 hours of undergraduate coursework is required for all programs. Prerequisite courses usually include general education classes in addition to multiple science classes, such as anatomy, chemistry and biology. Specific prerequisites can be found on a school’s website. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy also provides a collection of admission requirements for pharmacy programs.
An undergraduate degree is not required by all colleges of pharmacy to enter into a graduate pharmacy program. Many pharmacy programs simply require prospective students to complete pre-pharmacy courses; however, owing to the highly competitive nature of education, many students complete an undergraduate degree before applying. Even if an undergraduate degree is not required by an institution, students who have one are generally favored over those who don’t. Research the specific standards of the colleges of pharmacy that you are interested in attending before deciding on completing an undergraduate degree. If you plan to obtain an undergraduate degree before beginning graduate coursework, you should get a Bachelor of Science degree as well as complete the pre-pharmacy track required by the programs in which you are interested. Major in a subject that will help you with your work in the future, such as chemistry or biology. Always ensure that the undergraduate school you attend is accredited.
Before entering into a Pharm.D. program, you must take the PCAT. Once you’ve completed the prerequisites, taken the PCAT and been accepted to an accredited college of pharmacy, you can begin working toward your Pharm.D., the final degree needed in order to become a licensed pharmacist. Programs usually take four years to complete, but some programs are accelerated. Courses focus on pharmaceutical science, in addition to practical skills needed to work within a pharmacy, such as human relations and economic and legal aspects. Most Pharm.D. programs require students to work in a pharmacy for a certain amount of hours to obtain experience in a real pharmacy setting. Upon completing the Pharm.D. program, you will have the degree required to become a pharmacist.