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Degree Programs for Aspiring Pharmacists

Higher Education Articles March 31, 2015

Pharmacists distribute prescription drugs to individuals from a retail, hospital, or community pharmacy. Those looking forward to becoming a pharmacist can either focus on the sciences or study in undergraduate pre-pharmacy programs.

Pharmacy Majors

Students aspiring to become pharmacists should aim to enroll in schools with pre-pharmacy programs, although the student may have to opt for a major such as general science or chemistry. Students who complete the pre-pharmacy program can transfer directly into a four-year Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) graduate program, after completion of the student’s sophomore year. Students who complete pre-pharmacy programs may also choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in general science.

Pre-pharmacy programs vary by school; however, common requirements include classes in economics, physics, microbiology, physiology, statistics, biology, chemistry laboratory, organic chemistry, and general chemistry. Apart from these classes, students may typically have to complete some courses related to a bachelor’s degree, including art electives, history, and English.

Pharm.D. Program

Schools offer these programs to aspiring pharmacists, and students have to wait until their junior year of college before they can seek enrollment. The Pharm.D. program is distinct from a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Pharmacy, with the latter meant for students who aspire for careers in university-level research or academia. After completing a Pharm.D. program, students may seek entry-level careers as pharmacists.


Coursework related to a Pharm.D. program focuses on aspects of drug therapy, math, and the sciences, all of which knowledge is necessary for a pharmacist career. Core coursework may include topic areas such as pharmacy, biochemistry, pharmaceutical sciences, medicinal chemistry, and physiology.

Hands-on Experience

The final year may feature the completion of a series of rotations at a pharmacy or healthcare facility. Continuing education options for Pharm.D. graduates may include fellowship and residency programs, which would be especially helpful to those seeking careers in a clinical setting.

Pharmacist Career Overview

Apart from drug distribution, pharmacists may advise patients and transact with physicians to explain to them about the selections, dosages, interactions, and side effects of the prescription drugs prescribed by them. These main responsibilities are augmented through specialization of pharmacists in numerous specific areas, including psychiatric pharmacy used in the treatment of mental disorders and illnesses, geriatrics, cancer, and nutrition.

Job and Wage Outlook

Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, job growth rates of 14% have been predicted for pharmacists (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In May 2012, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $116,670 (BLS).

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