Pharmacy Colleges and Universities

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Pharmacist speaking to a
patient Pharmacy is the chemical sciences side of the healthcare services industry. Specifically, pharmacy focuses on the safe and effective use of drugs and medications in the treatment of disease, illness, and various other physical and psychological ailments. The scope of pharmacy includes drug therapy, compounding drugs, dispensing medications, consulting and educating patients, and working with other medical professionals and organizations. In short, pharmacy focuses on using drugs to help patients maximize their health.

Within pharmacy, there are two primary healthcare professionals: Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians. Pharmacists are licensed professionals who work in pharmacy. They are the primary healthcare experts within the industry, as such, they are required to be licensed by the state where they work. Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist, assisting with the dispensing of drugs and medications to customers. In some states, like pharmacists, pharmacy technicians are also required to be licensed.

Becoming a pharmacy technicians is actually quite straight forward. You can become a pharmacy technician through on-the-job training or by earning a 1-year certificate or 2-year associate’s degrees in pharmacy technology from a vocational school or community college. Becoming a pharmacist is a little bit more involved. It typically requires earning a four-year bachelor’s degree and then earning doctoral degree in pharmacy from an accredited college or university.

An undergraduate major in pharmacy studies is designed to prepare aspiring college students and pharmaceutical professionals for the independent or employed practice of preparing and dispensing drugs and medications in consultation with prescribing physicians and other health care professionals, and for managing pharmacy practices and counseling patients. If you decide to pursue a major in pharmacy studies you can expect to take courses in mathematics, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, pharmacognosy, pharmacy practice, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacy administration, applicable regulations, and professional standards and ethics.

Select a concentration below to explore various pharmacy colleges and universities offering majors and degree programs. Learn how to prepare and dispense drugs and medications, counsel patients and manage a pharmacy practice.

Choosing a Pharmacy School

Currently, the top pharmacy schools in the United States, according to U.S. News & World Report are The University of California�San Francisco, The University of North Carolina�Chapel Hill, and The University of Minnesota. But picking a pharmacy schools is, and should be, a lot more involved than simply applying to the top ranked institutions. First off, applying to Pharmacy school isn’t like apply to an undergraduate program. Competition for most pharmacy programs is much more competitive. You really should feel fortunate to get accepted into any good program.

There are many factors to consider when selecting a pharmacy program. The following are a few of the most important:
  • Residency. Residency is now required of all students desiring to work as a pharmacist. No only will residency influence your eligibility to work in the industry, it will also impact your ability to find a good job after you graduate.

  • Admissions criteria. The admissions criteria for pharmacy schools can vary quite a bit from one school to the next. Some schools have several prerequisite courses that must be completed for program candidacy. The Drake College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, for example, has a mandatory 2-year pre-pharmacy program students must complete before being accepted to their 4 year professional PharmD program. Other schools have similar admissions programs BUT guarantee admission once the pre-pharmacy program has been completed.

  • Location. While location doesn’t determine the quality of education an institution provides, it can influence a student’s ability to have good experience. There are only a limited number of good graduate level pharmacy programs in the United States (just over 100) and there’s a high likelihood you may have to relocate if you’re accepted. Can your family easily move to a new city or even across the country to go to school? Can you afford to move? Will you have to find a new job? Are you going to be okay with being away from friends and family for several years?

  • Specialties. There are several specialties within the field of pharmaceutical sciences (e.g. Pharmacy Administration, Drug Design, Pharmacoeconomics, Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management, etc.) There are also many pharmacy schools that offer a diverse selection of specialized education tracks and/or joint degrees. Before applying to a program you should know (1) which branch of pharmacy you want to pursue as a career and (2) which schools offers specialized tracks of study for your desired career path. For example, a few pharmacy schools now offer joint degree programs that incorporate the Pharma.D. with a traditional MBA. For those pursuing a career in Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management, this is the perfect program. While an MBA can be acquired after completing the Pharma.D. program it typically is much faster to complete the two degrees together and offers students the additional benefit of a business education tailored toward the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Cost. While costs will vary, according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the average cost of a four-year professional pharmacy programs, including fees and tuition ranges from $63,000 at a public school (for in-state students) to $122,000 for private schools. For out-of-state students, attending a public school costs roughly $115,000. Attending pharmacy school is an expensive proposition�and these figures don’t include the cost of books, exams, and living expenses. Very few students can afford pharmacy school without some form of financial aid. When considering what programs to apply to you’ll want to consider the cost of the program and what type of financial aid options are available through the school.

  • Quality and reputation. We’ve stated that attending one of the top ranked pharmacy program in the nation shouldn’t be your main criteria in selecting a school, and we stand by that, however, it’s still important to attend a quality program that has a good reputation. In order to make sure you attend a quality program, you’ll want to make sure it is offered by a regionally accredited institution and/or accredited through the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Attending a program with a good reputation will go a long way toward helping you find a good residency program and job.

  • Career placement and support. At the end of the day attending pharmacy school is all about preparing for your career and finding a good job. When evaluating pharmacy schools you’ll want to look into how successful they’ve been at placing their students in good jobs following graduation. What is the starting salary of most graduates? What is a school’s overall placement rate? How long does it take the average student to find a job following graduation? What other career development services does the school provide its students?

  • Faculty. Another strong quality indicator is a school’s faculty. A good pharmacy program is typically the result of good faculty. You’ll want to know how many students there are per faculty member. Do all faculty have a Ph.D. in their field of expertise? Are faculty tenured? How well is the school able to retain its faculty? Schools that are unable to retain their faculty for more than a few years usually have less than stellar pharmacy programs.

  • Licensure and test scores. Before becoming a practicing pharmacist, students must get licensed in the state where they’ll be working. To become licensed students must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). When evaluating potential pharmacy schools you should inquire about the NAPLEX pass rate of its students. What type of preparation for the NAPLEX does the school offer? What other licensure assistance does the school provide.

  • Internship/Externships. Both internships and externships are an important aspect of preparation for a career in pharmacy. The experience you obtain from your internships could very well set you apart from the competition when it comes time to start looking for a good job or launch your career. Do your due diligence! Make sure you find out how many of a school’s were able to find internships the previous year. Even find out which companies or organizations regularly recruit interns at the schools you’re considering.
Other considerations might include a school’s culture, mission and philosophy; their curriculum and program format; and the type of research projects they’re involved with.