Pharmacy School Spotlight: The #1 Pharmacy School is University of North Carolina Eschelman School of Pharmacy

Once again, the University of North Carolina Eschelman School of Pharmacy in Chapel Hill held their #1 pharmacy school ranking yet again according to the 2020 U.S. News and World Report Graduate School rankings; they have been ranked the top pharmacy school for many years in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. To highlight their achievement for maintaining the highest level of academic excellence in the world of pharmacy education, we will honor them as our spotlight school in this post.

The University of North Carolina (UNC) Eschelman School of Pharmacy is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which also happens to be a top five public undergraduate university according to U.S. News and World Report and being highly ranked in countless other categories including #1 in Medical Schools for Primary Care. The “Tar Heels” are well known as being a top athletic university, boasting 6 NCAA national basketball championships, and 21 out of the 38 women’s soccer championships in NCAA history. As a fun fact, it is also the university that produced arguably the greatest basketball player and athlete of all time, Michael Jordan.

The UNC Eschelman School of Pharmacy holds classes in Chapel Hill, with a satellite campus in Asheville, North Carolina. It offers a traditional 4-year Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) program, as well as a dual degree program combining the Masters in Business Administration (MBA) or a Masters in Public Health (MPH) with the PharmD program which would take a total of 5 years. According to their curriculum website, the 4-year program consists of the following:

Curriculum Overview

Year One: Foundations of Pharmacy

  • Introduces you to the foundational pharmaceutical sciences, which are the building blocks of pharmacy
  • Gives you the solid foundation you’ll need to start working with patients and health-care professionals

Years Two and Three: Immersion in Patient Care and Engagement in Inquiry and Innovation

  • Early experiences in the real-world practice of pharmacy followed by reflection and discussion
  • Small-group and large-classroom experiences to further learning, professional development, and career-path exploration
  • Immersion begins the summer after the first year.

Year Four: Advanced and Elective Pharmacy Practice Experiences

  • Numerous advanced patient-care and elective rotations
  • Opportunities for you to mature your approach to pharmacy practice and to define your career path

The curriculum format appears to have well-suited their students to prepare for examinations and the real world. For example, in the past 5 years the graduation rate has consistently exceeded 90%:

Post-graduates of UNC have also consistently exceeded above 90% pass rate on both the national board examinations (NAPLEX) and the state board examinations (MPJE):

Compared to the national average of all pharmacy schools, graduates of UNC have had much superior first-time pass rates in the past 4 years:


UNC is located on a beautiful campus in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and is one of the oldest public universities in the United States, being founded in 1789. Students at this university have a wealth of activities to participate in, and access to many championship-level caliber sporting events. The food scene and nightlife is robust, and an easy short walk or bus ride from their apartments or dormitories, to the famous Franklin Street, which has plenty of cafes, coffee shops, fast foods, restaurants, and bars. Students could also visit the Franklin Street staple, the famous Sutton’s Drug Store for some amazing handcrafted burgers or hot dogs, frequented by many former and current UNC basketball players and athletes.

So if you’re looking to pursue a challenging but rewarding academic career, and also have some fun and be a part of an amazing and rich academic and athletic program history, UNC may be a great option for you!

Pharmacist Salary Analysis

We have updated our pharmacist salary page to show that the United States national pharmacist median average salary as of May 2019 was $128,090, the mean salary was $125,510, and the number of pharmacist employed was 311,200. This is an increase of $1,970 (or 1.56%) from the 2018 median salary of $126,120 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the median is the middle point (50%) in the frequency distribution of salary ranges). To provide a measure of reference for this increase, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a consumer price increase, a measurement of inflation or measurement of the average change in cost of goods and services, ranged from as low as 1.5% (Feb 2019) to 2.9% (Jun-Jul 2018) in the period between Jan 2018 to Dec 2019. Therefore, this 1.56% would fall at the low end of the spectrum of ranges between the Jan 2018 and Dec 2020 time period. It is of note that the percentage and salary changes are a national average as a whole; some regional areas may show even broader changes, while other areas may show less variability.

Here are a few notable sections provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for more in-depth breakdowns of salary differences based on various regions and industries.

A range between $123,150 to $129,040 within the top five industries for pharmacist employment, with General Merchandise Stores showing the highest average salary.

Ranges between $123,620 and $128,030 within the top five highest concentrated areas of pharmacist employment. Electronic Shopping and Mail-Order Houses show the highest pharmacist annual mean salary, although it holds far less in employment compared with Health and Personal Care Stores.

The top paying industries show a higher annual mean wage compared to the industries listed in the first two charts. The top industry, Outpatient Care Centers, also shows vastly more employment numbers than the next four top paying industries.

The dark green areas display the states with the highest number of pharmacists. The below chart shows California, Texas, New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania as the states with the most pharmacists, with California showing the highest salary out of the group. However, the cost of living in California is probably significantly higher than most other states.

The state with the highest range of salaries ($127,460 to $144,050) include California, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Maine, Wisconsin, Missouri, Alabama, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Alaska.

The top state, California, shows the highest Annual mean wage, $144,050. However, California is also one of the most expensive places to live behind only Hawaii according to a CNBC article and US News and World Report, and the dollar may not go as far as other states such as Arkansas or Iowa.

States with the highest location quotient include Montana, Arizona, North Dakota, South Dakota, Kentucky, and West Virginia (see above and below).

Rhode Island is the state with the highest quotient, and highest salary within the list of states rated by quotients.

Can you draw any conclusions from the previous year’s data if you are just graduating and looking for a job? A simple review of the website data would draw a simple conclusion that pharmacists earn the most and are employed more in the Health and Personal Care Sector (e.g. retail) in California. Does that mean California is the best place to work? Not necessarily if you factor in the cost of living (US News and World Report), or individual preferences as not everyone will enjoy unchanging seasons year-round, high taxes, and difficult traffic (e.g. Los Angeles). Perhaps Texas may be the best place to work considering the high salaries ($161,790) in certain metropolitan areas like Tyler, Texas, or West Virginia with its higher location quotient and low cost-of-living? Not necessarily either, as some may not like the Dallas Cowboys, or some may want a professional sports team to root for =).

To each their own, and you can draw your own conclusions as everyone has their own preferences in life where earning a good wage isn’t everything.

In summary, here are the relevant numbers from the BLS webpage as of May 2019 for your quick perusal:

Mean Annual Salary: $125,510

Median (50%) Annual Salary: $128,090

Mean Hourly Wage: $60.34

Median Hourly Wage: $61.58

Employment: 311,200

Industry where most pharmacists work: Health and Personal Care Stores (133,410)

Industry where pharmacists earn the most: Outpatient Care Centers ($143,150)

State where most pharmacists are employed: California (32,150)

State offering the highest annual mean salary: California ($144,050)

Metropolitan area employing the most pharmacists: New York/Newark/Jersey City (21,310)

Metropolitan area where pharmacists earn the most: Tyler, TX ($161,790)

Non-metropolitan area employing the most pharmacists: Southeast Coastal North Carolina (920)

Non-metropolitan area where pharmacists earn the most: Southwest Alabama ($162,910)

1. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Robot Pharmacists?

Many pharmacy students or prospective pharmacy students wonder if automation or robots will replace pharmacists. This may be a concern for those who wonder if there will be enough jobs available by the time they graduate from pharmacy colleges. It’s a valid question to ask for anyone who is pursuing a career, whether it would be for nurses, security personnel, delivery workers, or even taxi drivers. In this age of highly developed technology and innovation, it is something job-seekers could probably think about and perhaps even do some more research as we see automation everyday in our daily lives around us. Technology seems to be improving each year with more efficiency, accuracy, and less technical problems. The grocery store checkout lines with more automated self-check-out areas replacing cashiers. ATMs readily available 24/7 replacing bank tellers. Amazon experimenting with drone delivery, and even some innovative companies making headlines with testing driverless vehicles. Not only do we see automation replacing workers, but we are also witnessing other types of technology replacing the traditional model of business. Plug-and-play wireless technologies implemented in the areas of home security camera installations as opposed to using traditional home security installers. Streaming wireless television replacing traditional cable television. Online shopping such as Amazon or travel websites replacing the brick-and-mortar retailers and the travel agent, respectively. Now with these great advances in practically every sector of society, how will this impact the pharmacist profession?

One way to look at this is how current pharmacy businesses and services operate today, and to identify solutions to current problems, or ways to improve the current model even if there are no issues. Some of the goals of technology are to cut down on costs, time, and inefficiencies, and provide transparent and meaningful data to allow the users and operators to detect errors or trends in order to improve a “system.” We can apply this to the pharmacy service model in retail and hospital, and suggest possible solutions, and its potential ramifications to the pharmacy workforce if such solutions are implemented. Here are a few common problems or areas that could be improved in the retail and hospital pharmacy setting:


Long Lines/Waiting: Prescription dispensing machines, similar to bank ATMs, could potentially reduce the need for a 24/7 pharmacy drive-thru or checkout counter. Mail-order, already available from many pharmacies, may also increase in wide-spread use which would limit the need for brick-and-mortar pharmacy retailers. Similar to Amazon, a customer may simply login to their account, and set up active prescriptions to be refilled and mailed on a scheduled monthly basis.

Limited Staffing: Widespread use of integrated and compatible prescription transmission from the doctor’s offices directly to the pharmacy software could reduce the need for the patient/customer to go to the pharmacy in-person, and cut-down on pharmacy personnel needed to receive the written prescription from the customer. Robotic counters, packagers, and fillers could replace the need for human pharmacists or technicians to manually fill routine or daily refilled medications for customers to pickup from the pharmacy. Mail-order pharmacies (as discussed above) may resolve the need for some staffing.


Missing Medications: Utilization of advanced automated dispensing cabinets or machines housed in hospital units for common medications could reduce the need to deliver medications, and the time required to find missing medications or replace medications that are not found after delivery. This is a potential area needed of improvement, for which a solution may not necessarily reduce the pharmacy workforce or affect it at all.

Delayed Medication Delivery: As noted above, usage of automated dispensing cabinets or machines in hospital units may reduce the need to deliver medications, thus reducing the need for transporters to deliver medications from the pharmacy to the hospital units. However, pharmacy personnel would still be required to continually refill the automated dispensing cabinets if dispensing is highly utilized within the hospital unit.

Limited Staffing: Advanced software systems could automatically review medication appropriateness before final pharmacist sign-off. Robotic counters and fillers could replace the need for human pharmacists or technicians to manually fill routine or daily refilled medications for patients.

Cart filling medications: Robotic counters and fillers could replace the need for human pharmacists or technicians to manually fill routine or daily refilled medications for patients.

It may come as no surprise, and maybe even expected that there will probably be some usage of automation in the pharmacy practice setting in the future. Advances in technology allow companies or owners to save money, while also potentially improving patient/consumer safety; this may be due to reduced medication errors from the use of intelligent medication information systems and faster delivery times. Similar to automation in grocery store checkout lines and bank ATMs, or even customer service agents assisting with online services, we could witness a hybrid model of human/machine model where a few workers (e.g. pharmacists/technicians) would oversee and manage a mass of automated machines and/or software systems; this could have some impact on the workforce. However, this may not always be the case as improvements in information technology such as intelligent medication information systems which provides essential medication resources (drug to drug interactions, potential adverse events, allergic reactions, etc.) allows pharmacists to save time by avoiding timely research in manually trying to find important and relevant information. Integrated pharmacy software such as computerized pharmacy order entry (CPOE) software also allows pharmacists to avoid serious transcription errors, save time, and allows the pharmacist to focus more thoroughly on reviewing medication orders. On the flip-side, automation may not always have a serious impact on the workforce as it could also present more opportunities for pharmacists to expand on clinical duties, thus improving the safety and wellness of patients. Higher usage of automated and robotic systems may present new opportunities to other sectors such as engineers and technical support specialists who may be needed to develop and maintain such technologies.

Great Pharmacy Schools For Adventurous Students

Who enjoys the great outdoors? Exploring the vast wonders of America by hiking, canoeing, or even enjoying fun activities like skiing, snowboarding, or surfing. Here in this post, we look at three pharmacy schools that may not receive as much press, but are located in areas not far from places that may provide the adventurous student several options to enjoy their time in pharmacy school. It could also provide a great balance to offset the potentially grueling four to six years of intense pharmacy school studies. Who said you can’t have any fun during pharmacy school?

For the hikers: Roseman University of Health Sciences College of Pharmacy

Roseman University of Health Sciences is located in Henderson, Nevada outside of Las Vegas. Although Las Vegas may be known for casinos, entertainment, clubs, fine dining, MMA fights, and dry hot weather, it also provides a lot of outdoor activities for those who want to “get away” from it all every now and then. Red Rock Canyon is only around forty minutes by car and provide many hiking trails, scenic drives, picnic areas, and other other activities.

For those willing to drive further to see even more of what the area has to offer, Zion National Park is around two hours and forty-five minutes away in Utah by car. Zion National Park offers bicycling, backpacking, climbing, stargazing, and hiking with breath-taking views. Some of the trails and climbs are not for the faint-of-heart however.

For the skiers and snowboarders: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus School of Pharmacy

University of Colorado School of Pharmacy is located in Denver, CO. Denver is known as the “mile high city” because it is situated around one mile above sea level. It is also the home to the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Rockies, and Colorado Avalanche if you enjoy watching professional sports. Colorado is also known to have many amazing ski resorts in Aspen, Vail, Breckenridge, Telluride, and Steamboat Springs. What is not as well known are the smaller ski resorts that are not as crowded and closer to Denver. One ski resort is located just around an hour away in Loveland, CO. Loveland Skiing receives plenty of snow and opens many trails for all levels of skiers.

For those who are willing to drive a little further for a bigger ski/snowboarding resort, Keystone offers a resort with around 120 trails, and a summit elevation of 12,408 feet. Located around under an hour and forty minutes, Keystone is an excellent place to ski and snowboard with plenty of options, entertainment, and excitement.

For the beach bums, sun lovers, and aquamen: West Coast University School Of Pharmacy

West Coast University School of Pharmacy is located in Los Angelos, and less than thirty minutes by car to both Venice Beach and Santa Monica Beach, two of the more famous beaches in California. If you love swimming, surfing, rollerblading, skateboarding, playing beach volleyball, or enjoy many other beach-related activities, this area might be a great location for you. Los Angeles also is also the home to the world famous Los Angeles Lakers (think Kobe, Shaq, and Magic) and many other great sports teams (e.g. Dodgers, Chargers, Galaxy). You may even run into some Hollywood stars if you’re lucky.

And there you have it. Just a few schools located in areas not far from areas that could offer the adventurous pharmacy school student some excitement. It may even be a great place to decompress from the long hours of studying, or after a grueling exam week. There are many other schools with great locations with similar activities or even more. Just check out our pharmacy school directory and map the school addresses to your places of interest.

The Regrets of Pharmacy Students

During my pharmacy school days and years after, I’ve talked to many pharmacy school students at my program, and from many others at other schools I met from clerkship rotations or conferences about their pharmacy school experience.  One theme I recall were the regrets that some students expressed after coming to pharmacy school.  These regrets vary based on their interest, background, and the pharmacy school they chose.  Some of these issues may be of use to future pharmacy school students to consider so that those pursuing this career could view all of the angles and possibilities when making the best decision possible.

Many pharmacy school students in their senior years expressed some uncertainty about their job prospects.  According to an article in PharmacyTimes, there were 72 pharmacy schools in 1987.  In 2014, 130 pharmacy schools were accredited according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).  The rise in pharmacy schools and graduates will mean more competition for limited job openings, unless the number of vacancies available due to retirements or new opportunities match the number of job seekers year after year.

Pharmacy schools have evolved to incorporate clinical decision making into their curriculum.  This is evidenced by the trend from a Bachelor’s of Science in Pharmacy towards the Doctor of Pharmacy as the standard in today’s pharmacy schools to become a pharmacist; this may be due to the complexities found in drugs, diseases, and different aging populations to manage.  Additionally, the availability of opting for further board certifications in various specialties administered by the the Board of Pharmacy Specialities (BPS) allows pharmacists to attain further recognition in patient care.  However, pharmacists are not trained to diagnose patients in the same way as medical doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners are.  They are trained as dispensers of prescriptions for the most part as opposed to prescribers (although some states allow clinical pharmacists some prescribing authority with limited scope under the supervision of a license patient care provider).  Therefore, for pharmacists interested in the clinical aspects of patient care such as diagnosing and treating patients, many pharmacy students have expressed frustration in the limited scope of their clinical involvement; they are being confined to reviewing or advising on medication regimens for complex patients such as vancomycin dosing for renally impaired patients, or managing nausea and vomiting for chemotherapy patients, and checking INR levels for anticoagulation patients.  Some students believe from their clerkship experiences that clinical pharmacists are not generally thought as being part of the essential “core” of a patient care team, and will always need to fight and earn their place in the team to be respected.  And they’ll have to  earn their place again each time a new team or leader is implemented which makes things even more difficult.   Therefore, many pharmacy students and graduates believe that pursuing a degree as an MD, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner as opposed to a PharmD  is a more preferred route for those interested solely in patient clinical care.

One last example expressed by pharmacy students include being “stuck” in the traditional retail pharmacy setting.  Because a lot of pharmacy students take on much debt to finance their education, they are also quick to accept a position in a traditional retail pharmacy immediately after graduation, and forego a chance at furthering their knowledge in other areas of pharmacy.  Such opportunities would be available in a paid post-graduate residency or fellowship program which could open doors to other opportunities beyond a job in a retail pharmacy.  A lot of hospitals look for residency experience for those who lack any type of hospital experience on their resume, especially for limited and competitive positions.  This may also be the best time to pursue a residency immediately after pharmacy school as their knowledge of pharmacy will be very fresh on their minds as opposed to someone who took a position in retail after graduation, and decided to pursue a residency and enter a new industry after many years in the retail setting.