How Hard Is It To Get Into Pharmacy School?

Each year it seems, getting into pharmacy school becomes more more difficult, with competition becoming so fierce that there appear to be more applicants than there are slots available at pharmacy schools around the country. According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, there are now 132 colleges in the U.S. which are fully accredited to offer PharmD degrees to students pursuing a career in the field. 

However, these 132 institutions are short of being able to handle the high number of applicants each year, and that has caused schools to take steps to manage the increased demand. Some new schools have opened, while others have increased capacity at their existing campuses, or have opened satellite schools to accommodate the huge influx of interested students.

This increasing demand isn’t so surprising when you consider that the average annual salary of a pharmacist in the US is reported in excess of $120,000, with salaries on the rise in every region of the United States, according to the most recent salary survey of the position.

However, one factor acting as a something of a break on student interest in pharmacy school is the known debt burden of the average student graduate, which often averages out in the neighborhood of $100,000, depending on the school of attendance. Fortunately, for those who seriously pursue the profession, earnings in excess of that figure are possible annually, so is may be possible student debt can be managed.

Typical requirements for entry into Pharmacy School

While there are variations among specific colleges in the US regarding the requirements for entry into pharmacy school, these requirements tend to be fairly similar across most learning institutions. The first of these requirements is that a student is expected to have completed pre-health studies in high school or college. Other requirements described below are representative of what you can expect from most medical schools offering a PharmD degree.

  • PCAT score – The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is a pre-requisite for many of the courses offered at pharmacy school, and a score above 60% will be necessary for entry into any pharmacy school, although a score of 80% or better is often necessary to be competitive with other applicants
  • GPA score – A GPA score of 3.0 or 3.1 is usually the minimum requirement for entry into pharmacy school, but on average, a score of around 3.5 or higher is often necessary for acceptance over other applicants
  • Applicant interview – Very often, applicants to pharmacy school must undergo an interview with the school of their choice, in order to demonstrate communication skills as well as observational, behavioral, analytical, and problem-solving skills
  • Extra-curricular experience – applicants to pharmacy school are often required to have skills necessary for writing research papers, such as gathering information and analyzing it. It is also usually a requirement that applicants accrue a certain number of hours each year with volunteer experience in the community, as a demonstration of interest and commitment to helping others. Leadership experience can be shown through involvement with clubs, organizations, and various groupings in the community and in school, and this is a quality which is highly valued by pharmacy school officials
  • Prerequisite courses – Most often, pharmacy school applicants are required to have taken courses from the areas of biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. The specific courses taken must be discussed with whichever pharmacy school is being applied to, although most favor some kind of biology and chemistry courses.

What it all means

What all this means to prospective students of pharmacy schools is that competition is undoubtedly something to consider, even with new schools opening and others expanding their programs. To have the best chance of being accepted at one of these schools, new students should strive for maximum scores on required evaluations and pre-req courses, and should demonstrate real interest in the extra-curricular activities valued by schools.

Although significant debt may be accrued by those who do complete the full program at an accredited school, the potential for relieving that debt quickly is decent, considering that soon after graduation very respectable salaries are achievable if one lands a job.

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