How long is pharmacy school? You can spend anywhere between 3 to 5 years at pharmacy school, depending on what route you take. The traditional route is doing a four-year bachelor’s and then entering a four-year PharmD degree, but there are many variations. Many do not require a full bachelor’s degree, so you can enter pharmacy school sooner, as long as you meet the . Another possibility is entering an accelerated, three-year PharmD program that you can even complete at some . This article will tell you the many timelines you can follow to become a pharmacist, and tell you what you need to get into pharmacy school.
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First Path: Traditional (BA or BSC + Four-Year PharmD) ~ 8 Years
The most traditional path to becoming a pharmacist is doing a four-year bachelor’s degree and then a four-year PharmD degree. However, many pharmacy schools do not require you to complete a full bachelor’s degree; only that you complete a certain number of prerequisites before applying. This means you can become a pharmacist in less time than eight years, but not by much.
A lot depends on what your career plans are and whether or not you have a clear idea of the pharmacist you want to be (community; hospital-based; industry), which all have different timelines. If you’re not in a rush and feel like you want to experience the full breadth of a four-year program, then you should follow the traditional path. But if you’ve made a decision on what kind of pharmacist you want to be and want to reach your goal as quickly as possible, then you can take steps to speed up the process.
Want to learn how to answer "Why Do You Want To Be A Pharmacist?" during your pharmacy school interview? Watch this video:
For example, you can choose to complete the prerequisites of your preferred program as quickly as possible to be able to meet the requirements rather than taking a full four-years. The PharmD program at the , requires that you only complete two years of a bachelor’s degree, which will also help shorten the timeline to you graduating and then getting your license to practice pharmacy.
However, the U of T program lasts four-years. You can shorten this timeline by enrolling in an accelerated three-year program in the US, if you feel you’re ready and know what career path you want to take. Unlike medical graduates, pharmacists do not have to complete a residency to get a license, so if your goal is to become a community pharmacist without any additional training, you can take your national and state/provincial licensing exam as soon as your graduate with your PharmD.
However, during your four years of pharmacy school, you may develop a particular research interest or change your career goals, which may require a that usually lasts for one or two years. A residency program is not the same as being enrolled in a PharmD program, but it should still be included in discussions of how long is pharmacy school, as a residency still forms part of your overall training.
Second Path: Accelerated (BA + 3-Year PharmD) ~ 6-7 Years
In the US, there are over 30 different, three-year PharmD programs. They are scattered throughout the country and are considered some of the best PharmD programs according to lists. However, the situation is different in Canada. Out of the 11 pharmacy schools in Canada none of them offer an accelerated program and all of them, except for Memorial University and its five-year program, take four years.
So how long is pharmacy school also depends on which country you want to study in, as the US offers the most opportunities to spend the shortest amount of time in pharmacy school. But in Canada, there are no accelerated options. So, if you’re Canadian, you’ll have to take the traditional route, unless you decide to apply to the accelerated programs in the US, and then take your Pharmacy Examination Board of Canada licensing exam with your US PharmD, which is possible.
Third Path: Non-Traditional (BA or Non-BA + 3 or 4-Year PharmD) ~ 5-6 Years
Non-traditional students can have bachelor’s degrees or not, as not all pharmacy schools require them. If, for example, you do not have a bachelor’s degree and you want to go to pharmacy school, you have to at least complete the prerequisites, which can take varying amounts of time depending on the method you choose.
But another thing to remember is that pharmacy school prerequisites are much longer and varied than even . Pharmacy school prerequisites can vary between different schools and programs, but, in general, they require you to complete credits in the following subjects:
- Chemistry (Organic and Inorganic)
- Mathematics or Statistics
- Arts or Humanities
But these are only the most general prerequisites. Each program will require (not recommend) their own specific prerequisites, which can include completing credits in the subjects above, in addition to subjects such as:
- Human Anatomy
Again, the exact subjects and credit requirements vary between each school. But you can be sure that pharmacy schools have a more diverse set of requirements; much more diverse than other health professional schools, such as dental, nursing or .
ou have basic knowledge in a wider range of subjects. Being a pharmacist is such an interdisciplinary profession that the requirements reflect that, much more than any
That’s why many programs recommend that you complete a bachelor’s degree to be able to complete these prerequisites. Although, they also realize that not all applicants will have followed the traditional route, which is why many schools have dropped their BA requirement to apply. But, if you don’t have a BA and do not want to spend four-years getting one, you can choose to enroll in a post-bacc or bridge program offered by many pharmacy schools for applicants like you.
Be aware that enrolling in vocational programs for pharmacy-related professions (pharmacy technician or pharmacy assistant) does not count toward completing pharmacy school prerequisites. Pharmacy technicians and assistants do not dispense medication or attend to patients. They help community pharmacists by performing peripheral duties such as maintaining inventories, helping package and prepare prescriptions or stocking shelves, but have no knowledge of the science of pharmacology, so these certificate programs do not help you complete pharmacy school prerequisites.
If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, it’s best to do a post-bacc program, preferably at the same pharmacy school you want to apply to. But even if you do have a bachelor’s degree and have been out of school for more than five years, you might still have to take additional, upper-level science courses to meet the program’s requirements or increase your GPA, if you don’t meet the minimum GPA requirements.
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We mentioned pharmacy residencies above, and even though you do not need to do a residency to become a pharmacist, they are still something to consider if you want to get more training in a specific specialty or sub-specialty. Doing a pharmacy residency has its advantages and disadvantages, which we’ll talk about more here. First, pharmacy residencies typically last one year. You can take a second year, if you want, but usually one year is enough.
Some residency programs in the US and Canada require you complete general rotations in your first six months, which are usually internal medicine, ambulatory care, infectious diseases, and critical care. But you’ll also be given time to pursue elective rotations in specialties that interest you as well as performing research.
In your second year, if you decide to do another year of residency, you can narrow your focus to any of the seven recognized sub-specialties in pharmacology, which are:
- Ambulatory Care
- Nuclear Pharmacy
- Nutritional Support
Whether you should do a pharmacy residency after pharmacy school is based solely on what position you see yourself in as a pharmacist. If your goal is to open your own community pharmacy, or join an existing commercial pharmacy chain, then a pharmacy residency is not something you need. While a pharmacy residency is a paid position, you can be making much more as a community pharmacist if you decide to enter the profession right out of pharmacy school.
For example, the pharmacy residency program at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor offers a yearly salary of $50,000 along with health insurance, paid time-off and other benefits. But that figure pales in comparison to the starting salary of community pharmacists who join a nationwide retail chain in the US, which is around $100,000. More experienced pharmacists can earn even higher salaries, as the median salary for pharmacists with more than five years of experience hovers around $123,000.
But if you see yourself in the non-retail side of pharmacology, such as:
- A clinical researcher with a public or private institute
- Working at a major pharmaceutical company
- Joining academia as either a professor, researcher, administrator or all three
doing a pharmacy residency has benefits. Pharmacists in these positions make much more than community or retail pharmacists, and they also have more access to professional development opportunities, so they can advance even further in their respective fields. For example, pharmacists involved in scientific research earn, on average, $155,000 a year, while those who work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities earn between $120,000 and $130,000 annually.
1. Complete Your Bachelor’s Degree
We gave you the various paths and timelines you can follow to become a pharmacist, and while you should choose the path that is best for you, we think it's ideal for you to complete a full bachelor’s degree. Earning a bachelor’s degree is best because it allows you to complete all the prerequisites required by many pharmacy schools, which are much more extensive than other healthcare professions. For example, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill PharmD program has fourteen required prerequisites divided between math, science and other subjects. The MD program at the UNC School of Medicine has only three – biology, chemistry, and mathematics. You can expect to find that disparity between pharmacy school and medical school prerequisites at most schools you apply to, so completing a bachelor’s degree will just make your life easier when it comes time to apply.
2. Get Good Grades
As the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) is being phased out of the admission process, your GPA is now the biggest indicator of whether you can handle the rigors of pharmacy school, which is why it has to be well above-average to be competitive. Many pharmacy schools are strict about their GPA requirements and will not accept or review your application even if you are one point beneath the minimum. But the minimum is not what you should strive for. If you take a look at the average GPA for most admitted pharmacy school students (3.5 to 3.7), they tend to be well above the minimum, which can be anywhere between 2.7 or 3.0 for some schools. These applicants will be much more attractive to admissions committees, especially if they also have outstanding and than someone who has a minimum GPA.
3. Get the Right Extracurriculars
can range from shadowing a pharmacist to volunteering at a food bank or paid work as a researcher or pharmacy assistant. We mentioned that completing a vocational certificate in a pharmacy-related job will not help you complete pharmacy school prerequisites. But it will help as a demonstration of your commitment for the field of pharmacology and look good on your application. Of course, the type of extracurricular you do, as well as its length and format, is up to you. But remember that you do not always have to have extracurriculars related to pharmacology, medicine or healthcare. What you should do is balance out your extracurricular activities with healthcare-related and non-healthcare related work. Just as pharmacy school prerequisites span a wide range of subjects, the type of extracurriculars you participate in should also be diverse. Pharmacy schools are interested in what you are passionate about and what you enjoy doing as a pastime or hobby, as much as the number of shadowing hours you have. So don’t be afraid to list something unique to you as an extracurricular, while also getting real-world experience in clinical settings or dealing with patients directly.
4. Get Good Letters of Recommendation
All pharmacy schools require you submit at least two or three , as they are an objective window onto your past achievements as well as your potential. You should pay attention to the requirements your program has about who should write your letters, or what kind of letters they prefer (committee letter; faculty letters; personal letters) and follow them. Many schools prefer a committee letter, or individual letters written by past instructors. If you are unable to secure the former, you should be very selective in who you ask to write your letters.
You want your recommendation letter writer to be unequivocal and unwavering in their support, so if you ask someone and they are unsure or evasive about writing one, they might not be the best person to extoll your readiness for pharmacy school. Your choice of extracurriculars is also crucial for this aspect of your application. Your supervisors or managers, whether they be pharmacists or not, in these extracurricular activities may also be able to provide insight into your preparedness for pharmacy school either through your intellectual abilities or other qualities, such as your problem-solving skills, compassion, and patience.
How long is pharmacy school? Ideally, around eight years. Eight years is ideal because it does not put as much pressure on you to complete your degree, and it also gives you enough time to explore different facets of pharmacology. Three-year pharmacy school students than students in four-year programs, which is understandable given how complex and multi-faceted pharmacology is as a subject. So, while there are faster ways to becoming a pharmacist, doing the full eight-years is perhaps the easiest and less-stressful option.
1. How long is pharmacy school?
A majority of PharmD programs in Canada and the US last four-years.
2. Are there any accelerated PharmD programs?
3. Are there any online PharmD programs?
4. What is the shortest pharmacy school program?
The shortest pharmacy school programs are only three-years in length. There are no shorter options.
5. How long does it take to be a pharmacist?
Becoming a licensed, practicing pharmacist can take a total of eight years, if you follow the traditional path. But if you complete your prerequisites, and enroll in a three-year program you can get your license sooner.
6. What other kind of pharmacy degrees can I get?
There are several bachelor or graduate level degrees outside of the traditional PharmD. You can take undergraduate degree in pharmaceutical sciences, or pharmacology. At the graduate level, you can take several types of degrees in pharmaceutics, medicinal chemistry. But to be a practicing pharmacist, you must complete a PharmD program.
7. Can I become a pharmacist without a PharmD?
No, you cannot become a pharmacist without a PharmD degree from an accredited program either in the US or Canada.
8. What is the fastest way to become a pharmacist?
The fastest way to become a pharmacist is by completing pharmacy school prerequisites in only two years, and then entering a three-year accelerated PharmD program.