Pharmacy school requirements are your guideline for what you need to do to get into pharmacy school. Although and can tell you how hard it is to get into a PharmD program, the requirements are a much better indicator of the application work ahead of you. Like many professional programs, pharmacy schools require both rigorous academic standards and extensive application materials to complete. In this blog, we’ve listed the complete pharmacy school requirements and everything you need to know to ace your application and get accepted to pharmacy school.
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- Minimum GPA
- Bachelor’s degree or pharmacy school prerequisites
- PCAT or standardized test scores
- Secondary applications/essays
- Pharmacy admissions interview
Pharmacy schools tend to have fairly high GPA requirements, especially when it comes to core science courses and mathematics. Some pharmacy schools will evaluate your candidacy based on your cumulative GPA while others will weigh your science GPA more heavily.
Most pharmacy schools in the US have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0, but to be considered a very competitive applicant, a GPA of 3.5 and above is recommended. For most pharmacy programs, you will need to show very good grades in your pharmacy school prerequisites, including biology and chemistry.
Canadian pharmacy schools usually require an average of 75% and above to be considered competitive. In some cases, out of province applicants need to have a minimum average over 80%. For example, the University of Alberta pharmacy school requires out of province students to present very high grade averages to get in.
While your GPA is not the single biggest determining factor, it is still important to maintain good grades. It’s important to check if your desired PharmD program has a minimum GPA cut-off and what the average accepted GPA of entering students is, so you can see how your grades compare and what your chances of acceptance are.
If your GPA is too low for your desired school, it is still possible to get in by applying to schools where you meet the minimum. Or you can work on raising your GPA by retaking courses or getting a tutor.
All pharmacy schools, from the most difficult to the , require you to complete certain prerequisites in order to apply. Not only do you need a foundation of core courses to prepare you for the academic rigors of pharmacy school, you need a proven track record of college-level course success.
While the specific prerequisites can vary from school to school, these are some of the most common courses you’ll need to complete:
- Biology and Biochemistry
- Humanities and Social Science courses
It’s worth noting that many pharmacy schools do not even necessarily require you to complete a bachelor’s degree as long as you’ve completed all your prerequisites with flying colors. Of course, having a complete bachelor’s degree can give you an edge over the competition, but you can get accepted to pharmacy school even if you’ve completed only 3 years of a 4-year degree.
Check both the required and recommended courses at your chosen PharmD program. Although recommended courses are not necessary for you to get accepted, completing them can give your application a nice bonus.
A majority of pharmacy schools require you to submit standardized test scores as an example of your academic skills and suitability for pharmacy. While you don’t need to write the MCAT like medical school applicants, the equivalent is the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT).
A PCAT score between 415-430 is considered a good enough score to get into most pharmacy schools. To get into the top schools, a PCAT score above the 70th percentile is ideal.
Check with your pharmacy school whether the PCAT is required, optional or recommended. If it’s required or recommended, get to studying and earn as high a score as possible. Use the average accepted score at your target programs to gauge how high your score needs to be. If the pharmacy school is test optional, this means you can submit test scores if you choose, but it is not required. Consider submitting scores even if it is optional, especially if you have impressive PCAT scores. If the school notes that the PCAT is not considered or accepted, do not send your scores as this might disqualify your application!
Some pharmacy schools also accept alternative standardized tests in place of the PCAT. These include other graduate level admission tests like the GRE, GMAT, OAT, DAT and even the MCAT.
Most pharmacy schools in the US use the PharmCAS, a unified application service. A big part of the application is the personal statement or personal essay. The PharmCAS allows 4,500 characters, including spaces. This isn’t a ton of space, but it’s better to be concise and demonstrate strong written communication skills, a valuable skill for pharmacists.
A personal statement is a narrative of who you are, what has led you to apply to pharmacy school and what experiences or knowledge you’ve gained that are related to pharmacy. You might also share what your future career goals are.
Most important, your pharmacy personal statement is your chance to really stand out and make an impression on the admissions committee. Bottom line, your needs to grab attention and pique interest. Your body paragraphs need to detail specific experiences you’ve had, either personal or professional, that deepened your interest in becoming a pharmacist and applying to school. Your conclusion needs to be a strong wrap-up of your main points but also leave your reader wanting more.
Here are some tips for writing a strong pharmacy school personal statement:
Most pharmacy schools ask for 2-3 letters of recommendation for your application. It’s best if at least one of them is written by a practicing pharmacist that you’ve worked with or shadowed, but you can ask for academic references or for an employer to write your recommendation letter, too. For professors, it’s best to ask science faculty to write your letter, and for employers, it’s better to any supervisors from healthcare related positions you’ve held.
If you’re applying through PharmCAS, the process for recommendation letters, or “Evaluations” is a bit different. You’ll need to send a request through the PharmCAS system to your chosen referees. They will need to complete an evaluation form which includes several short-answer questions and asks them to rate you on certain skills and attributes.
When asking your referees to write you a recommendation letter or complete an evaluation, ask them early! It takes some time and the more time you can give them the better. Also be sure to select referees with whom you have a strong and positive relationship.
Your extracurriculars for pharmacy school can encompass a wide variety of activities, including both healthcare-related and non-healthcare related. Even if your extracurriculars aren’t directly related to pharmacy, they can still exemplify desirable skills, knowledge and traits of a good pharmacy student, such as strong communication skills, empathy, adaptability, responsibility and problem-solving.
Here’s a few different areas to consider for your extracurriculars:
- Extracurriculars, including activities and hobbies
- Volunteer experiences
- Clinical or pharmacy experience
- Community service
Extracurriculars are just as important as your academic achievements when it comes to getting into pharmacy school. They not only show that you have the qualities and skills of a good pharmacist, they help diversify and personalize your application so you can stand out from the crowd. Non-academic achievements are as important to pharmacy school admissions committees as your GPA and PCAT score!
Some pharmacy schools do actually require prior work experience before you can apply. This work experience usually needs to be healthcare related, such as , or directly related to pharmacy. Your is the place to outline your experiences and skills. In particular, emphasize your communication, leadership, reliability and interpersonal skills.
To find work experience during your undergraduate years or during a gap year, look for internship opportunities or summer work placements as a pharmacy technician or pharmacy aide. These positions don’t require you to complete a pharmacy degree, but they may require certification. You can also find some pharmacies with programs to train techs or pharmacy volunteers. Use your professional network and college career resources to find opportunities for work.
These will be sent separately from your PharmCAS application, and you’ll need to submit your responses directly to the program. The turnaround time for secondary applications can be very short, so it’s best to prepare ahead of time. Check out the essay prompts for specific schools on their websites and start brainstorming.
Secondary essay prompts are typically centered on “why this school?” or “what can you contribute to our program?” so it doesn’t hurt to start working on your secondary essays before they’re even sent out.
Here are some of the common pharmacy school interview questions to prepare for!
Pharmacy schools often have an admissions interview as the final step before acceptance. Acing it is extremely important as it can secure your acceptance letter by making a positive impression on the admissions committee.
Many pharmacy schools use the multiple mini interview, or format. This may be an unfamiliar interview format, so it’s vital to prepare! MMIs can have some of the so you’ll need to practice ahead of time and polish your answers.
Here are some common pharmacy interview questions:
- What inspired you to become a pharmacist?
- Do you have any family members who are doctors or pharmacists?
- Why have you chosen our pharmacy program over other programs?
- Do you follow the most recent industry trends? What have you noticed lately?
One of the best ways to rehearse for an MMI is to use a mock interview. Ask a friend, admissions consultant or advisor to help you by acting as your interviewer. They can give you feedback on your answers and keep your interview performance on point.
1. What are the entry requirements for pharmacy?
The pharmacy school requirements are similar to the entry requirements for medical school or nursing school. You’ll need to meet the minimum GPA requirements, complete all pharmacy prerequisites, write the PCAT and submit a pharmacy school application. Your application will usually include a personal statement, a resume or CV, recommendation letters, supplemental essays and an admissions interview.
2. What GPA do I need to get into pharmacy school?
Most pharmacy schools have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0. To be considered a more competitive applicant, you’ll need a GPA of at least 3.5 and above.
3. Do I need to write the MCAT for pharmacy school?
No, most pharmacy schools ask you to write the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), not the MCAT. Although some pharmacy schools will accept alternative standardized tests in place of the PCAT, or may list the PCAT as optional.
4. Is it hard to get into pharmacy?
Compared to other health-related professional programs, pharmacy schools have a high acceptance rate overall of around 89%. This is an encouraging number, but keep in mind that the top pharmacy schools will have lower acceptance rates in general. Even if you’re applying to one of the easiest pharmacy schools to get into, you’ll still need a strong application and a solid interview to get in!
5. Is it hard to get into pharmacy in Canada?
There are only 11 pharmacy schools in Canada, with average acceptance rates ranging from around 2% to 30%. Getting into pharmacy school is relatively competitive, but the small number of schools in Canada means you will need a very strong application to rise above the competition.
6. What is the easiest pharmacy school to get into?
Based on an acceptance rate of 78%, the easiest pharmacy school to get into is the University of Mississippi College of Pharmacy.
7. What is the easiest pharmacy school to get into in Canada?
Based on admissions statistics, some of the easiest pharmacy schools to get into in Canada are the University of Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and the Université Laval Doctorate en Pharmacie.
8. Do I need to take the CASPer test for pharmacy school?
There are only a few pharmacy schools in the US that require the CASPer test, however most of the Canadian pharmacy school do require or recommend CASPer, including the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Université de Montréal, University of Manitoba, University of Saskatchewan, University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo.