How to Obtain a Pharmacist Degree

Obtaining a pharmacist degree requires tremendous amount of study and dedication.  You must also have a love of science and math, excellent communication and people skill, and high ethical standards.  The reward for your hard work is becoming part of a respected and trusted profession tasked with dispensing and assuring the best drug therapy for patients.

The pharmacist profession has evolved from the druggist who dispensed prescription medication to a vital member of the health care team.  Pharmacists work in hospitals, retail stores, and the pharmaceutical industry.  With their wealth of scientific knowledge and exceptional interpersonal skills, they can make a difference in patients’ lives.  You can become a pharmacist by first obtaining a pharmacist degree from a college or school of pharmacy.

There are now over a hundred accredited pharmacist schools in the Unites States.  More than 60 countries worldwide also offer programs for a pharmacist degree.  Some programs are even available online.  In the US, the pharmacist degree is a four-year professional degree called the PharmD degree or Doctor of Pharmacy.  School accreditation is done by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE).

With the growing importance of the pharmacist’s role in a patient’s treatment program, the former 4-year bachelor’s degree for pharmacists has been upgraded so as to provide a more comprehensive education for pharmacists.  Students must complete at least two years of pre-pharmacy work at a college, university or technical school.  The common courses required include biology, microbiology, anatomy, physiology, English, psychology, sociology and calculus.  In fact, most pharmacy students have completed three to four years of undergraduate college courses.  Some have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree when they enter pharmacy school.

Applicants to a pharmacist school are often required to take a standardized test called the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT).  The need for pharmacists in the US is expected to grow 22% between 2006 and 2016, and many schools of pharmacy have a growing number of enrollees.

The courses required for a pharmacist degree can vary, but there are common courses which include the pharmaceutical sciences such as medicinal chemistry and pharmacology.  There are also courses in pharmacy administration, practicalities of dispensing medication, and clinical pharmacy.  Externship constitutes about 25% of the curriculum.  This is where students can apply in real-life situations what they have learned in the classroom.

In most states, obtaining a pharmacist degree is not sufficient for you to be able to practice as a pharmacist.  Aside from the required number of externship hours of practical experience, you must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multi-State Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MSJE).  These exams are given by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).


  1. Cecilia Cadano says

    It is a very good profession. There is a good potential for advancement and competitive salaries within a pharmacy career.

  2. Cynthia Kolb says

    I found this article extremely helpful, although I was just ensuring my college counselor is guiding me in the right direction. Good article, on my way….