I am a college student who wants to eventually become a pharmacist, but I am struggling on deciding what major will be the right major to pursue, psychology or biology? Can you assist me in finding the best option?
At a glance
- The vast majority of pharmacy schools do not require a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission. There are some exceptions however (e.g. USC School of Pharmacy).
- Nevertheless, admission to pharmacy school requires a number of prerequisite classes. While the specific requirements will vary by school, they all require such classes as general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology and physiology.
- In most cases, while a specific undergraduate major or bachelor's degree isn't required for pharmacy school admissions, it would be prudent to choose one (e.g. biology) that includes most of the required prerequisite courses.
- It is extremely important to look into prospective pharmacy schools and understand their admission requirements to help guide you.
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There are many things to consider for prospective college students wishing to pursue a career in pharmacy.
First and foremost, you are going to have to determine which schools you plan on applying to so you can be sure to complete their academic prerequisites.
While academic prerequisites are generally similar between schools, it would be beneficial to look into the specific requirements for a given school to make sure you aren't missing anything.
PHARMCAS (Pharmacy College Application Service) has a complete list of schools that offer a PharmD (doctor of pharmacy) program with links to their respective admission pages detailing their requirements.
Does Major Matter?
Your college major doesn't matter so much as does the fact that you need to have completed all of the admission requirements for the school you are applying to.
Having said that, majoring in subjects such as biology or chemistry will naturally run in line with classes needed for pharmacy school admissions.
While you technically could major in another subject, like psychology, you will find that you would need to take a lot of elective courses that are required for pharmacy school admissions. Unless you have a specific need or want for a psychology degree, it wouldn't make much sense to pursue that if your end goal is to enter a pharmacy program.
So, it is important to note that you don't necessarily need to major in 'pre-pharmacy' (if your college offers that) or any other specific major, but again, you need to complete all the required prerequisite courses, which are mostly math and science-based.
The PHARMCAS website sums this all up pretty nicely:
"You are not required to major in “pre-pharmacy” in college to be eligible for admission to pharmacy degree programs. Chemistry is the most common major for pharmacy applicants because the course prerequisites for pharmacy are incorporated into the standard chemistry curriculum. Student pharmacists, however, come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, including those who majored in English, business, communications, biology, etc. If the pharmacy prerequisite courses are not required as part of your undergraduate major, you will need to complete these courses as electives."
To get an idea of the classes required for pharmacy school admissions, let's take a look at the pharmacy program at UCSF (University of California San Francisco). Before applying, you must complete:
- General Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
Remember that these are prerequisite courses, meaning they need to be completed (with a certain GPA as well) before a pharmacy school will consider your application for admission.
I can't emphasize enough that when you are deciding what courses to take as an undergraduate, take a look at your prospective pharmacy school programs and their admission requirements. That will guide you in the right direction when choosing classes.
Additionally, be sure to utilize an academic adviser at your college if one is available to you. They can help plan your academic course.
One final point I want to make is that there are a small number of schools, like the USC School of Pharmacy, that do require a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission (in addition to all of their prerequisite courses).
The need to obtain a bachelor's degree for admission isn't overly common, but does illustrate the fact that different schools have different requirements.