The future of pharmacy isn’t what your mother thinks- In the last few years, there has been a shift in what licensed pharmacists can do that has opened doors into all corridors of healthcare. Obtaining your Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) allows graduate to work in all areas of health care, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, veterinary hospitals, research laboratories, the Department of Defense operations, and a wide range of other opportunities related to patient safety.

But aren’t pharmacists only found in retail pharmacies? While retail pharmacy is the most public-facing career for those with PharmDs, only 40.2% worked in chain or independent pharmacies, with another 7.7% working in supermarkets with pharmacies. The majority of the other 52.1% of PharmDs are found working in hospitals, physician’s offices, or outpatient care centers (Source). Pharmacists are dedicated to improving personalized patient health through educating patients and monitoring their medication use, promoting overall well-being including illness prevention, and advising physicians on medication issues. Pharmacists can also promote population health through drug research and development by working for public health organizations, governmental agencies, and pharmaceutical industries. Lastly, good pharmacy educators are always needed to foster future generations of pharmacists.

So what makes a pharmacist so integral to healthcare? Pharmacists are one of the very few healthcare experts that have expertise touching every stage of the patient lifecycle. Because of their expertise in drug interactions. If you are someone who genuinely cares about patients, interested in science and math, and wants to effect all people for the better, it’s time to consider to obtain your Doctor of Pharmacy.

Where do you start? It depends where you are.

A balanced and comprehensive high school education is an important first step in pursuing a professional degree in pharmacy. Discuss your courses carefully with your guidance counselor to assure you are on track for college. AP level biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics are especially desirable.

Typically, a PharmD degree is earned in 8 years, comprised of 4 years of an undergraduate degree and 4 years in the Doctor of Pharmacy program, producing pharmacists at 26 at the earliest. For those looking to enter the field earlier, a limited amount of schools of pharmacy offer accredited degrees at an accelerated level. These accelerated programs graduate Doctors of Pharmacy in just 3 years.

Chapman University’s PharmD program is one of the few that sits on the 3-year accelerated track. While it is a faster program than the four year programs, the curricula strives to provide a balanced didactic and experiential education to prepare student pharmacists for board examinations and to enter the practice of pharmacy. The didactic curriculum of a Pharm.D. program introduces knowledge in pathophysiology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, pharmaceutics, therapeutics, health policy and management in a stepwise approach which is complemented with patient care skill development being learned in the didactic courses and Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPEs). The final stage of learning involves integration of the cumulated knowledge and skills into the Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPEs) during the last year of pharmacy education where student pharmacists are placed in different patient care settings to learn directly from the pharmacists and other health care providers.

For an even more accelerated doctoral program, Chapman University offers an Accelerated Pre-Pharmacy Experience Program (APEx) for recent high school graduates without bachelors degrees. APEx graduates leave Chapman University with their PharmD at 23 years old, instead of the industry average of 26. Chapman’s 3 year program being more affordable long term than typical four year pharmacy colleges.

Chapman University offers merit scholarships each year. Incoming external students will receive an award upon admission and that can carry forward throughout the program as long as they maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA and maintain integrity and are in good standing. We also have sponsored scholarships that we offer that come from organizations like Ralphs, Walgreens, Boiron, CVS, and VPhA.

APEx students may receive a scholarship at Orange during the 2 years of pre-pharmacy, and will receive $44,000 towards the pharmacy program ($5,500 per term) as long as they successfully completed the 2 years at Orange meeting the APEx’s minimum criteria.

Before being admitted into Pharmacy School, a student needs to complete some undergraduate coursework to qualify. The prerequisite qualifications for a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program usually consist of about two years of specific undergraduate coursework.

Chapman University’s School of Pharmacy (CUSP) has their prerequisites listed online. It is important that pre-professional students plan their course work to meet the requirements. Students may acquire a bachelor’s degree, although it is not a requirement for admission to most Pharm.D. programs.

The PCAT is no longer required at any institution, but many high ranking, growing, or competitive schools recommend the test as a supplement to an application, including Chapman University School of Pharmacy.

Once graduated from a pharmacy school, graduates must pass both national and state licensure examinations before practicing, including the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). If you plan to practice in California, you must pass the California Practice Standards and Jurisprudence Examination for Pharmacists (CPJE), otherwise pass the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE) or a state-sponsored exam depending on the requirements of the respective state.

This article was updated on April 22, 2024, and originally posted on January 6, 2015.