How To Become A Pharmacist

October 11, 2023


Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 10/11/23

Interested in becoming a pharmacist? We’ve created a handy guide to walk you through the entire process. 

Pharmacists are known for being reliable and trustworthy. It’s a great career path with many benefits. People depend on pharmacists for their medicinal needs, whether it’s a prescription for Adderall or antibiotics to overcome an infection. Whatever the ailment, you’ll rely on a pharmacist at some point in your life.

Consider becoming a pharmacist if you want a career that helps others. But is it hard to become a pharmacist? While it’s not the easiest path, it’s an incredibly worthwhile endeavor. This guide will discuss how to become a pharmacist, along with some of the best programs and the job outlook. . 

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What Is a Pharmacist?

You may leave a doctor’s visit with a prescription for medicine you need to feel better or maintain your everyday health. A pharmacist prepares the correct medication and dosage prescribed to you. Any medication in excess can have dangerous and sometimes deadly effects. 

Pharmacists inform you of the possible side effects associated with your medication. Sometimes certain medications negate the effects of medications you may take regularly. Pharmacists inform people of these instances to ensure the person stays safe. 

Medicine heals, but it can also cause harm. Part of a pharmacist’s job is to prevent harm. For example, some addictive medications can’t be refilled until your doctor approves them. Pharmacists ensure you don’t receive refills of this medication unless a doctor prescribes it to you. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacist?

How long it takes to be a pharmacist depends on which pre-pharmacy path you choose. To become a pharmacist, you must meet pharmacy education requirements. A pharmacy program typically takes four years to complete after completing a bachelor’s degree. 

A bachelor’s degree isn’t necessarily a requirement for being a pharmacist. If you don’t want a bachelor’s degree, you can take a two-year pre-pharmacy program. A pre-pharmacy program prepares you in a shorter amount of time. However, be advised that some programs require a bachelor’s degree.

Steps to Become a Pharmacist

If you’re worried about how hard it is to become a pharmacist, don’t fret. We want you to succeed, so we’ve outlined all the steps. Understanding how to become a pharmacist makes the journey easier.

1. Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree or Partake in a Pre-Pharmacy Program

An advanced degree is the first stage of the pharmacist education path. Pharmacy schools want students to succeed, and earning a bachelor’s degree or completing a pre-pharmacy program shows you can handle the demands of a pharmacy degree. 

2. Take the PCAT

Before applying to pharmacy school, you’ll need to take the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). This exam analyzes your abilities to perform well in a pharmacy program. This exam consists of:

  • Biological Processes
  • Chemical Processes 
  • Critical Reading
  • Quantitative Reasoning

Achieving a high PCAT score can help elevate your candidacy by making your application more competitive. 

3. Pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree

Once you’ve fulfilled the prerequisites, you’ll move on to a pharmacy program. These programs take an average of four years to complete. 

4. Earn Your License

Once you’ve completed the pharmacy program, you must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) to practice pharmacy in the U.S. 

5. Pursue a Residency Program

Once you’re licensed, you can receive additional training through a residency program. These programs allow you to hone your skills as a pharmacist and gain more experience.

Pharmacist Education Requirements

To give yourself the best chance of acceptance into a pharmacy program, you should earn a bachelor’s degree. You’ll prove to these schools that you can handle the program’s demands. You can get into a pharmacy program with any bachelor’s degree. 

Due to lifestyle and budget constraints, some people can’t afford to dedicate four years to earn a bachelor’s degree. There’s still hope! You can pursue a pre-pharmacy program instead of a bachelor’s degree. 

This program takes an average of two years to complete, cutting the time to become a pharmacist to six years. Ensure you apply to schools that allow a pre-pharmacy program in place of a bachelor’s degree.

Though you don’t need a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry, you should be knowledgeable in these areas since they’re crucial to a pharmacist’s job. Ensure you pursue biology and chemistry in college for a strong foundation in your career as a pharmacist.

Top Five Pharmacy Programs

Once you’ve obtained your degree and passed the PCAT, you can apply to pharmacy programs. Below you’ll find the country’s top five pharmacy programs based on U.S. News’ ranking

1. University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill 

Established in 1897, the University of North Carolina -- Chapel Hill stands as one of the oldest pharmacy schools in the United States.  

Picture of a University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill building

Source: UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy


If you have a bachelor’s degree, you must take:

  • General Chemistry I (lab required)
  • General Chemistry II (lab required)
  • Organic Chemistry I (lab required)
  • Organic Chemistry II (lab required) 
  • Principles of Biology (lab required)
  • Human Anatomy/Physiology (lab required)
  • Microbiology (lab required)
  • General Physics I (lab required)
  • Calculus of One Variable
  • Statistics
  • Biological Chemistry

Approximately 80-90% of enrolling students in past years apply with a bachelor’s degree. 

If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree:

  • General Chemistry I (lab required)
  • Organic Chemistry I (lab required)
  • Organic Chemistry II (lab required)
  • Principles of Biology (lab required)
  • Human Anatomy/Physiology (lab required)
  • Microbiology (lab required)
  • General Physics I (lab required)
  • General Physics II (lab required)
  • Calculus of One Variable
  • Statistics
  • Biological Chemistry 
  • English Composition and Rhetoric
  • Social Sciences (two courses)
  • Humanities (two courses)

The PCAT is optional for admittance to the UNC Chapel Hill pharmacy program. Students must provide two letters of recommendation to apply.

Annual Tuition

Annual tuition can vary depending on what semesters you attend UNC. Fall and spring tuition and fees for North Carolina residents are $13,515.82 per semester, while the summer session costs $3,238

For non-residents, fall and spring semesters cost $25,079.32, and the summer session costs $7,323.

2. University of California – San Francisco 

The University of California – San Francisco receives more research funding than any other pharmacy school in the United States.  

Source: UCSF


UCSF applicants must complete 88 total quarter units and fulfill these course requirements: 

  • General Chemistry (lab required)
  • Organic Chemistry (lab required)
  • Biology (lab required)
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology (lab required)
  • Calculus
  • Statistics
  • English
  • Humanities or Social Sciences

The PCAT is optional for this program.

Annual Tuition

Annual tuition for California residents is $57,808 and tuition for non-residents is $70,053.

3. University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

If you’re interested in attending a small college with plenty of research opportunities, the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor is the school for you. 

Picture of the entrance of the college of pharmacy in the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Source: UMichigan


Prerequisite courses to apply to Ann Arbor’s pharmacy program include: 

  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Calculus
  • General Chemistry (lab required)
  • Organic Chemistry (lab required)
  • English Composition
  • Genetics
  • Human Anatomy
  • Human Physiology
  • Microbiology (lab required)
  • Physics (lab required)
  • Statistics
  • Humanities or Foreign Language
  • Social Science

Though the PCAT is optional for admission into the pharmacy program, students need letters of recommendation to apply.

Annual Tuition

Michigan residents pay $35,998 annually in tuition and fees, whereas non-residents pay $42,280.

4. University of Minnesota

Established in 1892, the University of Minnesota has fostered nearly 7,500 pharmacists in the state. Within six months after graduation, 91% of students find work or pursue a residency. 


Course requirements are as follows: 

  • General Biology (lab required)
  • Microbiology (lab recommended)
  • Human or Comparative Anatomy (lab recommended)
  • Human or Comparative Physiology (lab recommended)
  • Advanced Biology
  • Calculus I
  • Statistics
  • General Chemistry (lab required)
  • Organic Chemistry (lab required)
  • General Physics
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • English Composition
  • Introductory Communication

The PCAT is currently optional for students. You must provide two letters of recommendation for evaluation.

Annual Tuition

Annual tuition for Minnesota residents is $27,864. Non-residents pay $32,000.

5. University of Florida

Though this university is ranked #5 in the top pharmacy schools in the United States, the University of Florida ranks #1 in residency placements. 


You must take the following courses to apply to the University of Florida: 

  • General Chemistry I (lab required)
  • General Chemistry II (lab required)
  • Biochemistry
  • Biology I (lab required)
  • Biology II (lab required)
  • Microbiology 
  • Anatomy and Physiology I (lab required) OR
  • Anatomy and Physiology II (lab required) OR
  • Functional Anatomy and Animal Physiology (lab required) 
  • Analytical Geometry with Calculus
  • Statistics

The PCAT is optional for this program, and you must provide two letters of recommendation to apply. 

Annual Tuition

Annual tuition for Florida residents is $19,485, plus different fees each year. Tuition and fees for out-of-state students cost $36,000 annually. 


A residency program after pharmacy school gives you extra training and monitored experience before moving on to become a pharmacist. A residency program isn’t required for licensed pharmacists, but it does give you more experience. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists provides information on residency programs.

You’ll need to meet the application requirements if you’re interested in pursuing a residency program after pharmacy school. Requirements may vary from school to school, so you’ll need to research the residency programs you want to apply to. 


To practice pharmacy, you must obtain a license. Similar to medical licenses, pharmacy licenses vary by state, and you must have a license in the state you wish to practice. You can find a list of the state licensing requirements for pharmacists here. You’ll also need to pass the NAPLEX to begin your career as a pharmacist. 

Job Outlook and Salary 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook of pharmacists will experience a 3% growth rate in the upcoming years. This rate is about as fast as average. 

Pharmacists make an average of $132,750 annually. If you’re interested in the medical field but don’t want the stress of medical school, you should consider becoming a pharmacist. 

FAQs: Becoming a Pharmacist

If you still have questions about becoming a pharmacist, these frequently asked questions can provide you with answers. 

1. Do I Have to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree to Become a Pharmacist?

You can become a pharmacist without a bachelor’s degree. You can either pursue a pre-pharmacy program or take the prerequisite courses of the pharmacy school you wish to attend. However, some pharmacy schools require a bachelor’s degree so ensure your school’s requirements before applying.

2. Do You Need Med School to Become a Pharmacist? 

No, you don’t need med school to become a pharmacist. As long as you have your bachelor’s degree or pre-pharmacy diploma and your pharmacy school degree, you're qualified to pursue a career as a pharmacist. 

3. Is the PCAT Mandatory?

Many pharmacy schools make the PCAT optional for prospective students. Requirements vary, so ensure you research the pharmacy schools you want to attend to determine if the PCAT is mandatory. 

4. Is Being a Pharmacist Worth It? 

Is it worth it? Absolutely! A pharmacist’s average salary is $132,750 per year, and there are many different pathways you can take with your degree. You can pursue a career in community pharmacy, in-patient or clinical care, long-term care, or even academia, just to name a few.

5. Is It Hard to Become a Pharmacist? 

You must fulfill many requirements to become a pharmacist, which can be challenging. While the road ahead may be difficult at times, the six to eight years of rigorous schooling will help you become a capable pharmacist. 

Is Becoming a Pharmacist Part of Your Plan?

If you’re interested in a career that fulfills your desire to help others, consider becoming a pharmacist. It’s a lengthy and challenging process, but it’s worth it. It isn’t easy, but in the end, you’ll have a fulfilling career in a well-respected field. 

Now that you know how to become a pharmacist, you’re ready to start your journey. However, if you have more questions or want to strategically position yourself as the best candidate possible, Inspira Advantage can help you stand out and boost your chances of acceptance at any pharmacy school! 

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