Pharmacy School Questions From A High School Student
In our latest question and answer, the pharmacist discusses several key points for high school students looking at a career in pharmacy.
As a high school student, what classes are best to take? Where would I go after high school to move towards this career? What are some of the prerequisites to get into a school like the KU School of Pharmacy, or other pharmacy schools? Thanks!!
Pharmacy School Questions
Thank you for contacting us! I discuss each of your questions below.
Q: As a high school student, what classes are best to take?
In high school, it is important to gain a strong background in science and math. Taking courses in biology and chemistry will be especially important.
Generally, maintaining a strong GPA while having significant involvement in extracurricular activities will help you be competitive for college. Volunteering in the health care field can also be beneficial and it also allows the opportunity to build relationships as recommendations are a common requirement for applicants.
In terms of becoming a future pharmacist, high school is really about two things:
- Getting the grades and participating in extracurricular activities that allow you to be accepted into the college of your choice.
- Establishing a foundation for success in college. Most of your classes in college are going to be math and science based, so taking as many as you can (especially college level courses like AP ones) can certainly help give you a head start.
Q: What are some of the pre-requisites to get into a school like the KU School of Pharmacy, or other pharmacy schools?
If we look specifically at the college you mention in your question, KU, there are no high school pre-requisites and they do not have an 'early assurance' program as some schools do. You simply apply after you have completed the pre-requite college courses.
From the KU website, they require applicants to:
- Earn an overall GPA of 2.5 or higher.
- Complete the Pre-Pharmacy Curriculum with a grade of C or higher in all courses.
- No off-site or virtual laboratory courses are accepted.
Below is their list of prerequisite courses:
As mentioned, there are some schools that have an 'early assurance' program, which accepts students into the pharmacy program directly from high school.
The AACP website has a complete list of all pharmacy school programs and details whether or not they have an 'early assurance' program. The .PDF list is available here:
Q: Where would I go after high school to move towards this career?
You must attend and graduate from an accredited Doctor of Pharmacy program (Pharm.D) to become a licensed pharmacist in the United States.
For most colleges, you must first complete undergraduate pre-requisites in sciences, including:
- General Chemistry
- Organic Chemistry
Undergraduate work generally takes at least 2 years, but some schools require 3 to 4 years or even a bachelor's degree (Skaggs school of pharmacy in San Diego requires one for example) in order to apply.
Once accepted into a pharmacy school, students must then complete 4 years of graduate-level courses that include thousands of hours of experiential training, as well as didactic course work.
After graduation, you will need to take a national exam (NAPLEX) and a state-specific law test. New York State requires a practical lab exam (i.e. compounding exam) as well.
There are also opportunities for residency training after pharmacy school, that allows you to specialize in a specific area of pharmacy practice. Residency programs are generally 1-2 years (PGY1 & PGY2) and, while paid, are on average less than half the salary of a pharmacist.
Pharmacists play an essential role in the health care field and I wish you luck in the future. One key piece of advice is to expose yourself to the world of pharmacy prior to pursuing it as a career. Try to find a related job or a volunteer opportunity.
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