Becoming a pharmacist demands specialized coursework and testing leading to a Doctor of Pharmacy, or PharmD, degree. Many pharmacy schools require entering students to possess a bachelor's degree or at least some undergraduate work before admission, so you should select your undergraduate major and courses carefully based on the pharmaceutical career you want.
Some schools offer associates degrees in pre-pharmacy, which take about two years to complete and consist of about 60 semester credits. Required general education courses include composition, math, science, social studies and humanities. The remainder of classes needed to finish out the AA requirements typically include sciences, such as anatomy and physiology, basic chemistry, organic chemistry, general biology, cell biology, zoology and physics. Pre-pharmacy majors also may need math, such as algebra and calculus, and an economics class.
Some pharmacy schools require a full bachelor's degree for admission, which typically takes about four years of study or 120 semester credits. The base of a bachelors degree for the pre-pharmacy major resembles that ofthe associates degree, including work in math, science, social sciences, communications and humanities. The degree often emphasizes sciences, including biology, chemistry, physics and anatomy. The additional two years beyond the associate degree generally include advanced levels of these sciences, such as biochemistry and statistics, and specialized courses, such as immunology and other coursework to develop strong scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills.
The pre-pharmacy degree is the obvious major to choose for undergraduate work. Not all schools offer this option, however, but you can still prepare for a career as a pharmacist. Choosing a science major allows you to take the courses that best prepare you for pharmaceutical school, such as biochemistry, biology, chemistry, chemical engineering, food science and health science. Psychology and other social science options may also be appropriate majors if your school does not offer a pre-pharmacy degree.
You may choose a terminal undergraduate degree to work within the pharmaceutical field as a pharmacy technician. Although the minimum educational requirement for this position is high school graduation, some jobs demand more training. Schools may offer degrees or certificates to meet this demand, which takes two years or less, and to prepare students for state-issued certification exams. Coursework generally focuses on medical terminology, basic math, understanding the pharmaceutical process, general computer use in the field and a practicum offering real-world experience.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: How to Become a Pharmacist
- University of Iowa: Pharmacy Preprofessional Program
- Purdue University College of Pharmacy: Undergraduate Programs Frequently Asked Questions
- Indiana University--Pudue University Indianapolis: Choosing an Undergraduate Major
- Clemson University: Prepharmacy Program
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Pharmacy Technicians
- Marygrove College: Pharmacy Technician
Kristie Sweet has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Northern Colorado.