Pharmacy school and law school both have academically rigorous curricula, and both can lead to financially lucrative and prestigious careers. Both result in terminal professional degrees and graduates of both must take a professional licensing exam before they can begin professional practice. Though there are many similarities in the two programs, their focus is fundamentally different, with one providing the training to work as a pharmacist and one the training to become a lawyer. The choice between pharmacy school and law school depends on a student's individual career goals and academic strengths.
Students who want to go to pharmacy school must take the Pharmacy College Admission Test, or PCAT. Students who want to go to law school must take the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT. The PCAT has a writing section and five multiple choice-sections: verbal ability, biology, chemistry, reading comprehension and quantitative ability. Questions test scientific knowledge and analytical reasoning, with a maximum possible score of 600. The LSAT includes five multiple-choice sections that test reading comprehension, analytical reasoning and logical reasoning, with a maximum possible score of 180. The higher the score on either test, the better chances the student has of being admitted to a top school.
Prospective law school students must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited program. Students do not have to complete a specific major, nor do they have to complete any prerequisite courses for admission. Most pharmacy schools, on the other hand, do not require that students have earned a bachelor's degree before being admitted, but do require that certain coursework has been completed. Requirements vary by school, but most include a list of courses in biology, chemistry, physics and statistics. For example, the University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy requires that applicants complete two courses of general chemistry, two courses of organic chemistry, principles of biology, human anatomy and physiology, microbiology and two courses of general physics, all with labs. Calculus and statistics courses are also required.
Time and Cost
Both law school and pharmacy school include three years of coursework. However, law school students are finished and can graduate with their Juris Doctor in three years, while pharmacy students must complete a fourth year before they can graduate with their Doctor of Pharmacy degree. The fourth year of the PharmD degree program is spent in hands-on training with a pharmacist or in a pharmacy setting. Though law school students can complete an externship or work as a summer associate, it is not a requirement. Law school costs significantly more than pharmacy school. The American Bar Association says that the average tuition at a public school was $23,214 per year in 2012, and the average tuition at a private school was $40,634. At the time of publication, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy reports that the average tuition for a public pharmacy school is $13,000 per year, and the average for a private school is $28,000. Even with the extra year in pharmacy school, the total average tuition is still far less than law school.
Those who feel equally inclined to study either the law or pharmacy may be swayed by the career opportunities for each. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that jobs for lawyers are expected to grow by 10 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is about average compared to other industries. However, jobs for pharmacists are expected to grow by 25 percent in that same time frame, which is faster than average for other industries. Salaries are about the same in both industries, with the BLS reporting that lawyers earned an average of $112,760 in 2010 and pharmacists made an average of $111,570.