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Pre-Pharmacy Preparation at UH Mānoa

(Text compiled from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy website:, Pharmacy School Admission Requirements 2013-2014; the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy website:, the UHHilo website: and the Harcourt Assessment PCAT Candidate Information booklet, and the UHM 2013-2014 Catalog.)

Hawai'i PharmD Program: UH Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

PharmD Programs
Prerequisites for Admission
What makes a strong candidate?
Researching Schools
The Application Process
Additional Information
Downloadable Brochure

Pharmacists specialize in the composition and interaction of drugs, including their physiological effects on humans. Traditionally, pharmacists dispense medications, but as the primary source of information on both prescription and over-the-counter medications, they also serve as a link between physician and patient. Pharmacists often decide on the form of medication, check for drug interactions, verify appropriate drug dosages and schedules, and advise patients in the proper use of medications. The ability to communicate effectively is critical, as pharmacists must be able to communicate with physicians in professional, scientific language as well as with patients in lay terms.

Pharmacists are employed in a multitude of public and private settings, including community pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, HMOs, government agencies, pharmaceutical corporations, and forensic medical labs.

Pharmacists hold PharmD, or Doctorate of Pharmacy, degrees. Related careers include Pharmacy Technician or Assistant at the Associates level, and Pharmacology, a drug research specialty for medical doctors (MDs or MD/PhDs).

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Pharmacy Programs

Completing a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree requires 5 – 8 years of education:

            Undergraduate Preparation (~ 2-3 years) or Bachelors Degree (~ 4 years);
            Pharmacy School (4 academic years or 3 calendar years); and
            Residency (optional).

The PharmD program requires a minimum of 2 years of pre-professional undergraduate coursework. Although it is possible to transfer to a PharmD program after 2 to 2 ½ years of pre-professional undergraduate coursework, a Bachelors degree can make you more competitive for admission and will provide you more options if you later decide to change careers. Students transferring into a PharmD program before completing a Bachelors may be required to complete the Bachelors as part of the PharmD program.

Many schools offer joint degree programs that may extend the number of years required. Examples include PharmD/PhD to combine pharmacy with research or teaching; PharmD/MPH to combine with public health; PharmD/JD to combine with law; and PharmD/MBA to combine with business administration, which is particularly helpful for those planning to open their own pharmacy.

The four-year PharmD program typically consists of three years of course work followed by one year of clinical internship, which leads in turn to licensing exams.

After graduating from pharmacy school, increasing numbers of students are seeking residency training in institutional or community practice or other specialty areas. Residency is sometimes a requirement for employment in hospitals or as clinical faculty at pharmacy schools.

Licensing is conducted by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) and licensing exams include the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE). All pharmacists must be licensed in order to practice!

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Prerequisites for Admission

Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school!  All students—both those completing a Bachelors degree and those planning to transfer into pharmacy school before completing a Bachelors degree—must complete all of their school’s prerequisites. You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the pharmacy schools you are interested in attending.

The following UHM courses are commonly required for admission to pharmacy schools:

BIOL 171/171Lab & 172/172Lab Introductory Biology I & II w/ Labs
CHEM 161/161Lab & 162/162Lab General Chemistry I & II w/ Labs
CHEM 272/272L & 273/273Lab Organic Chemistry I & II w/ Labs
PHYS 151/151Lab (& 152/152Lab) General Physics I (& II) w/ Labs
MATH 215 (& 216)
       or MATH 241 (& 242)
Applied Calculus I (& II)
        or Calculus I (& II)
ENG 100 & 200 English Composition I & II
ECON 130 or 131 Microeconomics or Macroeconomics
COMG 151 or 251 Speech or Public Speaking
ECON 321 or PSY/SOCS 225 Statistics
MICR 351/351L
       (or MICR 130/140L)
Biology of Microorganisms w/ Lab
       (or General Microbiology w/ Lab)
PHYL 301/301L & 302/302L
       (or PHYL 141/141L & 142/142L)
Human Anatomy and Physiology w/ Lab

Additional requirements may include courses such as biochemistry and additional social sciences or humanities.

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What makes a strong candidate?

Schools need to be certain that the students they accept will be capable of completing the academic curriculum and are likely to become good pharmacists. 

Are you capable of completing the academic curriculum?

Pharmacy school admissions committees are looking for students who have:

  • Completed the prerequisites
  • A high overall GPA
  • A high science/math GPA
  • Performed well on the PCAT
  • Balanced their course load so it is challenging yet realistic

Are you likely to become a good pharmacist?
Admissions committees look for students who have:

  • Experience in the field and with what pharmacy entails
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills
  • Strong letters of evaluation or recommendation
  • High ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
  • Demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
  • Demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
  • A broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
  • A well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)

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Researching Schools

The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (, which opened in 2007 and graduated its first class in Spring 2011, is the only accredited pharmacy program in Hawai’i. 

There are currently over 100 public and private pharmacy schools in the U.S., each one unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths.  Applicants can research schools using the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR).

Although there are resources that rank schools, the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants. More important is whether there is a good match between applicant and school.

To find schools that are good a fit for you:

  1. Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  2. Start by considering all schools, which usually includes all 100+ schools;
  3. Create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  4. Once you have your PCAT scores, create your “Short List” by categorizing the schools into ‘Reach’, ‘Match’, and ‘Safety’, ranking the schools by preference, and finally choosing how many schools to apply to.

If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to Admissions Directors, and chat with students.

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Most Pharmacy Schools require a standardized test called the Pharmacy College Admissions Test, or PCAT. Tables in the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) identify which schools require the PCAT.

Preparation:  Your most important preparation for the PCAT is your undergraduate courses, many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills.  Remember that your verbal reasoning score is not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do in pharmacy school, but also the most difficult score to improve. 

PCAT Summary:  Most pharmacy colleges require applicants to take a standardized test called the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT). The PCAT assesses your knowledge and skills in Biology, Chemistry, Quantitative Ability, Verbal Ability, Reading Comprehension, and Writing. The test requires ~5 hours to complete, and entails ~240 multiple choice questions and two 30-minute essays. The PCAT is administered in a computer-based format, and is offered about nine times each year, in July, September, and January. Additional test dates are offered at select locations in October and November.

PCAT Scoring:  The five sections are scored on a scale ranging from 200-600, 600 being the highest; writing samples are assigned on a scale of 0 to 5, 5 being the highest.    

*A few pharmacy schools require the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or the American College Testing Assessment (ACT) for admission.  Check with your specific schools for information.

Click Here for the PCAT Overview

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The Application Process

There are three general steps in applying to pharmacy schools: the primary application, the secondary application, and the interview.

1.  Primary applications for most schools must be filed with the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS), which is a centralized application system.  Once the application is complete, PharmCAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated.

2.  Secondary applications or supplementary forms are specific to individual pharmacy schools; schools send these to applicants after they have received the PharmCAS application. Both frequently request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation.  Some schools may even screen applicants before the applications or forms are sent out.  However, secondary applications and supplementary forms differ in that the latter is not a formal application.
3.  Interviews: After reviewing the primary and secondary applications (or supplementary forms), pharmacy schools invite promising applicants to interview. Applicants are responsible for all costs of interviewing, including airfare, lodging, professional attire, and meals.



  • The more you know about a school, the better your chances of being accepted.
  • Answers to many questions about applying are available in the PSAR.
  • Contact individual schools’ Admissions Offices to find out how they handle:
      • Advanced placement (AP) credits
      • International Baccalaureate (IB) credits
      • College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) credits
      • Military Credits
      • Courses taken at a community college
      • Courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
      • Residency issues
      • Time limits for old science courses
      • Non-U.S. coursework

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Additional Information

UH Mānoa’s Pre-Health/Pre-Law Advising Center (PAC) has reference books, lists of volunteer opportunities, academic planning worksheets, and one-on-one advising by peers who can help you prepare for and apply to pharmacy schools.

UHM’s Pre-Pharmacy Association (PPA)          
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)
American Pharmacy Association (APhA) Career Pathways Online Assessment Tool!apha_pathways.welcome
Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT)
Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS)
Medical Professions Admission Guide: Strategy
for Success by NAAHP
Available in PAC
Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) Available in PAC
Or online at
Click on:  “Resources”           
               “Student Center”
               “Admissions” (under Is Pharmacy for You)
                 Pharmacy School Admission Requirements
Preparing for Graduate School by the Honors Program

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