Pre-Pharmacy at UH Mānoa

Text compiled from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) website, Pharmacy School Admission Requirements 2013-2014, the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP) website, the Harcourt Assessment PCAT Candidate Information booklet, and the UHM 2015-2016 Catalog.

Pharmacy Programs in Hawai`i: UH Hilo Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy

Pharmacy Programs
Prerequisites for Admission
What makes a strong candidate?
Researching Schools
Entrance Exam
The Application Process
Four-Year Sample Plan
Financial Aid
Additional Information

Field Description:

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.

Work Setting:

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.

Related Careers: pharmacy technician or assistant, pharmaceutical research.

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Pharmacy Programs

Years of Schooling to Become a Pharmacist:

6-10 years of education:

  • Undergraduate Preparation (~2-4 years);
  • Pharmacy School (~4 years);
  • Residency (1-2 years, optional).

Pharmacy schools require a minimum of 2 years of undergraduate prerequisite coursework. Although it is possible to start pharmacy school after only two years of undergraduate preparation, completing a bachelor’s degree is recommended. Admission to pharmacy schools is highly competitive, and a bachelor’s degree strengthens a student’s application and provides students with greater options for advancement and career opportunities. For help choosing a major, please see the “Choosing a Major for Professional Schools in Health” webpage.

Degree Conferred:

Upon graduation from pharmacy school, students are awarded the Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD).

Combined Degree Programs:

Many pharmacy schools offer combined degree programs: PharmD/PhD to combine pharmacy with research or teaching; PharmD/JD to combine pharmacy with law; PharmD/MPH to combine pharmacy with public health; PharmD/MBA to combine pharmacy with business administration; and so on. A PharmD/MBA is particularly helpful for those planning to open their own pharmacies. Combined degrees can be offered concurrently, sequentially, or in combination, and often extend the number of years in pharmacy school.

What to Expect in Pharmacy School:

The four-year PharmD program typically consists of three years of course work and one year of clinical internship, which is followed by licensing exams. Accelerated three-calendar year PharmD programs are offered to students who have completed all college-level prerequisites for admission. For a listing of institutions that offer this type of program, please click here.

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. Some residencies are offered in conjunction with a graduate degree, such as an MS, MBA, or MPH.

The Licensing Examination(s):

Graduates of accredited pharmacy schools are eligible to sit for the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), a national exam for pharmacy licensure in the United States. Pharmacy licensure is regulated at the state level, and students may need to pass other exams such as the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE) or satisfy other requirements, depending on the state in which they intend to practice. 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!  You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the schools you are interested in attending.

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

BIOL 171/171L and 172/172LIntroduction to Biology I and II8 cr.
CHEM 161/161L and 162/162LGeneral Chemistry I and II8 cr.
CHEM 272/272L and 273/273LOrganic Chemistry I and II9 cr.
PHYS 151/151L (and 152/152L)
or PHYS 170/170L (and 272/272L)
College Physics I (and II)
or General Physics I (and II)
8 or 9 cr.
BIOC or BIOLBiochemistry (Please see the Pharmacy School Admissions Requirements below for specific requirements)*3 to 5 cr.
MATH 215 (and 216)
or MATH 241 (and 242)
Applied Calculus I (and II)
or Calculus I (and II)
7 or 8 cr.
ART, DNCE, ENG, ES HIST, HWST, LING, MUS, PHIL, REL, THEA, and/or foreign languageHumanities (Please see the Pharmacy School Admissions Requirements below for specific requirements)6 to 12 cr.
ENG 100 and higherComposition I and higher6 cr.
ECON 130 or 131Economics3 cr.
COMG 151 or 251Speech or Public Speaking3 cr.
PSY/SOCS 225 or ECON 321Statistics3 cr.
MICR 130/140L
(or MICR 351/351L**)
General Microbiology
(or Biology of Microorganisms)
5 cr.
PHYL 141/141L and 142/142L
(or PHYL 301/L and 302/L)
Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II8 or 10 cr.

For the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP), the following courses are also required:

REL, foreign languages, etc.
Humanities***6 cr.
HIST 151 or 152, REL 150,
GEOG 102, ANTH 152, etc.
Cultural Diversity 3 cr.
PSY, SOC, GEOG, WS, etc.
Social/Behavioral Sciences***6 cr.

*Please note that the prerequisites for BIOL/MBBE/PEPS 402 and BIOC 441 are BIOL 275 and CHEM 273. BIOL 275L is also a prerequisite for BIOL/MBBE/PEPS 402.

**Please note that the prerequisites for MICR 351/L are BIOL 171 and CHEM 272/L. BIOL 275/L are recommended for MICR 351.

***Courses used to fulfill these requirements may not double-dip with DKICP’s Economics or Speech/Public Speaking requirements.

Biochemistry is not a prerequisite for DKICP.

Additional requirements may include courses such as biochemistry and additional humanities and social sciences. It is also recommended that non-science majors take additional upper-division or advanced science electives beyond the prerequisites listed above.

CHEM 171/171L might not be accepted by pharmacy schools in place of CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L. Students should double check with the schools they are interested in if the schools would accept CHEM 171/171L in place of CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L.

Review the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) for the specific requirements of each school.

Click here for a four-year sample plan.

Click here for a sample general timeline.

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What makes a strong candidate?

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

Are you capable of completing the pharmacy curriculum?

Admissions committees seek 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 seek students who have:

  • demonstrated empathy, compassion, and a commitment to public service
  • high ethical and moral standards and a conscientious work ethic
  • demonstrated maturity (judgment, responsibility, dependability)
  • a broad liberal arts education that includes the humanities and social sciences
  • experience in the field and with what pharmacy entails
  • a well-rounded life that balances academics, community service, social activities, and personal interests (hobbies, skills, sports, etc.)
  • excellent oral and written communication skills
  • a high degree of professionalism in all aspects of life
  • strong letters of recommendation

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Researching Schools

There are currently about 129 accredited pharmacy schools in the US, each unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths.  Applicants can research schools using the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) (physical copy available for use).

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 (PAC peer advisors can help with this process):

  1. Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  2. Start by considering all schools, which usually includes all 129 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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Entrance Exam

Most pharmacy schools require applicants to take a standardized test called the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT). The Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) identifies 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 scores are not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do in pharmacy school, but also the most difficult scores to improve.

PCAT Summary:  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 one 30-minute essay. 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:  Each of the five multiple choice sections receives a score between 200 and 600; the Writing Sample receives a score between 1 and 6. Scores are often reported as a percentile, with the median score (50th percentile) among examinees being ~400 for each of the multiple choice sections. Many schools have cut-offs for acceptable PCAT scores; students should consult the PSAR to determine the policies of the schools they are interested in applying to.

*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.

**UPDATE: The DKICP will NO LONGER waive the PCAT requirement for those with a conferred Bachelor’s degree.

Here is more information on how to prepare for an entrance exam.

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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. The process follows an accelerated timeline.

1.  Primary applications for most schools must be filed with the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS), which is a centralized application system. PharmCAS usually opens in mid-July. It includes a personal statementOnce the application is complete, PharmCAS forwards it to whichever schools the student has designated.

2.  Secondary applications or supplementary forms are specific to individual schools; pharmacy schools send these to applicants after they have received the PharmCAS application. Both frequently request additional information, essays, and letters of recommendation. Some schools 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.

Note: Most pharmacy schools participate in PharmCAS. Students interested in applying to other schools must complete each of their prospective schools’ individual applications. For these schools, the application process consist only of steps 2 and 3.

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 incurred while interviewing, including airfare, lodging, ground transportation, professional attire, and meals. To learn more about interviews, attend our upcoming interview-related orientations and workshops here. For sample interview questions click here.


  • The more you know about a school, the better your chances of being accepted.
  • Many application questions can be answered by reading 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
    • non-US coursework
    • courses taken for credit/no credit instead of a grade
    • residency issues
    • time limits for prerequisite science courses

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Financial Aid

Financial Planning is a crucial step in applying to pharmacy schools. It is important for students to create a plan and make decisions in their educational expenses. Students are highly encouraged to budget their finances before, during, and after pharmacy school. To learn more about financial planning, click here.

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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 school.

Associations American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)
American Pharmacy Association (APhA) Career Pathways Online Assessment Tool
Entrance Exam Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)
Researching Schools Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) by AACP
Applications Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS)
Financial Aid Financial Aid by AACP
Programs in Hawaii Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy
Current OpportunitiesHealth – Current Opportunities
EngagementHealth – Clubs and Organizations