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Becoming a Pharmacist

Gone are the days of a family pharmacist completing solely distributive tasks behind a counter. Today's pharmacist is a highly skilled professional who is a key member of the interdisciplinary health care team in either the community setting or hospital setting.

A pharmacist's role is multifaceted, but to be a trusted medication expert, you must go through a comprehensive and rigorous Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) curriculum. After completion of Pharm.D. course work, pharmacists can pursue additional elective postgraduate training to focus on a specialty designation.

Preparing for pharmacy school

A well-rounded education in science and math is essential in preparation for pharmacy school. High school classes introduce students to the advanced sciences and math courses necessary for a Pharm.D. degree.

Courses in biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics ease the transition for many students, and additional classes in communication, literature, economics and government create a solid foundation.

The Pharm.D. degree requires at least two years of undergraduate college study followed by four academic years of professional study. However, with programs becoming increasingly competitive, many students enter the professional program with three or more years of college and may even have a prior bachelor's degree.

Prerequisite courses for pharmacy schools are often similar, but each program has individual requirements. You are encouraged to review pharmacy school admissions content from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP). This website contains up-to-date information about each school, including specifics about admission requirements, costs and other applicant considerations.

Also, it is a good idea to review the websites of schools that interest you to gather additional information and find answers to your questions.

Select applicants for admission are chosen for on-campus interviews in order to assess oral and written communication skills, group interaction dynamics, knowledge of the profession, and ability to solve problems.

Internships and practice experiences


Once accepted into pharmacy school, students are further introduced to the profession by completing an internship and introductory pharmacy practice experience.

These training experiences allow the student to interact with interdisciplinary health care workers, consumers and pharmacist-mentors in a variety of health care settings. Additionally, under appropriate supervision and as permitted by state and federal regulations, the student may be allowed to assume direct patient care responsibilities.

Internships are typically completed in the first or second year of the pharmacy school curriculum. Internships vary in length and setting and may be accompanied with a stipend. Pharmacy internships at Mayo Clinic provide a comprehensive educational experience and in-depth exposure to pharmaceutical services to help you explore pharmacy as a career.

Introductory pharmacy practice experience (IPPE)

Similar to internships, IPPEs are usually done in the first or second year of the pharmacy school curriculum and are arranged by a college of pharmacy. These unpaid experiences focus on the integration of didactic content with experiential activities. Internships and IPPEs also serve to further develop important professional skills and abilities.

Advanced pharmacy practice experience (APPE)

APPEs are a component of a Pharm.D. curriculum that allow student pharmacists to gain high-level experience, apply knowledge and skills, and gain professional competence and confidence under the tutelage of a preceptor. APPEs typically occur in the final year of schooling and are commonly referred to as "rotations."

These rotations allow students to implement knowledge learned in school to real-world practice. Once APPEs are complete, the student is eligible for graduation and subsequent licensure as a pharmacist.

Find information on APPE rotations at Mayo Clinic:

Postgraduate residency training

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) accredits postgraduate residency training programs for pharmacists. Postgraduate training is elective, though this yearlong experience allows you to apply the knowledge and skills learned in pharmacy school to real patients, situations and settings.

A postgraduate year one (PGY-1) residency prepares graduate pharmacists for clinical practice and offers countless advantages, including a competitive advantage in the job market, networking contacts and professional mentors, and direction for future career opportunities.

A postgraduate year two (PGY-2) is an additional yearlong training program that builds on the skills from a PGY-1 residency. The PGY-2 residency is often referred to as a "specialty" residency due to the training focus — such as critical care, oncology or infectious diseases — and may be offered in combination with other programs, such as a master's degree or a fellowship.

Unlike pharmacy school, a residency is a paid position and usually includes employee benefits. Mayo Clinic offers both PGY-1 and PGY-2 residencies at multiple locations across the U.S.

Students must begin preparing their residency applications during pharmacy school. You can find general information, answers and insights about residency training on the ASHP website.

The selection process is extremely competitive, though the knowledge acquired and confidence built prepares residency graduates to practice at an extremely high level.

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Why choose pharmacy?

Pharmacists have countless career opportunities available. The expansion of the health care industry and an aging population has resulted in increased reliance on highly trained and skilled pharmacists.