What does it mean to be “Pre-Pharmacy”?

By: Steve McDonald

Congratulations, you’re Pre-Pharmacy! But what does that even mean? You’re not necessarily pursuing a Bachelor’s degree, but you know you’re ultimately working towards the Pharm.D. degree. So what does that mean for your college experience? Below we’ll outline what Pre-Pharmacy means, from the label on your student record, to the coursework you’re taking, to how it impacts how you approach the professional school application timeline. We’ll cover it all so you can take full advantage of everything Pre-Pharmacy has to offer!

The Label

Your college or university will most likely list you as “Pre-Pharmacy” in the university records system. This is so they know where to send you for advice and academic advising. It is very handy when someone is trying to direct you to the office which can help you the best! Having one office to which you’re always directed also means you’re always working with the same people so they’ll really get to know you and you can build a strong rapport. An important note: Pre-Pharmacy is not a major, so if you want to earn a bachelor’s degree, be sure to add a major to your program of study!


General Chemistry & General Biology are prerequisites to get into a Pharm.D. program but students sometimes have a tendency to write these courses off as ones that don’t have much meaning. Don’t discount these courses! You need General Chemistry to be successful in Organic Chemistry, which is needed for Biochemistry, which is needed for Pharmacology. Similarly, you need General Biology to be successful in Cell Biology, which is needed for Biochemistry & Physiology, which are needed for Pharmacology.

And what does Pharmacology prepare you for? Pharmacology is needed for Pharmacotherapy, which is needed for Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience rotations (APPEs). APPEs then lead to the Pharm.D. degree. So all of this is saying that those “Pre-Pharmacy” courses are actually really important! You’re constantly building a foundation of knowledge to be successful in pharmacy school (where the stakes and tuition are much higher!). Plus the Pharm.D. coursework ultimately leads to attaining the Pharm.D. degree, passing your boards, and being a pharmacist. For an idea of what the 4-years of pharmacy curriculum looks like, click here.

Preparing to Apply to a Pharm.D. Program

Question: When does the Pharm.D. application process start for Pre-Pharmacy students?
Answer: It already has begun.

Okay, so that was a trick question, but the fact is that applying to pharmacy school can happen relatively quickly after starting college. How well you perform in any and all of the prerequisite courses has a direct impact on your admission. Grades are important. Can you recover from a poor performance in a class? Of course! In fact overcoming such obstacles may help you in the long run and show that you can persevere and adapt when struggling. As noted above, the courses you take directly impact your success as a pharmacist. It is important to hit the ground running when you start college courses. Sacrifice & study habits are important to learn (and unfortunately may mean less time hanging out with friends in other majors). You might have to stay home when your roommates go out or you might not make it home over the weekend for a family member’s birthday.

In addition to grades, your reputation is key. Pharmacy is a small world. Work at a pharmacy? Great! Ask your pharmacist for a letter or recommendation but know that what your pharmacist thinks of you will come through in that letter. The same goes for your college professors or anyone else you may interact with on your road to pharmacy school acceptance. How you interact with the faculty & staff you work with in a pharmacy school can go directly to the Pharm.D. admissions committee. A good rule to follow is: Always act as a professional.


So now you know a little more about what it means to be Pre-pharmacy. We always suggest working with your academic advisor at your current school to ensure you’re in the right classes. If you are wanting to apply to a pharmacy school that is different from your undergraduate institution, we suggest visiting with an advisor from that specific school. Each school may prioritize the components of your application differently for admission, so always reach out to that school to get an idea of what they’re looking for! Welcome to the world of pre-pharmacy…we’re glad you’re here!