Pharmacy in the USA: Top Courses and Eligibility for International Students

Pharmacy (Pharm D) in the USA: Universities, Courses, Fees, Admissions, Licensing, and Career Scope 

There is a growing demand for pharmacy services in the USA, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID 19 outbreak. Pharmacy is a highly respected profession in the USA as it forms an integral part of healthcare professionals. According to US News and World Report, pharmacists earn an average of 128,710 USD* a year, making it one of the highest-paying jobs in the country. As a result, many overseas students come to the USA to study pharmacy. 

A Pharm D, or Doctor of Pharmacy degree is required to work as a pharmacist in the USA. Due to high competition, Pharm D courses in the USA have a low acceptance rate. Students must take a pharmacy college admissions test (PCAT) and complete prerequisite science courses to be admitted to a Pharm D program, which can last three to four years depending on the university to which they apply. Before a pharmacist may enter the workforce, they must also pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) in order to obtain their license to practice. Let’s take a closer look at how international students who want to study Pharm D in the USA can pursue it.

Overview of Pharm D in the USA

The below table contains all the highlights of the Pharm D courses in the USA. 

Pharm D college application service  Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS)
Duration of Pharm D course 3-4 years
Related sequential/dual degrees  Pharm D/MSCR (Master of Science in Clinical Research Degree), Pharm D/PhD, Pharm D/MPH
Accrediting body for Pharm D courses Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education
Average fees for Pharm D courses 36,000 to 65,812 USD/year
Average salary for Pharmacists  128,710 USD*/year (US News and World Report)
Average salary for Pharmacy assistants 42,201 USD*/year (Indeed)
Standardized tests Pharmacy college admissions test (PCAT) 
English proficiency tests  TOEFL, IELTS, 
Licensing body  National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) 
Licensing exam North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX)

Top universities for Pharm D in the USA

The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) accredits the Pharm D programs offered by American colleges, and only students who graduate with that accreditation are eligible to sit for NAPLEX to become “pharmacist” or “registered pharmacist”. The following is a list of top universities in the USA offering Pharm D courses: 

University Name US News Ranking (Pharmacy) Duration of Pharm D Course Related Sequential/Dual Degrees Tuition fees (USD*/year)
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill 1 4 years  Pharm D/MBA and Pharm D/MPH 47,510
University of California–San Francisco 2 3 years PharmD/MSCR and PharmD/PhD 65,812
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 3 4 years NA 39,384
University of Minnesota 3 4 years Pharam D/Bachelor of Science (BS)  40,800
University of Florida 5 4 years NA 36,000
University of Kentucky 6 4 years PharmD/MSPS, Pharm D/MBA and Pharm D/MPH 53,686
Ohio State University 7 4 years PharmD/MS Translational Pharmacology, PharmD/PhD and Pharm D/MBA 53,482
Purdue University 7 4 years NA 40,455
University of Illinois–Chicago 7 4 years NA 40,562
University of Texas–Austin 7 4 years NA 49,240

Pharm D courses and related degrees in the USA 

In 2006, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) mandated that the Doctor of Pharmacy degree, also known as Pharm D, be the first professional degree required to practice pharmacy in the USA, replacing the traditional Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree. It is offered as either a three-year or four-year degree program. 

The curriculum consists of coursework in subjects like anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacology, pharmacognosy, toxicology, etc.  Students are also taught jurisprudence and medical ethics related to the pharmacy profession. They are also given some clinical and practical experience as well.

Some colleges also offer dual or accelerated degree programs, such as combining a Pharm D with a business degree, such as an MBA or a master’s degree in public health, or any other master’s degree. There are even Pharm D programs that mix Ph.D. and Pharm D courses. If a student does not want to spend two years taking prerequisite courses and three to four years studying for their Pharm D, they can take a two-year pharmacy technician course and enter the field as pharmacy technicians. The average salary for a pharmacy technician in the USA is 42,201 USD*/year (Indeed). 

Fees and cost of living for Pharm D courses in the USA

The tuition fee for Pharm D courses in the USA range from USD*/year to USD*/year. The fees of a Pharm D degree might also vary depending on the length of the program; some colleges provide three-year programs, while others offer four-year programs. Pharmacy schools in the USA admit students who can show documented proof of financial assistance (a bank statement) to fund their tuition and living expenses for the duration of their studies. Here is a list of additional fees and charges to think about before applying.   

Particulars Cost in USD/year
Housing  8,796 to 22,800
Food  4,500 to 5,500
Transportation  1,120 to 2,000
Books and other supplies 888 to 1,200
Personal expenses  5,000
Health insurance 2,796 to 5,903

Academic requirements for Pharm D courses in the USA

A bachelor’s degree is not required to apply for Pharm D courses in the USA. However, students are required to complete two years of undergraduate prerequisite courses in science and other disciplines like

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • General Biology
  • General Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • English Composition
  • Calculus
  • Statistics
  • Microbiology
  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Economics
  • Humanities and Social Science

Since the competition for Pharma D courses in the USA is high, students having a bachelor’s degree in science, as well as prerequisite courses, are preferred for the admissions. Also, the prerequisite courses must be passed within five years prior to application or admission. The following is a list of academic requirements for application to Pharm D courses in the USA.

  • Majors in prerequisite courses with a grade of C and higher (mandatory)
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university with a GPA of 2.5 and higher on a scale of 4.0 (preferred)
  • Pharmacy experience hours
  • Official transcripts evaluated by the World Education Services (WES)
  • Professional recommendations (preferably two)
  • Resume
  • Student visa
  • Personal statement
  • Personal interview
  • English proficiency test scores (IELTS 6.0 and above and TOEFL 90 and above)
  • Pharmacy college admissions test (PCAT) score
  • A copy of the bank statement showing adequate funds for at least one academic year of tuition
  • A photocopy of the passport

After completing Pharm D courses, students who wish to enter clinical pharmacy and research should complete a 1 to 2 years residency program (general or specialized residency). They can apply for their residency during their final year of Pharm D studies through the Pharmacy Online Residency Centralized Application Service of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (which opens on November 3 every year).

Application process for Pharm D colleges in the USA

Students can apply for Pharm D programs in the USA through a centralized application system called Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS). Students can send their applications to multiple colleges through a single PharmCAS application. In addition to PharmCAS applications, some pharmacy schools also ask students to fill out their secondary applications in combination with PharmCAS. 

The application process for the Pharm D course can be summarized as below:

  • Fill out the PharmCAS application with basic information, official transcripts, letters of reference, coursework, experience, and the PCAT scores (if applicable)
  • Pay the application fee and submit the application
  • PharmCAS evaluates the application, calculates the GPA, and forwards the application to the respective pharmacy colleges
  • The pharmacy colleges then review the applications and select candidates for personal interviews based on their application
  • Upon passing the interview, students are offered an acceptance letter
  • Pay the fees and apply for a student visa
  • Fly to the USA and complete other administrative formalities including fees for accommodation 

Since some American colleges do not accept international students into their Pharm D programs, students must compete for a limited number of slots. To avoid losing a seat at their preferred institution, students can apply through Gyanberry counseling and admission services.

Scholarships for Pharm D courses in the USA

Many pharmacy schools in the USA provide international students with scholarships, bursaries, and other financial aid. The majority of these scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit or as financial aid to financially disadvantaged students. Students can also look at the following list of eduPASS scholarships for international students intending to study in the USA:

  • International Student Scholarships
  • The Civil Society Leadership Awards
  • The Aga Khan Foundation International Scholarship 
  • The American Association of University Women
  • Conacyt 
  • ColFuturo 
  • The Joint Japan/World Bank Graduate Scholarship Program 
  • Foreign Fulbright Student Program 
  • MPOWER Financing 
  • The P.E.O. International Peace Scholarship 

Licensing process for Pharm D courses in the USA

After completing their Pharm D program, students must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) in order to practice as a pharmacist in the USA. Only students with a Pharm D degree from an AACP-accredited institution or college of pharmacy are eligible to take the NAPLEX. Candidates in some American states must pass the Multi-state Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE) as well as a state exam.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) designed NAPLEX to guarantee that Pharm D graduates are academically equipped for practice. It is a computer-based exam with 225 questions, and students are given five chances to pass. 

If a foreign-educated pharmacist intends to practice in the USA, he or she must pass the Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Certification (FPGEC). The FPGEC allows candidates to document the educational equivalent of their overseas pharmacy education. Upon completion of FPGEC, the student then can sit for NAPLEX to become a registered pharmacist in the USA. 

Career opportunities for Pharm D graduates in the USA

As per US News and Report statistics, pharmacists rank #29 in the Best Health Care Jobs in the USA. They make a median salary of 128,710 USD*/year, the lowest being 112,690 USD*/year and the highest being 147,690 USD*/year. Pharmacists can work in a variety of settings including public and private sectors as trained experts in research, policy, community care, and clinical practice. The following is a list of career options for Pharm D graduates in the USA:

  • Community Pharmacy​
  • Clinical Pharmacy Practice
  • Governmental Agencies​ (National Institutes of Health, Food and Drug Administration, Veterans Affairs, and the Armed Forces)
  • Hospital Pharmacy​
  • Home Healthcare​
  • Geriatric Pharmacy
  • Managed Care​
  • Pharmacoeconomics​
  • Pharmaceutical Industry​
  • Pharmacy Education​ (professor)
  • Ambulatory Healthcare Services

Frequently Asked Questions

As per US News and World Report pharmacists in the USA are paid a median salary of 128,710 USD*/year

The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) accredits the Pharm D programs offered by the American pharmacy schools. 

PharmCAS (Pharmacy College Application Service) is a centralized application service for Pharm D courses that are offered by pharmacy colleges in the USA. Instead of applying separately to each school, students can utilize PharmCAS to apply to many schools using a single application.