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8 Considerations When Choosing a Pharmacy School

  • by Allison Chae
  • Jan 23, 2019
  • PCAT Blog, Pharmacy School Admissions

You’ll have countless considerations as you’re choosing a pharmacy school. Beyond pretty campuses and exciting locations, you’ll want to find the best place to invest your educational resources. That is, the school that will give you the best return on your investment and the one that will help you effectively launch your pharmacy career.

With the explosion in the number of pharmacy schools, the market benefits students in a number of ways. More pharmacy school seats exist, and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy reports that enrollment is down.

So how do you identify the school that best fits your goals and needs?

Compare Curriculums

Each pharmacy school will have its own focus and its own unique course offerings. The courses you take in pharmacy school will shape your pharmacy career moving forward. Your core classes and electives will expose you to different aspects of the field, and may point you toward a certain area of the industry.

Consider that you may someday want to open a pharmacy, so a college that allows you to take business courses might be a good option for you. Some schools even offer joint degree programs that allow students to pursue dual advanced degrees while pursuing their PharmD degree.

Research the Faculty

It’s no surprise that the explosive growth in pharmacy schools has generated a great need for faculty members. To solve the shortage, many schools have hired their own graduates, which may impact the diversity of experiences in the school.

Your professors will impact what you learn and what you’re exposed to. They’ll share their own experiences and knowledge, and, in many cases, mentor you on your way to a career in pharmacy. Your ultimate goal will be to build relationships with your professors. In a workplace where connections are vital, they may be the first members of your professional network.

Think About Cost

No matter where you choose to go to school, your pharmacy school education will be a large investment in yourself. Don’t buy into the myth that private schools and out-of-state schools always provide a better education.

Consider colleges where you qualify for in-state tuition, especially if it means you can live close to home and keep your support network. At the same time, some out-of-state schools may offer financial aid to offset the higher tuition costs. Make sure you do your research!

Consider Affiliations

If you already know your pharmacy career path, (specialty pharmacy, independent pharmacy, or community pharmacy, for example), then choose a school that is strong in your focus area and will further your career goals. Some specialties will benefit from being near hospitals while others will benefit from access to research. Certain areas are also associated with specific specialties, which can increase your opportunities if you attend school there.

Find out if the campus provides job placement upon graduation, and where alumni from the school have landed upon completion of their degrees. Even if you don’t know the path you intend to pursue, you should still be aware of the relationships and opportunities available to you.

Learn About the Area

You will spend up to four years pursuing your pharmacy degree, so you should make sure you’ll like where you could potentially be living. For example, if you hate snow, choosing a school in the northeast may be a stretch for you.

Also, remember that big cities typically provide more opportunities, while smaller areas may offer more of a close-knit community. Check out the school’s vibe and its culture to determine if it’s right for you.

Don’t Overvalue Rankings or Reputations

The Internet is full of pharmacy school rankings and, on some level, the information is probably worth at least a passing consideration. However, higher-ranked programs won’t make or break your future. Employers value communication skills, work experience, academic history, and ability to work in a team. You can develop all of those skills at a variety of schools, and a high-ranking school doesn’t eliminate the need for them.

Reputation does matter in terms of the school’s culture, which will largely be influenced by its leadership. It’s worth your while to understand the culture that exists on each campus. If one of your schools repeatedly shows up as the topic of negative feedback, there could be some truth to that, so you should proceed with caution.

Understand Passing Rates

The most important ranking for pharmacy schools is the pass rate for the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination. Look for schools that provide in-house exam preparation or, at a minimum, help students assess their strengths and weaknesses prior to the exam.

The attrition rate is also important. Although some attrition is to be expected in a challenging program like pharmacy, ensure that the school’s numbers aren’t vastly different from the others you’re considering.

The process of choosing a pharmacy school is intimidating for sure, but the Internet provides many of the tools you need to learn more about the campuses you’re considering.

Your choice of pharmacy school may not make or break your career, but if you’re going to spend top-dollar for an education, it makes sense to choose the school that fits you best. However, don’t despair if you think your options are limited. Your hustle, talent, personality, and work ethic will largely determine your success no matter where you go to school.

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