Health Professions - Pharmacy

About Pharmacy School

A pharmacist’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safe, effective, and economical use of prescribed medications and to verify the validity of prescriptions in order to satisfy the provisions of the law. In addition, a pharmacist consults with patients and health practitioners, monitors and evaluates drug therapy, teaches, conducts research, and ensures that all patients understand the proper use and storage of medications.

Required Education

All accredited pharmacy programs award a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). The pharmacy school curriculum consists of two years’ study in the general sciences, including coursework in chemistry, biochemistry, anatomy, and physiology. The curriculum also covers coursework more specific to the field, such as pharmacy, pharmaceutical chemistry, pharmacology, biopharmaceutics, pathology, microbiology, and toxicology. The final two years of pharmacy school require a clinical clerkship and coursework in pharmokinetics, pharmacology, normal behaviors, and abnormal behaviors. To receive a license to practice, a pharmacist must possess a Pharm.D. from an accredited pharmacy program and must pass the Pharmacy Board Examination in his/her state of residence.

Historically, the majority of UCSB graduates who pursue pharmacy school have attended an institution located in California. If you intend to apply to pharmacy school, you will need to learn the admissions requirements for each school of your interest. which you can find on the PHARMCAS (Pharmacy College Application Service) webstie.

Pharmacy Jobs

When it comes to choosing a specific job, a pharmacist has many options, such as:

  • Working in a community pharmacy, compounding medicines and dispensing prescription orders to the general public.
  • Working in a hospital pharmacy, closely collaborating with physicians, nurses, and patients.
  • Working in the pharmaceutical industry, producing drugs, chemicals, and prescription specialties. Major employers in the pharmaceutical industry include the US Department of Health Services, the Veteran’s Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, and all branches of the Armed Forces.
  • Teaching at a pharmacy, medical, or dental school.
  • Conducting biomedical research.

Work/Volunteer Experience

If you intend to apply to pharmacy school, you are strongly encouraged to gain work or volunteer experience alongside a pharmacist. In doing so, you will be able to learn more about the profession and possibly to obtain a strong and relevant letter of recommendation. Additionally, you will be able to show your commitment to pharmacy and test whether or not the profession fits your preferences and strengths.

Required Courses

The courses below are required by most pharmacy schools.  As you plan your course of study, please note these important considerations:

  • You are encouraged to make a list of the pharmacy schools in which you are most interested and go to the PHARMCAS website to find their specific requirements.
  • All of your required courses must be taken for a letter grade, not on a Pass/No Pass (P/NP) basis.
  • Please note that some pharmacy schools will not accept AP credit.

Required Courses

One year of general chemistry with labs

-Chem 1A/1AL, Chem 1B/1BL, Chem 1C/1CL (or Chem 2 equivalent)

One year of organic chemistry with labs

-Chem 109A, 109B, 109C and 6AL, 6BL

One year of introductory biology with lab

Through the 2018-19 Academic Year:  MCDB 1A/1AL, 1B, MCDB 1BL or EEMB 2L, EEMB 2, 3, 3L

-Beginning in the 2019-20 Academic Year:  MCDB 1A, 1B, 1LL; EEMB 2, 3, 2LL

One year of physics with lab

-Physics 6A/6AL, 6B/6BL, 6C/6CL

Three quarters titled "Writing" or "English" -Writing 1 or AP credit will not count for this requirement -One quarter should be a literature course taught in the English department -Writing 109HP is a useful course for writing personal statements and should be taken closer to when you apply

Mathematics -Most pharmacy schools want student to demonstrate strong quantitative skills by completing math and stats course at college.  See "UCSB Mathematics and Statisitics for Pre-health Students, Revised" for details. 

Social Science -Economics 1 or 2 and Anthropology 2, or Psychology 1, or Sociology 1

Additional biology courses required:

-MCDB 108A or 110 or Chem 142A--Biochemistry

-MCDB 111-Physiology

-MCDB 131/131L-Microbiology (Many but not all schools require a microbio lab, and MCDB 131L can be a very difficult course for non-Microbiology majors to enroll in at UCSB.  Students will often take the course and the lab at a community college.  If enrolling at SBCC while also enrolled at UCSB during fall, winter, or spring quarters, meet with a Letters and Science advisor to discuss petitioning for concurrent enrollment prior to the start of the SBCC courses)

-Human Anatomy - BIOMD 107 at SBCC (not offered at UCSB)

Possible additional coursework: -Some schools require additional coursework. The following are some courses that may be required: -MCDB 101A-Genetics, English 18-Public Speaking

Scheduling Pre-pharmacy Required Courses, Years 1 & 2

  Fall: Winter: Spring:
1st Year
  • Chem 1A + 1AL
  • Mathematics or Statistics (See above)
  • GE or Elective
  • Chem 1B + 1BL
  • Math or Stats (See above)
  • GE or Elective
  • GE or Elective (if you feel you can handle another course)
  • Chem 1C + 1CL
  • Math or Stats (See above)
  • GE or Elective
  • GE or Elective
2nd Year
  • EEMB 3 + 3L*
  • Chem 109C
  • Chem 6BL (May be done later)
  • GE or Elective

*New Biology Labs:  Beginning in Fall 2019, the Biology Program will restructure its introductory labs, changing from three, 1 unit labs--MCDB 1AL, MCDB 1BL/EEMB 2L, and EEMB 3L--to two, 1.5 unit labs--MCDB 1LL and EEMB 2LL.  Most students will do MCDB 1LL in winter quarter and EEMB 2LL in spring quarter.  Although taken over two quarters rather than three, these will count as a full year of introductory biology labs.

Please consider the schedule above as a sample; it is only one of several paths for completing the most essential pre-pharmacy requirements. Students, in consultation with pre-health, general, and major advisors, should develop individual schedules that will allow them to explore their interests, achieve their goals, and complete other required and recommended courses.  Note that pharmacy schools require a year of physics with lab (Physics 6A & 6AL, 6B & 6BL, 6C & 6CL), and although most students complete physics by the end of the 3rd year, just when to take physics depends on how well stuedents are meeting the demands of their other courses. We strongly recommend that students consult with a pre-health or general Letters and Science advisor if they are considering enrolling in physics as a first year student.  For scheduing upper division biology courses after second year, students should meet with general, pre-health and major advisors to consider their options.

Required Tests

Many schools of pharmacy require that student applicants take the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). This national exam is administered four times a year and is designed to measure verbal and quantitative ability, reading comprehension, and biology and chemistry knowledge. If you intend to apply to pharmacy school, you will need to check with each individual school to determine whether or not the exam is required and, if so, when you should take it.

Extracurricular Activities

Pharmacy - Extracurricular Activities

If you intend to apply to pharmacy school, you are encouraged to select extracurricular activities that will strengthen your application. General volunteer work, pharmacy work experience, and undergraduate research are all excellent ways to accomplish this.

In general, pharmacy schools are looking for three areas of relevant experience in the ideal applicant:

  • Clinical experience
  • Community service
  • Research

Some students earn experience by becoming pharmacy technicians.  Some pharmacies offer training for people interested in becoming pharm techs, and UCSB Extension Program offers Pharm Tech training.  Please note that enrolling in the this program will not earn you credit toward your UCSB  degree.  For more information about internships and volunteer opportunities, please visit the Clinical Experience page.


The Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS) is a centralized application service that is used by the majority of colleges and schools of pharmacy. Designed for first-year professional pharmacy degree applicants, PharmCAS offers a simple, efficient process to apply to multiple colleges and schools of pharmacy using a single Web-based application. The service will also accept your transcripts and letters of reference and forward them to the appropriate schools. You may begin filing PharmCAS applications in June of the year prior to entering pharmacy school. If a school doesn’t participate in PharmCAS, you must ask them for applications and submit them separately. Be aware that application deadlines vary greatly by school. Generally, applications are submitted in the Fall of the year prior to entering pharmacy school.

Approximately two-thirds of U.S. colleges and schools of pharmacy require the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) for admission. This national exam is administered three times a year and is designed to measure verbal quantitative ability, reading comprehension, and biology and chemistry knowledge. To determine whether a college requires the PCAT, you may contact each program individually or review Table 9 of the Pharmacy School Admission Requirements (PSAR) guidebook. Potential applicants to pharmacy school should check requirements for the individual schools in the current catalogs or in the most recent copy of Pharmacy School Admission Requirements book.

What are the Selection Procedures for Admission?

Potential pharmacy students may be evaluated on the basis of their grade point average (GPA), letters of recommendation, performance on the Pharmacy College Admissions Test, extra-curricular and community activities, work or volunteering in a health care setting, shadowing a pharmacist, personal interview, professional potential, etc. Admission criteria may vary slightly by institution; therefore, use the pharmacy school locator to obtain specific information.

The Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree program requires at least two years of specific undergraduate college study followed by four academic years (or three calendar years) of professional pharmacy study. Most students enter a pharmacy degree program after completion of three or more years of college. In addition to academic preparation, you should evaluate your personal qualifications to meet pharmacy’s demands for judgment, dependability, and conscientious performance. Pharmacists must be able to pay attention to detail. As with others on the health care team, the pharmacist’s decisions and actions affect human life and well-being. Pharmacists, by law, are entrusted with the proper handling and dispensing of potentially dangerous and habit-forming substances. They must have high ethical standards, communicate well with patients and other healthcare providers, maintain reliable records, and be knowledgeable about existing and new medications on the market to ensure each patient has optimal drug therapy results.

What are some of the Characteristics of Entering Students?

Historically most of the UCSB students have attended one of the pharmacy schools located in California and any statistics about the characteristics of the entering classes is unavailable. Entrance to pharmacy school is becoming increasingly competitive; the average GPA of matriculating students is 3.5.