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Overview of a Bachelor’s in Pharmacy
For students who want to become pharmacy technicians, pharmacy assistants, and especially if they want to become a licensed pharmacist and get into pharmacy practice, there is a lot of work involved. First, you must attain a four-year Bachelor of Pharmacy degree, a pharmacy administration degree, or a pre-pharmacy degree. Many biology degrees will also prepare you for graduate studies in pharmacy because they have similar prerequisite courses such as those in chemistry, biology, medical terminology, information on drug design, and more.
On top of your coursework in biology, you will also have to have deep knowledge of organic chemistry, health and wellness screenings, prescription medication, drug design, prescription medication options and prescription medication safety, pharmacy law, and more. Some students find these courses in pharmacy studies notoriously difficult, but the hard work is worthwhile, especially once you complete the licensing requirements and discover the rich rewards of being a pharmacist. Keep reading to learn more about a four-year Bachelor of Pharmacy or Pre-Pharmacy degree program. This may also be called a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences (BSPS program).
If you want to become a pharmacist, your bachelor’s degree can take many different forms. You might graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Pre-Pharmacy, but you might also major in biology. If your desired school doesn't have a specific pharmacy degree, discuss your career goals with the admissions counselor. There is a good chance that you can graduate with a biology degree with a minor concentration in chemistry, for example, and still meet the qualifications of your pharmacy graduate program.
Your courses from a college Department of Pharmacy or pharmacy school might include topics such as organic chemistry, pharmacology, immunotherapy, microbiology, patient care, and physiology. Your program might have prerequisites, too, such as physics, upper-level calculus, and even communications. Keep in mind that many of your prerequisite courses will require lab work. While lab work is fun and adds an experiential dimension to learning, it can also take a great deal of time. Future pharmacists are often quite familiar with the term all-nighter.
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An undergraduate Bachelor of Pharmacy degree program, or a pharmacy administration bachelor's, has many positive attributes. Chief among these is the fact that, once you graduate you will be prepared for graduate work that leads to a Master of Pharmacy program and fulfilling the licensure requirements to become a pharmacist. Pharmacy professionals will also have a bevy of skills that you can apply to their pharmacy careers if they wish to take time apart from the rigors of academia, such as talking to their patients about medication and performing health and wellness screenings.
Graduates could also work in pharmacy practice or retail pharmacies as pharmacy assistants or pharmacy technicians. They might also find work in a science lab, including labs for pharmaceutical research on medications. There are other avenues for pharmacy professionals to use their bachelor's degrees in the pharmaceutical industry, as well. That is, prior to specializing in a Master of Pharmacy Studies in graduate school, you might decide to diverge into pure research, medications, or even veterinary or life sciences. The scientific training required for a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree program will open many doors.
Just as there are many positive attributes to a Bachelor of Pharmacy program, there are also drawbacks. One drawback is that you will still be at least one degree away from becoming a pharmacist: a Master of Pharmacy. Not only are you facing more school, but graduate school is likely to be far more challenging than your four-year, undergraduate work, even with all of the prerequisite courses completed; and then, pharmacy professionals will have to complete very demanding examinations after that if they wish to receive a state licensure and go into pharmacy practice.
School also comes with significant financial responsibilities. You are almost guaranteed to graduate with sizable student loans to pay, and some students even take additional loans to supplement their living allowance. While pharmacists often are quite well-paid, there is no guarantee that you will be able to find the optimum pay to cover all of your obligations and still have a comfortable lifestyle. On the other hand, there may still be an option to take advantage of certain federal student loan forgiveness programs, which require that you work for a non-profit organization or a government-run hospital, such as the Veterans Administration.
Associate vs. Bachelor's
What Pharmacy Bachelor’s Degrees are Available Online?
Online Bachelor of Science – Pre-Pharmacy:
This degree is tailored for students seeking a career as a pharmacist. The courses are primarily STEM-related such as chemistry, biology, physics, and calculus. These programs are designed to groom students for graduate work in pharmacy.
Online Bachelor of Science – Biology:
This degree can be applied to your later pharmacy master's degree if you make sure to add enough of the right chemistry courses. Discuss this approach with your adviser.
Online Bachelor of Arts and Sciences:
Chemistry: Much like the BS in Biology, this degree will help prepare you for a baccalaureate degree in pharmacy, but you should consider taking certain biology courses, such as human anatomy & physiology, as well as non-STEM courses such as Legal Issues in Pharmacy. Your adviser can help you determine how to best prepare for a baccalaureate program.
Online Bachelor/Master of Science – Pharmacy:
These combined-degree programs are a great idea since they streamline your academic preparation. You’ll only need to apply to a single program and when you graduate you will be prepared for work as a Pharmacist.
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Admission Requirements for Pharmacy Bachelor Programs
Every baccalaureate program in pharmacy, pre-pharmacy, or biology will have its own requirements for incoming students. Some departments require a full admission process involving a minimum GPA, course prerequisites, and even recommendations from faculty. Regardless, the typical coursework for a pre-pharmacy student is quite rigorous and you should strive to maintain a solid 3.0 average, at a minimum. If you have completed your associate in pharmacy, you will be required to provide your transcripts and GPA. Though your undergraduate program might not require that, your dream graduate school probably will.
How long does it take to earn a Pharmacy Bachelor's?
A typical Bachelor's Degree in Pharmacy is designed to take four years. However, some colleges and universities have structured their curriculum so that you have at least a couple of courses that extend beyond the four-year mark. Additionally, many, if not most students, take up to six years to complete their baccalaureate degrees. This may be because of the demands of work or family but do try to avoid extending your time in school for too long. Once you graduate, you still need to complete an online master's program to become a pharmacist, so strive to maintain a full load of courses in every term.
Potential Careers in Pharmacy with a Bachelor’s
- Pharmaceutical Sales Representative:
Your knowledge of science and any pre-pharmacy courses will certainly help you sell pharmaceuticals to doctors in your sales area. This is a terrific way to put your baccalaureate degree to work if you don't have any interest in pursuing a graduate degree. Your salary might vary depending on what drugs you represent and the area in which you work.
Average Salary: $84,500
- Registered Nurse:
You will need to return to school for nursing, but your science background and knowledge of pharmacology will help you rise to the top of your field. Registered nurses can work in a wide range of specialty areas including psychiatry, obstetrics, surgery, geriatrics, pediatrics, and more.
Average Salary: $65,400
- Laboratory Manager:
With all of your experience in lab science courses, this position might be the perfect fit after graduation. You'll ensure that your lab is cleaned to specifications, is stocked with all relevant equipment, and that all relevant safety regulations are followed. With a bit of experience, you could design and set up labs to suit new research projects. You might receive a large bonus if your lab makes a tremendous breakthrough.
Average Salary: $70,500
- Medical Equipment Sales:
Though this profession is quite a divergence from your laboratory science background, your familiarity with the healthcare field is bound to pay off. In fact, you might specialize in research equipment. When you show doctors that you are conversant in the language of science, they are sure to pay attention and offer you their business.
Average Salary: $59,500
- Nurse Practitioner:
With more training, you can put your pharmaceutical training to use in nursing. You'll first need to become a licensed registered nurse and then work through a graduate degree. Your training will also involve a residency, much like a doctor, but your professional hours will be far less intense.
Average Salary: $97,500
Options to Advance
Your online Bachelor's Degree in Pre-Pharmacy or Biology can open a lot of doors on its own. You can move into pharmaceutical sales, laboratory management, or medical equipment sales, for starters. However, you will find that there are few jobs that call for this degree, specifically. However, you will see your opportunities and salary increase when you move on to graduate studies in pharmacy or even medicine. Some biology or pharmacy majors decide that they prefer a more clinical position, so they pursue a career as an RN, or nurse practitioner. Your undergraduate degree will inform your work and can inform your professional life in ways you never imagined.
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Best Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy Programs
West Lafayette, IN
Purdue has an interesting pharmaceutical sciences degree program that can take two tracks. Students can choose a pre-doctoral program that grooms them for a PharmD (doctoral) degree or a non-pharmacist track that prepares student to pursue some aspect of drug research.
- Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences – Pre-Doctor of Pharmacy Program
- Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences
University of Toledo
The University of Toledo's five-year Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy Degree is designed to prepare you for a life in pharmacy. The degree includes three experiential rotations that you can complete either in Toledo or Cleveland, though the department might accept other locations. If you decide that you'd rather not become a pharmacist, you can elect to take a degree in pharmaceutical sciences, which will prepare you for a career in research.
- Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy
- Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences
Elizabeth City State University
Elizabeth City, NC
ECSU's pharmacy department can prepare you for a PharmD (doctoral) degree in Pharmacy. You might also choose to use your degree to pursue other tracks such as those leading towards academia or pharmaceutical research. ECSU claims that it produces candidates for some of the top pharmacy graduate programs in the nation.
- Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences
- Bachelor of Science – Biology, Chemistry, or Biology Education
University of South Carolina
The University of South Carolina is a major university that has many resources to offer STEM students. State of the art labs and first-rate instructors will groom you for you later master's or doctoral work in pharmacy. Some students even complete a two-year pre-pharmacy program and then progress directly into a PharmD program that results in a doctoral degree and a career as a pharmacist.
- Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences
- Pre-Pharmacy & PharmD
Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
The Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences aims to create scientists who work to further the advancement of our pharmaceutical options. For your degree choices, you must either pursue pharmacology or pharmaceutics. Some may even take the BS/MS track that results in a master's degree in only five total years.
- Bachelor of Sciences – Pharmacology Concentration
- Bachelor of Sciences – Pharmaceutics Concentration
- Bachelor/Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences
Traditional Schools Offering a BS in Pharmacy
Grand Canyon University
GCU specializes on online education and their BS in Biology - Pre-Pharmacy Degree. Their program lets you add a few courses to your biology degree that will prepare you for the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT).
- Bachelor of Science in Biology – Pre-Pharmacy option
- Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Florida - Online
The University of Florida Online offers a biology degree that you can apply to your later studies in pharmaceutical sciences. You can discuss your specific career plans with an adviser who can point you in the direction you need to prepare for the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT).
- Bachelor of Arts in Biology
Excelsior College offers an online degree in natural sciences which offers a concentration in biology. With a biology concentration, you can apply your coursework to further studies in chemistry and thus become prepared for the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT).
- Bachelor of Science in Natural Sciences – Biology Concentration
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a bachelor’s in pharmacy usually called?
A bachelor’s in pharmacy can have several titles, though it is most often called a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences (BSPS).
Can you take a major other than pharmacy and still move into a pharmacy position?
There are many options for those who wish to work in pharmacy when it comes to which major they complete in school. While it might be best to complete the most pertinent major, such as one in pharmacy, you can also earn a license to work in a pharmacy without doing so. For example, those who complete science-focused majors, such as those in biology or biomedical sciences, can take the courses and tests required to earn licensure without too much trouble. And even those who did not earn degrees in science-focused majors can take and pass these courses, though they are likely to have a harder time because so much of the information will be new to them. Even so, if you completed a major that is not a traditional science degree, you may still be able to make your way into a pharmacy career if you are willing to put in the extra effort required.
Are there any cons to working as a pharmacist?
There can be negatives to any career. Those associated with pharmacy work are usually related to stress and overwork. Some areas have low numbers of pharmacists, which means that those places where they work can be very busy with people who need to pick up their daily medication, pick up a medication for a sudden illness, or have their medication explained to them. Pharmacists can be required to work long hours, especially if they are the only practicing pharmacists in a specific location. You’ll also need to stand for long periods of time as these specialists usually work behind a counter and stand to interact with customers or patients. You’ll have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders to help these people get or remain well, and you may need to work through weekends or holidays. The pay is often excellent, but some of these stresses can be off-putting for those considering this as a career.