Planning guide for new pre-pharmacy students


This section provides information on planning for admission to pharmacy school, beginning with your first semester in college. When you meet with an academic advisor during New Student Orientation, be sure to mention your intention to follow a pre-pharmacy program. You will be subscribed to the HPPLC mailing list and receive invitations to participate in events of interest to pre-pharmacy students. Consult resources for the school/department where you intend to enroll for more information on planning for summer orientation.

There is no pre-pharmacy major or Doctor of Pharmacy program at Indiana University. However, students may complete all the requirements for admission to pharmacy schools on the IU Bloomington campus. Because competition for admission to pharmacy programs is so keen, we recommend students at IU Bloomington plan to complete an undergraduate degree in a major that interests them before entering pharmacy school.

Description of the profession #

Pharmacists do far more than dispense drugs prescribed by physicians and other health practitioners.  They are part of an inter-professional team that focuses on patient centered care.  They provide information to patients about medications and their use, and advise physicians and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications.   Pharmacists also monitor the health and progress of patients in response to drug therapy to ensure safe and effective use of medication.  They are the medication experts for the patient and the healthcare team.

What should you consider about this profession? #

If you are thinking about becoming a pharmacist, you will need to have very strong skills in math and science, and be able to complete a rigorous set of courses before starting pharmacy school. Pharmacists must exercise great attention to detail and assume a great deal of responsibility for the safety of their patients. You will need to develop good communication and interpersonal skills for your work with patients. Pharmacists must have the ability to work for long periods of time with great concentration and a very high degree of accuracy.

Choosing your degree and major #

Pre-pharmacy students may select any major and degree to combine with the courses required for admission to pharmacy school. There need not be an obvious connection between your major and pharmacy. As a pre-pharmacy student, you should select a major that interests you, allows you to build strong intellectual skills, and could provide opportunities for graduate work or employment if you choose not to pursue a career in pharmacy. Admission to pharmacy schools is highly competitive, so you may wish to select a major that could lead to other career paths later on, or an alternate health profession. The Explore Programs tool at IU can help you discover your options!

Pharmacy school admissions requirements #

The course requirements for admission to pharmacy programs vary significantly from school to school, but will always include some very rigorous core courses in the sciences. The standard requirements for admission to pharmacy schools include coursework in general/inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, physics, and math/calculus. Requirements for the Doctor of Pharmacy program at Purdue University include specific courses in chemistry, communication, math, English, anatomy, physiology, biology, physics, economics, and statistics. Consult this link for a plan of study for IU Bloomington students who plan to apply for admission to the Purdue University School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences Doctor of Pharmacy program. We recommend students who are Indiana residents follow this plan of preparation, and then consider including additional coursework to meet the admission requirements for other pharmacy schools. Consult the resource Pharmacy School Admission Requirements regarding the requirements for admission to other pharmacy schools.

Your course load #

A normal course load for most preprofessional students is 14-16 total credit hours. That means you’ll probably be enrolling in from four to six classes. During New Student Orientation, an academic advisor will help you double-check your options, choose appropriate courses, and plan an appropriate course load in which you’ll be able to be successful.  To earn strong grades and succeed in being admitted, most pre-pharmacy students need to devote about 30 hours per week outside of class to studying and class preparation.

Planning your fall course options #

For your fall semester, you should begin by completing at least one pre-pharmacy science course, and you should also include other coursework for the particular undergraduate degree and major you plan to pursue at IU Bloomington. Consult resources from University Division and/or the school/department where you intend to enroll on how to plan your fall course schedule for any of the majors you are considering.

Regarding your pre-pharmacy coursework, if you are prepared you should enroll in chemistry during your first semester in college, or the second semester at the latest. As a first step toward completing chemistry requirements, you should complete CHEM-C 117 Principles of Chemistry and Biochemistry I (lecture) and CHEM-C 127 (lab). However, some students will need to complete a preparatory course before they are ready for CHEM-C 117/127. Consult the information on determining your placement into chemistry coursework.

If you do not enroll in chemistry your first semester, we recommend you enroll in a biology course that would fulfill pharmacy requirements, such as BIOL-L 112, if you have the appropriate chemistry background already. If you are an extremely strong student in the sciences, you could consider enrolling in both chemistry and biology coursework for your first semester. However, be aware that many students are surprised by how challenging and time-consuming introductory biology and chemistry courses can be. Before enrolling in more than one science course for the fall, be sure to discuss your science background with an academic advisor.

Other courses you may consider taking your first semester may include math (MATH-M 119, if appropriate for you), English Composition (ENG-W 131), and economics (ECON-E 251). You could also consider CMCL-C 121 Public Speaking. During your first semester at IUB you will also need to enroll in other courses besides your prepharmacy coursework, including courses for the major(s) you are considering and courses that fulfill General Education requirements at IUB.  In particular, Arts and Humanities (A&H) and Social and Historical (S&H) courses are important in helping you build the communication and analytical skills that pharmacy schools desire in applicants. World Languages and Cultures courses can deepen your understanding of the ideas and values of different cultures and help you develop skills and competencies important for working with a diverse patient population.

Other activities for pre-pharmacy students during the first year of college #

For the first year of college, consider activities that will help you gain clinical and community service experience. You should also attend HPPLC events and the annual Health Programs Fair, where you can meet with admissions representatives from pharmacy schools. However, you should be aware that most pre-pharmacy students find their first semester of college-level science coursework surprisingly challenging, so you should not feel pressured to overload yourself with extracurricular activities immediately. You may wish to set up job shadowing with pharmacists for the period when you will be home for winter break between the fall and spring semesters, so you can explore further your interest in pharmacy and confirm whether it is the path you want to pursue for your career.

Many pre-pharmacy students find their science coursework challenging, so if you know that you want to pursue a career in healthcare, but decide that you are unsure about the career of a pharmacist, there are many other fulfilling health professions you could pursue. Consult the HPPLC website for more information on preparing for pharmacy school and services for pre-pharmacy students.