Graduating from a pharmacy program provides a clear path to becoming a pharmacist in large or independent pharmacies, but could also put you in the position to explore job opportunities in academia, regulation, or the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmacy schools tend to be heavy on prerequisites, so make sure to do your research early in your undergraduate degree to make sure you have the necessary courses.
The Bachelor of Health Sciences degree program offers excellent preparation for students interested in a career in Pharmacy. The courses offered provide students with differing perspectives across the spectrum of health sciences concentrations, and our graduates are well-prepared to apply for admission to Entry-to-Practice Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) programs both inside Canada and internationally. The information below provides an overview of the general admission process to PharmD programs in Canada, and students are encouraged to do their own research into the specific Pharmacy schools to which they are interested in attending.
Many courses offered in the Bachelor of Health Sciences program will expose you to content that is covered on the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), and further on into pharmacy school. Suggested courses include:
- General Chemistry (CHEM 112 or CHEM 113 / CHEM 114)
- Human Cell Physiology (PHGY 170)
- Introductory Biology of Cells (BIOL 102)
- Introductory Biology of Organisms (BIOL 103)
- Introduction to Microbiology (MICR 271)
- Organic Chemistry I and II (CHEM 281 and 282 or CHEM 285)
- Differential and Integral Calculus (MATH 121 or MATH 123/MATH 124).
Please note that these are suggestions for PCAT preparation. It is recommended that students spend time researching the entrance requirements for specific pharmacy schools, and also review information provided by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
Before the Application
Do What You Love
If you do, you’ll tend to thrive! Choose a university program that interests you since you will usually attain better marks learning something that fascinates you. Pharmacy schools tend to be heavy on their prerequisites, which may be difficult to fulfill without being enrolled in a health science/life science program.
Research The Profession
Consider conducting information interviews with pharmacists and pharmacy students. Ask your pharmacist for an appointment to discuss your career goals and his or her experiences in the field. Know the realities of the day‐to‐day work and how it fits with what you know about yourself. Be realistic and informed by exploring other career options in addition to the role of a pharmacist.
Meet The Prerequisites
Know what courses are required and obtain them at any time before you apply. To test out your fit with the pharmacy school curriculum and to enable you to apply to many schools, you may want to consider including the desired prerequisites for a variety of schools in your program. Each pharmacy school has slightly different prerequisites so always check the specific schools to ensure that these general suggestions will allow you to meet the most up‐to‐date admission requirements. It should be noted that some pharmacy schools require laboratory components to courses, where online virtual labs may not be accepted.
Aim High Academically
Be sure to keep the doors open. The reality of pharmacy school applications today is that undergraduate grades (even if you have continued your education beyond undergrad) are an extremely important part of the process. A few programs calculate GPA in unique ways (e.g. best two years or without lowest three grades) so check each program to help you strategize about where (or when) to apply.
Become active in your community and with activities that mean something to you. Pharmacists are active and visible members of their communities, despite very busy working lives. The ability to balance academics with employment, volunteer work, sports, community and extra‐curricular interests is a trait that application committees are looking for in prospective pharmacy students. Successful candidates often show a commitment long‐term to some activities and showcase their ability to progress to leadership positions. They also try new things that test out and allow them to demonstrate diverse interests, too.
Application Basics and Deadlines
Applications are done through each individual pharmacy schools website, and deadlines may vary between schools. It is estimated that depending on the number of schools to which you apply, the process can take anywhere from a couple to tens of hours to complete, so planning ahead is essential for success.
Most pharmacy schools will request that you send an official transcript directly to their admissions office. This must be done separately for each institution you choose to apply to.
Decide (If And) When You Will Write The PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)
It is recommended to take the PCAT a full year prior to applying. Most schools accept PCAT scores from tests written within a couple years of the application deadline, but you should check each institution as some may differ in this respect. The PCAT takes place in July, September, October, November, and January. If you elect to write the PCAT, decide whether your learning style is more conducive to a preparatory course or to self‐study. Both methods have worked for students in the past. Make sure to read up on the test day rules before going in for the exam! For more information on the PCAT, visit the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.
PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test)
Schools that use the PCAT as part of the assessment process each have minimum criteria for the different sections of the exam, so be sure to check with the school to see which their cut-offs. Many schools also show average scores for the accepted class of each year. Keep in mind these are not cutoffs; some students scored higher and lower than these averages. It is not uncommon for students to write the PCAT more than once; students may write the test up to 5 times. Some schools may take the highest score, and others may consider only the most recent score. When you register for the PCAT exam, you select which schools you want to receive your score reports. Applicants are advised to carefully select the schools that are to receive their PCAT scores at the time of registration. Applicants can choose to send official transcripts to any school of their choice.
Personal Questions/Essay/Supplementary Materials
Some pharmacy schools will ask applicants to submit answers or essays to general or specific questions about their goals, experiences and fit with the program. Students applying in a category such as a graduate student or aboriginal student may also be required to submit additional materials, letters or essays. This part of the application can be an extremely time‐consuming part of the application process so it is wise to start early and have others read your writing along the way. Flawless grammar and spelling are essential. Pondering the personal statements portion of the application sometimes highlights for students that they may be having difficulty articulating their specific reasons for choosing a career as a pharmacist and defining what makes them different from other well‐qualified candidates. Tell succinct but vivid stories that enable the reader to get to know you and to see your potential contributions to the occupation of pharmacist and to their pharmacy school.
Some schools may require you to provide referees that can speak on your behalf. This may only involve providing contact information, or actually having your referee send in a letter of recommendation. Check each school of interest as they may differ in their reference requirements. Choose people who know you well. Set up an appointment to discuss your goals, your recent activities and to help them remember specific incidences in which your best qualities stood out. Thank them in writing afterwards and let them know your progress.
After succeeding at the initial application stage, you may be invited to attend an interview at the pharmacy school. Need help? Interview workshops are offered by Queen’s University Career services.
Because of the extremely competitive nature of pharmacy school entrance requirements in Canada, some applicants consider attending a dental school in the U.S. or elsewhere internationally. There are many factors to consider when making this decision including increased tuition and living expenses, ability to practice in Canada, and the challenges of living in another country.
The process of applying to and paying for pharmacy school can quickly become onerous. Each school has their own application fees which may vary from $100 to several hundred dollars. Registering for the PCAT in Canada costs $199, and there are also costs for requesting official transcripts and travel expenses for interviews. Pharmacy school tuition can also be quite expensive.
There is, however, some help available for both the application costs and tuition and expenses. Many students use OSAP or attain a line-of-credit from their bank to help fund their dental education.
Canadian Pharmacy Schools
Check with each Pharmacy school to ensure that you have the most accurate and up‐to‐date admissions criteria. If you are applying to another province, ask about the number of spots available to out‐of‐province students then build that knowledge into your application strategy.
- University of Toronto
- University of Waterloo
- University of Alberta
- University of British Columbia
- Dalhousie University
- University of Saskatchewan
- University of Manitoba
- Memorial University of Newfoundland
For help with strategies for this and other career goals, visit Career Services, which is free to all currently-registered Queen’s students: careers.queensu.ca