I have been asked numerous times by friends, family, YouTube and the readers of this blog:
“How Hard is Pharmacy School?”
Unfortunately, there is no straight forward answer to this question. It can depend on so many factors. Often times I will give people a short and quick answer that it just depends on the person going to pharmacy school. Let’s take a close look and analyze this topic more in depth:
1. Depends on the Individual – You can make pharmacy school as hard as you want it to be. What do I mean by this? Example: a pharmacy student can just go to class and take their exams and graduate and does nothing extra. They just do the bare minimum to get by. I would say this would be the easiest way to get through pharmacy school. An ambitious pharmacy student can take advantage and try to do everything that is offered. This can make pharmacy school extremely challenging. Examples would include working 40 hours a week as a pharmacy intern while going to school. Taking 20+ credits every single quarter, extra electives that are not required. Go into leadership roles in different pharmacy organizations. Volunteer your time for school events, or any other cause that you are passionate about. Do research on the side with a professor. Do extra projects at work or for the school. Compete in national pharmacy competitions. These are just some examples of how an individual can make pharmacy school extremely challenging.
2. Pharmacy School Courses – What about the coursework being taught in pharmacy school? Is that hard? Again this is very dependent on each individual. Certain pharmacy programs will be more difficult than others. My best guess is that the top 10 pharmacy schools would be the most rigorous. They are recognized for producing the highest quality pharmacists, or at least they have that reputation. As for the individual, how difficult they will perceive the coursework is how well they do in math, chemistry, and biology. Those are the three core areas that pharmacy school coursework is all about. If you do well in these areas, pharmacy school coursework should be fairly easy. From my own personal experience I did not think the concepts or coursework to be difficult. The volume of information thrown at you to memorize was difficult for me. Unfortunately, I do not have photographic memory and must repeatedly look over notes before it gets absorbed.
3. Pharmacy Rotations – During the last year of pharmacy school you are practicing pharmacy at different sites instead of being in the classroom. This is to get more practical real life experience. There are students that pick an easy schedule with no difficult rotations. Others may pick the hardest ones that will require extra hours and effort to complete. Working in a Walgreens for a month is nothing compared to working in a hospital critical care unit. The other factor will depend on how motivated your preceptor is in teaching you. There will be a lot of time doing research and extra reading at home after your rotation shift if you chose the more difficult ones. Going back to the topic of Top 10 Pharmacy Schools in the nation. This can be significant in what kind of rotation sites are offered. Newer schools have not established themselves and have fairly weak rotation site opportunities compared to the top 10 pharmacy schools. Of course geographic location of the pharmacy school comes into play as well. An established pharmacy school such as the University of Washington has many hospitals and specialty pharmacy rotation sites in the area for students. In comparison, a newer and rural location pharmacy school might not have the best learning opportunities for students. I found that my most difficult rotations were the most valuable to my learning.
4. Time Management – A pharmacy student can be extremely busy if they want to be as mentioned above. Thus it is important to manage time properly. Poor management of time will make pharmacy school harder. Your schedule can fill up fast with work, classes, volunteer work, research, leadership roles, professional organization events, and life with family/friends. Thus making time management key to success.
See more tips on how to make the most of pharmacy school.
I hope the recommendations above will help guide, motivate, and inspire you to achieve your goals. Follow my blog for more tips and advice on finances and being a pharmacist. What are your experiences? Please comment below and share your thoughts.