Where To Study To Be A Pharmacist

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How to become a pharmacist

A student in Waterloo's pharmacy degree program holds a tray of pills while wearing a white lab coat.

If you’re passionate about the health of your community and want to play a role in improving the lives of others, a career in pharmacy may be right for you.

A pharmacist is vital in helping people get well, and as our population ages and treatments become more complex, the need for pharmacists continues to grow. Whether through prescriptions, vaccinations, or asking about a remedy to an ailment, pharmacists are on the frontline of health care, ensuring the safe and effective delivery of drugs.

How do you know if pharmacy is right for you?

If you value helping people and working in teams, enjoy science, like challenges, and are an effective communicator, then pharmacy may be for you.

“Pharmacists need to be able to take initiative, adapt to different situations, handle stress, think critically and solve problems, work well with others, show leadership, handle ethical dilemmas, and commit to lifelong learning,” says Kaitlin Bynkoski, director of admissions and undergraduate affairs at Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy.

Key characteristics and skills needed to be an effective pharmacist


  • a good memory
  • attention to detail
  • aptitude for science
  • interest in continual learning
  • empathy
  • altruism


  • interpersonal communications
  • team work
  • leadership
  • analytical thinking
  • counselling
  • problem solving

Source: Pharmacy4me

How to become a pharmacist in Canada

  1. From high school, you’ll study at university in what’s called an undergraduate program. You would normally study science and typically for two years or more.
  2. You’ll then apply to a pharmacy program at university, which takes a further four years to complete.
  3. Once you finish your pharmacy degree, you’ll write a national board examination through the Pharmacy Examining Board of Canada (PEBC).
  4. You also need practical hands-on experience though co-op, an apprenticeship, or an internship; and be fluent in English and/or French.

From high school, you should choose an undergraduate program that gives you the flexibility to take the courses required for admission into a pharmacy program.

What should you study first?

If you want to become a pharmacist and are applying from high school, there isn’t a specific undergraduate program you must take first.

An undergraduate program usually takes three or four years to complete, but you can apply to a pharmacy program after two years if you’ve taken the courses required for admission.

Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy provides a list of the required university courses you need to take for admission to the program.

From high school, you should choose an undergraduate program that gives you the flexibility to take the courses required for admission into a pharmacy program.

At Waterloo, we recommend the Biology, Biomedical Sciences, or Honours Science undergraduate programs as they offer the most flexibility to meet these requirements.

Where can you study to become a pharmacist?

There are 10 schools of pharmacy in Canada, including Waterloo’s School of Pharmacy which is home to Canada’s first and only co-op pharmacy program.

  • Dalhousie University
  • Memorial University of Newfoundland
  • Université de Montréal
  • Université Laval
  • University of Alberta
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Manitoba
  • University of Saskatchewan
  • University of Toronto
  • University of Waterloo

Pharmacists wear white coats and many hats

There’s more to pharmacists than you think. In addition to being at your community pharmacy, pharmacists are on the frontlines of every aspect of healthcare — helping to ensure better outcomes for patients. (Source: pharmacistsforhealthierlives.org)https://player.vimeo.com/video/355566456?color=ffffff&title=0&byline=0&portrait=0Watch video on Vimeo

My experience volunteering at a pharmacy has inspired me to continue my studies towards becoming a pharmacist. It’s motivated me because I can give back to the community and do something that I enjoy.TIFFANY, WATERLOO SCIENCE STUDENT

As part of learning how to become a pharmacist, a Waterloo student reviews notes with a professor with pill bottles in the background.

Being a pharmacist involves strong communication skills, the ability to work in a team, attention to detail, and empathy when helping community members.

Canada has approximately 42,500 licensed pharmacists working in more than 10,000 pharmacies. Of those, 70% work in community pharmacies, 15% work in hospitals, and 15% work in settings such as the pharmaceutical industry, government, associations, colleges, and universities.CANADIAN PHARMACISTS ASSOCIATION

Tips for students considering pharmacy as a career

“Volunteer at a pharmacy and make sure you enjoy every aspect of it. It’s important to choose a career that you love and won’t get tired of. You can get some great experience and advice from pharmacists that can help your applications,” says Tiffany, a Waterloo science student who plans to study pharmacy.

She recommends researching the different pharmacy requirements and planning out when to take the required courses.

Tiffany says that there isn’t a rush on taking the required courses, and that it’s important to have a balance of courses you need to take and courses you’re interested in.

She adds that “it’s a good idea to research the pharmacy programs since they’re all different in how the courses are taught, campus life, co-op opportunities, etc. Each university is unique and it’s important to select a program that fits your needs the best.”

The business side of pharmacy

Pharmacists may work as a salaried full-time or part-time employee of a drugstore chain or independent pharmacy. They may also be employed as managers, taking on duties such as business administration, budgeting, hiring staff and handling customer complaints.

Some pharmacists own their own pharmacies. In addition to their roles as pharmacists, owners also undertake management duties and business operations such as building rental and maintenance, utilities and bill payments, book-keeping and payroll, business registration and licensing and government and regulatory reporting (Source: Pharmacists’ Gateway Canada/National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities)

Pharmacists play an important role in Canada

Studying pharmacy

This page provides an overview of the things to consider if you are thinking about applying to train as a pharmacist, what you can expect during training and your next steps after training.

Pharmacists are experts in medicines and how they are used. Most work in hospital pharmacy, community pharmacy (for example high street chemists) and primary care pharmacy.

pharmacist with medicines

Entry requirements will vary depending on the university so check with the universities.

Applying to become a pharmacist

The first step to becoming a pharmacist is to take a Master’s degree (MPharm) course in pharmacy accredited by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). You can search for GPhC-accredited courses using our course finder.

Applications for courses are made through UCAS.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements for pharmacy degree courses vary because each university sets its own entry criteria, but you are likely to need three A-levels or equivalent qualifications at level 3, plus supporting GCSEs. Contact universities directly to find out whether qualifications equivalent to A-levels or GCSEs are acceptable.

You need to aim for as high grades at A-level or equivalent as possible. Courses specify certain subjects such as chemistry, and perhaps biology or another science subject, or maths.

Course Guides

Pharmacy Degrees

Graduates of pharmacy degrees work right at the heart of human healthcare, takin…Read More



What do pharmacy degrees cover?

If you study pharmacy at university, you will typically take modules focusing on chemistry, human biology and physiology, pharmaceutics (how medicines are made) and pharmacology (how drugs interact with the body). Most pharmacy degrees combine academic research with more vocational training and professional pharmacy skills, such as learning about legal and ethical issues, and how to interact with patients. You will learn all about prescriptions, drugs, medications and clinical practice, and practice responding to different scenarios. As you study pharmacy, you may have the opportunity to specialize in a particular type of role (such as new medicine development or patient care), or in a particular field of medical care (such as infectious diseases, or care of the elderly).

Entry requirements for pharmacy degrees

Entry requirements for pharmacy degrees vary between different institutions, but you’ll almost certainly need to have studied chemistry to a high level, preferably alongside a combination of biology, physics and mathematics. As entry to pharmacy degrees is typically very competitive, you will be expected to have excellent grades in all of these subjects, as well as a high level of proficiency in the language in which your program will be taught.


Course structure and assessment methods

The types of pharmacy degrees available may vary depending on where you study pharmacy. In some regions of the world, a Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) is offered; elsewhere, the main option is a Master of Pharmacy (MPharm). If you want to study pharmacy abroad, or would like to be able to work in different countries after graduating, it’s important to check where your qualification will be recognized. For example, in the UK, you will need at least an MPharm in order to be accepted for the year-long training course that allows you to register as a professional pharmacist.

Pharmacy degrees are typically taught using a combination of lectures, seminars and practical exercises. Most universities offer a work placement at some point during your studies. Assessment is based on theoretical and practical examinations and course work.

Discover the world’s top universities for pharmacy

Key Skills

Common skills gained from a pharmacy degree include:

  • Technical expertise and laboratory skills
  • General research skills
  • General IT skills
  • Data analysis
  • Teamwork
  • Self-management, including planning and meeting deadlines
  • Excellent professional communication, spoken and written
  • In-depth understanding of human biology and health issues

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