Pre-Pharmacy at UW–Madison

Pre-Pharmacy Advising for Prospective and Current Students at UW-Madison

Zoe Hurley (left), peer advisor for the Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration program (SOAR), works with an incoming student Brandon Hamm (right) to create a class schedule during an advising session in Van Vleck Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on July 8, 2015. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)Most UW–Madison students who are pursuing pre-pharmacy plans are admitted to the College of Letters & Science (L&S) or the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). No matter where you land, the School of Pharmacy is committed to providing personalized advising to help guide you through your undergraduate path as you explore pharmacy. We offer comprehensive academic, admissions, and career advising for UW‒Madison students in any major who are interested in pharmacy.

At UW–Madison, no specific requirements or applications are needed to pursue a pre-pharmacy path, since it is an intention and not a major.  Students can select any major and be a pre-pharmacy student.  Pre-pharmacy coursework fits well with many majors in the biological sciences, but students are encouraged to explore and choose majors that best reflect their interests and help them meet their academic goals.

If you’re a current UW–Madison student exploring pharmacy or committed to a pre-pharmacy path, we encourage you to meet with the Pre-Pharmacy Advisor (Amy Zwaska) at least once per semester to explore the PharmD program and get valuable guidance about prerequisites, selection criteria, application timeline/procedures, and career opportunities.

During your time as a pre-pharmacy student, you can request to have your pre-pharmacy advisor become one of your academic advisors — this will allow you to get emails about career exploration events, informational sessions, pharmacy-focused undergraduate courses and news about the application process and program!  Advising meetings provide helpful opportunities for students to:

  • Discuss your interests and develop short and long-term academic goals
  • Learn about pharmacy career paths, pharmacist roles and responsibilities
  • Explore co-curricular opportunities
  • Plan your education plan and admissions timeline, monitor and evaluate your academic progress
  • Obtain information about PharmD prerequisites, application process, selection criteria, and tips for developing a competitive application
  • Discuss academic and non-academic concerns and connect with support services and resources

Thumbnail of Pre-Pharmacy Handbook cover 2020 The Pre-Pharmacy Handbook is a great resource for students preparing to apply to the PharmD and PharmTox programs.

Schedule a Pre-Pharmacy Advising Appointment

Current UW-Madison students:

Set up an appointment in STARFISH »

Having difficulties using STARFISH?  Email Amy Zwaska to set up an appointment.

Prospective UW-Madison students:

Not yet a UW–Madison student but interested in learning more about the pre-pharmacy path, the PharmD program, or the Early Assurance program?

Email Amy Zwaska for an appointment »

PharmD Early Assurance (EA) Program

High school seniors and first semester college students at one of the 13 UW system schools can apply to be part of the EA program.  Early Assurance students are able to focus on pre-pharmacy coursework and additional co-curricular activities knowing that their seat is saved in the UW–Madison PharmD program.  Learn more »

Recently Admitted Students – Select Pharmacy at SOAR

We strongly recommend that students with any interest in the PharmD program choose the School of Pharmacy as their advising group option when you make your SOAR (Student Orientation, Advising, Registration) reservation in April.  The School of Pharmacy offers dedicated advising sessions at SOAR for students admitted to any school or college to learn more about pre-pharmacy programs.

This is a great way to get the academic advising you need as a pre-pharmacy student with opportunities to:

  • Connect directly with pre-pharmacy advisors and recently admitted students who serve as peer advisors
  • Learn about the exciting pharmacy career options and unique learning opportunities within our health sciences community
  • Gain valuable insight into the PharmD prerequisite requirements, admissions timeline, and selection criteria
  • Learn about our Exploring Pharmacy seminar course (part of the Pharmacy and You FIG)
  • Develop a timeline for completion of your prerequisite courses

Fast Track Into the PharmD Program and Earn the BS Degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences

Pharmacy students pose together following the UW-Madison School of Pharmacy White Coat Ceremony

No bachelor’s degree is required in order to apply to the PharmD program, and nearly half of incoming PharmD students do not have an undergraduate degree.  However, if you want to fast track into pharmacy school and also earn your bachelor’s degree, you can do both at UW‒Madison.  The Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences (BSPS) is not a major, but is milestone degree granted to current Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) students after they complete the first or second year of pharmacy school (date determined when student will have completed a minimum of 120 total credits). Must have been enrolled as an undergraduate student at UW‒Madison (minimum of 30 credits).

  1. Must not have completed an undergraduate degree
  2. Must be admitted to the PharmD program and have successfully completed the first year of the PharmD program
  3. Must have completed the UW‒Madison general education requirements and other degree requirements.
  4. Review the courses that fulfill the BSPS and PharmD prerequisites and talk with a pre-pharmacy advisor with any questions about how the requirements for each program differ.

Program Timeline:

  • UW‒Madison students who are interested in earning this degree in conjunction with their PharmD degree will need to complete their general education requirements either:
    • Prior to admission to the PharmD program OR
    • Prior to completion of the second year of the PharmD program
  • Any student who satisfies the criteria outlined above will automatically be granted this degree at the end of the first or second year of the PharmD program or after all degree requirements have been met.

Prerequisite Coursework for UW-Madison Students

Two pharmacy students study in the atrium

Take a peek at the list of required prerequisite courses by UW-Madison course numbers

Download Course List (PDF) »

Be in the Know

Stay updated an informed about important PharmD program information and events

Join our Email List »

Attend a PharmD Prospective Student Event

A pharmacy student demonstrates sterile compounding techniques to prospective students and their families.

Get an in-depth look at pharmacy school, chat with current students, meet admissions advisors, and learn about the unique opportunities we offer

Prospective Student Events »

Additional Pre-Pharmacy Information & Resources

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PharmD Curriculum Breakdown

  • The prerequisite coursework consists of 72 credits of college prerequisite courses:
    • 2 to 3+ years pre-pharmacy timeline (although not required, some students choose to complete an undergraduate major prior to entry into the PharmD program).
  • The PharmD curriculum is 4 years in length
    • 3 years classroom and introductory pharmacy practice experiences (300 hours)
    • 1 year full-time advanced pharmacy practice experiences
  • Minimum of 6 years (2 years pre-pharmacy; 4 years PharmD)

PharmD Admissions Timeline

Year 1 Year 1 Year 1
2-Year Plan:
• Apply to PharmD Program
Year 2 Year 2 Year 2
3-Year Plan:
• Apply to PharmD Program
Year 3
2-Year Plan:
• Start PharmD Program
Year 3 Year 3
Bachelor’s Degree:
• Apply to PharmD Program
Year 4
3-Year Plan:
• Start PharmD Program
Year 4
Bachelor’s Degree:
• Graduation
Year 4

It’s important to note that we do not have a preferred pre-pharmacy timeline and there are many acceptable paths to gain admission into the PharmD program.

  • We admit students into the PharmD program for fall entrance only.
  • The application process can begin while prerequisite courses are in progress but they will need to be completed prior to fall program entrance.
  • The PharmD application and admissions process uses a rolling structure with the common application called PharmCAS opening in mid-July and a deadline of early February. The majority of admission decisions are made between October and April.
  • Approximately 50% of applicants are on a “fast-track” for admission into the PharmD program.
    • A 2-year plan fast track involves a student applying to being admitted to the PharmD program at would have been the beginning of their junior year as an undergraduate student. In this example, a student could begin working on the pharmacy application during the summer after the freshman year.
    • A 3-year plan fast track is a very common choice as it allows more time and flexibility to schedule and complete the prerequisites. In this case, a student could begin working on the application during the summer after their sophomore year.
    • If a student fast tracks into the PharmD program prior to earning an undergraduate major, that student will be eligible to earn a BS in Pharmaceutical Science (BSPS) along the way to earning their PharmD degree. Currently the BSPS degree is awarded after the student successfully completes the first or second year of pharmacy school (date determined when student will have completed a minimum of 120 total credits).
    • Students who are part of the early assurance program, have up to four years to complete their PharmD prerequisites and other eligibility requirements.
  • Approximately 50% of applicants choose to complete an undergraduate degree prior to starting the PharmD program.
  • There is no preference given to students based upon the length of their pre-pharmacy path.

View detailed Admissions Timeline information »

PharmD Selection Criteria

  • It is important to note that GPA is not the sole criterion we use for admission decisions.
  • All grades earned are included in your pharmacy school application GPA (including repeated courses AND courses taken at other universities/colleges).
  •  All pre-pharmacy courses need to be taken for a letter grade (no pass/fail).
  • The admission committee carefully considers five selection criteria in the evaluation of all applicants.
  • These criteria allow the committee to use a holistic approach in reviewing applicants which provides more depth and breadth to the review process.
  • Applicants are encouraged to address and reflect upon the criteria as they build their application, develop their essays, solicit letters of recommendation, and prepare for the admissions interview.

Pharmacy and You FIG

  • The structure of the Pharmacy and You FIG option 1 and option 2 both include a package of three courses:
    • Chemistry 103 “General Chemistry I” (4 cr) or Chemistry 109 “Advanced General Chemistry” (5 cr) – prerequisite for PharmD program
    • Pharmacy 125 “Exploring Pharmacy I” (2 cr) – the pharmacy career exploration seminar
    • And either Anthropology 104  “Cultural Anthropology and Human Diversity” (3 cr) – general education requirement and prerequisite for combined PharmD/BSPS degrees OR Pharmacy Practice 305 “Consumer Self-Care and Over the Counter Drugs” (2 cr)
  • We offer two options in the fall semester and one in the spring for students who might not take general chemistry in the fall.
  • Each section is capped at 20 students who will be in all three courses together which provides great opportunities to get to know your classmates!
  • The course sections are offered at specific times and interested students will be authorized to enroll for the “package” of all three courses.
  • The FIG will equal a total of 8-9 credits. Students will then choose two additional courses from our list of prerequisites or other courses of interest to round out their schedules for a total of 14-17 credits for the fall semester.
    • Please note that the FIG is a “package deal” and the Pharmacy 125 course can only be taken within the FIG and not on its own.
  • If you are interested, your advisor will provide you with instructions for how to get authorized to add the pharmacy fig courses to your fall schedule.

Why Join the Pharmacy FIG?

  • Pharmacy 125 – Exploring Pharmacy I is the career exploration seminar and core component of this FIG.
  • We piloted this FIG in the fall of 2015 and have had hundreds of students participate and be successfully admitted to pharmacy school.
  • Pharmacy is one of the smaller health professions and there are limited opportunities for students to learn about and gain exposure to the field. We designed the FIG for both students fairly interested in pharmacy AND for those who are exploring it as a career path.
  • 4 great reasons to take the FIG

Pre-Pharmacy Club

Students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison can join the Pre-Pharmacy Club that brings together students interested in exploring pharmacy. The club provides a great avenue to meet friends, build community, and form study groups all while learning about the exciting field of pharmacy. The club hosts study jams and is involved in fun events such as the Polar Plunge or Relay for Life. You can hear from pharmacist guest speakers, network with current pharmacy students, learn about pharmacy technician jobs, or participate in volunteer opportunities and social events with other pre-pharmacy students. Pre-Pharmacy Club meetings also include helpful tips and advice for how to strengthen your application to pharmacy school.

Get Involved with Health-Related Student Organizations

There are several other health-oriented professional student organizations available on campus:

UW‒Madison students can choose from 750+ student organizations on the Wisconsin Involvement Network website that cover interests in many areas, including:

  • Academic and professional
  • Cultural and ethnic
  • International
  • Political, environmental, and advocacy
  • Religious
  • Living community
  • Service, social, and fraternity/sorority
  • Sports and recreation
  • University student governance

In addition, hundreds of volunteer opportunities in Madison and the greater Dane County community are available through the Badger Volunteers program or can be found by searching for volunteer opportunities.


Take Undergraduate Pharmacy Courses

As a UW–Madison undergraduate student, you can take these elective courses to learn more about pharmacy and health care:

  • Pharmacy 225:  Pharmacy Exploration Seminar (Spring Semester, 2 cr) – Seminar format with guest speakers, readings, videos, discussions, participation and reflective assignments related to the following topics – pharmacy education process from admission to advanced training; contemporary pharmacy practice, career pathways, and postgraduate opportunities; medical terminology, common drugs, and diseases; public health, health literacy, and communication; interprofessional health provider practice; pharmacist impact on patient care.  No exams or papers.
  • Pharmacy Practice 305: Consumer Self-Care & Over-the-Counter Drugs (Fall Semester, 2 credits) Provides students with information regarding self-care of common, minor health conditions. Emphasis on illness prevention, health condition symptoms, guidelines for over-the-counter produce use, adverse effects and alcohol/drug interactions of over-the-counter products, when to request professional care.

Virtual Tour

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Take a virtual tour of Rennebohm Hall and the PharmD Program with one of our current students