Paying for Pharmacy School Need to Knows

By Melissa Brock · June 04, 2024 · 11 minute read

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Paying for Pharmacy School Need to Knows

A Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree is a four-year, licensed professional degree that teaches students how to fill prescription medications and how to educate patients about using prescriptions safely. Pharmacy school can be expensive, adding up to nearly $200,000 dollars on the high end.

With that price tag, it’s not a surprise that pharmacy students may have to rely on a few different sources of financing to pay for school, sometimes using a combination of savings, grants, scholarships, and student loans. This article will review the pharmacy school costs, the amount pharmacists can make, and nine tips for paying for pharmacy school.

How Much Does Pharmacy School Typically Cost?

The cost of pharmacy school can vary depending on where you enroll, the location, and the extent to which public dollars support the university you plan to attend. As mentioned, the complete cost of pharmacy school can add up to $200,000. The cost can swing higher for students who opt for an out-of-state institution. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) lists the tuition and fees for pharmacy school for the 2022-2023 academic year on its website, which can help you compare costs at the pharmacy schools you may be considering.

For example, the first school on the list, Auburn University, costs $22,736 for in-state pharmacy students and $43,508 for out-of-state students. Mandatory fees cost $410 for 33 credit hours for students in their first year. However, in the fourth year, it costs $27,216 for in-state students and $58,374 for out-of-state students, with $210 for mandatory fees for 46 credit hours.

It’s worthwhile to compare the costs of various institutions before you make a decision. However, remember that financial aid can potentially bring the costs down further, so don’t rely completely on the published tuition prices. A conversation with the financial aid office at each school may give you a more in-depth analysis of how much it will actually cost, taking your personal situation into account.

Is Pharmacy School Worth It?

For the right individual, pharmacy school can be worth it. The costs of pharmacy school may seem daunting, but the professional perks, ability to become a part of a healthcare team, job opportunities, and career stability can mean that pharmacy school is the right option for many individuals. The high salary of pharmacists may also make pharmacy school worth it.

How Much Can Pharmacists Make?

The 2023 median pay for pharmacists was $136,030 per year, or $65.40 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Job outlook from 2022-2032 will increase 3% per year, which is as fast as average.

9 Tips for Paying for Pharmacy School

Think of paying for pharmacy school as a pie. There are many ways to pay for pharmacy school by dividing that pie. For example, various pieces of the pie might make up scholarships, grants, loans, and money out of your own pocket. No matter how you slice the pie, every dollar you contribute is an investment into your career and your future. We’ll discuss scholarships, including university, pharmacy, and private scholarships, as well as grants in the next section.

1. Scholarships

Scholarships are funds that you don’t have to pay back. You can get scholarships as a pharmacy student from a number of different sources, including from the university that you plan to attend as well as through designated pharmacy scholarships and private scholarships.

It’s worth considering other interests beyond pharmacy. Scholarships may be awarded based on heritage, location, or even hobbies or special skills. Maybe you have talents in another area that qualify you for additional scholarships.

University Scholarships

Pharmacy colleges and schools traditionally offer direct financial assistance to pharmacy students through various sources, including alumni associations and local chapters of pharmaceutical organizations and fraternities.

Consider setting a meeting with the financial aid office at the university you plan to attend to learn more about specific scholarships from each pharmacy school you’re interested in attending.

Pharmacy Scholarships

Local and state pharmaceutical associations, practicing pharmacists, drug manufacturers, and wholesalers may offer pharmacy scholarships to promising pharmacists, as well.

For example, 10 pharmacy students annually can receive a $5,000 Walmart Health Equity Scholarship. Students must be accepted or enrolled in the professional curriculum at a U.S. college or school of pharmacy, and show evidence of leadership skills, academic success, and must have a preference to serve rural or medically underserved patients.

Here’s another example: Five underrepresented minority students can receive the CVS Health Minority Scholarship for Pharmacy Students annually. Students must be African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian, Native Hawaiian, and/or Pacific Islander students, as well as U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Each successful candidate will receive a single $7,000 scholarship.

Private Scholarships

Private scholarships come from companies, service groups and organizations, foundations, and individuals. For example, Tylenol offers a scholarship for students pursuing careers in healthcare, including pharmacy. There may also be scholarships available from local or regional organizations.

2. Grants

Like scholarships, you do not have to repay the money you receive from grants. Grants, which are typically based on need, can also be awarded based on merit. Filling the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) automatically considers you for federal grants based on need. You may also become eligible for state grants. Your college or university can give you more information about the types of grants you’re eligible for through your pharmacy program.

3. Federal Student Loans

You may be wondering how to pay for pharmacy school without loans. It’s possible to do it through a combination of scholarships, grants, and savings, though many people take advantage of federal student loans through the U.S. Department of Education. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates and benefits such as income-driven repayment plans. Just like obtaining an auto loan or a mortgage, you must pay back loans with interest.

Federal student loans are a type of federal financial aid, and to apply, you must file the FAFSA. Learn more about the requirements for this application in SoFi’s comprehensive guide to the FAFSA.

You can qualify for two types of federal student loans for pharmacy school: Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Unsubsidized Loans.

Direct PLUS Loans

Pharmacy students can take advantage of Direct PLUS Loans, also called graduate PLUS loans or direct grad PLUS loans, to help finance graduate and professional school. The Graduate PLUS Loan comes from the U.S. Department of Education for graduate or professional students. In order to get one, your school must participate in the Direct Loan Program.

The Direct PLUS Loan is not need-based, which means you can get it no matter your income level. You can borrow up to the full cost of attendance and can use the money to pay for tuition, room and board, and fees. Your school will subtract other financial aid you receive (such as scholarships, grants, and fellowships) from the full cost of attendance and award you the difference with a Direct PLUS Loan.

The interest rate is 8.05% for Direct PLUS Loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2023 and before July 1, 2024.

Direct Unsubsidized Loans

Similar to student loans for undergraduates, you can tap into Direct Unsubsidized Loans. You can borrow up to $20,500 per year with the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, and the interest rate is 7.05% if disbursed between July 1, 2023 and July 1, 2024 for graduate students. “Unsubsidized” means that the government doesn’t pay the interest while you’re in school and during the grace period.

It’s generally a good idea to first consider opting for the Direct Unsubsidized Loan, over a Graduate PLUS Loan. Why opt for the Direct Unsubsidized loan first?

You’ll pay more in interest for the Direct PLUS Loan (8.05% interest rate).

4. Private Student Loans

Private graduate student loans do not come from the federal government. They can come from a bank, credit union, or another financial institution and can be used to help finance college or career school. The amount you can borrow depends on the costs of your degree, but also depends on personal financial factors (such as your credit score and income).

You may have gotten advice that suggested exhausting all of your federal grant and loan options before you consider private loans because interest rates are usually higher compared to federal student loans. Additionally, private student loans don’t qualify for the same borrower protections as federal student loans, like income-driven repayment plans or deferment options. However, private student loans can be an option to consider if you need additional funding to cover your pharmacy school expenses.

Recommended: Things to know before applying for private student loans

5. PSLF Programs

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program is a federal student loan forgiveness program. More specifically, you may qualify to have the remaining balance on your Direct Loans forgiven after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan. You must work full-time for a qualifying employer in order to qualify and your employer must be a qualifying organization such as a federal, state, local, or tribal government organization or other nonprofit organization.

You must have Direct Loans or consolidate other types of federal student loans into a Direct Loan, repay loans under an income-driven repayment plan, as well as make 120 qualifying payments toward your student loans. The requirements for PSLF can be quite strict, so be sure to read the requirements closely.

For more information about PSLF programs and to learn more about your eligibility, contact your loan servicer, which is the entity that services your loan.

6. Pharmacy Internships

Pharmacy internships can be instrumental in your budding career as a pharmacist in helping you understand how pharmacies operate, learning the ins and outs of customer service, helping you dive into inventory management, and learning the professional skills necessary to become a pharmacist. You may also learn more from pharmacist professionals about leading a pharmacy team and help you bring tangible professional experience back to the classroom.

You may also want to look into pharmacy fellowships, which provide financial support in an external or internal capacity (in or out of the university environment). Assistantships also provide financial support in an academic department through teaching, research, or administrative responsibilities.

7. Work Part Time

You may want to consider working a part-time job in conjunction with pharmacy school. For example, if you attend school from 8am to 4pm, you may want to seek a part-time job after hours.

However, it’s important to consider your time constraints and whether you can succeed in your coursework. Consider your ability to manage your time before you take on a part-time job. However, for the right student, taking on a job can help pay for college tuition and give you an additional source of income. Networking opportunities and skill development can come from a part-time job, even if it doesn’t relate to pharmacy.

8. Borrow From Family

Do you have a family member who really wants to give you money for your education? You may seriously consider borrowing from your parents or a sister or brother (or whoever else wants to lend you money).

Just remember that it could strain family relationships if you fail to pay back the loan. It’s a good idea to have a plan in place to repay your relative(s) as well as create boundaries, so both parties feel good about the arrangement.

9. HRSA Loans

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, improves health care for geographically isolated and vulnerable individuals.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the HRSA, also offers several loans for health services students. For example, Health Professions Student Loans are available to individuals who study pharmacy (as well as dentistry, optometry, podiatry, or veterinary medicine). Pharmacy students who show financial need may also be able to tap into Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS). Health professions student loans have fixed interest rates of 5%, lower than both Direct Unsubsidized Loans and PLUS loans. They also allow 12 months of grace periods, while most other loans only offer six months of grace periods. In addition, health professions loans are subsidized, which means you don’t pay interest on the loan while you’re in school, nor do you pay additional loan fees.

However, they come with a few downsides: Not all schools participate, and there are no set borrowing limits. You also can’t tap into income-driven repayment plans or PSLF.

Private Student Loans for Pharmacy School

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.


Can you use FAFSA for pharmacy school?

Absolutely! It’s generally a smart idea to file the FAFSA for pharmacy school, no matter your financial situation. The FAFSA can give you access to a range of financial aid options, including scholarships (your school will consider your eligibility based on the FAFSA results), grants, loans, and work-study. You want to be able to put together the best financial aid options for your needs, and the best way to do that involves filing the FAFSA.

Does CVS or Walgreens pay for pharmacy school?

CVS and Walgreens both offer pharmacy scholarships, like the ones we listed above, the Walmart Health Equity Scholarship and the CVS Health Minority Scholarship for Pharmacy Students. If you work for either company, you may also qualify through each company’s employee tuition reimbursement program. Check with the human resources department at each company for more details.

How much can pharmacists make after graduating?

The 2023 median pay for pharmacists was $136,030 per year, or $65.40 per hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The job outlook for pharmacists is 3% from 2022 through 2032, which is as fast as average.

Photo credit: iStock/cagkansayin

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