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Guide to Pharmacy School Costs

How Much Does Pharmacist Schooling Cost?
Rebecca Safier
Rebecca SafierUpdated January 17, 2023
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Becoming a pharmacist can be a lucrative career choice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a pharmacist in 2021 was $128,570. However, you might need to take on significant student debt to earn your PharmD degree. The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) found that pharmacy students who borrowed loans reported an average debt of $170,444. Even with the higher-than-average salary of a pharmacist, this amount of debt can take years to pay off. 

What Is Pharmacy School?

Pharmacy school is typically a five- to six-year graduate program that culminates in a doctorate of pharmacy (PharmD). These six years often include four years of coursework and one to two years of residency. Most pharmacy programs require that students have already earned their bachelors degree before they enroll. Some pharmacy programs offer six-year programs that combine with undergraduate schooling, allowing students to earn both their bachelors and PharmD in six years. Pharmacy students study biology, chemistry, physics, drug therapy, and related subjects. To work as a pharmacist in a drug store, hospital, or other setting in the U.S., pharmacy school graduates must take and pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and a state pharmacy licensure exam.Recommended: What is Grad School? 

Cost of Pharmacy School

The average cost of a pharmacy school program ranges from $65,000 to $200,000, though the price will vary depending on the school. Students who attend an in-state public school will likely find lower costs and fees, while students who go out-of-state or enroll in a private institution will see higher costs. According to the AACP, students who took out loans for their PharmD programs had an average student debt of $141,296 for public schools and $201,169 for private schools. 

In-State Pharmacy School Cost

If you attend an in-state public school, your costs will typically be lower than what you’d find at an out-of-state public school or private university. According to Vocational Training HQ, the costs of an in-state pharmacy school range from $3,000 to $20,500 per year, or $14,800 to $82,000 over the course of four years. 

Out-of-State Pharmacy School Cost

Attending an out-of-state pharmacy school won’t get you any discounts on tuition. Your annual costs might be more than double the costs for state residents. According to Vocational Training HQ, some out-of-state pharmacy schools charge $9,950 per year while others have a much higher annual price tag of $32,800. 

Private vs Public Pharmacy School Cost

Private colleges typically cost more than public ones, a fact that holds true for pharmacy schools. Students can expect to pay between $18,700 and $40,000 annually at private schools, or $74,800 to $160,000 over four years, says Vocational Training HQ. As mentioned, students who took out loans report taking out nearly $60,000 more for private school than for public school. 

3-Year vs 4-Year Programs

Some pharmacy schools offer accelerated programs that allow students to earn their degrees in just three years. Unlike the traditional four-year programs, these three-year programs typically require you to attend school full time. You won’t get a summer break, so your annual costs will be higher than what they’d be in a regular program. However, you’ll earn your degree sooner, so you could start earning an income and repaying student loans earlier, as well. Recommended: Guide to Pharmacy School Loan Forgiveness

How Hard Is It to Get Into Pharmacy School?

Pharmacy acceptance rates have been increasing in recent years. According to admissions prep company BeMo, the average acceptance rate across U.S. pharmacy school programs has reached 89%. Of course, the rates will vary by school, with some being much more competitive than others. You can often find admissions statistics on a school’s website or a third-party college ranking site. 

Pros and Cons of Pharmacy School

Can lead to a high salary May have to pay a high price tag for your degree 
Could result in a stable career with flexible options May have to take out significant student debt 
May qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, depending on where you work Must pass multiple exams and complete a residency 


  • Can lead to a high salary. The median salary for pharmacists in 2021 was $128,570, according to BLS data. 
  • Could result in a stable career with flexible options. With your PharmD, you might choose to work in a drug store, hospital, clinic, or other healthcare setting. 
  • May qualify for student debt forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, depending on where you work. Pharmacists who work in qualifying nonprofit settings could earn student loan forgiveness after 10 years through the PSLF program. 


  • May have to pay a high price tag for your degree. Costs are especially high at out-of-state and private schools. 
  • May have to take out significant student debt. The average pharmacy student debt is $170,444 across all institutions, according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy’s Graduating Student Survey. 
  • Must pass multiple exams and complete a residency. You’ll need to pass various exams to get into pharmacy school and to work as a pharmacist, including the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), and Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE).

Pharmacy School vs Medical School

Both pharmacy and medical school are graduate programs related to medicine, science, and health. Pharmacy students, however, earn their degree to become pharmacists, while medical students may go on to become physicians, cardiologists, neurologists, anesthesiologists, radiologists, or other healthcare professionals. 


While the average cost of a PharmD program ranges from $65,000 to $200,000, the average cost of medical school is $218,792. You’ll also need to factor in the costs of applying for and participating in residency, as well as the total number of years that you won’t yet be making an income. The average student loan debt for doctors is $241,600. For pharmacy students, it’s about $170,444.

Expected Earnings

Doctors’ earnings will vary depending on their profession and specialty, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the 2021 median pay for physicians and surgeons is equal to or greater than $208,000 per year. According to a 2022 Medscape Physician Compensation Report, primary care physicians (PCPs) earn an average of $260,000, and specialists earn an average of $368,000. In comparison, the median salary for a pharmacist in 2021 was $128,570.

Number of Years of Study

Medical school may be an even longer time commitment than pharmacy school. Medical students must complete four years of coursework to earn their M.D., O.D., or other degree. Most then go on to complete an additional three to seven years in residency in their desired specialty, such as surgery. Altogether, a medical student might spend as much as 11 years studying and training before getting their first job as a doctor. 

The Takeaway

Earning your PharmD can lead to a stable, fulfilling, and lucrative career. It’s also flexible — for instance, you could choose to work in a drugstore, hospital or clinic. However, you might have to take on significant student debt to cover your schooling. If you’re committed to working in a nonprofit for 10 years, you could get this debt forgiven through the PSLF program. 

3 Student Loan Tips

  1. Once the pandemic-related pause on federal student loan payments ends, going back to making payments may be hard on budgets. One solution is to refinance to a lower interest rate, longer loan term, or both, depending on your situation. (The tradeoff is that you’ll be forfeiting federal benefits such as repayment programs.) Find and compare your student loan refinance options.
  2. Paying extra each month on your student loan can reduce the interest you pay and so lower your total loan cost over time. (The law prohibits prepayment penalties on federal or private student loans.)
  3. Depending on their income, qualified borrowers can deduct the interest they pay for student loans, both federal or private, up to $2,500 per year. The deduction phases out for modified adjusted gross incomes of $70,000 to $85,000 for single individuals and $145,000 to $175,000 for people married and filing jointly.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Is pharmacy school cheaper than med school?
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About the Author

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier has nearly a decade of experience writing about personal finance. Formerly a senior writer with LendingTree and Student Loan Hero, she specializes in student loans, financial aid, and personal loans. She is certified as a student loan counselor with the National Association of Certified Credit Counselors (NACCC).
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