The following is a guest post from Sophia Stone at our partner Next Step Test Preparation. Next Step provides representative PCAT practice tests as well as a comprehensive PCAT class

Finding the right match for pharmacy school at times can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack. With 143 pharmacy programs in the US (and counting) to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start.

One of the first things you might take into consideration is location. There are some misconceptions among pre-pharm students about how their state of residency affects their chances of admission and tuition rates, so if you’re confused about where to apply–or whether it’s even worth applying out-of-state—we’ve got you covered.

First of all, let’s address your chances of admission. Some public schools do have a preference for in-state applicants since public universities are funded in part by taxes from their state residents. However, in-state preference is only true of about 19 out of 66 public schools, or less than 1/3 of all public schools. For example, in the state of Florida, there were 3 pharmacy programs at private institutions and 3 programs at public institutions in 2016-17. Among these, only the University of Florida gave preference to in-state students, with seats for 250 Florida students and 20 out-of-state students. At some public institutions, however, chances of admission are still relatively good for out-of-state applicants. For example, Wayne State University in Michigan reserves 100 seats for Michigan students and 100 seats for out-of-state students.

In general, in-state tuition tends to be lower at public institutions than tuition at private institutions. Consider the University of Toledo in Ohio, a public university whose annual tuition was approximately $8,000 in-state and $17,000 out-of-state for first-year pharmacy students in 2016-17. Among private institutions in Ohio, in-state tuition ranged from $20,000 to $41,000 in-state and from $32,000 to $41,000 out-of-state for first-year students.

However, there may only be one or two pharmacy programs at public schools in your state. To increase your chances of admissions, you may want to apply to other schools, in which case the tuition rates will be similar regardless of whether you apply to out-of-state public schools, or to private schools either within your state or elsewhere. Some private institutions have lower tuition rates for in-state students, but the tuition gap is typically smaller, such as at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, where tuition was approximately $31,000 in-state and $34,000 out-of-state for first-year students in 2016-17.

 

Table 1. Number of pharmacy schools by state with the same tuition rates for in-state (IS) and out-of-state (OOS) students or with lower tuition for in-state students, and pharmacy programs that give preference to in-state applicants in 2016-17.

State Same IS v. OOS tuition? Lower IS tuition? Preference to in-state applicants?
AL 1 1
AZ 1 1
AR 1 1 University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
CA 11 2
CO 1 1
CT 1 1
DC 1 0
FL 2 4 University of Florida
GA 3 1
HI 0 1
ID 0 1 Idaho State University
IL 3 3
IN 2 1
IA 1 1
KS 0 1
KY 1 1
LA 1 1 University of Louisiana at Monroe
ME 2 0
MD 1 2 University of Maryland Eastern Shore
MA 4 0
MI 0 3 Wayne State University
MN 0 1
MS 0 1 University of Mississippi
MO 1 1
MT 0 1
NE 1 1 University of Nebraska Medical Center
NV 1 0
NJ 1 1
NM 0 1
NY 5 1
NC 3 1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
ND 0 1 North Dakota State University
OH 3 4 Northeast Ohio Medical University
OK 0 2 University of Oklahoma
OR 1 1 Oregon State University
PA 5 2
RI 0 1
SC 1 2 Medical University of South Carolina
University of South Carolina
SD 0 1
TN 5 1 University of Tennessee
TX 2 6 Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
University of North Texas Health Science Center
UT 0 1
VA 3 1
WA 0 2
WV 1 2
WI 1 1
WY 0 2 University of Wyoming

 

Does this mean all hope is lost of having more than one choice for an affordable pharmacy education? Not at all: many schools will offer loans, scholarships, or in some circumstances even in-state tuition rates to out-of-state students. The best way to find out this information is to contact each program’s admissions office or speak with current pharmacy students.

Another financial factor to take into consideration is the cost of living over the 3-4 (or more!) years in the city where you will live during pharmacy school. According to Kiplinger, the major metropolitan areas with the highest costs of living in the United States include the San Francisco Bay area, the New York City metro area, Washington, DC, Boston, and Seattle,4 each of which contains at least one accredited pharmacy program.

Well, surely a pharmacy graduate in an expensive city would command a higher salary as a Pharm.D., right? This is not necessarily the case. Only pharmacists in the San Francisco Bay area would make about 17% more the national average salary for a pharmacist, even with a cost of living almost double the national average. In other areas with a high cost of living, pharmacist salaries are on par or even just below the national average.

 

Table 2. Pharmacy schools, cost of living, and mean pharmacist salary in high cost-of-living metropolitan areas in 2016-17. Cost of living indexes are relative to New York, NY (100.00).

Metropolitan Area Pharmacy Schools Cost of Living Index Mean Salary
San Francisco, CA University California-San Francisco

Touro University-CA

111.92 $140,710
New York, NY St. John’s
Touro University-NYLong Island University
100.00 $114,560
Washington, DC Howard University 88.32 $119,000
Boston, MA MCPHS University

Northeastern University

83.70 $113,070
Seattle, WA University of Washington 78.67 $124,650
United States 58.92 $120,270

 

That said, all this accounting ignores some of the less tangible factors that will affect your happiness (and financial health) as a pharmacy student and beyond. As a pharmacy student, few luxuries can compete with living just a short drive away from your family for long weekends of home-cooked meals and family movie night. You may know where you would like to practice and will decide to target your search to that region. Some pharmacy schools may offer special programs that are especially interesting to you, or that might even reduce the overall cost of tuition. However, preparing in advance can help you plan your budget and apply to pharmacy programs that are not just the perfect fit – but also make financial sense and allow you to maintain the quality of life you’re looking for.

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