Scientific thinking has been an essential part of our PharmD curriculum for decades.

As a UCSF PharmD student, you’ll take a scientific approach to learning. This means that you’ll constantly be thinking through potential answers to questions, solutions to problems, and making connections within your learning, week to week and year to year. Course content is designed to build and integrate, helping you connect one part to the next as you actively engage in your own learning.

As you move through the PharmD curriculum, you’ll:

  • Build your core knowledge in science and therapeutics as well as in essential patient care skills
  • Experience pharmacy practice as you learn and apply core knowledge in various clinical settings
  • Explore new ideas and innovations in science and practice, while developing your own inquiry skills

Five main components

You’ll learn through five curriculum components:


Foundational knowledge needed for subsequent learning

Integrated Themes 

In-depth exploration of science and therapeutics, and inquiry, through the lens of eight organ systems and disease categories

Patient Care Skills
students practice taking blood pressure on each other

Hands-on pharmacy practice and communications skills

Pharmacy Practice Experiences
Woman in medical clinic talking with two health professions students
Susan Merrell, UCSF

Clinical experiences that reflect the situations and challenges you’ll face as a practicing pharmacist

Discovery Project

Student team-based research projects

Curriculum approach

The UCSF PharmD curriculum is designed for you to consistently apply scientific thinking across all coursework. Asking why, why not, how, what if, and questioning the status quo will become your new norm. You’ll dive into instructional materials and online discussions before class and come to class ready to actively collaborate, discuss, and problem solve with your classmates. You’ll have opportunities to learn with students in other health professions programs.

You’ll start the curriculum by building a shared base of science and professional knowledge that you’ll then apply through the lens of organ systems and diseases. At the same time, you’ll develop patient care skills, from how to interview a patient to how to give an injection.

You’ll experience pharmacy early on in real-world pharmacy practice. And you’ll explore what’s on the horizon in science and pharmacy practice through a unique, insiders’ look at pioneering work under way at UCSF by world-class faculty members. You’ll develop your own inquiry skills and apply them to a group research project.

How will you know you’re succeeding in the curriculum? You’ll be assessed on your competency—your ability to identify and solve problems relevant for pharmacy practice—in a pass/no pass system (see Progress and Feedback).

Throughout the curriculum, you’ll participate in sessions intended to support your success as a student and as a professional. Session topics include self-care, learning strategies, professionalism, career development, and leadership. And you’ll be set to consider additional training beyond the PharmD degree.

The UCSF PharmD curriculum will prepare you to thrive as a compassionate, team-oriented pharmacist with a keen scientific mindset, an unmatched professional skillset, and a limitless future—a pharmacist who easily adapts to continual changes in health science and patient care, and a pharmacist who leads those changes.

3 circles, labeled: Build core knowledge, Experience pharmacy practice, Explore new ideas and innovations in science while developing inquiry skills
Build Experience Explore

Build core knowledge—through the following parts of the curriculum:

  • Foundations
  • Science & Therapeutics (Integrated Themes)
  • Patient Care Skills

Experience pharmacy practice—through the following parts of the curriculum:

  • Pharmacy Practice Experiences

Explore new ideas and innovations in science and practice while developing inquiry skills—through the following parts of the curriculum:

  • Inquiry (Integrated Themes)
  • Discovery Project
  • Coursework integrates throughout. Students actively engage in learning.
  • Scientific thinking underlies all coursework.