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Residency Starter Guide

By: Yao Jiang, PharmD (St. John’s University c/o 2019)

           “Do you want to do a residency?” a senior pharmacy student asked me as I strolled past their booth on Pharmacy Organization Day during my first year of pharmacy school. I stopped for a minute, but everything they said about post graduate training and clinical rotations flew way over my head. I admit that at that time, I was only interested in checking out the different pharmacy organizations on campus and residency was not on my mind. Fast forward six years, I was approaching graduation and residency was a post-graduate opportunity I was seriously considering. I am writing this article because I want to educate and share some insight regarding pharmacy residency with the next generation of pharmacists. This article will explain what a pharmacy residency is, provide reasons why you may want to pursue a residency, how to apply for a residency, and resources available to aid the application process.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) defines pharmacy residency as, “an organized, directed, postgraduate training program in a defined area of pharmacy practice.” Traditional pharmacy residencies take place in hospitals. However, residents can now complete their post graduate training at community pharmacies, long-term care facilities, ambulatory care settings, and managed care organizations. There are two levels of post graduate pharmacy residency training, fittingly named postgraduate year one (PGY1) and postgraduate year two (PGY2). A PGY1 program builds upon knowledge, skills, and abilities that were developed during a pharmacy student’s last year of training during advanced pharmacy practice experiences (APPEs) and helps recent graduates apply their clinical skills to patients who have a board range of disease states. A PGY1 program also provides pharmacy residents with opportunities to hone their skills in patient-centered care, clinical judgment, leadership, and knowledge of pharmacy operations while simultaneously strengthening professional values. Opportunities for learning include managing the medication use process, providing medication therapy management with interdisciplinary teams, managing projects, providing education, and utilizing medical informatics.1

A PGY2 residency focuses on a specific area of interest while building on competencies developed during a candidate’s PGY1 experience. In order to complete a PGY2 residency, the candidate must first complete a PGY1 residency. Some PGY2 specialties include ambulatory care, critical care, drug information, infectious diseases, pediatrics, geriatrics, and more.1

Why should you do a residency?

Residencies may not be for everybody. When I was a student both in the classroom and on rotations, I would often get asked, “What do you want to do after graduation?” Do not feel pressured to say you want to do a residency to appease the crowd. Now you are probably thinking, “How do I know if residency is for me?” If as a pharmacy student, you know you want to work in a hospital, you should probably apply for residency. From my experience, many entry level hospital staff pharmacist positions in the New York City area now require candidates to have completed a PGY1 residency. If you have developed an interest in pharmacotherapy in general or in a specific therapeutic discipline, residency is a post-graduate option worth considering. In order to practice as a general clinical specialist and apply for board certification, it is required that one complete a PGY1 residency or have at least three years of practice experience with at least 50 percent of their time spent in patient-specific pharmacotherapy, drug information, and population-based pharmacotherapy.2 In order to apply for board certification in a specific specialty, it is required that one complete both a general PGY1 residency and a PGY2 residency in the specialty, a PGY1 residency and have a variable number of years of experience with at least 50 percent of their time spent practicing in a specific therapeutic discipline, or four years of practice experience with at least 50 percent of their time spent practicing in a specific therapeutic discipline.3 Due to the potential career benefits a residency can provide, the competition of getting into one is harsh and the reality of not matching to one is even harsher. In 2014, 35 percent of applicants did not match to a PGY1 program. All applicants should have a backup plan in case they do not get a residency position.4

How does one apply for a residency?

Now that you have been sold on the idea of residency, it is time to start applying. Begin by visiting the National Matching Services website. It contains a roadmap of the residency application process including registering to be part of the matching process, applying to different institutions, ranking the institutions, and finally, viewing your results.5 The website also provides a handy schedule of important dates including deadlines for registering for the match and submission of rank order lists. It is important to keep in mind that there is a 150 dollar fee to register for the match and varying fees depending on how many institutions you apply to.6 As a piece of advice for any student looking to apply for residency, always put your best foot forward on your APPE rotations and seek out preceptors for letters of recommendation early. Some residency programs may require letters of recommendation from faculty members so look to get involved in student organizations, research, or schedule faculty rotations prior to application deadlines.

What are some available residency resources?

While the technical aspects of how to apply for a residency have been laid out previously, applying for a residency involves much more. Intricacies like knowing which programs to apply to, drafting and finalizing a curriculum vitae (CV), and preparing for interviews all play into the application process. St. John’s University’s College of Pharmacy partners with various pharmacy student organizations, such as Rho Chi and Student Society of Health-System Pharmacy (SSHP), to hold a number of events meant to aid residency candidates. For example, the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences held their annual Residency and Fellowship Showcase in the Fall of 2018 which featured various institutions such as Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, Veteran Affairs medical centers, Northwell Health, and many more (College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, email communication, October 2018). At the showcase, current residents and residency program directors were present to answer questions and share their experiences regarding their specific programs. Following the showcase, pharmacy student organizations hosted the annual Residency and Fellowship Workshop. During the workshop, a panel of current residents and fellows talked about the residency and fellowship application process, their experiences so far in their positions, and answered questions. SSHP also held a series of workshops throughout the academic year that delved further into the application process, CV structure, and interview advice. (SSHP, email communication, October 2018). Lastly, the university’s very own Career Services Office held mock interviews to help prepare residency candidates and build their confidence.

As the future of pharmacy evolves from a dispensing landscape to a more clinical one, pharmacy students are likely to hear about pharmacy residencies from the moment they enter their first year. The benefit of this is that it will allow students to research what a residency entails, why one might want to pursue it, and prepare early. Take advantage of all the resources the College of Pharmacy offers, including your professors who most likely completed a residency of their own. With that, I leave you with one of the biggest questions of your career: to be or not be a resident. Good luck!  


  1. Residency FAQs. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. https://www.ashp.org/professional-development/ residency-information/student-residency-guide/residency-faqs. Accessed 06/30/2019.
  2. Pharmacotherapy. Board of Pharmacy Specialties. https://www.bpsweb.org/bps-specialties/pharmacotherapy/ Accessed 06/30/2019.
  3. Ambulatory care pharmacy. Board of Pharmacy Specialties. https://www.bpsweb.org/bps-specialties/ambulatory-care/ Accessed 06/30/2019.
  4. McElhaney A, Weber RJ. Role of pharmacy residency training in career planning: A student’s perspective. Hosp Pharm. 2014;49(11):1074–1080. doi:10.1310/hjp4911-1074.
  5. Overview for applicants. National Matching Services. https://natmatch.com/ashprmp/applicants/index.html Accessed 06/30/2019.
  6. Register for the match. National Matching Services. https://natmatch.com/ashprmp/applicants/register.html Accessed 06/30/2019.
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