Canadian Pharmaceutical Students Guide

Financial Aid and Loans to Complete a Degree in Pharmacy

If you are enrolled in an accredited university and pursuing a degree in pharmacy, there are several financing options to consider and pay tuition and board expenses in Canada. You can apply for grants, scholarships, and loans offered by private lenders and under government programs.

Universities Offering Programs in Pharmacy

Several Canadian universities offer degree programs in pharmacy, including School of Pharmacy – University of Waterloo, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg (URL), Dalhousie University, Halifax (URL), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, University of Alberta, and others. Some institutions offer Bachelor Degrees only while others also offer Doctor of Pharmacy degrees.

Financing Options Available


One option is to apply for a grant or scholarship. Grants are offered in the form of financial assistance whereby students don’t need to pay the money back. There are different types of grants targeted at students with disabilities, students with dependents, full- and part-time students, and those from middle- and low-income families. Bursary programs and grants are also available through the territorial and provincial authorities. There are certain eligibility criteria to meet when applying for grants. For instance, low-income students must be enrolled full-time at an accredited institution and pursuing a degree with a duration of at least 2 years. Income eligibility requirements vary by province and are based on family size.

Government-Sponsored Loans and Programs

There are two financing options available, government-sponsored loans and loans from private lenders, including banks, and credit unions. Government assistance is available under provincial and federal programs. Some jurisdictions run their own assistance programs, for example, Quebec and the Northwestern Territories. Again, there are eligibility criteria for students to meet. Only permanent residents and citizens qualify as well as protected persons. Applicants who demonstrate financial need and pursue a degree or are enrolled in a certificate or diploma program meet the criteria for financial assistance. Credit check is also required for applicants who are 22 years old or older. When it comes to benefits, one of the main features of government-sponsored loans is that there is an interest-free period, and interest charges begin to accumulate once this period ends. It must be noted, however, that government-sponsored loans in Ontario also have maximum lifetime limits; see here: Repayment assistance is available in different forms, including permanent disability benefit, revision of terms, debt reduction in repayment, and interest relief.

Loans Offered by Private Lenders

Students who fail to meet the criteria for government financial assistance can apply for loans offered by major financial institutions such as CIBC and RBC as well as small banks. One of the main differences between government and private loans is that the latter do not have an interest-free period. The interest rate is also high. In general, students can choose from fixed and floating rates, and floating rates go up and down with prime rate fluctuations. In addition, some financial institutions also offer student lines of credit, cash advance credit cards, which are available to landed immigrants and Canadian citizens. Even applicants who are enrolled abroad are eligible to apply for a credit line. There are minimum income requirements but borrowers who fail to meet them are allowed to apply together with a co-applicant. Financial institutions accept applications from students who are enrolled in accredited and recognized universities and colleges. This is one alternative to private and government-sponsored loans, and students are allowed to make interest-only payments up to 1 year after graduation. Another benefit for borrowers is that student lines of credit offer convenient access to finances. Many financial institutions also emphasize the fact that there are no set-up or withdrawal fees.

Getting financial aid or loan is not always possible, so in some cases you might want to consider getting a credit card and start paying for your education with it. If your credit is not pristine, then you may have to apply for credit card for bad credit.

Average Salaries and Job Opportunities for Pharmacists

There are plenty of job opportunities for pharmacists, whether you are a new grad or have extensive industry experience. Small businesses and large companies offer competitive salaries to prospective employees while prospects depend on the number of recent graduates, current developments, and the extent of prescription drug use.

Job Opportunities across Sectors

There are different employment opportunities for pharmacists in Canada. Many work as research scientists, hospital pharmacists, and community pharmacists. Other job options include toxicologist, science writer, regulatory affairs officer, and process development scientist. Pharmacists also work as pharmacologists, higher education lecturers, and clinical research associates. Community pharmacists, for example, distribute, dispense, and control medications, monitor cholesterol and blood pressure, and prepare cassette and dosette boxes. Community pharmacists also liaise with healthcare professionals and ensure that medications and different treatment options are compatible. Hospital pharmacists also dispense medications and are mainly employed within the public sector. They are tasked with clinical trial supervision, research and development, and staff supervision. Hospital pharmacists are also responsible for quality check-ups to make sure that medications are safe and appropriate for patients. In general, pharmacists are employed across sectors, and reports show little turnover. Professionals mainly work in sales and pharmaceutical research, and many hold management and teaching positions. Many practitioners also work as retail, industrial, and clinical pharmacists as well as druggists. There are a total of 31,000 licensed practitioners currently in Canada, and about 80 percent of them are employed as community pharmacists.

Skills Required and Tuition Fees

There are certain skills to develop to work as a pharmacist, including knowledge of ethical practices and relevant legislation, ability to produce and handle scientific documentation, and knowledge of theories, principles, practices, and concepts related to the development and manufacture of medications. Most job opportunities require a university degree and the tuition fee for 2014/2015 is $11,173 on average. This means that many students are forced to apply for loans to cover tuition and board as well as school-related expenses such as books, supplies, textbooks, etc. Some students also apply for car loans to commute and thus have one more balance to pay off once they graduate . Many students also use credit cards to pay everyday and unexpected expenses.

Average Salary Based on Work Experience

Salaries depend on province or territory of residence and work experience. At the same time, the change in salary is not significant based on experience. For example, recent graduates are paid $89,000 on average while practitioners with work experience of more than 20 years usually get about $101,000 a year. Pharmacists with 5 – 10 years experience are paid $95,000 on average, and those with 10 – 20 years get about $99,000 a year. The median salary in the field is $95,000 CAD, and practitioners earn $44.91 CAD per hour on average. The overtime rate varies greatly and ranges from slightly over $12 to over $78.

The Pharmaceutical Industry, Opportunities, Trends, and Prospects for Growth

The pharmaceutical industry is well developed and innovative, with companies working to develop over-the-counter and generic drugs and new medications. They focus on research and development and medications for asthma therapy, depression, vision loss, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, and many others. The sector pools different companies, including medical device businesses, contract service providers, medium-sized and small biopharmaceutical enterprises, generic drug and brand-name companies, and others. Most businesses in the sector are subsidiaries of foreign-based multinational companies.


Pharmaceutical companies in Canada and around the world begin to adopt new policies and strategies to boost productivity and minimize risk. One of the key issues is competition and the fact that companies working for emerging and developing markets post significant growth. The main challenges that companies face include pricing controls, legislation, cost effectiveness, and demand.

Major Classes and Market Share

Companies report modest decline across major classes of therapeutic drugs and significant gains for some subclasses, for example, biological response modifiers. Top classes include:

  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Antiretrovirals
  • Diagnostic aids
  • Tranquilizers
  • Asthma therapy
  • Serotonin reuptake inhibitors
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Biological response modifiers

Major classes also include diabetes therapy, HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, ACE inhibitors, and calcium blocking agents. The pharmaceutical industry has seen a marked decline in generic prices while more and more customers prefer to buy low-cost medications. To this, the main pharmaceuticals by market share include cholesterol reduction medications, asthma therapy drugs, depression and antidepressant medications, and vision loss pharmaceuticals. Major players on the market focus on different drug classes. Some pharmaceutical companies specialize in medications and technologies to treat inflammatory diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease, and psoriasis. Others focus on medications for Parkinson’s disease, sleep medications, asthma, cancer, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and others. Canadian businesses develop medical devices and aids, OTC products, innovative medications, drug delivery systems, and a lot more.

R&D and Focus

The pharmaceutical sector is involved in immunotherapy, protein engineering, stem cell and regenerative medicine, and vaccine research and development. Some companies also specialize in proteomics and genomics. In general, many companies work to develop, patent, market, and sell medications, technologies, equipment, and devices. Some pharmaceutical companies are involved in early-stage development. Patents are issued for processes and technologies used to manufacture pharmaceuticals as well as for new products. The sector, on the other hand, develops medications for both widespread and rare diseases. Research and development accounts for about 5 percent of sales. The goal is to create improved or new medications and therapies as well as bio-equivalent products to treat and prevent diseases. Biologics is a new field whereby products are synthesized from biological sources.

© Sophs 2015