Complete Guide to an Online Pharmacy Degree
Pharmacy is the science of medication preparation for patients. An online pharmacy degree prepares students for the various tasks related to the field, including developing medications, providing prescriptions, counseling and advising patients, researching drug interactions, and administering pharmacies and educational programs. People with pharmacy careers may work in hospitals, private retail pharmacies, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, marketing firms, and universities.
Prospective students seeking to earn an online pharmacy degree should make sure to attend a program that is accredited. Pharmacy school accreditation comes from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). ACPE is recognized by the US Department of Education as a qualified accrediting agency for professional pharmacy programs. Attending an accredited pharmacy program ensures that you will receive the best academic and professional outcomes. Another way of finding a quality degree is by choosing a pharmacy school from our top online colleges ranking list.
Comprehensive List of Accredited Online Schools - Pharmacy Degrees (34)
Overview of Available Online Pharmacy Degrees
Pharmacists are required to complete a professional graduate-level doctoral Pharm. D. program. Applicants need to have completed at least two years of pre-pharmacy education, although some programs require completion of a bachelor's degree for admission. Students will also be required to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test, or PCAT, which is a standardized examination of the skills and knowledge areas needed for success in the professional degree program. Pharm.D. Students will need to pass licensing exams after graduating from an accredited program in order to work as a pharmacist.
Pharmacy research programs are available online at both master's and doctoral levels. Graduates are prepared to conduct research, work as consultants, teach in universities, develop new drugs for pharmaceutical companies, conduct clinical studies, and work for many governmental agencies. University faculty positions require the Ph.D. degree level, which involves a minimum of four years of graduate school following the completion of a bachelor's degree. Master's degrees are obtainable with two years of graduate education after the student has completed his undergraduate degree.
Ph.D. Programs in pharmacy administration require a bachelor's degree and prepare graduates for careers administering pharmacies and working in universities, hospitals, government agencies, and in long term care facilities.
Pharmacy technicians assist licensed pharmacists with preparing medications and filling prescriptions. Pharmacy technician jobs require a minimum of a high school education. Additionally, programs are available at the vocational certificate level through the associate degree level through community colleges. Earning a degree will increase your job prospects as a pharmacy technician.
An online master's degree in pharmacy prepares graduates for careers in pharmacy administration or research specialties. Like most graduate-level educational programs, admission will require students to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and possibly the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT). Applicants should expect to submit letters of recommendation, transcripts, and their graduate exam test scores along with the application. Prospective students must have already obtained a bachelor's degree prior to admission.
A master's degree typically takes a minimum of two years of post-graduate work. Classes include graduate-level courses in pharmacy administration, pharmaceutical science, neuropharmacology, immunology, pharmacology, and physical pharmacy. Students are also required to complete research and a master's thesis to obtain the degree. Graduates can find work as consultants, independent researchers, or work for private pharmaceutical research companies. They may also manage pharmacies in private or hospital settings.
Many accredited online programs offer both doctoral Pharm.D. and research Ph.D. programs. Completion of a Pharm.D. doctorate provides the opportunity for graduates to obtain licensing after passing the required exams. Pharm.D. practitioners can then obtain work as pharmacists in private pharmacies, hospitals, long term care facilities, and retail stores. Research Ph.D. doctoral programs offer the ability for graduates to work as researchers and faculty members at institutions of higher learning. Typical classes for Pharm.D. programs include courses in biochemistry, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacokinetics, pathology, immunology, and several others. Typical courses for research-focused Ph.D. programs include additional courses in drug evaluation and research, physiology, behavioral pharmacology, as well as other courses. Ph.D. programs will also require a significant research component requiring a doctoral dissertation, defending the dissertation, and receiving a recommendation from the program's faculty that the Ph.D. be granted upon program completion.
Both graduate-level and undergraduate certificate programs are available for online pharmacy students. Graduate certificates provide education to pharmacists in specialized areas such as pediatric pharmacology, nuclear pharmacology, gerontological medicine, and diabetes pharmacology, and are provided through universities and the Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Undergraduate certificates are available in pharmacy technology, and are available through vocational technical schools, community colleges, and four-year colleges.
Pharmacy programs are accredited in the United States through the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Accreditation indicates that a program meets the professional and education standards required for professional work. In most states, completion of an accredited pharmacy program is required in order to obtain a license. Graduating from an accredited program shows employers that graduates have obtained the skills needed for the career and have completed required courses. In order to obtain financial aid to help pay for education, attendance at an accredited program is often required.
Pharmacists are required to be licensed in all fifty states. Upon completion of the professional doctoral program, pharmacists must take and pass two exams to obtain a license to practice in the state in which they reside. The required exams are the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam, or NAPLEX, which tests prospective pharmacists on the skills and knowledge required for the career. The second exam, the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam, or MPJE, tests prospective pharmacists on the pharmacy laws specific to the state in which they are seeking licensing.
While certification is not required, pharmacists may choose to obtain special certifications in areas in which they want to specialize in their practice. Specialized certifications for pharmacists are offered through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties and include qualifications in such areas as oncology, nutrition, pediatric pharmacy, nuclear pharmacy, and others.
Pharmacists prepare prescriptions and advise patients concerning any potential side effects they may experience while taking medication. Pharmacists also supervise pharmacy technicians and pharmacy interns working under their supervision. They work with insurance companies to ensure coverage for medications and may also have inventory management duties for the pharmacy in which they work. Pharmacists must have a four-year professional, post-graduate doctoral degree, or Pharm.D. and a professional state license in order to practice. All programs require a minimum of two years of college coursework for admission, while some require completion of a bachelor's degree prior to entry into the professional degree program.
Pharmaceutical researchers are involved in the development of new medications. Researchers may also work in the area of improving the drug manufacturing process. They may conduct clinical trials and testing of new medications on animals and humans. Minimum educational requirements for pharmaceutical researchers is completion of a bachelor's degree in pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry, or another related field. Many researchers go on to complete a master's or doctoral degree for advancement in their career.
Administrators work in a variety of places, including hospitals, institutions of higher learning, pharmacies, government agencies, and pharmaceutical marketing companies. They may conduct research, work as consultants, or manage pharmacies. Administrator positions require a minimum of a master's degree which will qualify the graduate to work in pharmaceutical marketing, as a consultant or conducting independent research. Faculty positions and higher-level private positions require the completion of a doctoral degree or Ph.D.
Pharmacy Technicians assist licensed pharmacists in the preparation of prescription medications for patients. They interact with patients, check labels on prescriptions and advise customers to take medications as prescribed. Although there is no national requirement for certification, many states require a minimum of a vocational certificate in pharmacy technician in addition to a high school diploma or GED.
- Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Accessed September 26, 2014. https://www.acpe-accredit.org/.
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Accessed September 26, 2014. http://www.aacp.org/about/Pages/AACPMissionandVision.aspx.
- American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists- Introduction to Pharmaceutical Science. Accessed September 26, 2014. http://www.aaps.org/intropharmsci/.
- American Society of Health Systems Pharmacists. Accessed September 26, 2014. http://www.ashp.org/.
- Board of Pharmacy Specialties. Accessed September 26, 2014. http://www.bpsweb.org/.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook- Pharmacists. Accessed September 26, 2014. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm.
- Is a Career in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Right for Me? Accessed September 26, 2014. http://www.aacp.org/resources/studentaffairspersonnel/admissionsguidelines/Documents/Pharmaceutical%20Sciences%20Career_Broch_UPDATE_V3%20(2).pdf.
- National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Accessed September 26, 2014. http://www.nabp.net/about.
- Pharmacy College Application Service- Accreditation. Accessed September 26, 2014. http://www.pharmcas.org/preparing-to-apply/application-process/accreditation/.