Online Pharmacy Degree Programs

Pharmacy students learn to do more than disseminate medications: they also learn how to counsel patients and identify potentially dangerous drug interactions for both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Learning how to do these things properly is not just mandatory for future pharmacists, but could also save lives.

Pharmacy degree programs provide this training and more. Here is a quick review of what pharmacy programs entail, and what types of jobs they might lead to.

Pharmacy Degree Programs: What to Expect

Pharmacy degree programs prepare students to become pharmacists, a job that entails stocking, preparing and distributing medications as well as advising patients on their use. The College Board notes that Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degrees are postgraduate professional degrees.

Pre-pharmacy degrees, on the other hand, are undergraduate level degrees that prepare students for admission for postgraduate pharmacy programs.

Programs can and do vary, but often include the following types of courses in addition to more general math and science classes:

  • Pharmacy Skills and Patient Counseling
  • Principles of Pathophysiology
  • Public Health Pharmacy
  • Pharmacy Law and Ethics
  • Health Care Systems
  • Pharmacy Laboratory
  • Bio Technology
  • Practice Management

It's worth noting that Doctor of Pharmacy degree programs aim to provide students with a thorough, in-depth pharmacy education that prepares them for licensure and, eventually, careers as pharmacists. Students enrolled in pre-pharmacy degree programs tend to take more general math and science classes, like organic chemistry and calculus, in addition to traditional general education courses.

Students can learn more about pharmacy degree programs and requirements by visiting the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) online, or by contacting their state's pharmacy boards.

Potential Careers for Pharmacy Graduates

Pharmacy programs are designed to educate the next generation of pharmacists, but this is not the only career path available to graduates. The following are a few potential alternatives along with common career training requirements and occupational outlook projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Pharmacists: Most students who invest in doctoral-level pharmacy degrees are likely aiming to become pharmacists. Pharmacists dispense prescription medications and advise patients in proper use. They may also counsel patients on how to lead health lifestyles, provide immunizations and oversee prescribed medications. The BLS reports that all states require pharmacists to earn Pharm.D. degrees, pass a national licensing exam and meet any additional state or federal licensing requirements before entering the field.

    BLS numbers from 2013 place pharmacist median annual wage at $119,280 annually. BLS projections predict that demand for pharmacists will grow by about 14 percent between 2012 and 2022, about as fast as average for all occupations nationally.

  • Pharmacy technicians: Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists dispense prescription medications to customers and health care professionals. The BLS reports that although pharmacy technicians are not always required to earn degrees, most states do require the completion of some type of formal pharmacy program and pass a licensing exam. This career is a potential fit for students who want to work in the pharmacy industry without committing to a postgraduate pharmacy degree program.

    Median annual income for pharmacy technicians was $29,650 as of 2013 according to BLS numbers. The BLS projects that demand will grow by 20 percent between 2012 and 2022, faster than the national average.

  • Pharmaceutical sales representatives: Pharmaceutical sales often meet with pharmacists, physicians and other health care professionals to educate them about certain prescription medications. Working on behalf of drug manufacturers, pharmaceutical sales people hope to encourage physicians, physicians' assistants and nurse practitioners to prescribe a particular type or brand of medication more frequently.

    The BLS notes that educational requirements for wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives vary by industry, but that those selling scientific or technical products must typically earn at least a bachelor's degree. The BLS expects demand for these representatives to grow by about 9 percent across the board between 2012 and 2022, though it does not offer projections for pharmaceutical sales representatives specifically.

These are just a few of the jobs those with pharmacy degrees might consider. With the right training, they could also become biochemists, medical scientists, or even physicians.

Students can learn more about their options by visiting the BLS and the ACPE online, or by contacting schools that offer pharmacy programs directly.

Sources:
"Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) Program," College of Pharmacy, Purdue University, https://www.pharmacy.purdue.edu/academics/pharmd/
"Major: Pharmacy," https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-pharmacy
"Major: Prepharmacy," The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/health-professions-related-clinical-sciences-prepharmacy
"Pharmacists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacists.htm
"29-1051 Pharmacists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 13, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291051.htm
"Pharmacy Technicians," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm
"29-2052 Pharmacy Technicians," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 13, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm
"Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/wholesale-and-manufacturing-sales-representatives.htm

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