How to Get a Master's Degree in Pharmacy

An aging population and advances in drug therapies are driving opportunities across the pharmaceutical and pharmacy sectors. A master's degree in pharmacy prepares you to take on leadership roles in pharmaceutical science or administration. Develop new therapies in the lab, enhance patient clinical care, improve public regulation, or lead pharmaceutical business management.

WorldWideLearn.com's guide to the master's degree in pharmacy prepares you to claim your role in the developing pharmacy sector. Use this resource to plan your career path and identify the academic resources to help you achieve your goals.

Guide to Master's Degrees in Pharmacy

Pharmacy brings together healthcare and chemistry, tapping the power of biochemical and synthetic substances to heal the body. The discipline encompasses both the development and distribution of chemical medications:

  • Pharmaceutics: the development of chemical medications, including their administration and dosage.
  • Pharmacy Practice: the preparation and management of drug therapies, and the distribution of medication to patients.
  • Pharmacy Administration: the business and public administration (regulation) of pharmacy, covering both the production and dispensation of drugs.

The master's degree in pharmacy or pharmaceutical science generally leads to careers in pharmaceutics or pharmacy administration. Pharmacy as a licensed professional practice requires a Doctor of Pharmacy, or PharmD. The master's degree is not required for entry into a PharmD program--most students enter with a bachelor's degree, and some schools require only two years of undergraduate preparation for the professional doctorate. Learn more about the Doctor of Pharmacy at WorldWideLearn.com.

Master's Degree Options

A two-year master's degree in pharmacy can serve either as a stepping stone into pharmaceutical science research and development, or as a powerful credential for pharmacy administration roles. The right master's degree for you will depend on your career goals.

Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Science

This degree is modeled on the traditional science master's, with an emphasis on deep scientific expertise and lab research. If you are heading into pharmaceutical R&D or academic scholarship, this is the degree for you. Aspiring pharmacy professors typically continue on to a PhD in pharmacy.

Master of Science in Pharmacy Administration

The MS in pharmacy administration takes a step closer to the professional practice of pharmacy, with emphasis on the business and public administration issues surrounding pharmaceutical production and distribution.

Master of Business Administration in Pharmaceutical Business, Pharmacy Management, or Pharmacy Administration

The joint MS-MBA or MBA in pharmacy fields focuses on the management, marketing, industrial production, and public regulation of pharmaceuticals and their distribution.

All of these degrees are available through both campus and digital formats, making it easy for professionals to earn a master's degree online without putting their career on hold. Learn more about your master's degree options at WorldWideLearn.com's The Master's Degree Explained and Master's Degrees Online.

Specializations in Pharmacy

At the master's degree level, pharmacy specializations focus on the science or business of drug therapies. Clinical patient care and licensed dispensation falls under the purview of the professional PharmD program.

Pharmaceutical Science

Scientific specializations focus on the research and development of pharmaceuticals and drug therapies.

  • Neuropharmacology
  • Toxicology
  • Molecular Pharmaceutics
  • Pharmacotherapy

Industry applications

Applied pharmacy R&D specializations use scientific knowledge to solve specific problems, develop products, and provide diagnostic services.

  • Cosmetics
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Forensic pharmacy
  • Clinical Drug Trials

Pharmacy Administration

Administrative specialties focus on the unique challenges of producing, selling, and regulating pharmaceuticals.

  • Government Regulation and Commercial Regulatory Compliance: Clinical Research, Pharmacy, Biotechnology, Medical Devices
  • Pharmacy Marketing and Communication
  • Pharmacy Management
  • Patient Safety and Risk Management
  • Pharmaceutical Quality Control
  • Pharmacy Informatics

Pharmacy specializations are continually evolving to reflect changes in the field. If you have a particular interest of value to pharmacy research or administration, chances are you can find the faculty and institutional resources to break new ground in your field.

Career Track for Pharmacy Professionals

A master's degree in pharmacy qualifies you for careers in commercial R&D, public administration, or pharmacy management and marketing. Combined with a PharmD, the MS can lead you to leadership positions in pharmacist practice. With a PhD, the MS can set the stage for a career in academic teaching and scholarship.

  • Pharmacy research and development careers include lab scientist, project manager, product testing and development scientist, clinical trials manager, and lab director positions at pharmaceutical companies, clinical labs, public agencies, and university labs.
  • Public administration careers include positions such as regulatory affairs consultant, policy analyst, regulatory agency administrator, and clinical trials scientist with agencies such as the FDA, NIH, etc.
  • Pharmacy administration careers include job titles such as pharmaceutical sales representative, quality assurance manager, operations manager, regulatory affairs consultant, drug merchandising specialist, and product manager for a pharmaceutical company or pharmacy business.

Plan for a Master's Degree in Pharmacy

A graduate degree in pharmacy could take you in any number of directions, both in your research and your professional development. Planning your educational journey well in advance will set you up to take advantage of the opportunities that offer the most mileage toward your pharmacy career goals.

Find the Right Graduate Pharmacy Program

Begin by lining up the right academic resources. The following steps lead you to the master's degree program that makes most sense for you, given your interests and ambitions.

1. List Accredited Programs

Access lists of pharmaceutical science and pharmacy administration master's degrees to survey your options. Make sure that the programs you consider are accredited by an independent program reviewer. Accreditation helps you vet a program's quality and factors into the value of your credential and your eligibility for financial aid. The U.S. Department of Education Web site posts a searchable database of approved accreditation agencies.

Resources

WorldWideLearn offers a starting point for your research, with links to accredited campus and online master's degrees in pharmacy. Start your search at Degrees by Subject, and narrow by degree level.

The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education features a comprehensive list of professional programs with an emphasis on the PharmD. Some of these institutions offer master's degrees in pharmacy as well.

2. Choose Program Format: Campus or Online Master's Degree?

Digital learning formats have opened new horizons in graduate and professional education. The ability to earn a master's degree online is particularly valuable for working professionals balancing work and other commitments alongside their pharmacy education.

Today's educational delivery options include online, campus, and hybrid programs. Hybrid degrees combine virtual classroom education with hands-on training at a university lab, pharmacy, or through a business internship. Some require temporary campus residencies.

Choose the best program format for you based on:

  • Accessibility. Campus programs feature access to local research labs and other resources. Online programs bring the university online, providing access to professionals whose schedules or location don't permit campus visits.
  • Career goals. Academic careers favor campus degrees, which foster closer relationships with faculty advisors and peers, as well as teaching opportunities. Online programs, meanwhile, generally support professional ambitions with access to internships and networking with seasoned online peers.

Also take into account factors such as your learning style and finances. Face-to-face learners benefit from campus collaboration, for example. But your bank account may benefit from virtual learning, since you can continue working while you earn a master's degree online.

Resources

WorldWideLearn.com features Online Degree Programs and Campus Education sections to help you find the right program format. For local campus programs, search Degrees by Location.

3. Explore Academic Programs

The crux of your research happens at this stage, when you examine the unique features of the graduate pharmacy programs on your list. Take into account program resources such as:

  • Degree Format and Requirements
  • Courses and Specializations
  • Faculty Expertise
  • Research Facilities
  • Industry Relationships
  • Learning Environment and Academic Support Services

Your career goals and specializations will drive this assessment. If you have a specific research topic in mind, for example, it will be especially important to find a faculty mentor and facilities to support your project. If you're targeting a specific employer, look to industry relationships or regional networking possibilities.

Resources

WorldWideLearn.com streamlines your program research by identifying pharmacy master's degree programs that meet your specifications. An online form allows you to connect with school representatives, who can answer specific questions about programs of interest.

School Web sites post most of the information listed above, with links to course catalogs, campus research labs, and faculty CVs and publications.

Informational interviews and campus visits offer a candid perspective on a particular school's approach to graduate pharmacy education. Learn about available resources from faculty, alumni, and current graduate students. Campus visits introduce you to the community and lab facilities--a valuable experience whether you choose to earn a master's degree online or on campus.

4. Evaluate Program Quality

Finally, rank the programs on your list by quality and selectivity, looking for programs that provide value and match your academic profile. Admissions selectivity typically depends on your grades and test scores, though experience can also impact your competitiveness as an applicant.

Features to consider include:

  • Reputation. Ask faculty in your field for recommendations, or consult ranking publications such as U.S. News & World Report's Top Pharmacy Graduate Schools.
  • Selectivity. Admissions departments can tell you the average GPA and test scores of admitted applicants, as well as the previous year's acceptance rate.
  • Career Placement. Also ask a school representative or counselor about job placement success. In addition to a placement rate, ask for a list of employers and starting salaries.
  • Student Demographics. How many years of pharmacy work experience do admitted applicants bring to the table? What percentage of students is local, national, and international? A diverse student body can enrich the classroom with unique perspectives and experiences.

Ultimately, aim for about five or six finalists that meet your quality standards and selectivity profile.

Apply to Graduate Pharmacy Programs

The next steps in the application process challenge you to convince the admissions committee that your academic strengths and interests match the program.

1. Complete Prerequisites

Eligibility for graduate study in pharmaceutical science or pharmacy administration generally requires:

  • A bachelor's degree from an accredited institution in pharmacy or a related field, such as chemistry, biochemistry, or biology.
  • Prerequisite courses in these areas, if your degree is in another field.
  • Standardized tests, including the GRE and TOEFL (for international students).
  • Some professional master's degrees require work experience and/or a pharmacist license.

Meet these requirements with the help of test preparation advice, online learning tools, and prerequisite courses featured in the Education Resources Guide.

2. Prepare Application Materials

In addition to the online information form, most pharmacy master's degree programs require the following supporting documents:

  • Academic transcripts
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Test scores
  • Personal statement of interests

Prepare these materials well in advance of the deadline to ensure that all pieces of the application arrive in time.

3. Finance Your Master's Degree in Pharmacy

Financial aid is available to most graduate students who need it. Sources of master's degree funding include the university, the federal government, your employer, and private foundations. Investigate your options by:

  • Meeting with financial aid advisors.
  • Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which covers major federal programs such as Pell Grants and Stafford Loans.
  • Apply for research fellowships through the university and public agencies such as the NIH.
  • If applicable, ask your employer about tuition grants or other incentives for continuing education in pharmacy.
  • Apply for private scholarships through civic organizations, nonprofits, etc.
  • Apply for a low-interest student loan.
  • You can also reduce your expenses by choosing to earn a master's degree online.

For more information on financing your master's degree, visit the WorldWideLearn.com resource page on graduate education funding.

Step Three: Build a Professional Network

The value of a graduate education has as much to do with the experts you meet as the knowledge you acquire. Networking resources available to you as a graduate student in pharmacy include:

  • Professional Associations. The American Pharmacists Association and the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists are the major national organizations. For an extensive list of professional associations worldwide, see the Virtual Pharmacy Library.
  • Journals. Read journals and trade publications to keep pace with research trends in your field. Examples include Pharmacy Times, Pharmacy Week, Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association, and Annals of Pharmacotherapy.
  • Networking Events and Conferences. Universities, pharmaceutical and pharmacy businesses, public agencies, and research facilities sponsor conferences, lectures, and other events to promote community and exchange among pharmacy professionals.

Start building relationships with peers and mentors now, and you'll already have a strong professional support network when the master's program begins.

Conclusion

A master's degree in pharmacy catapults you into influential roles in administration or scientific research. As the population ages, demand for effective pharmaceutical therapies will continue to grow. Your graduate education will position you to advance health care through the development or distribution of medication. Set your sights on a career in pharmacy now by planning your path to the pharmaceutical science or pharmacy administration master's degree.

Sources

  • Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
  • American Pharmacists Association
  • Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, U.S. Department of Education.
  • Master of Science Degree in Pharmacy, UGA College of Pharmacy.
  • Master of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, Western University of Health Sciences.
  • Master of Science in Pharmacy/MBA, University of Florida.
  • Master of Science in Pharmacy Online Programs, University of Florida College of Pharmacy.
  • "Pharmacists," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Pharmacy Practice and Experiential Education: MS Program, UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.
  • Top Pharmacy Schools, U.S. News & World Report (2009).
  • Virtual Library Pharmacy