Best Online PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy) Programs
Doctor of Pharmacology (PharmD) programs are available as hybrid or online programs through a few schools across the United States. Explore what PharmD programs include, how long they take, and what you can expect after graduation.
Doctor of Pharmacy Online Degree Overview
Online Doctor of Pharmacy programs take 2 to 4 years and consist of mostly or fully-online coursework, depending on student history and program requirements. Online classes are conducted through an eLearning portal, that can contain lectures, discussion forums, assignments and exams. Some courses may allow students to complete some or all items at any time of day while other courses might require students to log in at specific times for items such as exams and live video lectures. The sections below discuss the characteristics commonly found in online PharmD programs.
Program Admissions Requirements
Most online PharmD programs require students to have previously earned a bachelor's degree and have a valid pharmacist license, but some programs accept non-pharmacist students who have completed certain prerequisite courses. Most programs require students to submit a resume and personal statement of goals, and many also require students to complete the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT).
Online Doctor of Pharmacy programs usually include on-campus visits as well as clinical practice components. On-campus experiences can include lab work, collaboration and presentations. Programs for pharmacists who already hold a license typically require very little, if any, on-campus visits. Field requirements include the supervised practice of the PharmD topics and skills in various settings (such as physicians' offices, hospitals, and pharmacies). Depending on their program, students may be required to complete around 36 weeks of clinical practice in 6-week rotations. Some schools allow students to waive some of the fieldwork requirements with qualifying work history, and many schools will let students complete these requirements at their workplace when possible.
Although the specific courses included can vary, many courses commonly found in Doctor of Pharmacy programs are listed below.
- Pharmacotherapeutics - Many PharmD programs contain multiple pharmacotherapeutics courses. Within these courses, students explore the therapeutics methods and pathophysiology of various systems in the human body. Topics covered include oncology, critical care, cardiovascular issues, psychiatry, and women's health. These courses teach students how to properly treat various problems, and what the uses and limitations are of many commonly used drugs.
- Pharmaceutical Care - Students learn the basics of the pharmacist's role in responsibly and effectively caring for patients. Topics covered may include patient evaluation, problem-solving and patient care plans.
- Pharmacokinetics - Students explore practice and theories of pharmacokinetics and biopharmaceutics. Topics covered may include ADME (absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion), pharmacokinetic parameters and related responses.
- Drug Literature and Evaluation - In this course, students learn to effectively find and evaluate drug information as well as how to apply that information to clinical practice. Students may review problematic scenarios and utilize learned research methods in presenting an evidence-based solution.
Why Accreditation Matters for Online PharmD Programs
While various agencies provide institution-wide accreditation to schools, there are two main accrediting bodies for Doctor of Pharmacy programs: American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP) and Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). Earning your degree through an accredited program means an education that meets national criteria for quality, student outcomes, and various other measures. Program accreditation shows that a third-party has reviewed that program and verified that it meets their standards. Accreditation status is reviewed for renewal periodically, typically every few years, to ensure that it continues to meet the set criteria.
Attending an accredited program also means that you can qualify for financial aid, which doesn't cover non-accredited programs. Also, you may need to have graduated from an accredited program to qualify for pharmacist licensure in your state.
Top Online Doctor of Pharmacy Programs
If you're considering an online Doctor of Pharmacy program, you should keep in mind factors such as flexibility, program length, admissions requirements and cost. Discussed below are 4 of the top schools with online PharmD programs.
1. MCPHS University
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
MCPHS University is accredited at the institution level by the New England Commission of Higher Education, and the PharmD program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. MCPHS has an online Doctor of Pharmacy program that is open to licensed pharmacists with a bachelor's degree. The program is only available as a part-time option and takes two years to complete. Most practical requirements can be completed at the student's place of work, but all students are required to complete a four-week clinical practice rotation at the end of their programs. The program consists of 37 credit hours and has a cost per credit of $990 for all graduate students, regardless of their state of residence.
2. University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus has two online Doctor of Pharmacy programs, referred to as iPharmD: NTPD and ITPD (65 to 70 credit hours). The North American-Trained PharmD Program (NTPD) is available to U.S. pharmacists who have a bachelor's degree, requires zero campus visits, and includes 6 to 12 months of clinical rotations at the end of the program (varies with student work experience). The ITPD (International-Trained PharmD Program) is for pharmacists who are licensed outside of the United States and requires two four-week campus visits at the beginning and end of their program as well as 36 weeks of clinical practice in the final year. Both programs have a $946 tuition fee per credit hour, take 2 to 4 years to complete (students can take up to 6 years), and are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
3. Shenandoah University
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
The Nontraditional Doctor of Pharmacy (NTDP) program at Shenandoah University is open to licensed pharmacists with a bachelor's degree. The program is offered part-time and allows many students to complete practice requirements at their place of employment. Students are required to attend a program orientation at the beginning of the program and an on-site skills assessment at the end of their program. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and takes around 2.5 years to complete. As of fall 2018, the university estimates the total program cost to be $38,330.
4. Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
|Location||Tuition & Fees (in-state)|
Students can earn a Doctor of Pharmacy at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in four years through the online/distance pathway. The program is open to students who have completed certain prerequisite courses, such as biology, organic chemistry, and calculus, and costs $26,695 in tuition per year. Students can complete most coursework online through both asynchronous and synchronous components and will spend one to three weeks each summer on campus for labs, presentations and other requirements. During the fourth year, students will complete a total of 36 weeks of clinical practice rotations in clinical and community settings. The program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
All data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics
Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.
Steps to Becoming a Pharmacist
There are a few key steps involved in becoming a pharmacist, such as earning a Doctor of Pharmacy and passing a few exams.
Step 1: Complete Your Prerequisites
The most acceptable prerequisite to entry is a Bachelor of Pharmacy (PharmB) or a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences, although some programs do accept other bachelor's degrees with qualifying prerequisite courses like anatomy, physiology and chemistry.
Step 2: Complete a PharmD Program
Pharmacists are required to have completed a Doctor of Pharmacy program, which can include anywhere from 40 to 80 credit hours. Many programs require students to also complete around 36 weeks of supervised field practice before graduation.
Step 3: Obtain Licensure
All states require pharmacists to obtain licensure after completing a PharmD program. Pharmacists must pass a minimum of two tests to become licensed; one national test and one state or multistate test. This is typically the North American Pharmacists Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). Pharmacists interested in administering vaccines will need an additional certification.
Step 4: Complete Continuing Education After Licensure
Because the pharmaceutical and medical industry are continually evolving, pharmacists are required to take continuing education courses after their initial licensure. These courses can be taken through various websites and organizations, and enable pharmacists to maintain the best patient care.
License Requirements for Pharmacists
Pharmacists are required to pass two exams to become licensed: NAPLEX and a state/multistate exam.
- NAPLEX - The first exam is the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), which assesses candidates' applicable knowledge and skills. Students will need to apply to take the exam and then pay the exam fee upon approval. They will then receive an authorization to test (ATT) with potential testing dates. The exam consists of 250 questions and allows students up to 6 hours to complete it. Students need to earn at least 75 of 150 points to pass.
- State/Multistate Exam - In addition to the NAPLEX, aspiring pharmacists are required to pass a state or multistate pharmacy test which assesses pharmacy law knowledge. 49 of the 50 states utilize the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). The MPJE contains 120 questions and allows students up to 2.5 hours to complete it. Students must earn at least 75 out of 100 points to pass the MPJE.
Licenses need to be renewed, although specific renewal periods vary by state. Pharmacists typically need to complete a specific number of continuing education credits during each license period to qualify for a renewal. Also, there are some situations in which pharmacists obtain additional certifications:
- Vaccinations - Pharmacists who provide vaccination services are typically required to have additional certification. Many states use the Pharmacy-Based Immunization Delivery certificate.
- Expertise - Pharmacists can also earn additional certifications to articulate their expertise in various areas such as nutrition, diabetes and oncology.
What Can You Do with a Doctor of Pharmacology?
PharmD graduates are well-prepared for positions as pharmacists, but can also qualify to work as educators or researchers in postsecondary settings.
Pharmacists distribute various medications to patients, oversee pharmacy technicians, maintain records and advise patients. They also review prescriptions for potential side effects or interactions and communicate with doctors to verify and discuss prescriptions. Depending on their positions, they may also administer vaccines and other vaccinations, contact and work with insurance providers, and create customized medications. Pharmacists can work as community pharmacists in retail settings, clinical pharmacists in clinical and hospital settings, and as industry or consulting pharmacists. The median annual wage for all pharmacists in 2018 was $126,120 and the field is not expected to see any change in growth through 2028. Below is a breakdown of the pay and outlook for pharmacists by industry.
|Industry||Median Annual Wage (2018)||Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)|
|Food and beverage stores||$130,140||-2%|
|General merchandise stores||$131,460||0%|
|Hospitals; state, local, and private||$127,330||4%|
|Pharmacies and drug stores||$124,760||-8%|
Postsecondary teachers teach students in various settings beyond high school, often at universities and community colleges. Their duties include developing course syllabi, planning and carrying out lesson plans, creating assignments and grading. Postsecondary teachers work with students to ensure that they are grasping the course materials and working toward their goal.
Depending on their position, postsecondary teachers may also collaborate with their colleagues to create and modify curriculum and programs. Teachers with tenure may also conduct and publish scholarly research relating to their field. All postsecondary teachers provide instruction in the field of their expertise. A PharmD graduate would typically instruct students in pharmacy and related subjects. Postsecondary teachers of health specialties subjects had an annual median salary of $97,370 in 2018, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the field to grow 23% between 2018 and 2028.
Salary and outlook information provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Pharmacy Associations & Organizations
There are a variety of professional organizations available to pharmacists and pharmacy students. Several organizations and their benefits are discussed below.
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP):
With memberships available for individuals, organizations and students, AACP provides numerous opportunities for collaboration and networking. Members can join special interest groups, committees and councils, attend conferences, and have access to several pharmacy publications.
American Pharmacists Association (APhA):
APhA was the first national pharmacist association, founded in 1852, and has over 62,000 members. Membership is available for students, interns, recent graduates, technicians and pharmacists. Benefits of membership include advocacy, continuing education, and access to financial and pharmaceutical online resources.
Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy (AMCP):
AMCP gives members access to continuing education, conferences, networking and literature. AMCP emphasizes professional growth and empowerment to continually improve patient care and satisfaction. There are more than 8,000 members, including associates, students and pharmacists.
National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA):
NCPA was founded in 1898 and represents over 22,000 pharmacies nationwide. NCPA is an organization that connects and advocates for community pharmacies. Membership is open to pharmacists, pharmacy owners, technicians and students. Members have access to new technology information and resources, discounts, advocacy and networking.