Finding the Best Online PharmD Programs

Is online pharmacy school right for you? Learn the details about online PharmD programs, including cost, learning methods, specializations, and flexibility, to help you determine if an online pharmacy program could be a suitable fit for your schedule and career goals.

Written by

PhDs.me Staff

Last updated

Mar 08, 2021

If putting on a white coat and dispensing life-saving medications appeals to you, earning the Doctor of Pharmacy degree offers a clear path to that goal. As a vital component of the healthcare system, pharmacists possess the skills and knowledge to save and enhance the lives of patients. As experts in drugs, medications, and treatments, pharmacists improve the health of patients, help cure them of disease, and assist in managing pain caused by injuries and illness. Some medications must be taken with extreme care, however. It’s up to the highly skilled pharmacist to know which drugs interact poorly with others and which ones will better suit a patient’s needs.

The rigorous PharmD program takes from two to five years to complete and requires diligent work and financial resources. To find the online PharmD program that’s right for you, ask questions including:

“Is the PharmD program worth the cost? How will I know which school is right for me? Should I pursue the program on a full-time basis? What is online learning really like in a pharmacist program?”

Get answers to these questions and others as we provide an overview of the online PharmD program experience. Get help to guide your decision with information on what to expect in an online program, admission tips, tuition details, and more.

Best Online PharmD Programs for 2021

Choosing the best online pharmacy school takes some attention to detail, as there are well over 100 accredited programs through high-quality schools that offer a great education. Think about what matters the most to you: tuition cost, time on campus, high-quality faculty, or maybe something else? We shine a spotlight on PharmD programs for 2021 to help you see which ones stand out and why.

HowardUniversity

Howard University

Founded in 1867, this historically Black college is home to the Howard University College of Pharmacy, one of the oldest and most technologically advanced schools of pharmacy in the U.S. The online program in pharmacy, the non-traditional PharmD, allows students to complete their program in as little as two years in an accelerated format, though students have up to five years to finish. One cohort is admitted each fall, and only two on-campus visits to Washington, D.D. are required during the program. These visits are on-campus intensives that facilitate hands-on work with peers and professors. Though the courses are self-paced, there are deadlines for completion, which helps keep the cohort on that two-year track.

DuquesneUniversity

Duquesne University

With a 99% job placement rate over the past 25 years for graduates of the Doctor of Pharmacy program, Duquesne University knows how to prepare students for the real-world tasks of working as a pharmacist. Students who already hold a bachelor’s degree may apply for the online program, which includes online instruction plus limited instruction at the Pittsburgh campus during short visits. The university makes a point of offering online students the same services traditional students get, such as student organizations, renowned faculty, and academic research centers. The school requires the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) for admission consideration.

  • The per-credit tuition cost is $1,658.
  • The program requires 32 credits for graduation.
LakeErieCollegeofOsteopathicMedicine

Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine

The four-year program for aspiring pharmacists at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine begins with laying a firm foundation of basic courses during the first year then moving into advanced courses the second and third year. The fourth year of the online Doctor of Pharmacy program focuses on clinical practice of six rotations, six weeks each, in community and clinical settings. Courses are presented in both asynchronous and synchronous format, and students are required to attend residencies on the physical campus in Bradenton, Florida for between one and three weeks every summer during the program duration. All testing is conducted through a virtual proctoring testing service.

  • This ACPE-accredited program began serving students in 2014.
  • Tuition is approximately $27,765 per year, not including fees.

Benefits of Online Pharmacy School

It’s a busy world out there, and colleges and universities are well aware that students need a variety of learning options. Most students in doctorate programs need to continue working full-time while they pursue higher education. Some require the flexibility of online learning so they can attend class when it’s most convenient for them. When attending an online PharmD program, consider these benefits:

1

Saving on costs.
Though the tuition for an online program can be the same as that of an in-state resident or a flat tuition fee (in most cases), there are some real savings to be had, such as the ability to use electronic textbooks, avoid a long commute and the costs associated with it, and not have to compromise your work schedule and paycheck in order to attend classes.

2

Customizing your pace.
Many online Doctor of Pharmacy programs allow you to customize your experience by allowing you to take one course at a time, take a few courses to be considered part-time, or dive right into the full-time status. Accelerated programs can take as little as two years to complete, assuming you already hold a master’s degree; others can take as long as five or six years, allowing for maximum flexibility.

As online learning becomes more common, more PharmD programs are likely to turn to virtual learning to provide the best options for their students. However, it’s important to understand the types of online programs out there before you choose your own Doctor of Pharmacy program.

Types of Online PharmD Programs

The online Doctor of Pharmacy program offers the option of a blended or hybrid education and a fully online education. It’s important to understand what those two options mean. Keep in mind that the rigorous requirements for the PharmD program will require some in-person campus visits even if the program is billed as 100% online. There will also be a requirement to complete clinical rounds or internships, which are always completed in person. Here’s what to expect from the different types of online programs.

Fully online

In these programs, the vast majority of courses are taken entirely online, with no classroom visits required. Many programs offer a blend of asynchronous and synchronous learning. Asynchronous courses allow you to complete the course at your own pace with a final deadline in place; synchronous elements require you to log onto the program website, discussion board, chat room, or Zoom meeting at scheduled times to meet with your cohort and professors.

In addition, fully online programs often require students to spend a brief amount of time on campus. Called intensives, immersive experiences, or even residencies, these short visits might span anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, and typically occur once a semester.  Of course, clinical hours are expected to be completed in person, but usually at a location that is convenient to the student.

Blended or hybrid

In this type of program, many courses can be completed online, but others are expected to be completed in person. These might include courses taken on weekends or evenings to allow for the busy schedules of those enrolled. The in-person courses are often taken at the college or a satellite location, which means living within driving distance is a must. Hands-on requirements are completed in person as well, just as with the fully online programs.

Timeline: Online Pharmacy School

Though most online pharmacy school programs take four years and some might stretch to five, there are other options, such as an accelerated program that means you complete the work within two short years. How long the program might take depends on various factors including the prerequisite courses you’ve already completed or the degree you already hold. For instance, those with a master’s degree will likely finish in a shorter amount of time than those who hold a bachelor’s degree. The timeline below is an example of what a three-to-four-year program would look like.

Year
1

During this year, expect to focus on introductory studies in advanced pharmacology. If you need to finish up any prerequisites, especially if you are coming into the program with a bachelor’s degree, this will be the year you do that. Some courses might include advanced assessment, biostatistics and biotechnology, literature evaluation, and pharmaceutical laboratory work. You might have to attend the college in-person once or twice, for a few days each time, to meet professors and your cohort for in-person intensives.

Year
2

This year will introduce more in-depth topics, including courses in pathophysiology, pharmacology of infectious diseases, applied pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenomics, and more in-depth lab work. This year will probably also include more on-campus visits of short duration, as well as the potential to start clinical rotations. You will work closely with your academic advisor to make sure you’re on the right path for graduation in the appropriate timeframe.

Year
3

For some, this year will be all about clinical rotations at various clinics, hospitals, and pharmacies in areas that are suitable for the student; some schools might require this study to occur at their preferred locations. Coursework will now be all upper-level classes that drive home earlier lessons and dive deep into pharmacology in all its forms. If you’ve chosen a specialty, this is the year you’ll focus hard on that, as well as touch on the ethical, legal, and best professional practices of pharmacists. Some will graduate this year.

Year
4

If you’re still in the program, this year is likely focused on full-time clinical rotations and finishing up any final projects or collaborative efforts with your cohort. You might also begin preparing for the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). If you are seeking to move into research or other advanced position, you’ll begin looking into the one- or two-year residency that you’ll be required to complete after graduation.

It’s important to look closely at each potential program to ensure its right for your needs. Look at the requirements, how many campus visits you must make, your professional goals, the costs, and the other crucial details to determine which program is the best option for you. Never hesitate to reach out to an admissions advisor, program faculty or department head to get further information.

Online PharmD Learning Outcomes

Though each school will set their own curriculum and approach their programs a bit differently, aspiring pharmacists all need to have the same base of knowledge and skills in order to maintain patient safety and lead a pharmacy. To that end, each school will teach you certain things across the board, with some variations for those who choose a particular specialization. By the time you graduate, you will be able to fulfill these learning outcomes as you move into your new career.

1

In-depth knowledge of medications.
The goal of a pharmacist is to understand all medications, learn about emerging treatments, and be able to provide patients with a safe experience concerning those medications.

2

Excellent communication.
Communicating clearly with colleagues and patients is a vital part of any pharmacy practice. This clear communication, especially with patients and the members of their healthcare team, can mean the difference between life and death.

3

Problem solving.
Pharmacists often encounter issues with patients who are prescribed a variety of drugs, perhaps from different prescribers, which could lead to complications or serious interactions. Figuring out to how to solve those problems, who to contact, and what solutions might exist is a key part of the job.

4

Managing medical systems.
The vast majority of pharmacy work is computerized, and each pharmacy uses a variety of systems throughout a typical day. Understanding the technology and keeping up with new developments can help you take care of patients appropriately.

5

Social and cultural awareness.
As a pharmacist, you will work with patients from all backgrounds and cultures. Understanding the different views on medications, natural healing, and the sometimes contradictory beliefs between the two is important to navigate the communication with patients and ensure they are doing all the right things to stay healthy.

Specializing with Your Pharmacy Doctorate

The Board of Pharmacy Specialties recognizes 14 specialties for pharmacists. Some of these specialties are extremely specific, such as solid organ transplantation pharmacy, while others are much broader, such as pediatric pharmacy. Choosing a specialization can allow you to tailor your education to work with specific populations or situations, which could lead to a rewarding career in a space you enjoy more than general pharmacy work. Here are some of the specialties you can choose from:

  • Geriatrics. This specialty focuses on dispending the proper medications for patients of an advanced age. Since many older patients might be on many medications at once, it’s important to understand how those medications can interact and help ensure patient safety.
  • Oncology. This requires work with very specialized treatments for those with various cancers. The compounding of these medications often requires special instructions, precautions, and care.
  • Ambulatory. The focus of this specialty is on those who need a wide variety of medications, such as the range of patients found in clinics, hospitals, and the offices of physicians. This includes some of the most common medications prescribed.
  • Critical care. Some patients require medications that keep them stable during critical care treatment. This means their medications can be extremely time sensitive and great care must be taken to ensure no negative interactions occur.
  • Psychiatric. This specialization looks at the specific medications given to those who have psychiatric or psychological issues that need treatment. Pharmacists in this focus must be very careful to ensure no medication interactions that could exacerbate a patient’s condition.

Accreditation & the Online Doctor of Pharmacy

When seeking out the best online Doctor of Pharmacy degree, it’s important to look at the accreditation status of the school and program. Regional accreditation, awarded to the school as a whole, is determined by an independent accrediting body accepted by the U.S. Department of Education. These regional accrediting bodies examine and make an accreditation determination for every facet of the school including the education standards, financial viability, excellence of faculty, student services, and more. Regional accreditation is often touted on a school’s website, but if you can’t find it, double-check their status at eitherthe Council for Higher Education Accreditation, or the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Programmatic accreditation is the examination of the program within a school. Not all programs will be accredited, but the online Doctor of Pharmacy should be. Accredited online Doctor of Pharmacy programs can be found at the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. There are currently about 130 doctor of pharmacy programs accredited throughout the United States. Keep in mind that in order to become licensed, you must graduate from an accredited program, so be certain that your chosen program is accredited before you apply.

Applying to an Online PharmD Program

When applying to a graduate program, there are certain things every school will look for, such as your GPA from previous schools, a written statement or essay, and an application that provides insight into your background. More competitive programs like the PharmD might look for more information, such as your employment experience and prerequisite courses taken to prepare you for the program. Here are some of the more unique points you might need to present when applying to the online PharmD program.

  • Work experience. Those interested in programs with this requirement must show that they have some work experience in a pharmacy setting, commonly as a pharmacy technician.
  • Interview. Many PharmD programs are highly competitive, and someone who looks good on paper might not be the best fit. That’s why interviews are important. The interview for an online program may take place via a virtual meeting or in person. Prepare for the possibility of an interview by working with an academic advisor on questions you might be asked.
  • Pharmacy College Admission Test.This test replaces the GMAT or GRE for students going into the program. Schools place certain weight on these scores, just like they do the GPA, to help determine whether you are a good candidate for their program.

Paying for Online Pharmacy School

Though every school requires tuition and fees, online school can cut down on other costs. For instance, there’s no commute or very few visits to campus, which can result in significant savings on fuel, car maintenance, and even parking fees. On the other hand, there might be some other expenses, such as keeping a working computer and internet coverage. The bottom line for affordability, however, always begins with tuition. Let’s take a look at some of the tuition costs at schools across the country for the online PharmD program.

SchoolCost per CreditTotal CreditsSubtotal
Howard University$1,59465$103,610
Creighton University$1,318134$176,612
St. John Fisher College$1,098151$165,798
Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences$99064$63,360

NOTE: Keep in mind that some schools have tuition assistance, grants, scholarships, and other methods to help PharmD students pay for their degree. There might also be internship opportunities, fellowships, employer reimbursement programs, and more. That means that the amount of tuition might be much less than what you see here or on a school’s tuition and fees page. To be sure of your options, always contact the financial aid office of the school you hope to attend and ask for specifics regarding tuition, fees, and the options for payment. In the meantime, read through our guide to scholarships and grants to see what’s available and how to apply.

Salaries for PharmD Degree Holders

Earning the PharmD degree is labor intensive and can be expensive, but is balanced out by future earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists made a median annual wage of $128,090 in 2019. Those who were at the lower end of the scale made a median wage of $88,400, while pharmacists at the upper end of the pay scale had the potential to make as much as $162,900 or more. The highest pay tended to be found at general merchandise stores, followed closely by food and beverage stores, hospitals, and pharmacies and drug stores. Payscale.com provides average yearly salary amounts for specific pharmacist job titles, including:

Job TitleMedian Earnings90th Percentile Earnings
Clinical Pharmacist$119,000$141,000
Pharmacy Manager$132,000$150,000
Pharmacy Director$147,000$177,000