A master's degree program does not prepare the graduate for a career as a pharmacist; a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree and licensing are required for pharmacists. Online master's degree programs are available in several concentrations and prepare individuals for careers within the operations and management side of the pharmaceutical industry.
Master's degree programs in pharmacy are typically campus-based, although a small number of schools offer this degree program in an online format. These programs are available fully online; however, students can most commonly find hybrid programs that include on-campus workshops, which typically happen on the weekends. A microphone headset may be required for interactive class sessions.
Master of Science in Pharmacy
An online pharmacy master's degree program is designed to prepare students to enter careers within the pharmacy industry, such as benefits management, sales, regulation or patient safety. An online Master of Science in Pharmacy does not prepare students to obtain a license to practice pharmacy or gain dispensing rights.
The curriculum incorporates instruction in topics such as patient safety theory, healthcare risk management, pharmaceutical products, federal regulations, pharmaceutical microeconomics and pharmaceutical crime prevention. Concentration tracks are available in pharmacy regulation and policy, clinical research regulation and ethics, patient safety and risk management. Several institutions offer students the ability to earn a dual master's degree in pharmacy administration and business.
Information and Requirements
This type of pharmacy degree typically requires approximately 30 credit hours and can take anywhere from 22-36 months to complete. The majority of credits can be completed exclusively online; however, most master's degree programs require students to complete at least two on-campus workshops. The on-campus seminars last two days and take place over the course of a weekend.
Online courses are often taught in the evenings to accommodate the schedules of working professionals. While some programs may offer coursework asynchronously, others conduct class twice a week at a set time through an interactive online learning classroom. Interactive online courses can be attended through the use of an electronic learning system, such as Elluminate. In order to participate in interactive class sessions, students need computer equipment with the capability to accommodate speakers, sound and headphones. A combined microphone and speaker headset is recommended.
Online coursework for a master's degree in pharmacy focuses on providing students with an in-depth understanding of the pharmaceutical industry. Contemporary issues in policy, regulation, production and safety are discussed.
Pharmaceutical Products and Public Policy
Students examine the promotional practices in the pharmaceutical industry and how they affect research and clinical care within the industry. Other topics include channels of distribution, protection of intellectual property and comparative effectiveness.
Federal Regulation of Drugs and Pharmacy
This course provides an overview of the Food and Drug Administration's theory of practice. Product labeling requirements and new drug approval processes are emphasized. Other topics covered include the phases of clinical investigation, post marketing surveillance and preclinical studies.
Ethics in Drug Production, Distribution and Use
Students are introduced to biomedical ethics theory and practice as it relates to pharmaceutical and medical device products. Areas discussed include clinical research ethics, provider-patient relationship, distribution of scarce resources, and issues related to both the beginning and end of life.
A variety of career opportunities await those with a Master of Science in Pharmacy, including careers in regulation, policy, sales, marketing, benefits management, risk management and patient safety. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected employment for sales representatives of technical and scientific products to increase by 7% during the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov).
One of the popular career options for graduates of a Master of Science in Pharmacy program is in pharmaceutical sales. The BLS reports that wholesale and manufacturing companies prefer to hire individuals with a college education and who have a strong scientific knowledge base. The BLS also shows that wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives of scientific and technical products, the broader category to which pharmaceutical sales representatives belong, made an annual average wage of $89,170 as of May 2015. Individuals with a master's degree and experience can find management-level positions as regional sales managers, sales directors and market research executives.
Online pharmacy master's degree programs help students gain knowledge related to the pharmaceutical industry, including policy, regulation, production and safety. Graduates may work in positions such as sales representatives for technical and scientific products or as managers and sales directors, and students who seek further education at the doctoral level may become pharmacists.