Online Schools to Become a Pharmacist: How to Choose

Oct 17, 2019

There are now a number of options available for students and existing professionals to complete a pharmacist degree online. These programs comprise online coursework combined with a clinical practical requirement in a professional healthcare environment.

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How to Choose an Online Pharmacy School

Up until 2006, aspiring pharmacists needed to complete a five-year accredited bachelor's degree program in pharmacy to be eligible to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). Since then, a Doctor of Pharmacy, known as a PharmD, is the required degree to be able to take the NAPLEX. Even pharmacists licensed before this requirement tend to obtain a doctoral degree so that they remain competitive in their field. In this age, where educational opportunities are increasingly being made available on the internet, schools offering online PharmD programs are becoming more common.

Criteria To Consider
Program Format The majority of programs are hybrid - how is the practical component handled?
In-Person Requirements Can lab components be undertaken on campus or can arrangements be made with a local medical facility?
Program Accreditation Has the program been approved by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education?
Licensure Does the program provide adequate preparation for the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination?
Prerequisites/Admission Requirements Have you previously completed the appropriate classes and/or degrees? What is the minimum Pharmacy College Admission Test score?

Program Format

There are online PharmD programs that are available for both new students and practicing pharmacists who are already licensed. All these programs follow a format that consists of online coursework and a practical component, primarily lab work that is completed in person at an appropriate facility or at the school's campus. Some courses allow students to complete their clinical component at a local facility under the supervision of a proctor. Practicing pharmacists are typically allowed to complete the practical component on the job and on occasion may be allowed to submit evidence of previous work experience to satisfy the requirements of the practical component.

When choosing an online PharmD program, students must be diligent in making sure that a program is nationally accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. These accredited courses ensure that students will be fully prepared for the NAPLEX.

Online Pharmacy Schools Prerequisites

Online PharmD programs aimed at new students have several admission prerequisites. Sometimes this will mean applicants must have previously completed a pre-pharmacy program or even a bachelor's degree to be considered. Typically, a certain number of hours must have been completed in biology, human anatomy, chemistry, calculus and psychology. Some programs may also insist on applicants passing the Pharmacy College Admission Test.

Online PharmD Programs

New Students

Online PharmD programs provide students with the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skill set by taking pharmacy classes online in the areas of pharmaceutics, patient assessment, pharmacy practice management, ethics and public health. The practical component, which requires the completion of in-person clinical rotations, focuses on acute care, ambulatory care and the community aspects of pharmacy practice. Multimedia resources provide the means for live conferencing, internet chat rooms and discussion boards.

While these programs are delivered online, they can still be offered in a full-time semester format in the same way that in-person degree programs are usually provided. The ability for the course provider to offer and access live conferencing/lectures, online chat rooms and discussion groups means online students can get a full degree experience.

Practicing Pharmacists

For practicing pharmacists who hold a bachelor of science degree or master's degree in pharmacy, a selection of nontraditional online PharmD programs are available. In this instance, the combined coursework/practical component is still necessary, but students can continue working while undertaking the degree. Some programs are presented around a core theme, such as the systems of the body, with pharmacy theory presented in a way that is specifically relevant to each system's health and pathology.

Courses are provided online via virtual class lectures, discussion groups, and reading assignments, while the required clinical experience may be done at the student's workplace or through occasional in-person class sessions at a regional location. These courses are self-paced and students can also fast track so that the course can be completed in two years rather than four or five years.

The training typically emphasizes disorders related to the endocrine, hematological, gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular systems alongside an additional focus on patient-specific pharmaceutical care.

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