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Online Schools to Become a Pharmacist: How to Choose

Programs for aspiring pharmacists and working professionals are available in distance learning formats. Prospective students have several choices that include online coursework combined with clinical practice in a healthcare setting.

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Choosing an Online Pharmacy School

Award Level

Licensing for pharmacists used to require a bachelor's or master's degree in pharmacy, but now calls for new students to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. Pharmacists licensed before the current educational requirements were in effect may still practice professionally, but many choose to obtain their doctoral degrees in order to learn advanced information and remain competitive in the field. Online Pharm.D. programs are available from a number of schools.

Program Type

Pharm.D. programs are available online to new students and to pharmacists who are already licensed and practicing. Both types of programs are offered in a hybrid format, with coursework presented online and clinical experience and lab work done in person. Some schools require new students to come to campus for periodic clinical sessions, while others allow students to gain clinical experience locally under the supervision of a proctor. Working pharmacists are usually allowed to do clinical practice on the job, and may even be permitted to use previous work experience to fulfill clinical practice requirements. Students will want to be sure their program of choice is nationally accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

Online Pharmacist Programs

Online Pharm.D.

An online program for students new to pharmacy studies includes a number of prerequisites for admission; some programs expect applicants to hold bachelor's degrees. Required coursework calls for science and math classes, such as biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, anatomy and calculus. Writing and public speaking courses may also be required, since effective communication with patients is so important in pharmacy work. Finally, students must pass the Pharmacy College Admission Test before admittance to the program.

Pharmacist training focuses on patient assessment and counseling, drug information, medication delivery, medication monitoring and patient outcomes. Supporting topics include biochemistry, microbiology and immunology, pathology, pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacy calculations and pharmacy practice law. Clinical rotations, which are done in person, look at the community, hospital, acute care and ambulatory care aspects of pharmacy practice. Participants also have the opportunity for rotations in a specialty, such as neurology or veterinary practice.

The Pharm.D. online program may be offered in a full-time semester format similar to a traditional program. Multimedia resources provide the means for live conferencing, Internet chat rooms and discussion boards. Graduates will be prepared for the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination, which is necessary for licensing in most states.

Online Nontraditional Pharm.D. for Working Pharmacists

A nontraditional Pharm.D. program is offered online to pharmacists who already have a Bachelor of Science or master's degree in pharmacy. The hybrid format allows participants to keep working while earning the degree. Programs may be presented around a theme, such as the systems of the body, with pharmacy information presented in the context of each system's health and pathology. Training emphasizes patient-specific pharmacological treatment, communication with patients and peers, advancements in information technology, advanced evaluation of drug literature and leadership skills.

Courses are provided online via virtual class lectures, discussion groups and reading assignments, while required clinical experience may be done at the student's workplace or through occasional in-person class sessions at a regional location.

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