Online PharmD Programs for Graduates

Are you a recent graduate looking to enter the pharmaceutical industry? An online Doctor of Pharmacy program may be what you need!

An online PharmD program is fast-paced and particularly rigorous but rewarding to pursue. This demanding degree can open up many exciting career opportunities and high salaries.

Taking on a PharmD degree through a distance education pathway has many advantages. Here’s everything you need to know about online PharmD programs.

Program Overview

A PharmD program is a four-year professional doctorate program. This pharmacy degree program teaches graduates the necessary skills to be practice-ready pharmacists.

A journey to a PharmD is similar in many ways to the Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degrees. Before beginning their PharmD, students complete a pre-pharmacy program or a bachelor’s degree in a related major.

Before pharmacy students can begin their PharmD, they must meet strict admission requirements. Potential candidates must either:

  1. Earn Advanced Placement Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) credits in high school,
  2. Complete an undergraduate pharmacy-related course,
  3. Or enroll in a six-year pharmacy track.

Before enrolling in a PharmD program, you first need a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Undergraduates can major in any subject. However, most pharmacy schools have prerequisite courses that must be taken before admission.

To earn a PharmD, you must pass the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). Between the coursework and rotations, students can expect to spend four years earning a PharmD degree.

Many PharmD students undertake postdoctoral residencies or fellowships to pursue a specialty. These residency programs are separate from the degree. However, they add to the total number of training years a pharmacist can complete. (Are online residency programs an option?)

The Guide to Online Doctor of Pharmacy Programs

Distance learning has made pharmacy education more accessible than ever. Online programs for PharmD candidates are effective and convenient.

Several online programs are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). This means these programs offer the same quality as an in-person program.

The perk here is that students can complete their program from the comfort of their own homes. They also allow students to balance their professional and personal lives.

Due to the clinical nature of a PharmD degree, in-person classes are required. This is because a PharmD degree emphasizes practice over academia. Students often need to visit campus or a local healthcare setting to train.

Here are some things to consider if you want to pursue a distance education pathway for your PharmD:

  • Make sure to choose a degree from an accredited institution. While an online program is as valuable as a traditional degree, not all online degrees are equal.
  • A PharmD will have residency requirements. Make sure to you’re willing and able to travel to campus for this.
  • Consider how much access you’ll have to digital resources and the range available. A good online pharmacy degree gives its students tools for success.
  • Know what kind of learning structure you need and what is expected. Some courses may allow students to work at their own pace, provided all work is finished by the end of the semester. Others may have stricter deadlines and class sessions students must attend.
  • Some programs encourage part-time students, while many want full-time commitment. Consider whether an online degree would help balance your work and personal commitments.
  • Be sure to compare costs. Not all high-priced online degrees promise the learning and employment outcomes you’re seeking.
  • Review and compare the curriculum quality of each program. This will help you understand the learning outcomes. This is also key for knowing how it will impact your professional goals.

While learning the skills for pharmacy online can be intimidating, a distance education pathway has great perks. We go into more detail on these perks later.

It is recommended that students choose an online program from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

Some of the top online Doctor of Pharmacy programs include:

  • The Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus
  • Creighton University
  • Shenandoah University
  • St. John Fisher College

What is a Doctor of Pharmacy?

If you want to practice as a licensed pharmacist in the US, you’ll need a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD).

To earn a Pharm D, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree in a related subject. Next is to be accepted in a pharmacy school and complete all the required coursework. You may notice some schools have different requirements, but the basic steps to enrolling should be similar.

You will need a PharmD from an accredited school to sit for North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). NAPLEX is part of the licensure process required to be a practicing pharmacist.

Today’s pharmacists do more than count pills. They’re actively involved in the processes that enhance patient health. A PharmD degree program represents the growing responsibility practicing pharmacists have in healthcare.

After earning a Doctor of Pharmacy and passing the licensure exams, graduates can practice pharmacy anywhere in the US.

PharmD vs PhD in Pharmacy

Students hoping to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry must choose either a PharmD degree or a PhD in pharmaceutical science. While these two degrees might seem similar initially, they are different.

The degree program a student chooses will depend on factors such as career goals and salary.

Aim of the programs

The Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) is s for people who want a professional career in pharmacy. This degree aims to prepare students to work as practicing pharmacists. This could be for hospitals, pharmacies, or outpatient centers.

Conversely, a Ph.D. in Pharmacy is for people who want a career in academic or research settings. This degree prepares them to become researchers at universities, hospitals, laboratories, or corporations.

Entrance requirements

Entrance requirements vary slightly for a PharmD and Ph.D. degree. Entry into most Ph.D. programs requires a master’s degree in a related subject. This includes other requirements.

Conversely, PharmD degree students need 60-90 credits in a related discipline for admission. This means some students can enter with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. PharmD degree students also need a passing score on the Pharmacy College Admission Test.


Most Ph.D. degrees extend beyond four years and end with an extensive research project. A Ph.D. degree can take a minimum of five years to complete.

A PharmD is a four-year program that ends with Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) rotations. This includes two personal and professional development courses.

Salaries for graduates

The PharmD and the PhD also lead to differences in expected salary. On average, PharmD degree holders earn more than those with Ph.D. degrees in pharmacy.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacists earned an annual salary of $128,570 in May 2021. Medical scientists (those that conduct research aimed at improving human health) earned an annual salary of $95,310 in the same year.

Job outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for pharmacists will grow by only 2% from 2021 to 2031. Openings for pharmacists are expected to average about 13,600 per year from 2021 to 2031.

Employment for medical scientists is projected to grow by 17% from 2021 to 2031. Around 10,000 openings are expected.

Benefits of Obtaining a Doctorate in Pharmacy Online

Students demand the convenience and flexibility online learning provides. This is enough for many students to choose a distance education pathway over traditional, in-person classes. A distance education pathway is a great alternative for full-time workers and parents.

Employers also understand that online degrees hold the same value as traditional degrees.

Another reason to choose online vs. traditional coursework is the cost. Depending on the program, traditional pharmacy schools typically require a larger financial investment.

With online pharmacy schools, students can cut their expenses down considerably. You’re able to save on transportation and accommodation costs.

Moreover, online pharmacy schools do not diminish the college atmosphere. Online students can still take part in group discussions, interact with the instructor, attend seminars, and so on.

PharmD Online Degree Curriculum

No two pharmacy programs are the same, and each institution varies in its approach. Thus, the curriculum of a PharmD degree will depend on the program and school you choose.

Given that pharmacy is a multifaceted profession. Many PharmD programs provide students with science-based knowledge and skills for real-world application. This is then followed by a year of clinical rotations in various healthcare settings.

Although no two schools offer the same programs, many programs follow a similar curriculum structure.

Before entering your first year, you will have completed two academic years or 64 semester hours of pre-pharmacy course requirements.

A four-year online PharmD program may look like this:

  • Year 1: First-year begins with an emphasis on the pharmaceutical sciences and an orientation to pharmacy practice. The core curriculum may teach the basic sciences, including anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry.
  • Year 2: The PharmD program will provide more integrated and specialized learning. Courses may include pharmacy management and the application of advanced practice skills.
  • Year 3: The third year may build on the integrated learning provided in Year 2 with physiology and laboratory courses. Many programs will begin Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experiences (IPPEs). This allows students to apply their acquired knowledge and skills to the clinical management of patients.
  • Year 4: Final year devotes its curriculum to Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences (APPE). Students will apply their skills and knowledge in various clinical settings. Clinical rotations can take place at hospitals, community pharmacies, and ambulatory clinic practices.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which exams must you take to become a licensed pharmacist?

Graduates must pass two exams to get a license. This includes the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam and Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE).

What is pre-pharmacy?

Pre-pharmacy refers to the two-year undergraduate course that pharmacy students must first complete before moving on to a PharmD degree.

What GPA do most pharmacy schools require?

Most pharmacy programs require a 2.5-3.0 minimum cumulative GPA. Some programs may have other requirements and necessary prerequisites for admission.


An online PharmD program can well-equip you to become a licensed pharmacist. But earning an online Doctor of Pharmacy degree can be challenging.

This degree demands a level of dedication and patience. A distance education pathway offers flexibility and affordability.

Overall, earning a PharmD degree is worth it once you have a distinguishing diploma in your hand!

Some key points to remember: Choose a program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education and make sure you meet the prerequisites.


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