How To Get Your PharmD Degree in Pennsylvania

A Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree is a professional program that usually takes four years to complete. The degree prepares you to practice as a pharmacist and provide care to the public. As a pharmacist, you will possess skills and knowledge to help you dispense drugs, supervise the medical supply chain and do drug research and development. Apart from the academic requirements, you will also need critical thinking skills, a love of science, good communication skills and empathy to succeed as a pharmacist.

Pharmacy is a large field that has grown over the years. Hence, it is possible to work in several industries, including hospitals and other healthcare facilities, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, the cosmetic industry, and independent pharmacists. The years of pharmacists being confined to just the hospital or pharmacy are over.

In the United States, as of 2020, the pharmacy industry is worth $484.2 billion, and this number will only increase as the years go by. Therefore, if you have a passion for healthcare and would like to pursue a degree in pharmacy, a PharmD degree can only be a step in the right direction. In this article, we will be discussing how you can get an online PharmD degree in Pennsylvania.

Salary Expectation for PharmD Holders in Pennsylvania

 Pharmacists have some of the best-paid healthcare jobs, ranking 20th in the US. The median annual salary in the US is $128,710, and 25% of the best-paid pharmacists in the country earn about $147,690. However, in Pennsylvania, the median salary is around $134,253 – $151,769. This amount puts the Pennsylvania pharmacy pay above the federal median wage.

In addition, the cost of living in Pennsylvania is 7.5% lower than the federal average. Considering all these facts, you can live quite comfortably in the state as a pharmacist. 

Requirements for Getting an Online PharmD Degree in Pennsylvania

First, you have to get your high school diploma. It would help your application if you participated in extracurricular activities like volunteering at a nursing home or being active in their science team in high school. You can also take biology and chemistry at an advanced level. Pennsylvania has quite competitive pharmacy schools, so you need to stand out to have a chance at admission.

After completing high school, you should apply for a pre-pharmacy course program; this usually lasts for two years. In this program, you will be taking courses that introduce you to the fundamentals of science, such as biology, psychology, statistics, physiology and organic chemistry. These courses will help you in pharmacy school.

While doing your pre-pharmacy program, you can get additional industry experience like assisting a registered pharmacist or interning in a healthcare facility.

You can start your PharmD application in your second year of pre-pharmacy. Application is made through Pharmacy College Admissions Service. Make sure you check the requirements for each school because sometimes they can have some that are not standard. For instance, St. John Fisher College waives PCAT (Pharmacy College Admissions Test), which tests how ready you are for pharmacy school. To check the different requirements for each school, click here.

Other things you may need for your application are letters of recommendation and transcripts from your previous school. Some pharmacy schools may also need to interview you, especially if it’s a competitive admission.

When you have been accepted, your journey to becoming a pharmacist begins. You can choose to do a six-year program that awards a bachelor’s degree and a PharmD degree upon graduation. This does not require the PCATs.

Getting Your PharmD Degree

At the beginning of your program, you will be taught the basics of pharmacy, such as drug delivery, medical ethics, health management, pharmacology, and the day-to-day activities of a pharmacy business. Your first three years will be primarily classroom and laboratory-based coursework and intensive theoretical courses on the relevant principles of pharmacy.

In your final years, you will adopt a more experiential educational model that allows you to practice and gain experience under supervision by professionals. You will start APPEs (Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences) in your fourth year. This will place you in different clinical settings that range from hospitals to community centers to pharmaceutical industries.

Accredited Schools in Pennsylvania

Online Schools

St. John Fisher College 

This school is recognized by the New York State Education Department and is certified by the ACPE (Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education). Its pharmacy school is called Wegmans School of Pharmacy, and it offers a four-year PharmD program. The requirements to enter this school are pretty standard, but they waive the PCAT for students who did a pre-pharmacy program or have a bachelor’s degree in a science-related course less than five years from the time of application.

The PharmD online program costs $1,130 per credit hour. To graduate, you will need the standard 2000 hours of clinical postings. For your clinical postings, the school connects you with accredited healthcare facilities in Pennsylvania.

Duquesne University

Duquesne University was established in 1925 and is one of the top pharmacy schools in the United States. It is ACPE accredited and offers an online PharmD program. With the program, you combine online learning with very little campus interaction. The program lasts for four years; the first three years are primarily online classroom-based and with only limited clinical experience during the summer. The final and fourth year focuses on intense clinical rotations in different sectors, which could lead to job offers.

You do not need to apply through the PharmCAS for this program. However, you must have a bachelor’s degree where you have taken the required pre-pharmacy courses. You will have to do the PCAT. The tuition costs $1,773 per credit, and to get information about the financial aid, you can check their website.

Onsite Schools:

University of Pittsburgh

This leading Pennsylvanian institution has six research labs and two pharmaceutical sciences departments. It also offers two residency programs. The PharmD program is located on campus and is a four-year one. The University of Pittsburgh boasts of a NAPLEX pass rate of 90%. To be accepted into the pharmacy school, you must get at least a C grade in your pre-pharmacy program.

Learning in the school is student-focused and involves extensive pharmaceutical experience. The tuition is $30,284 per academic year for people who reside in Pennsylvania and $33,908 for out-of-state applicants. For scholarships and info on financial aid, you can visit here.

Other schools that offer pharmacy in the state are:

Getting Your Pharmacy License in Pennsylvania

When you graduate and get your PharmD degree, you will still need a license from Pennsylvania to practice. To get this license, you must pass your licensing exams, NAPLEX  (North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam) and MPJE (Multi-State Jurisprudence Exam), and meet some requirements.

The NAPLEX exam evaluates your ability and skills to practice as a pharmacist. The MPJE tests your knowledge of the laws governing pharmacy in your state and country.

Other requirements include 1500 hours of internship experience and a $45 fee.

Stating Your Pharmacy Career in Pennsylvania

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2021, there are 14550 employed pharmacists in Pennsylvania. This job outlook projects a 5% increase in the state in five years. There are more than 1000 jobs available for pharmacists in Pennsylvania, and some of the facilities to look for employment are:

  • AmeriHealth
  • Penn Medicine
  • Geisinger
  • Allegheny Health Network
  • Penn State Health
  • University of Pennsylvania Health
  • UPMC
  • TulaRay
  • Phoenixville Hospital
  • Crozer Health

Residency Training

After your PharmD program and licensing, you can do a residency program to improve your skills and specialization. Your residency program is typically for two years. The first year is the PGY1 (Post Graduate Year 1), which focuses on enhancing your experiences and skills as a pharmacist, while the second year- the PGY2 (Post Graduate Year 2), focuses more on specializing as a pharmacist.

The commonwealth of Pennsylvania has pharmacy residency programs at the Penn State College of Medicine, Temple Health and the University of Pennsylvania. You will get experience in pharmacy leadership, internal medicine, critical care, ambulatory care, infectious diseases and research.

Continued Education

You don’t get your license and then forget about making yourself better. Being a pharmacist in Pennsylvania requires that you keep learning. You’re required to renew your license every two years.

You will need to complete 30 hours of continued education every two years. These 30 hours must include the following:

  • Two hours must be in pain management, identification of opioid addiction, and the practice of dispensing opioids.
  • Two hours must be in patient safety
  • Two hours in immunizations practice
  • Three hours in child abuse recognition

The license renewal fee is $150, and it is managed and regulated by the Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy.

Professional Organizations

It’s important to connect and network with fellow professionals. This always opens doors for collaborations, helps you scale your career and access important information. Networking is best done through professional organizations in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Pharmacy Association aims to promote the pharmacy profession through education and advocacy so that pharmacists can be better equipped to serve the public.

The Pennsylvania Society of Health-System Pharmacists is an American Society of Health-System Pharmacists affiliate. Since 1979, its vision has been to “advance patient care by promoting excellence in health-system practice.” This organization focuses on pharmacists in Pennsylvania that work specifically in clinical settings.

The Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy is the regulatory board of all pharmacy professionals and pharmacies in the state. They are involved in issuing and renewing licenses.