How to Get a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree in South Dakota

Pharmacists play a critical role in health care and helping people receive the medications they need to stay healthy. They undertake great responsibility when it comes to a patient’s medications. They have to make sure they get the correct types and dosages and alert patients of any possible side effects and other drug interactions. Since the pandemic started, pharmacists’ roles have changed to meet the increased demand; some can even administer vaccinations. Because of the enormous responsibility and how much they have to learn, pharmacists require much education from accredited schools.

If you’re looking to get your Doctor of Pharmacy degree in the wide-open landscape of South Dakota, your options may be somewhat limited, but don’t let that stop you because there are a couple of excellent options. You have one physical university you can attend, South Dakota State University, or you can go the online route through a hybrid school, St. John Fisher College. Both are accredited through the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and have wonderful accolades. Before we get into those schools, let’s go over the requirements needed to you start working on the PharmD program. 

Requirements Before Starting a PharmD Degree

After graduating high school, you will have to complete two to four years of study at a college or university. If you complete a bachelor’s undergraduate study, this will be sufficient for South Dakota State University (SDSU), though a bachelor’s degree is not required as long as you have all the required science, mathematics, and psychology courses completed. 

You may also need to take the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). This specialized exam will measure the general scientific knowledge and academic ability needed for a pharmacy degree. It basically lets prospective students know if they are prepared enough to start the PharmD degree. It is a test you will have to pay for, but not all colleges require this exam to be taken. 

Doctor of Pharmacy Schools in South Dakota

The only physical university in South Dakota that offers a Doctor of Pharmacy degree is SDSU, but you also have an online option. Here we will go over both schools’ requirements to be accepted along with other pertinent information. 

South Dakota State University

SDSU is located in Brookings, South Dakota and was ranked Number 1 for the best bachelor’s and master’s degrees offered in South Dakota for 2021-2022.  They have a 100% job placement rate and a 97.3% first-time pass rate on the NAPLEX for the Doctor of Pharmacy degree program. The last class size for this program was only 65, meaning you will get that small classroom feel at a great university. 

South Dakota State does not require PCAT testing if the applicant has a high enough GPA (over 3.0) and has high scores on the ACT and the SAT. If you feel taking the PCAT will help you get accepted, though, the option is there. 

SDSU offers a pre-pharmacy education for those who have not started college yet, or high school seniors who are interested in the PharmD program. This program has all the classes needed to get started on a Doctor of Pharmacy degree at SDSU. That means you can take all the prerequisite classes there, then directly apply to the PharmD program. The pre-pharmacy program will take two years to complete, and it gives you the required 66 semester hours to enter into the PharmD program. 

Students at SDSU do not have to complete a bachelor’s degree, but they will have to finish 66 semester hours of classes at a college, university or community college before being accepted into the PharmD program. These courses include: 

  • General Chemistry with lab
  • Organic Chemistry with lab
  • General Biology
  • Microbiology with lab
  • Human Anatomy with lab
  • Human Physiology with lab
  • Calculus
  • Economics
  • English Composition
  • Speech
  • General Statistics

Once the pre-pharmacy classes are complete, you can start the PharmD program if you already have a bachelor’s degree. This degree takes four years to complete. The first two years consist of gaining knowledge of basic science and utilizing critical thinking related to drug distribution. After finishing the first two years, they will earn a B. S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences. In the third year, students will gain hands-on experience from introductory practice in community and hospital pharmacy settings. In the 3rd and final year of the program, students get the opportunity to use their learned knowledge to practice in varied settings. These areas could include hospitals, nursing homes, community pharmacies and Indian Health Service facilities. 

South Dakota State also has a dual pharmacy degree program. This means for those of you who are more interested in the business side of pharmacy you can pursue a master’s degree. If you are interested in going deeper within the pharmaceutical or biomedical sciences and are more research-driven, then a Ph.D. in pharmacy might be right for you.   

St. John Fisher College (SJFC) is part of the Wegmans School of Pharmacy located in Rochester, New York. This school has an online Doctor of Pharmacy program that students can complete wherever they live. Most of the courses at SJFC are small class size, online courses that allow for more direct learning from faculty. Students will still get plenty of experiential learning from this online program, as 30% of the course is experiential, hands-on instruction. 

Because of the small class sizes, world-class instruction, and easy access to faculty, students at SJFC have outperformed the NAPLEX national average first-time pass rate year after year. St. John Fisher College also has a 100% job placement rate for PharmD graduates. They have partnered with many major US health systems to help graduates stay a step ahead in this growing, competitive job market. 

One of the requirements to getting a pharmacist license is getting enough hands-on pharmacy practice in the form of an internship. Students of SJFC don’t have to worry about traveling all the way to New York to gain this needed experience, because St. John Fisher College has partnered with local communities to allow students to get that experience near their residence. 

Where most colleges require PCAT scores, St. John is waiving that requirement. It’s one less thing students have to complete for the already extensive application process. 

Required Licensure Examinations

Once you have completed all the college courses and have received your Doctor of Pharmacy degree, you still have to pass two mandatory exams before you can be issued a license to practice. These tests are the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination (MPJE).

The NAPLEX is a long, adaptive exam used by the boards of pharmacy that tests future pharmacists on their knowledge and competency of the position they will be filling. You will have to sign up to take the test, and it costs approximately $575. There are close to 240 questions, and you will be given six hours to complete it, with a short break in the middle.  

The test can be administered any business day, all year long, so you won’t have to wait weeks or months to take it. There is a high national average of 81% first-time pass rate, so you shouldn’t be too daunted. As long as you study and practice for the exam, you should come out with a pass. If in the odd chance, a student does not pass the NAPLEX, they have a total of 5 chances to pass the exam, but they will have to wait 45 days before attempting it again. 

The second required examination to get your pharmacist license is the MPJE. This test isn’t as large as the NAPLEX. It will set you back approximately $240 and has 120 questions total. The MPJE tests on the legal regulations and the laws pertaining to pharmacy. They are unique to each state, so if you are looking to move to another state, you will have to take another MPJE for that state to continue practicing. 

Potential pharmacists will have five attempts to pass this test as well. Students that have done well during school should not have too much of a problem passing the MPJE. Once you have passed both these examinations, you will be issued a license and be able to start practicing pharmacy. 

Continuing Education Credits

Once a year, pharmacists will have to renew their licenses by completing 12 hours of continuing education credits, then submitting them to the South Dakota Board of Pharmacy. 

Pharmacist Salary in South Dakota

The average salary of a pharmacist with between five to nine years of experience is $122,523. For entry-level pharmacists with little experience, the pay looks more like $109,000 to $115,449. A lot of this depends on what city is offering the position and the setting. For example, a retail pharmacist position will make less than a hospital pharmacist or outpatient pharmacist. Though the vast majority of job opportunities are typically with retail outfits such as Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS, smaller niches often pay better.

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