How to Get Your PharmD in Virginia

A career in pharmacy may seem traditional, but it remains one of the most highly sought in the United States and around the world. Becoming a pharmacist allows you to enjoy doing what you love and get paid well. Getting your pharmacy degree comes with many prerequisites, however, and you must understand what you need before embarking on this career path.

If you’ve decided that a pharmacy career is for you, you need to get your PharmD degree. The first step is choosing a pharmacy school to study at and finding out what certifications and exams you need to pass. Read on if you want to know how to get your PharmD in Virginia and start practicing. We’ll go through the basic steps and cover popular options for would-be pharmacy students seeking a career in this dynamic field.

Required Standardized Exams

After completing high school, you’ll start by completing 72 hours of prerequisite courses. These are taken during your undergraduate studies or the first few years of college. 

Once you have narrowed down a few schools you would like to attend, you must register for the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test). This lengthy exam needs to be taken and passed before you start classes. 

The PCAT exam is a standardized test that assesses your abilities in subjects like biology, chemistry, quantitative reasoning, and critical reading. It contains 192 multiple choice questions as well as a writing prompt. Students have four hours to complete the test. 

This test assesses the knowledge you gained from your undergraduate studies, emphasizing biology and chemistry. It comes with a fee of $210, and you can take it up to 5 times. If you did well in your previous classes, you should do well on this test. The average score on the PCAT is 400, though most top-tier pharmacy schools will expect a higher score for placement. 

Once you have passed the PCAT, you will enter into your school of choice for four years as you go on to earn your degree in pharmacy. Before you are able to become a licensed pharmacist, you will be required to take and pass the NAPLEX (North American Licensure Examination) as well as the MPJE (Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam). These exams cost $575 for the NAPLEX and $200 for the MPJE.

After you have finished your program, you’ve passed all the examinations, and you have become a licensed pharmacist, you will still have to keep up with continuing education (CE) credits each year. For the state of Virginia, before you renew your pharmacist license, you are required to complete at least 15 hours of CE credits annually. Three of those required hours are considered “hands-on” contact hours from courses that are live or real-time interactive.  

PharmD Schools in Virginia

VCU-Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University is an ACPE (Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education) accredited university located in Richmond, Virginia. It has a high ranking score of 96.5%. In the year 2020, 117 students attended the pharmacy degree program and nearly 95% of students passed to become full-fledged pharmacists. 

The college was established in 1898. It is the oldest pharmacy university in Virginia, and is made up of four health related schools, several medical clinics, and an academic health center. VCU ranked 20th in the nation for pharmacy schools. The VCU PharmD program starts two times a year, both in the fall and spring. Their curriculum uses the latest, most advanced pharmacy standards, plenty of laboratory training and advanced pharmacy practical experience. All of that advanced technology and training is to give students the best chance at passing the certifications and becoming a great pharmacist. With a high graduation rate, and 84% residency acceptance, VCU certainly knows what they are doing and you can’t go wrong attending this program.  

Shenandoah University

Shenandoah University has two locations in Winchester and Fairfax. The pharmacy program is known for its state-of-the-art genetics-based pharmaceutical education as well as its patient-focused, ethical practices. Pharmacists who graduate from Shenandoah tend to cater well to the needs of patients. If you attend either of these campuses for the PharmD program, chances are you will get a very small, personalized education as the student to faculty ratio hovers around ten students to one faculty member. 

Shenandoah University offers a traditional four-year program or a dual degree program, where students can not only get their Doctor of Pharmacy degree but a second, specialized degree as well. This experience offers students more options in career paths once they graduate. Some possibilities include a PharmD/MBA, PharmD/Master of public health, or PharmD/Pharmacogenomics degree. 

Their website boasts an 89% NAPLEX exam pass rate. Tuition for Shenandoah University is approximately $17,500 per semester for either in-state or out-of-state applicants. 

Appalachian College of Pharmacy

Out of all the colleges in Virginia that offer a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, Appalachian College is the only one that offers an accelerated course that lets students graduate a full year earlier. Their degree program can be completed in three years instead of the normal four years at most colleges. Graduates from Appalachian College get out into the workforce one year earlier with the same amount of classroom and clinical training hours.  

Another benefit of getting a completed degree a year earlier is one year of college tuition savings. One analysis calculated the saved costs and related expenses of attending another year of college and getting a year of income as a pharmacist, and it came out to around $100,000. 

The Appalachian College of Pharmacy is an accredited institution located in Oakwood. It was founded in 2003. Its vision is to improve the standards for patient care through highly trained students. They accomplish this through 1,700 hours of experiential and advanced pharmacological studies. 

The cost of Appalachian College of Pharmacy tuition and fees is around $20,000 a year. 

Hampton University School of Pharmacy

The PharmD program at Hampton University is an accredited program consisting of 145 semester hours that combines the core pharmacy studies with hands-on lab work, including introductory pharmacy practice in a variety of healthcare settings.

Hampton University likes to put a strong emphasis on community. They accomplish this task by encouraging faculty and students to become involved in various volunteer and outreach opportunities. They seek to create pharmacists that are empathetic, knowledgeable and focused on the betterment of local communities. Hampton University wants to create a sense of community by giving back in any way it can.  

Some Hampton University notable graduates include:

  • Comedian and actress Wanda Sykes
  • Author, orator and adviser to President Booker T. Washington
  • Children’s book author and former weather forecaster on Good Morning America, Spencer Christian

St. John Fisher College

For those looking for online pharmacy degrees, St. John Fisher College has a remote-study option with a few requirements. St. John Fisher College is a hybrid PharmD program where most of your studies will be conducted online, while clinical studies can be completed at local pharmacies. 

The first three years of study will be focused on didactic studies with 30 to 35 hours dedicated to studies, followed by four weeks of clinical rotation. The fourth year of the program is a full time clinical rotation. 

Even though the program is primarily online, students still get everything they need to prepare for the NAPLEX and MPJE exams. 

Internship is Required

During your classes for the Doctor of Pharmacy degree you will gain valuable pharmacist experience as you work as an intern. For Virginia, students are required to get at least 1500 hours of actual hands-on experience. Recently Virginia has changed the requirements as they no longer require 300 of the 1500 hours to be gained outside of the college pharmacy program. This means you can get all 1500 of the required hours through the program you apply for. 

PharmD Career Paths

After graduating with a PharmD program, the most popular career path is a retail pharmacist. But if filling prescriptions, answering medication questions, and running your own pharmacy is not your idea of a fulfilling career, you have many more choices. A few options available include:

  • Hospital pharmacist
  • Research pharmacist
  • Infusion, compounding pharmacist
  • Veterinary pharmacist
  • Nuclear pharmacist
  • Pharmaceutical law

Pharmacist Demand and Wages in Virginia

The state of Virginia keeps a steady demand for pharmacists. In the year 2020, there were nearly 8000 pharmacists in VA earning an average annual salary of $129,000. In two years, that average salary has increased to $141,916. Since the start of the pandemic, pharmacists began taking on more responsibilities, which then increased the nation’s appreciation of pharmacists. Since then the demand for certified pharmacists has increased across the board.  

Keep in mind the average is for pharmacists that have been in the business for several years, carry years of experience, and probably have additional education, which are all factors for increased income. Fresh out of college pharmacists with little to no experience will make closer to $80,000 a year. In contrast, the higher-end pharmacists can make over double that wage per year.