As is becoming more common in today’s culture, some students choose to attend pharmacy school remotely by enrolling in an online degree program. There are advantages and disadvantages to online degree schools versus traditional pharmacy schools. Both are viable options for interested students, and one should select the option that best suits one’s needs.
For those who studied to become pharmacists prior to 1990, the degree necessary to become a licensed pharmacist was a bachelor’s degree. Subsequently, many currently practicing pharmacists have a bachelor’s degree only, while those who have trained more recently have graduated with a Doctorate in Pharmacy. While not required to do so, many earlier-trained pharmacists have chosen to take additional training to earn their PharmD degrees.
Since these pharmacists may have existing businesses or employment obligations, online degree programs may be a better fit for them than a traditional on-site pharmacy training program. On-site training programs are, typically, much less flexible in terms of course scheduling, and they do not complement full-time employment well.
Most of the PharmD programs that are offered online are offered only to individuals currently working as pharmacists. These individuals can usually complete an online degree in three years while working full-time. Again, these programs are not open to those pursuing a PharmD without work experience.
One of the major advantages to online learning is having a choice of schools, regardless of one’s physical location. For those who are unable or unwilling to relocate for pharmacy school, online programming offers an opportunity to train at a top institution, which may have otherwise been impossible due to its physical location.
Currently, there is only one online program for so-called entry level pharmacy education. That program is through Creighton Universityin Nebraska. It was developed in 2001 as a web-based pharmacy degree. Students interact with faculty and mentors via conferencing software, discussion boards, Internet chat rooms, email, and phone. Even though this is a web-based program, students are required to be on campus for laboratory sessions in the summer. These lab sessions are condensed for convenience and typically last 2-4 weeks. Like at on-site pharmacy school programs, internships are an important component of the degree program. At Creighton, students complete a total of eight five-week clinical rotations. The sites for these clinical rotations are located throughout the United States and even internationally.
Students interested in this option should consider that it may be necessary to travel to sites during the last year of study, depending on where they live and what sites are available.
Aside from the program at Creighton, all of the online PharmD programs are geared towards individuals with pharmacist experience who were licensed prior to the new regulations. These online degrees are an excellent option for the working pharmacist, and perhaps even for the entry-level student. However, one of the major disadvantages to distance learning is that one does not have an opportunity to work on communication skills. Communication skills are of critical importance for a pharmacist. It is possible that students may be able to develop these skills during their internships, but it is likely that the skills will not be as honed as in those who attended an on-site program.
Online PharmD degrees are available on a limited basis. These degree programs offer flexibility of scheduling unparalleled at a traditional university, but they do not offer students the opportunity to work on oral skills. For someone considering pharmacy school who has not already graduated with a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, these factors should be considered.