There are many distance learning programs available for those seeking a career path as a pharmacist. The programs are a combination of online coursework and hands-on clinical training in healthcare settings. Earlier, pharmacists seeking a license to practice the profession only had to have a bachelor or master degree; currently, they have to obtain a doctoral degree (Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)) to satisfy licensure norms. Those who have been awarded licenses after satisfying the earlier educational prerequisites can continue to practice, but a large number of them are opting to complete the doctoral degree programs, so they can stay updated and stay competitive in the profession. Many schools are offering online Pharm.D programs.
Types of Programs
Both new students and practicing pharmacists with licenses can access Pharm.D programs. Coursework in respect of both program types are hybrid, a format combining online lessons with hands on clinical and lab assignments required to be performed in person. Such clinical sessions are conducted by some schools periodically on their respective campuses and students are expected to visit the campuses to attend the sessions; some schools allow students satisfy the clinical experience requirement in their own localities under the supervision of a proctor. If the student is a working pharmacist, schools will allow them to complete such clinical experience requirement on the job. Some schools accept previous work experience as fulfilling the clinical practice requirement. Prospective students seeking enrollment will benefit by ensuring that the program they have pursued carries accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
Online Doctoral Courses
New students enrolling into an online pharmacy studies program have to satisfy a number of requirements before they are allowed to register; some programs require them to have completed a bachelor degree program. Coursework generally includes topics such as calculus, anatomy, organic chemistry, chemistry and biology. Students may be required to complete speaking and writing courses as the nature of the profession requires pharmacists to communicate effectively with patients. Students are required to take the Pharmacy College Admission Test as part of the pre-admission requirements.
Coursework in pharmacist training programs covers patient outcomes, delivery and monitoring of medication, drug information, counseling and assessment of patients. Students learn pharmacy practice law, pharmacy calculations, pharmacokinetics, pharmacology, pathology, immunology and microbiology, and biochemistry among supporting coursework topics. Students are required to perform clinical rotations in person; this includes a detailed look at ambulatory care and acute care, apart from the community and hospital aspects of pharmacy practice. Students can opt for rotations in veterinary practice or neurology among other specialties.
The online doctoral program adheres — like conventional programs — to a full-semester format. It relies on multi-media resources to facilitate delivery of coursework in diverse ways including discussion boards, chat rooms and live conferencing. Students graduating through the course will be ready to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination that most states make mandatory for licensing.
Online Nontraditional Doctoral Courses Aimed at Working Pharmacists
There is an online non-traditional Doctor of Pharmacy course that can be accesses by working pharmacists who have already completed a bachelor or master degree program. Thanks to the hybrid format adopted by the online course, it is possible for working pharmacists to complete the doctoral program even as they continue in their jobs. Such programs can be built around a theme such as systems of the body, where students rendered pharmacy knowledge in the context of pathology and health of each system. Coursework focuses on patient-oriented pharmacological care and includes leadership skills, analysis of drug literature, advancements in IT, and communication with patients and peers. Programs can be accessed online in the form of reading assignments, discussion groups and class lectures. Hands-on clinical experience can be completed by students at their workplace; alternatively, the students may be required to attend class sessions — in person — at a location in their region.