Studying Pharmaceutical Science: Degrees at a Glance
Pharmaceutical scientists help design and develop safe and effective drugs as well as technologies to deliver them, whereas pharmacists typically collaborate with healthcare practitioners and work with existing drugs to optimize patient care. Undergraduate research-based programs may provide foundations for transfer to Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor or Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) and other professional or graduate programs.
By completing a bachelor's or master's degree in pharmaceutical science, you could work in industry, government or academia as a manager, researcher, scientist or teacher. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected overall job opportunities to increase 14% from 2010-2020, opportunities for chemical technicians (clinical research associates fall under this category) was expected to increase 7%. Employment of postsecondary teachers was expected to increase 17%.
|Who is this degree for?||Individuals interested in pursuing graduate studies or performing research||Those interested in doctoral studies or careers in regulation, pharmaceutical research, teaching or manufacturing|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual wage)|| - Entry-level clinical research associate ($56,000 - with 0-2 years of experience)* |
- Entry-level drug safety and medical information specialist ($59,000 - with 0-2 years of experience)*
- Advanced drug safety and medical information specialist ($108,000 - with 8 years of experience)*
| - Senior biotech research associate ($57,000 - with 4 years of experience)*|
- Instructor, pharmaceutical sciences ($70,000 - with 2-4 years of experience)*
- Clinical research manager ($92,000 - with 5 years of experience)*
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing executive (salary unavailable)
|Time to Completion||4 years, full-time|| 1-2 years, full-time |
|Common Graduation Requirements|| - Usually around 120 credits |
- Capstone or senior project
| - Approximately 30-40 credits |
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or GED||Bachelor's degree|
|Online Availability||None found at this time||None found at this time|
Source: *Salary.com (2012 median salaries).
Bachelor's Degrees in Pharmaceutical Science
Concentrations in different areas of pharmaceutical science may be available in a bachelor's program. You might pursue a pharmaceutical chemistry and analysis track, a medicinal and biological chemistry option or a pharmacy administration track.
All of these programs might begin with core chemistry and biology courses, then diverge to give you a choice of electives that could prepare you to pursue quantitative and instrumental analysis, research or business administration positions. Students interested in advanced research, Pharm.D., M.D. and other graduate programs will likely pursue a number of science courses to help them prepare for admission examinations, including but not limited to, the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) or Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).
Pros and Cons of a Bachelor's Degree in Pharmaceutical Science
- Programs can provide the background required for admission to graduate or professional school.
- Students interested in business can prepare for management careers in the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industries.
- Those interested in laboratory work may receive the training required for entry-level research positions.
- Dual and concurrent degree programs are available.
- Students committed to earning a Pharm.D. may be able to condense the time required by choosing a concurrent or early admissions program leading to a Pharm.D.
- You might experience competition for entry-level research positions from well-prepared chemistry or biology majors.
- Advancement in some fields may require a graduate degree.
Courses and Requirements
Undergraduate programs may vary in their curricula if a choice of concentrations is available. In general, you'll probably complete a core curriculum of pharmaceutical courses plus chemistry, biology, physics, organic chemistry, anatomy and physiology courses. If you're interested in the business side of this career, you may complete finance, statistics and marketing electives. Some programs require senior research projects or internships.
You might take these courses like these in a pharmaceutical science bachelor's program:
- Biomedicinal chemistry
- Integrated pharmacology
- Medicinal chemistry
- Pharmaceutical distribution and healthcare systems
- Analytical toxicology
- Biotechnology techniques
Online Course Options
Fully online programs covering this general field are extremely rare and may not be available. The laboratory requirements of a pharmaceutical science major are difficult to address remotely. To make the most of your education, you'll need some on-campus experience to take advantage of laboratories, centers and other facilities that wouldn't be available to completely virtual students. However, you may wish to check if your program offers any general education or non-laboratory courses online.
Getting Ahead with This Degree
Although you're not enrolled in a Pharm.D. program, you may benefit from attending a school that offers one and related advanced degrees. Schools accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education may support a broader range of resources, such as residential learning communities specific to pharmaceutical studies, dual degree programs, undergraduate research options, honors programs and student chapters of affiliated science and pharmacy professional organizations, such as the American Pharmacists Association. The career resource offices of these schools may have contacts to help you with internships and job hunting.
Master's Degree in Pharmaceutical Science
In this advanced, research-based degree program, you'll learn various approaches to drug development and delivery through an understanding of the chemical and physical properties of drugs. You'll also learn about the dosages appropriate for healthy and diseased patients. Programs may include internships with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies.
A master's degree could prepare you for a career in laboratory research, education, regulatory affairs, government or industry. You may have a choice to concentrate in a pharmaceutic subdiscipline. To be admitted, you might need an undergraduate background in pharmaceutical science, biology, chemistry or biochemistry. Thesis and non-thesis programs are available, depending on how interested in pursuing research you are.
Pros and Cons of Master's Degree in Pharmaceutical Science
- You may be able to work with top researchers.
- Concentrations might include pharmacology, pharmaceutics, biopharmaceutics and pharmacokinetics, physical pharmacy and dosage form development, delivery systems or drug metabolism.
- Teaching could be a career option with this degree.
- With multiple related degrees available, candidates may need to consider whether related programs such as pharmacology or medicinal chemistry are better for their goals.
- This degree doesn't typically have a dual Pharm.D. path.
- You may prefer to matriculate in a combined or dual degree program that also leads to a Ph.D. to save time and money.
Courses and Requirements
Foundational courses could include experimental design, data analysis and research ethics. Advanced biochemistry, biology and chemistry courses may be required. Electives will depend on your education and career objectives. You may be required to complete an internship, a research rotation, a thesis or all of these.
You might take graduate courses like these:
- Experimental design and biometrics
- Pharmacokinetics and drug metabolism
- Biomedical and chemical analysis
- Introduction to nanomedicine
- Functional human neuroanatomy
- Advanced pharmaceutics
- Imaging in medicine and drug discovery
Fully online master's programs in this field are rare to non-existent. The nature of this program requires access to laboratory and clinical facilities not available in virtual programs. Students who need to complete some coursework from home may be able to work with a professor on directed study for credit. Any remote work would need to meet on-campus standards.
Standing Out with This Degree
Laboratories and other facilities may be important in ensuring adequate career preparation. Therefore, you might look for institutes that offer facilities that address your specific interests. You might also consider the overall quality of a school's research programs as evidenced by grants from federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health.
Some schools might host student-run journals or related workshops that can teach you how to present your clinical research professionally. You may also be able to join a student chapter of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists and access its professional development resources.