Pharmacy Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Training Info

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What kind of jobs can you get with an associate's degree in pharmacy technology or bachelor's degree in pharmaceutical sciences? Find out degree requirements, online options and info on courses in pharmacy technology and pharmaceutical sciences.
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Studying Pharmacy: Degrees at a Glance

Pharmacy programs are available at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels, and prepare students for very different but related careers. With an associate's degree, you may work as a pharmacy technician and assist a pharmacist in dispensing medication and working with customers. Students who pursue a bachelor's degree may work as a pharmaceutical sales representative or pharmaceutical scientist. Pharmaceutical sales reps may travel to physicians' offices and medical facilities to promote and market medications to doctors and healthcare administrators. Pharmaceutical scientists may support drug research and development. These degree programs don't prepare you for a career as pharmacist, which requires a Doctor of Pharmacy; there are 2+4 or 3+4 programs that combine an undergraduate pre-pharmacy track with the Pharm.D degree program.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2010-2020, employment of pharmacy technicians was expected to rise 32%, while jobs for sales reps was predicted to grow 16%; the BLS did not collect separate employment growth figures for pharmaceutical scientists.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals who want to work as pharmacy technicians Those who want to pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales or industry
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) -Pharmacy aide ($22,000) *
-Pharmacy technician ($29,000) *
-Pharmaceutical sales representative ($60,000)** *
-Pharmceutical scientist (unavailable)
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - About 25 credits
- Practicum
-About 100 credits
- Research seminar
- Mentored research or industry internship
Prerequisites - High school diploma - High school diploma
Online Availability Yes No

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures), ** (May 2012 figures).

Associate's in Pharmacy Technology

An associate's degree in pharmacy technology is a 2-year program that will prepare you to work in a hospital or retail pharmacy as a technician. A pharmacology technology program teaches you how to calculate drug dosages and dispense medications to customers. After graduation, you'll need to check with your state's Board of Pharmacy to determine if they have to meet any certification or licensure requirements. At the conclusion of the program, you may be prepared to sit for a national certification exam.

Pros and Cons


  • High employment growth predicted*
  • Work in a climate-controlled environment
  • Part-time and full-time work is available


  • Working nights and weekends may be required
  • Limited advancement unless you continue your education
  • Will need to remain on your feet most of day

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

An Associate of Applied Science degree in pharmacy technology will require you to complete both general education requirements and pharmacy-related courses. General education requirements may include courses such as English, sociology, history and math. Core pharmacy technology courses cover topics in anatomy and physiology, drug foundations, dosage calculations, dosage preparation, pharmacy law and pharmacology. Your program may also require a clinical experience, which can take place in settings where you might find work, like in a hospital or retail pharmacy.

Online Course Options

While wholly online programs in pharmacy technology aren't typically offered, if you'd like to earn your degree online, you might find a hybrid program in pharmacy technology. A hybrid program allows students to complete some courses online, but requires them to complete laboratory requirements on campus. Courses in an online program are completed through a course management system; this is where you could view lectures, download assignments and communicate with professors on the website.

Getting Ahead With This Degree

Learning good customer service skills, coupled with practicing attention to detail and organization while interning can help you get ahead. Employers count on pharmacy technicians to help pharmacy customers promptly and courteously. Pharmacists also count on you to fulfill your duties without errors that could harm patients.

While most states require some kind of certification for pharmacy technicians, it's also possible to earn national certification, which can help you stand out from fellow job candidates. Professional national certification is available through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association.

Bachelor's in Pharmaceutical Sciences

A Bachelor of Science degree program in pharmaceutical sciences combines math and science classes to provide a foundation for learning about drug design, drug interaction, toxicology and dosage formulation as it relates to research and development and manufacturing of pharmaceuticals according to industry standards and regulatory requirements. Internships may allow you to explore careers in biotechnology, chemistry, academic research or government prior to graduation. Some programs have a pre-professional career emphasis, providing you with a background for continued medical or law education. You may also prepare to work in drug research and development or sales and manufacturing. Elective course choices can allow you to focus your studies on a particular area of emphasis in line with your education or career goals.

Pros and Cons


  • Degree prepares for careers in sales or industry
  • Bachelor's degree typically required entry-level jobs
  • May have the ability to set own schedule as a sales rep
  • Jobs in industry can have far-reaching effects through support of drug research and development work


  • Can be stressful to meet quotas and sales goals as a pharmaceutical sales rep
  • In 2011, 25% of sales reps worked over 50 hours per week*
  • Pharmaceutical sales career can mean frequent travel
  • Some industry career options may require an advanced degree

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Courses and Requirements

Like an associate's degree program, you need to complete general education requirements. To prepare for higher-level pharmacy courses, you have to take foundational science courses in biology, chemistry and physics. Advanced pharmaceutical sciences courses cover topics involving molecular biology, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, pharmaceutical analytical techniques and pharmacology. You may also need to complete several research-related courses or an internship with a research- or industry-oriented focus. The curriculum is generally allows for minimal flexibility over the course of four years.

Online Course Options

If you're looking to pursue an online pharmaceutical sciences bachelor's degree, you probably won't find any accredited programs available. Because of the extensive lab work and research requirements, students will need to be on-campus to complete the courses.

How to Stand Out With This Degree

As a pharmaceutical sales rep, you need to have strong interpersonal and communication skills. Your success depends on developing relationships with medical personnel. Self-confidence is also an important trait; you have to be persuasive and make a good first impression with new clients. Participating in an industry-centered internship can help you cultivate these personality traits and hone your networking and sales skills. Specialized professional certification is also available through the Manufacturers' Representatives Education Research Foundation; Certified Professional Manufacturers' Representative and Certified Sales Professional credentials are attainable, upon successful completion of training and a test.

A research-oriented internship can help prepare you for an entry-level technical career in the pharmaceutical industry; demonstrable hands-on lab experience, organizational skills and attention to detail may be considered an advantage. It may be possible to get an entry-level job with a bachelor's degree although some employers may prefer you to have an advanced degree for careers like pharmaceutical scientist. This degree is also generally adequate preparation for a graduate-level degree in the field. In 2012, the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists' website indicated that more than half of its members held a Ph.D., while about one-fifth held a master's degree and 16% held a bachelor's degree.

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