Best Online PharmD Programs

By the OnlineU team | Updated 9/13/2021
Quick Facts
Accreditation: ACPE
Average Tuition: $30,262
Average Salary: $101,878

To become a licensed pharmacist, individuals need to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which provides them with a wealth of knowledge about anatomy, diseases, and the ways in which pharmaceutical drugs interact with the human body. Some pharmacists choose to earn their degrees through online Pharm.D. programs. Licensed pharmacists who have doctorates earn a median annual income of $128,710, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

On this page, we've provided a list of the best online Pharm.D. degrees by return on investment. We've also included information about these programs, including accreditation, career options, and the pros and cons of earning this online degree.

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Online Doctorate Degrees in Pharmacy with the Highest Return on Investment

2021 Best Online Colleges Offering Doctoral Degrees in Pharmacy Badge

The ROI for an online pharmacy degree at our top-ranked schools ranges from $841,600 to $1,052,400. We calculated ROI using estimated 10-year alumni earnings and median student debt. Nationally, the ROI for a PharmD is $994,000. Our top three schools offer online pharmacy degrees with an ROI above the national average. Higher education is a significant investment and these rankings can help students determine which pharmacy programs may be most profitable in the long term.

ROI amounts are based on data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. Tuitions are manually researched in order to determine tuition amounts specific to online degrees. Read our methodology for more details.

RankSchool Annual Tuition Median Starting Salary Median Debt 10-year ROI
# 1 #1 Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences $20,790 $114,872 $104,546 $1,052,400
# 2 #2 Duquesne University $61,346 $106,845 $48,138 $1,040,000
# 3 #3 Shenandoah University $10,950 $118,253 $161,167 $1,016,700
# 4 #4 Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine $29,065 $113,491 $161,710 $967,000
# 5 #5 Concordia University - Wisconsin $11,400 $115,208 $177,142 $965,500
# 6 #6 University of Colorado Denver $41,265 $114,237 $170,360 $963,900
# 7 #7 St. John Fisher College $14,274 $114,986 $181,337 $957,900
# 8 #8 Creighton University $44,381 $116,572 $208,922 $939,900
# 9 #9 Howard University $29,766 $109,763 $231,589 $841,600

Best Doctoral Degrees in Pharmacy Rankings Details

#1

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

Boston (MA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,052,400
  • Median Salary: $114,872
  • Annual Tuition: $20,790
  • Median Debt: $104,546

Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS) offers an online Doctor of Pharmacy - Postbaccalaureate Pathway degree. This program, aimed at students who have a bachelor's in pharmacy and are U.S.-licensed practicing pharmacists, begins every fall and requires one in-person orientation in August. Students can continue working as pharmacists full-time while completing... the program part-time, taking a total of 37 semester hours over two years with a four-week clinical rotation at the end.

The Blackboard platform is used for all online classes. The experiential work requirements can be completed at students' workplaces. MCPHS uses PioneerRX pharmacy software, which provides hands-on simulations and examples of real-world situations. Online students pay lower tuition rates than students attending courses on-campus. MCPHS participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, dedicated to helping veterans succeed in their college careers.

Applications are completed on the school's website and a dedicated graduate admission team is available to help during the application process. Online students can access the school’s Center for Academic Success and Enrichment for help during the program and the Center for Professional Career Development for assistance after graduation.

Cost per Credit: $990
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: NECHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 993

#2

Duquesne University

Pittsburgh (PA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,040,000
  • Median Salary: $106,845
  • Annual Tuition: $61,346
  • Median Debt: $48,138

Duquesne University offers an online Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which can be completed in four years. Duquesne is a Catholic university that aims to challenge students academically while nourishing their spiritual and ethical development. The online Pharm.D program uses both online and limited campus instruction during the first three years, and the fourth year involves rotation... through a variety of practice settings for real-world experience. Students receive instruction in pharmaceutical calculations, pharmaceutical law and ethics, human physiology and pathology, the American healthcare system, and more.

The university uses the Blackboard system, where students can complete coursework, take exams, and interact with their professors and classmates. Duquesne offers a strong network of 98,000 alumni, and graduates have enjoyed over 99% job placement for the past 25 years. Most graduates start at an average salary of $110,000 per year. Duquesne provides financial aid options, and students can use the Net Price Calculator to estimate the total cost of the degree.

Students can apply online, and applications for the fall semester are due in early June. Resources for online students include free software, including Box for secure cloud content management; online access to the university’s library and Writing Center; career services, including resume help; and tech support seven days a week.

Cost per Credit: $1,658
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 612

#3

Shenandoah University

Winchester (VA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $1,016,700
  • Median Salary: $118,253
  • Annual Tuition: $10,950
  • Median Debt: $161,167

Shenandoah University offers three online doctoral degree options in pharmacy: a part-time Nontraditional Doctor of Pharmacy, a full-time Doctor of Pharmacy/Master of Public Health dual degree, and a full-time Doctor of Pharmacy/Master of Science in Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine dual degree. Full-time programs take approximately five years to complete, while the NTDP... part-time program is self-paced. Each course of study includes information on general pharmacy topics, such as biomedical science, pharmacy practice, pharmaceutics, and more. The full-time programs also offer a specialized education appropriate to each dual degree option. Shenandoah offers study abroad options for graduate students.

Students at Shenandoah University access online course materials through the Canvas learning management system. Some courses are synchronous, while others are asynchronous. Students have access to the Office of Financial Aid, and Shenandoah participates in the Yellow Ribbon Program, supporting military personnel, veterans, and their families in the pursuit of higher education.

Applicants are encouraged to apply and submit any required documents online. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Services available for online students include academic counseling, study skills development courses, disability services, free peer tutoring, and more.

Cost per Credit: $730
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: SACS COC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 492

#4

Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine

Erie (PA)
  • 10-Year ROI: $967,000
  • Median Salary: $113,491
  • Annual Tuition: $29,065
  • Median Debt: $161,710

The online Doctor of Pharmacy degree at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine is designed for distance learners to complete a Pharm.D in four years. This program emphasizes the skills needed for a career in pharmaceutical sciences and drug development, with the fourth year consisting of an Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experiences rotation. The degree is accepted as a requirement... for pharmaceutical certification throughout the United States. Much of the degree is virtual, but students will be required to come to the Florida campus for a period of one to three weeks each summer.

Lake Erie College students access asynchronous materials on Blackboard learning management platforms, allowing them to complete assignments at their own pace. The primary scholarship available at Lake Erie College is the LECOM Scholarship Program for students who maintain a GPA above a 3.0, awarded each academic year and applied to tuition and fees.

All applicants must complete an application through the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service (AACOMAS) and a supplemental application specific to Lake Erie. The primary resource for online students at Lake Erie, the Learning Resource Center, includes medical research, patient records, journals, monographs, and multimedia.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE

#5

Concordia University - Wisconsin

Mequon (WI)
  • 10-Year ROI: $965,500
  • Median Salary: $115,208
  • Annual Tuition: $11,400
  • Median Debt: $177,142

Concordia University - Wisconsin (CUW) offers an online Doctor of Pharmacy and MBA dual degree. This 128-credit program will take approximately four years to complete. CUW offers a faith-based education affiliated with the Lutheran Church. The focus of the degree program is to combine the Pharm.D knowledge with the management and organizational skills associated with the business... degree. The university hosts both internships and mentorships with CUW alumni. Students preparing for state exams can take part in certification and licensure prep courses.

CUW uses Blackboard as its primary online learning management system. CUW offers scholarships that are both merit-based and competitive. Students who are eligible for the military discount will receive a 10% discount off of their tuition. Up to 50% of credits can be transferred into this program. Career resources are also available through the CAACE portal.

There is a rolling deadline for online courses. Applications to CUW should be submitted online. Students at CUW have access to many online resources such as tutoring, student mentorships, and study groups.

Cost per Credit: $760
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,051

#6

University of Colorado Denver

Denver (CO)
  • 10-Year ROI: $963,900
  • Median Salary: $114,237
  • Annual Tuition: $41,265
  • Median Debt: $170,360

University of Colorado Denver (CU Denver) offers an online Doctor of Pharmacy in North American-Trained PharmD, instructing students in areas including clinical skills, oncology, infectious diseases, public health, and more. Students typically take between two and six years to complete the program. The program can be completed in a full- or part-time format. In the part-time format,... students must take at least four credit hours per semester. This 65-credit program requires 35 hours of semester credit and 30 hours of experiential learning.

Students access online coursework via the Canvas learning management system. Financial aid information is available from the school, and sometimes scholarships are available for students in the program. Students who have served in the military or who are military dependents have access to CU Denver Veteran & Military Student Services. Online students also have access to the CU Denver Career Center.

Applicants can submit their applications and required information online. Students who take classes online have access to 24/7 IT support, onboarding information, virtual school events, and a student success coach.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,528

#7

St. John Fisher College

Rochester (NY)
  • 10-Year ROI: $957,900
  • Median Salary: $114,986
  • Annual Tuition: $14,274
  • Median Debt: $181,337

St. John Fisher College offers an online Doctor of Pharmacy degree, instructing students in both pharmaceutical science and patient-centered practice. Students have the opportunity to participate in both local and global opportunities to learn more about providing pharmaceutical services to patients in underserved communities. Classes in the program are taught by expert faculty.... This 151-credit program takes four years to complete and requires 11 in-person clinical rotations.

Students at St. John Fisher College access their coursework through the Blackboard learning management system. Most aspects of the program are taught asynchronously. The majority of coursework involves developing clinical skills and working with peers in group projects online, but the program also requires six on-campus immersions throughout the program. The school offers a Military Tuition Assistance Program to students in the Reserves, National Guard, and active-duty service, and also participates in the Veterans Administration's Yellow Ribbon Program. Online students can schedule appointments with the Center for Career and Academic Planning.

The program offers two start dates each year. Students are encouraged to submit their application and required documents online. Online students have access to advising, a robust alumni network, the Center for Community Engagement, remote counseling services, and more.

Cost per Credit: $1,098
School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 10

#8

Creighton University

Omaha (NE)
  • 10-Year ROI: $939,900
  • Median Salary: $116,572
  • Annual Tuition: $44,381
  • Median Debt: $208,922

Creighton University offers students two online doctoral degree options: a Doctor of Pharmacy and a dual Doctor of Pharmacy/Master of Business Administration. Both programs can be completed in approximately four years of full-time study. Students complete clinical rotations during the third and fourth years of study. Students in both programs are instructed in areas of biochemistry,... communication, pharmaceutics, patient care, chemical basis of drug action, and more. Students in the Pharm.D/MBA program receive the same pharmacy education as Pharm.D students, with the addition of business courses. Creighton University is a Jesuit, Catholic institution, and students are strongly encouraged to participate in community service opportunities as they earn their degrees.

Students at Creighton use the school's BlueLine learning management system. The financial aid office at Creighton provides remote assistance for students who are interested in receiving loans, scholarships, and grants. The school assists veterans, active-duty military members, and their families with military education benefits, and online students have access to Creighton's John P. Fahey Career Center for help with job searching.

Prospective students submit their application for admission and other required materials online. Students are admitted on a rolling basis and can apply anytime. Distance learners have access to the school's online library system, online writing center, IT support, and more.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: HLC
Graduate Online Enrollment: 1,798

#9

Howard University

Washington D.C.
  • 10-Year ROI: $841,600
  • Median Salary: $109,763
  • Annual Tuition: $29,766
  • Median Debt: $231,589

The online Non-Traditional Doctor of Pharmacy program at Howard University takes only two years to complete, compared to four or five for traditional Pharm.D programs. This program is designed for students who already have a valid U.S. or Canadian pharmacist license, and it includes courses on integrated pharmacy care, pathophysiology, therapeutics, pharmacology, pharmacoepidemiology,... and pharmacoeconomics. To graduate, students must complete a six-month experiential component that involves developing, implementing, and evaluating a disease state program.

Students take courses synchronously using the Blackboard learning management system. To cover the costs of this program, students can apply for loans and grants, and the school also offers scholarships from the Dr. Youness R Karodeh and Dr. Babatunde Osun Endowment, CVS, Walgreens, and several other organizations.

Howard reviews applications on a rolling basis, but students must submit their applications by February 2 of the year in which they want to start. The program admits students once per year in the fall, and the students admitted to this program become members of a cohort who work toward their degrees together regardless of location. The school provides resources such as a pharmacy library, professional development services, and online tools such as ExamMaster and NicroMedex to facilitate their educations.

School Type: Non-Profit
Accreditation: MSCHE
Graduate Online Enrollment: 22

Overview of Online Pharm.D. Degrees

In order to become a licensed pharmacist, students must complete a Pharm.D. program, which is considered a professional doctorate program on the same level as those for medical doctors and dentists. The advanced coursework in this type of doctoral program is designed to prepare students to pass the licensing exam. Topics include biochemistry, pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacokinetics, pathology, immunology, and more. Pharm.D. students are also required to complete a specified number of clinical practice hours.


According to the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 15,112 students earned Pharm.D. degrees in the 2018-2019 academic year.

Can You Really Get Your Doctorate in Pharmacy Online?

Yes, it is definitely possible to earn a Pharm.D. through distance education. Several pharmacy graduate programs at accredited colleges and universities have created online pharmacy schools. Students complete coursework online, and with the help of program coordinators, they find opportunities to complete their clinical practice hours at facilities near their home.

Some programs offer the non-clinical coursework entirely online, some require students to attend brief workshops on campus, and some are considered hybrid, meaning coursework is delivered through a combination of online and on-campus learning activities. Students should research this aspect of each program thoroughly before selecting the best one for their needs.

How Long Are Online Pharm.D. Programs?

Although many online Pharm.D. programs are designed to be completed in four years of part-time study, some students require up to six years to complete all of the graduation requirements. Most of these doctorate programs are geared toward students who are working full time, so there are often only two classes per term. Also, some students opt for additional one- or two-year residencies after completing graduate school if they want to specialize in a particular subfield of pharmacology, such as geriatrics, cardiology, or infectious diseases. However, there are a few programs that allow enrollees to take full-time course loads and graduate in two to three years.

Programs typically require the completion of 60-70 credit hours in total. The first half of these credits are completed in the first two years of the program. They are typically online "didactic" classes, meaning that coursework involves reading texts and materials, viewing or reading lectures, and participating in online activities with classmates. The other half of the credits are devoted to experiential, clinical practice conducted at pharmacies or other relevant healthcare facilities, and students often need two or more years to fulfill the required number of pharmacy practice hours.


Accreditation

Prior to enrolling in an online pharmacist program, prospective students should confirm that the program has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. To become accredited, a Pharm.D. program must undergo an extensive, multi-year evaluation. Accreditation ensures consistency across all programs by documenting that each program's curriculum, faculty, and learning outcomes meet the same national standards.

Prior to enrolling in an online pharmacist program, prospective students should confirm that the program has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

Choosing an ACPE-accredited program is important for several reasons. Not only does it assure students they're enrolled in a credible degree program that meets high academic standards, it is a requirement for obtaining pharmacist licensure. For a list of accredited online pharmacy programs, students can visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.


Applying to Online Doctor of Pharmacy Programs

Competition for enrollment in the best Pharm.D. programs is high.


Recent statistics from the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education indicate that approximately 15,000 new students have entered doctorate pharmacy programs in each of the most recent academic years, and approximately 14,000 of those have earned Pharm.D. degrees. This same report, compiled from data contributed by the 144 U.S. schools offering pharmacy degrees, shows that these schools received about 50,000 applications for Pharm.D. programs.

The admission requirements for most online pharmacy programs stipulate that applicants must have earned a pre-pharmacy bachelor's degree or something similar from an accredited, four-year college or university. Many programs also require applicants to have taken a number of prerequisite courses before enrolling in the Pharm.D. program. Some of the more common prerequisites are biology, chemistry, physics, organic chemistry, statistics, and calculus. Students must have earned a GPA of 2.0 or better in these courses to qualify.

When applying for an online doctor of pharmacy program, applicants must submit an application form. The following items may also be requested:

  • Official transcripts from all previous colleges attended
  • Test scores from standardized tests, such as the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • One or more letters of recommendation
  • A personal statement outlining the student's goals and motivation for enrolling in the program
  • A resume or curriculum vitae

Pharmacy Career Certification and Licensing Requirements

All 50 U.S. states require pharmacists to be licensed in order to practice. Upon completion of an online Pharm.D. program, graduates must take and pass two exams to obtain a license to practice in the state where they reside. The required exams are the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX), which tests prospective pharmacists on the skills and knowledge required for the career, and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE), which tests prospective pharmacists on the pharmacy laws specific to the state in which they are seeking licensing.

All 50 U.S. states require pharmacists to be licensed in order to practice.

Some pharmacists may also choose to obtain certification in advanced areas of specialization. Certification in such areas as oncology, nutrition, pediatric pharmacy, nuclear pharmacy, and others are offered through the Board of Pharmacy Specialties.


Pharmacy Career Paths

Becoming a licensed pharmacist is just one of several career options for individuals interested in the pharmaceutical industry. The following are some of the career paths students can choose from, along with data from the BLS:

Pharmacists
Median Annual Salary: $128,710
Pharmacists prepare prescriptions and advise patients concerning any potential side effects or drug interactions they may experience while taking medication. They also supervise pharmacy technicians and interns, and may have inventory management duties for the pharmacy in which they work. Pharmacists must have a professional, post-graduate doctoral degree (Pharm.D.) and a professional state license in order to practice. The median annual salary for pharmacists is $128,710. Over the next 10 years, the need for pharmacists is expected to decline by 3%.
Pharmaceutical Researchers
Median Annual Salary: $91,510
Pharmaceutical researchers are involved in the development of new medications. They may conduct clinical trials and testing of new medications on animals and humans. Researchers may also work to improve the drug manufacturing process. Minimum educational requirements for pharmaceutical researchers are a bachelor's degree in pharmaceutical sciences, chemistry, or another related field. Many researchers go on to complete a master's or Ph.D. in pharmacology for advancement in their career. The BLS classifies Ph.D.-level pharmaceutical researchers as medical scientists, who earn a median annual salary of $91,510.
Pharmacy Professors
Median Annual Salary: $99,090
Professors working in four-year colleges and universities typically need a Pharm.D. and several years of work experience as a pharmacist in order to train future pharmacists. At this level, educators usually begin as assistant professors, and then advance to associate professors and finally full professors. College professors specializing in health fields earn median annual salaries of $99,090.

Is Getting an Online Pharm.D. Degree Worth It?

While obtaining a Pharm.D. degree is a requirement for a career as a licensed pharmacist, students may consider multiple factors in deciding whether to pursue this degree and field. There are various advantages and disadvantages of online Pharm.D. programs that students should weigh in light of their own circumstances, resources, and goals.

Potential Benefits

  • Pharmacists often earn six-figure incomes. Once they've obtained a license to practice, pharmacists can expect median annual salaries ranging from $125,740 to $137,820.
  • This degree may allow for flexibility when deciding on a career path. Those who've earned Pharm.D. degrees have several career options, from working in ambulatory care as a licensed pharmacist to being an unlicensed medical writer in the pharmaceutical industry. In the growing field of online healthcare, pharmacists may even be able to work at home via telepharmacy.
  • Going to school online gives students more choices. Pursuing a Pharm.D. degree online allows full-time working students to choose from a broader selection of schools without having to relocate and find a new job.

Potential Drawbacks

  • Completing the educational requirements to become a pharmacist is a fairly long and potentially expensive process. Licensed pharmacists may spend about eight years earning a bachelor's and Pharm.D. degree. For students interested in the field, there are careers that don't require an advanced degree or the time commitment that goes with it. For example, pharmacy technicians and pharmaceutical sales reps may hold certificates, associate degrees, or bachelor's degrees.
  • Job opportunities for pharmacists are diminishing. The BLS predicts that demand for pharmacists will decline by 3% over the next 10 years as people continue to shift to purchasing medications by mail order.
  • Working as a pharmacist can be demanding. Some may find that the need for critical attention to detail is stressful, especially considering the responsibilities that range from ensuring a patient's safety and wellbeing to properly fulfilling corporate mandates.
  • Online students may have to devote more effort to building relationships with peers. Without opportunities to connect with others in person, some pharmacy students may struggle to build a professional network that can be helpful later in their careers.

What's the Difference Between the Pharm.D. Degree and a Ph.D. in Pharmacology?

A Pharm.D. program is distinctly different from a Ph.D. in pharmacology. While both are doctoral degrees, they prepare students for different career paths. The Pharm.D. degree is the right choice for students who want to become licensed, practicing pharmacists. The Ph.D. in pharmacology is the best choice for students who want to enter the field of pharmacological research and pharmaceutical development. While there are some similarities in the topics covered in the coursework for both doctoral programs, a pharmacology Ph.D. program is more focused on research and requires a dissertation.

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