Pharmacology Degree Programs – Information and Resources
Overview of Pharmacology Degree Programs
Pharmacology is a branch of science that focuses on the study and use of drugs, both natural and man-made. People who study pharmacology typically work for pharmacies, drug companies and in other professions that involve drugs. The most common positions chosen include pharmacy technician/aide, pharmacist, pharmaceutical sales representative, biological technician and professor of pharmacology. However, some students also study pharmacology on the path to a career in a related field.
Salaries for Pharmacists
The salary you can expect to earn in the field of pharmacology depends on the career you choose, as well as your level of education, location, years of experience and other factors. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that average salaries for careers in pharmacology are as follows:
Work Environment for Pharmacists
As with your salary, your exact work environment will depend on the job you choose, your location and other variables. However, according to the BLS, most people in the field of pharmacology work in professional or academic settings. Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians typically work in pharmacies, which may be located in hospitals, drug stores or grocery stores. Biological technicians work in laboratories, and pharmaceutical sales representatives travel to the offices of healthcare providers. Finally, professors of pharmacology typically work in an academic environment, such as a classroom and/or office.
While all of these careers typically involve full-time work, only pharmacists and pharmacy technicians frequently work nights and weekends. Professors of pharmacology typically work daytime hours only, unless they teach a night course. Pharmaceutical sales representatives and biological technicians rarely work nighttime or weekend hours.
Job Outlook for Pharmacists
The demand for professionals in most pharmacology careers is increasing at a faster-than-average rate. According to the BLS, the average career in the United States can expect an 11 percent increase in available job openings from 2012 to 2022. However, the average rate of increase for pharmacology professions is as follows:
Profession Degrees by Level
Certificate/On-the-Job Training – Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy technicians are responsible for helping pharmacists prepare and dispense medications to customers. They typically work in pharmacies.
To become a pharmacy technician, you need only a high school diploma. However, most pharmacy technicians who enter the field with only a high school diploma or equivalent degree will complete on-the-job training before they can work independently. Pharmacy technicians can sometimes eliminate the need for on-the-job training by completing a certificate program before entering the field.
Programs vary, but typical pharmacy technician curricula will include the following courses:
•Pharmacy Operations and Prescription Processing
•Pharmacology for Health Professions
To enter into a pharmacy technician program, you must typically have a high school diploma or equivalent degree. Certificate programs vary in length, but most will be completed with one to two years of study. Some states require pharmacy technicians to be certified. In states where certification isn’t required, becoming certified may still enhance your resume.
Bachelor’s Degree – Biological Technician
Biological technicians are pharmacology professionals who assist scientists in conducting experiments and research projects.
To become a biological technician in the field of pharmacology, you must typically earn a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology or a related field. To enroll in a bachelor’s degree program, you must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent degree. You can expect to complete a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology with approximately four years of full-time study.
Although programs will vary, typical courses included in a bachelor’s degree program are as follows:
•Targeted Drug Design
•Research in Pharmacology
•Modern Drug Delivery
In addition to the courses listed above, you may need to complete general education electives in order to satisfy the requirements of a bachelor’s degree program. To advance into a position with more autonomy and authority, you may need to earn a master’s degree in pharmacology or a related field. You can also use a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology as a stepping stone to pursue higher education in related fields, such as medicine.
Bachelor’s Degree – Pharmaceutical Sales Representative
Pharmaceutical sales representatives are responsible for selling drugs to doctors, hospitals and other facilities on behalf of a pharmaceutical company.
To become a pharmaceutical sales representative, you must typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology or a closely-related field. The bachelor’s degree program leading to a career as a pharmaceutical sales representative will be virtually identical to that of a biological technologist. However, to enhance your resume, it may be wise to take some business or marketing electives.
You can complete your bachelor’s program with four years of full-time study. Although most pharmaceutical companies require sales representatives to have only a bachelor’s degree, you may be able to advance into a position of leadership within the company by obtaining a higher degree, such as a master’s.
Doctoral Degree – Pharmacist
Pharmacists are pharmacology professionals who dispense medication to patients and provide advice with regard to the proper use of various drugs.
In order to become a pharmacist, you must earn a Doctor of Pharmacy, or Pharm.D. degree. Pharm.D. programs range in length from three to six years, depending on your prior education. If you are entering the program immediately after high school, it will require at least six years of full-time study. However, if you already have a bachelor’s degree, you can complete a Pharm.D. program in as little as three to four years.
Typical Pharm. D. programs will include the following courses:
•Pharmacy and the Health Care System
•Pharmacy Practice Management
•Ethics and Law
Most Pharm.D. programs combine classroom study with hands-on laboratory or clinical experiences. In addition to the courses listed above, you may also have to complete some electives in order to obtain your degree. According to the BLS, all states require pharmacists to be licensed. In order to qualify for licensure, you must successfully complete an approved Pharm.D. program and pass two exams, including the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam and a state-specific test.
Doctoral Degree – Professor of Pharmacology/Researcher
With a doctoral degree in pharmacology, you can work in an academic and/or research setting. If you choose academics, you will teach pharmacology courses to college students who are interested in the field. If you choose research, you will conduct experiments or research projects related to pharmacology. Some professionals choose to work in both academics and research.
To become a professor of pharmacology or a research, you must earn a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in the field. Most Ph.D. programs require students to have a master’s degree in order to enroll. However, some programs may accept students with only a bachelor’s degree. The time it will take to complete a PhD program is two to four years of full-time study and typically depends on your level of education when you enter the program.
Although programs may differ, most pharmacology Ph.D. programs will cover the following topics:
•Drug Discovery and Development
•Pharmacology and Gene Regulation
•Pharmacology of the Synapse
•Principles of Pharmacokinetics
•Architecture and Dynamics of the Cell
•Cancer Biology and Genetics
•Neural Development and Plasticity
•Fundamentals of Biomaterials
•Systems Biology of Human Disease
In addition to these courses, you may also need to take some electives in order to complete the degree.
Choosing a Program
Regardless of the career you choose, selecting the right degree program is essential. Below are several characteristics to consider as you look for the right program.
One of the most important characteristics to consider when choosing from among various programs is whether or not the program is approved by the appropriate licensing or certification agency. For example, if you are studying to become a pharmacist, make sure the Pharm. D. program you choose is approved by your state’s licensure department.
Another characteristic to consider is whether or not the program you choose is accredited by a recognized professional organization. Accreditation tells you that the program meets certain standards for effectiveness and quality. However, keep in mind that programs may be accredited and not approved or vice versa.
Programs with low graduation rates may be more difficult to complete, or they may provide less support to struggling students. Consider programs’ graduation rates when making your selection.
Examination Pass Rate
If your career of choice requires you to take an exam, try to choose a program with a high pass rate among graduates. If previous graduates of the program were able to pass the test easily, you can be reasonably sure that the program prepared them well.
The goal of most degree programs is to prepare you for employment. Compare the employment rates among previous graduates of the programs you are considering, and choose a program with a solid employment rate.
When faculty-to-student ratios are lower, you can expect to receive more one-on-one attention from teachers. For this reason, you should try to choose a program with a lower faculty-to-student ratio if possible.
Some programs are much more flexible with scheduling than others. For example, while some programs are willing to accommodate part-time students, others require students to enroll full time. Likewise, while some programs offer online classes, others offer only on-campus courses. If you have other responsibilities or obligations, such as a job or family, be sure to find out whether the programs you are considering will accommodate your scheduling needs.
Tuition and Fees
Any pharmacology program will charge tuition and other educational fees, but some may charge more than others do. Before you apply for a program, make sure that you can afford the tuition. If you cannot afford to pay all of your expenses, ask about any financial aid the program offers, such as scholarships or grants. If you still cannot afford to pay everything you owe, ask about a payment program.
Many programs have prerequisites you must meet in order to enroll. Make sure that you understand and meet these prerequisites before you apply. Likewise, your state may impose licensure or certification requirements, in addition to graduation from an approved program. Learn about all of these requirements and make sure that you can meet them before you spend your time and money attending school.