“Before you treat a man with a condition, know that not all cures can heal all people. For the chemistry that works on one patient may not work for the next, because even medicine has its own conditions.” ― Suzy Kassem
While Pharmacy and Pharmacology degrees are related, they are separate fields that offer different outcomes to students, professionals, and the public at large.
Pharmacy is the science, art, and technique of preparing, giving, and reviewing drugs. It can also require more clinical services. In these roles, you’ll review medications to make sure they’re safe and effective. You will become an expert on drug therapy, and the conduit between people and the drugs they need to be healthier, or even stay alive.
Pharmacology is a branch of biology that focuses on researching, discovering, and characterizing chemicals based on their biological effects on humans and animals. The two significant areas of this field are pharmacodynamics, which looks at the impacts of a drug on biological systems. Pharmacokinetics looks at how those biological systems process and impact the drugs itself.
Pharmacy is about serving patients in clinical settings. Pharmacology is centered on studying drugs, their effects, through research, discovery, and description of chemicals.
Using chemical compounds to treat ailments, and improve health goes back thousands of years. Otzi, also known as the Iceman, was a man who lived somewhere between 3400 and 3100 BCE. He’s also a well-preserved mummy that was discovered accidentally in 1991 in the Otztal Alps. One of his possessions he was found with was dried fungus that may have been used as medicine.
From ancient Egypt to Greece, to China, herbs, plants, and other drug precursors were used as medicine. Many of these were ineffective, and some were outright poisonous. Regardless, our need to treat ourselves and prevent illness is deeply ingrained within our species.
Today, the modern American healthcare system is in flux. There’s strong potential for us to abandon our for-profit system, and one of the first areas that might see change is pharmaceuticals. Unlike other countries, we don’t regulate nor negotiate the prices of drugs as they come onto the market.
Drug companies can set their prices, based on what they believe the market will stomach. In the case of life-saving medicine, people will pay whatever they can to survive. No one can dismiss the pressures for change in the healthcare system, nor the entrenched interests against making substantive change. However, changing how we regulate and negotiate drug prices is one of the more likely changes that can impact this industry.
Whenever there’s a potentially massive change, there’s also opportunity. By earning a degree in Pharmacy or Pharmacology today, you can be a part of this changing, indispensable market and area of medicine.
In this guide we’ll explore Pharmacy and Pharmacology degree options, and specializations within the field. We’ll try to help you decide whether these degrees are right for you, and explore what they’ll require and enhance within you. We’ll also look at potential earnings, share what we’ve written to help you in your search for these degrees, and much more.
Before we begin, let’s explore some questions you should ask yourself and consider while looking for a Pharmacy or Pharmacology degree:
- What do you want to do in this field? How will a degree program you’re considering help you surpass your goals?
- What degree level have you reached so far? Pharmacy is a rare discipline because it allows you to earn a doctorate in just six years even if you haven’t taken earned any degrees in higher education.
- Do you want to work as a Pharmacist, or in another area of this field? That will decide what type of degree you pursue.
- If being a licensed pharmacist isn’t for you, would you like to work in research, education, drug trials, marketing, or in a lab role?
- How much can you spend on a Pharmacy or Pharmacology degree? How much would you need to take out in loans to afford one?
- There are many different costs associated with these programs. Fortunately, this field often offers more funding than others, especially if you’re going to pursue a doctorate.
- Graduates of these programs do often enter the workforce with significant student loans. However, you may qualify for loan forgiveness (more on that later).
- Your total sticker price for a degree in Pharmacy or Pharmacology depends on the school you choose, the delivery format you take, the scholarships or aid you qualify for, among other factors.
- Always select public loans over private ones whenever possible.
- Also, make sure you select programs from non-profit, affordable, and well-reviewed programs. Avoid for-profit, poorly accredited schools with bad reputations.
- Are you employed? Do you want to work while earning your degree? Some pharmacy programs will require full-time participation. Others will work with you as you go to school and keep your job.
- Do you want to earn your degree online, on-campus, part-time, full-time, or in a mixture of online and on-campus instruction?
- Pharmacy and Pharmacology programs are likely going to require significant in-person training, so keep that in mind.
- What specializations or focus areas do specific degrees offer? How can a specialization refine your education and push you towards the kinds of jobs you want to do?
When searching for schools it’ll be helpful to answer these questions for each program you’re interested in. If there are other questions or parameters that apply specifically to you, make sure to write those out in addition to these and answer them as well.
Now let’s take a look at what you’ll need to have and cultivate to be successful in these programs, and throughout your career:
Pharmacy and Pharmacology Degrees Demand and Enhance Your:
- Precision: Anyone working with drugs and chemicals needs to be extremely accurate. You can’t give people the wrong drugs, and you can’t give them the wrong amounts of those drugs, because it could literally kill them. You need to measure drugs exactly, decipher poor handwriting from doctors, and enter information accurately into computerized systems.
- Math and Science Skills: In these programs, you’ll learn important facets of biology and chemistry that impact your work every day. You’ll have to do basic calculations, and potentially harder ones, that affect your patients or whoever you work with (if you opt to work in positions other than as a pharmacist. You’ll need some aptitude in these areas but have the potential to learn what you’ll need to know with hard work and dedication. Not every pharmacist is a math or science genius, but they have to use both effectively.
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills: You’ll have to talk to doctors who may not want to answer your questions and deal with anxious patients. If you’re doing research, teaching, or working for pharmaceutical companies, you’ll need to interface with a wide array of people. How the people you talk to feel about those interactions will be crucial to your success. You’ll communicate to both what you expect, deal with extreme emotions, and much more.
- Advocate for Patients: You might have to go to bat against insurance companies, greedy drug companies, even disinterested doctors. You can’t just give up when people who need you are facing obstacles they can’t solve alone.
- Management and Organization Skills: You’ll be juggling a lot of information no matter where you land in this field. You’ll have to have strong systems in place to prevent mistakes, strong supervision skills, manage budgets, records, and much more.
- Morality: Doctors make mistakes all the time. Patients might try to get drugs fraudulently. It’ll be up to you to ask questions and do the right thing even in tough situations.
Now let’s get into what we’ve done to help you in your hunt for a Pharmacology or Pharmacy degree, or any other degree you want to explore:
How Can We Help You Find the Best Pharmacy or Pharmacology Degree for You?
At Degree Query we’ve worked hard to give you tools and content you can use to find the right degree for you, whether it’s in Pharmacy, Pharmacology, or elsewhere. We’ve written guides like this one, to help you better understand degree disciplines. We’ve answered frequently asked questions and ranked jobs and degrees. We’ve even built a compare careers matrix to help you find the best career for you based on your needs and desires.
If you want to explore the content we’ve written about other degree disciplines, check our Degree Programs tab.
Here’s some of the content we’ve produced on Pharmacy, Pharmacology, or on adjacent fields:
- Top 10 Paying Healthcare Jobs without an M.D.
- Top 20 in Demand Careers in Public Health
- The 20 Best Jobs Without a 9-to-5 Work Schedule
- Top 25 Fastest Online Doctorate Degrees
- Top 50 Online Medical Degrees
- Top 10 Healthcare Jobs not requiring a College Degree
- Top 40 Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Nutrition
- Top 50 Free International Universities for U.S. Students
- 100 Most Affordable Online Graduate Schools of 2019
- Top Associate Degree Programs in Medical Assisting and Administration
- 20 Best Degree Programs for Undergraduates
Frequently Asked Questions
- What Can I Do With a Biology Degree?
- Do I need to have a medical degree to be involved in clinical research?
- What Can I Do With a Health Care Degree?
- What degree do I need to be a Pharmacist?
- What degree do I need to become a Pharmaceutical Sales Representative?
- What Can I Do With a Degree in Medicine?
If you find any school or program through our writing that you want to explore further, write to their support staff directly. You’ll likely find helpful professionals eager to help you refine your application, see what aid or scholarships you might qualify for or should apply to, and answer any other questions you may have.
Now let’s explore the different degree levels in Pharmacology and Pharmacy:
What are the Different Levels of Pharmacology and Pharmacy Degrees?
As previously discussed, Pharmacology and Pharmacy degrees are different. The former is concerned with how chemicals impact living organisms, while the latter deals with cataloging, readying, standardizing, and dispersing drugs. We’ll look at the degree levels for both. Keep in mind that anyone who wants to work as a Pharmacist needs to earn a doctorate in the field. There are different routes to reach that distinction. Students can opt for two to three years of undergraduate study, pass the PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test) and begin their four-year doctorate.
Associates in Pharmacology and Pharmacy
Pharmacology degrees are offered at the Bachelor’s level. However, you can take a two-year Pharmacy Technology degree, or an Associate’s in Science, Medicine, or Math. You can complete these degrees either online or on-campus. There will likely be lab courses and internships that you have to complete in person if you opt for an online program. However, taking an online program can save you significant time and money in comparison to on-campus programs. These degrees are also often offered by public, junior, or community colleges which charge far less than most four-year schools. Plus, the credits you earn in these programs can likely transfer towards a four-year degree in Pharmacy or Pharmacology. Check with any school you’re interested in about where their credits are transferable. In many cases, the schools that offer Associate degree programs have partner programs that accept their credits and apply them towards Bachelor degrees.
In these programs you’ll likely take general education courses, then start exploring courses like Pharmacy Intro, Pharmacy Law and Ethics, Pharmaceutical Products, Pharmacy Operations, and more. You can work as a Pharmacy technician after graduating, but will most likely want to continue your education at the Bachelor level:
Bachelors in Pharmacology and Pharmacy
These programs take four years to complete if you’re starting from scratch. Students can opt for a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacology or a Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences depending on their career goals. Pharmacy schools often offer financial aid to qualified students. If you end up working in a position that’s considered a Health Professional Shortage Area by the National Health Service Corps, you may be eligible for forgiveness programs for your student loans.
In Pharmaceutical Science degrees you’ll take basic courses like Microbiology, Pathophysiology, Organic Chemistry, Anatomy and Physiology, and Intro to Pharmacology. Graduates are prepared to work in pharmaceutical research, sales, marketing, and product testing. They’re also ready to enter a Doctor of Pharmacy program or work in other areas of health care and prescription drugs.
In Pharmacology programs you’ll look at how chemicals and drugs impact biological systems. You’ll do significant lab work. In your lab work, you’ll use molecular modeling software and look at animal remains to discover what drugs do to biological systems. You’ll inspect how they attach to receptors and binding areas. Techniques to study cell culture are explored in pharmacology labs as well. Throughout, you’ll use math, chemistry, biology, and genetics in classwork, research, and more. Standard courses include Pharmacology Lab, Pharmacology Principles, Pharmacology Basics, and more.
Graduates will be prepared to earn their doctorate, work in entry-level positions in healthcare and drugs, or earn their Master’s degree:
Masters in Pharmacology and Pharmacy
These two-year programs are not necessary for those that know they want to earn their doctorate. However, if you’re going to specialize in an area like Toxicology, Pharmaceutics and Drug Delivery Systems, or Pharmacology, this could be a good pick for you.
In some cases you might opt for these programs to pave the way towards your doctorate, but they may be redundant. Standard courses might include Neuropharmacology, Pharmacology of the Cardiovascular System, Drug Addiction Pharmacology, Biometrics, Biochemistry, Drug Metabolism, Molecular Cell Biology, Environmental Toxicology, and much, much more. It all depends on which specialization within the field you opt for.
Graduates can go on to do crucial research, work in laboratories, teaching university courses, evaluate drugs professionally, among other positions.
Earning a Masters degree in this field isn’t quite as useful as it would in other disciplines. Regardless of what you want your career to be in pharmacy or pharmacology, you should seriously consider a doctorate program:
Doctorates in Pharmacology and Pharmacy
Earning your terminal degree in this field takes less time than most doctorates. With the right undergraduate credits (about two to three years of study), you can earn your doctorate in four years. Some programs may take longer depending on your previous education.
A Doctor of Philosophy in Pharmaceutical Science is most often a research-centered program. You might research cancer biology, drug discoveries, pharmacometrics, pharmaceutical policy and outcomes, and much more. You can go on to work as scientists, researchers, teachers, and more in areas like government agencies, universities, hospitals, biotech companies, and more.
These professional programs get you ready to take the pharmacy licensing exam and become a pharmacist. Students might choose a concentration like entrepreneurship, education research, health systems, care management, and more. You’ll do fieldwork that includes taking rotations in hospitals, pharmacies, and more. These programs build towards Capstone projects that demonstrate what you’ve learned throughout them. Graduates will often work as licensed pharmacists, but can also work as scientists, advocates, or teachers, among other roles.
Now let’s explore specializations within the field:
What are the Available Specializations and Focus Areas in Pharmacy and Pharmacology Degrees?
In this focus area you’ll study how new drugs are created and brought to market. You’ll look at pre-clinical research through clinical trials. You’ll consider how drugs are manufactured and commercialized. And you’ll also inspect the financial potential of drugs and the regulations they must clear to reach market.
Obesity and Weight Management
Here you’ll look at how individuals become obese, and factors that have led to the societal epidemic of obesity in Western countries. You’ll study obesity policy creation and implementation. Graduates will be ready to do weight management interventions working for governmental agencies, public health organizations, or in private business developing programs and products that combat obesity.
In these specializations you’ll study microscopic organisms. You might further specialize in bacteriology, mycology, or virology. You might also study immunology. You’ll explore how diseases occur because of failures in the immune system, immunotherapy, and how immune systems impact pregnancy and early childhood development.
You’ll deeply explore technologies used by pharmaceuticals to develop drugs through practical use of the equipment and processes used to create them. You’ll come to understand the needs of the pharmaceutical market and the challenges that impact drug makers.
In this focus area, you’ll come to understand how chemicals harm humans and animals. You’ll be prepared to create standards that govern safety measures to prevent toxic chemicals from hurting organisms, use analysis to identify and measure poisonous chemicals, and much more.
Before we end this guide, let’s look at what you can expect to earn after completing a degree in Pharmacy or Pharmacology:
Pharmacy and Pharmacology Degrees in Conclusion
On behalf of the entire Degree Query team, we hope you’ve found this guide illuminating and valuable in your search for a degree.
Pharmacy and Pharmacology are fields that allow you to help others and learn useful, transferable skills that are demanded across the country. They’re also a way to earn a good living at a time when many are struggling.
Remember, not all people who earn degrees in Pharmacy and Pharmacology go on to work as pharmacists. That’s why we’ve included stats on healthcare occupations overall.
The following information came from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Pharmacists earned a 2018 median pay of $126,120 annually. There were 314,300 of these jobs in 2018. BLS predicted there would be little to no change in these roles between 2018-28.
- Pharmacy Technicians had a 2018 median pay of $32,700 a year. There were 420,400 of these jobs in 2018, which was expected to grow by 7% between 2018-28, leading to 31,500 new jobs.
- The median annual wage for all healthcare occupations in May 2018 was $66,440. Jobs in the field were expected to grow by 14% between 2018-28, leading to 1.9 million new jobs.
Remember, if you find any degree program or school through our content that you feel is right for you, reach out to their support staff. It’s an easy way to learn how to improve your application, see what financial aid you might qualify for, and perhaps gain an ally that will help you grow your network throughout school and in your career.
Best of luck in your education and career!