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MCPHS Pharmacy student behind the counter in the pharmacy lab.
Academics | 4/16/2024

What Is a PharmD Degree? Unveiling Career Opportunities, Specialties, and Transferable Skills

MCPHS Pharmacy student behind the counter in the pharmacy lab.

Discover what a PharmD degree is and what careers you could obtain with it following graduation from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.

If you dream of becoming a pharmacist after you graduate, you’ll need to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree—often referred to as PharmD. With this degree, you're qualified to take the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), which allows you to move into a career as a drug safety specialist, informatics pharmacist, or retail pharmacist, among other career options.

In this article, we'll cover the PharmD degree process, the courses you’ll take, career prospects, and more.

What Is a PharmD Degree?

A PharmD degree is a professional graduate-level degree for students who wish to become pharmacists. Similar to the Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Dental Surgery, you must earn a bachelor’s degree in a related field before entering a PharmD program.

At Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), we have a direct entry program. This provides students with the industry expertise required to be an essential part of patients’ daily lives and provide beneficial pharmaceutical care in a handful of different settings. We also offer a graduate-level accelerated PharmD program if you choose to build on previous education from a different accredited school or program.

Your pharmacy education in a direct entry program will be six years long. The first two years are a preprofessional phase where you’ll combine the study of liberal arts, communications, and basic sciences. This is followed by a four-year professional phase focusing on pharmaceutical science and pharmacy practice. During this time, you’ll take part in immersive labs and clinical rotations covering inpatient medicine, ambulatory care, institutional pharmacy, and community pharmacy.

Additionally, individuals in the direct entry program will earn a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy and Life Sciences after completing the fourth year of the program. This STEM degree is built in and awarded as part of your course of study, adding to individuals’ accomplishments as well as qualifying international students for extended optional practical training (OPT).

At the end of your six-year journey, you’ll be awarded a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, begin the NAPLEX review modules, and complete the board review from an accreditation council to become a licensed pharmacist.

Throughout the program, you’ll take several classes, from biology and chemistry to advanced pharmacy practice experience like healthcare ethics, clinical pharmacokinetics, and pharmacy law. You’ll also dive deeper into institutional pharmacy practice and experience rotations in professional medical settings.

Required Licenses To Be a Pharmacist

While the NAPLEX is the most common test required, each state sets its individual licensing requirements. Many require students to get a degree from an accredited school, a minimum number of internship hours, and a passing score on a specified test. It’s important to verify which exam your state requires, depending on your location or where you’d like to practice.
Possible tests include:

  • Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee (FPGEC).
  • Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE).

PharmD Career Options and Opportunities

Director of Pharmacy

As a director of pharmacy, you oversee all aspects of the pharmacy work within an organization to manage operations and ensure processes and safety are improving consistently. This job is less hands-on and more upper-level management, meaning there are opportunities to climb the company's hierarchy.

Chain/Community Pharmacist

This role is responsible for dispensing and verifying medications, counseling patients on proper medication use, and recommending OTC products daily. In general, a pharmacy is considered a chain if it consists of four or more stores. If you want to work for a well-known organization and see a variety of different patients throughout the workweek, becoming a chain or community pharmacist may suit you.

Independent Pharmacist

Independent pharmacists typically have the same responsibilities as chain pharmacists, combined with those of a business owner. If you want to be your own boss and have more autonomy within a practice, opening a private or independent pharmacy will help achieve this.

Hospital Pharmacist

Hospital pharmacists choose, prepare, store, compound, and dispense medications within a hospital setting. They also advise healthcare professionals and patients on the medicine’s safe and effective use, making sure each person understands how the drugs will assist them and noting any side effects that may occur.

Clinical Pharmacist

As a clinical pharmacist, you’ll work directly with physicians, healthcare providers, and patients to ensure all prescribed medicine contributes to the best health results. Clinical pharmacists evaluate the effectiveness of certain medicines, consult with healthcare professionals, and monitor patient therapeutic responses to drugs.

Nuclear Pharmacist

Nuclear pharmacists work with drugs that specifically have radioactive properties to prepare and dispense the medications in the safest way possible. You’ll be in charge of ensuring they’re safely handled and prepared for transport to their final destination.

Industrial Pharmacist

Industrial pharmacists generally work in pharmaceutical companies, drug manufacturers, and research organizations where they develop drugs and are involved in the formulation, quality control, and regulatory requirements of medications. Professionals in this role make certain drugs comply with regulations.

Consultant Pharmacist

This role provides medication management and industry expertise to long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and other healthcare organizations that serve elderly patients. They review medication regimens, conduct drug utilization reviews, and monitor regulatory compliance to see if those they serve are receiving the necessary care.

Compounding Pharmacist

If you’re interested in customized medications like compounded creams, ointments, or liquid formulas, a compounding pharmacist may be a good role for you. In this job, you’ll be responsible for tailoring medications to meet specific patient needs if commercial products aren’t suitable for them. You’ll work closely with patients to provide them with the most fruitful solution to their medical problems.

Ambulatory Care Pharmacist

Ambulatory care pharmacists work in outpatient care settings like clinics and primary care offices. They work alongside other healthcare teams to manage chronic conditions, optimize medication therapy, and educate patients about their medications and long-term care requirements. This role would aid people in moving forward confidently as they return to their normal lives and daily routines.

Research Pharmacist

Research pharmacists may work in academia, pharmaceutical companies, or research institutions where they conduct different studies on drug efficacy, safety, and new medication discovery.

Telepharmacy Pharmacist

Telepharmacy pharmacists provide remote or hybrid services via telecommunication technology like video and phone calls. They do the same role as clinical or chain pharmacists, but from the comfort of their homes and generally with more flexible work hours. This role is ideal if you want to make a difference by helping underserved communities or supporting remote healthcare facilities with medication dispensing and consultation.

Government and Regulatory Pharmacist

These pharmacists work for government agencies like the FDA or state health departments to ensure pharmaceutical products meet set regulatory standards and are safe for public use. This job is more technical and less hands-on compared to other pharmaceutical careers but may be interesting to individuals who want to learn about the different rules that govern the medical industry.

Skills You’ll Learn In School

On top of preparing you to enter the pharmaceutical world in a professional setting, going through a pharmacy degree program at MCPHS will also equip you with the following transferable skills:

Clinical Knowledge

Upon graduation, you’ll have a deep understanding of medications, pharmacology, disease states, and patient care. The MCPHS professors are medical leaders with experience in the pharmaceutical field. So you won’t just be studying from a textbook—you’ll be hearing real-life stories and examples from people who have been where you are and have successfully obtained a career.

Communication Skills

Because pharmacists consistently interact with patients, other healthcare professionals, and their colleagues, they learn to communicate effectively—both verbally and in writing. As a pharmacy student, you’ll be put in situations where you’ll have to talk with and work alongside your classmates to accomplish assignments and ace exams.


Pharmacists often encounter complex medication-related problems and must be quick on their feet to respond intelligently at a moment’s notice. While you have a ton of assistance within the confines of your university, your professors will present you with several problematic situations and abnormal circumstances that you’ll have to learn to handle on your own. This will prepare you for any conditions that may arise in the future and aid in your response.

Attention to Detail

Accuracy is a key component of learning the ropes as a pharmacist. In a role where precision and meticulousness are required, our professors know how to help you develop the thoroughness necessary for a career in medicine. The MCPHS Doctor of Pharmacy program will guide you through different pharmaceutical best practices to improve your keen attention to detail.

Earning a PharmD Degree

At MCPHS, we make it easy for you to pursue the career your heart desires, offering direct-entry and accelerated programs that fit your unique needs.

Earning a PharmD degree is the first step to a long and successful career in the medical world. But don’t just take our word for it. Hear from an MCPHS alum to learn more about her experience as a student and what her degree has earned her outside of school.

“Ever since I started working in a pharmacy, I have been fascinated by the many different drugs and how each one works differently to treat illnesses,” Angelina LaSala said. “Attending pharmacy school has allowed me to learn about these drugs and so much more! I hope to use the knowledge I have gained to make an impact on the ever-changing world of medicine.”

Check out what else Angelina has loved about MCPHS, and hear from other high-achieving students in PharmD.

Are you a prospective student ready to get your foot in the door? Apply to MCPHS today.