Choosing Among Different Combined Degree Options
The VCU School of Pharmacy offers several combined Pharm.D./graduate programs for exceptional students who want the training to pursue careers beyond that of the average pharmacist – the Pharm.D./MS; Pharm.D./Ph.D.; and the Pharm.D./MBA. All combined programs will differentiate students from the typical pharmacy graduate by giving them the tools and experiences to succeed in challenging jobs.
The different combined degree options are compared to other educational options in the following table. Each combined graduate program permits students to gain a graduate degree in significantly less time than possible through traditional graduate programs. In addition, students will find that their graduate training helps enhance their professional training and helps them get more “bang-for-the-buck” in their education.
The combined program you choose will depend on the type of career you want, the time you are willing to expend (all are challenging and require significant commitment from students), your financial situation, and your ability to get accepted. The three combined degree options are described below:
Comparing the MS, MBA, and PhD
The Master's Degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences is a graduate degree that teaches individuals to analyze and solve problems of interest to pharmacists. These problems can cover a wide range of topics including clinical, managerial, and practice related issues. Students develop a broad range of skills by taking classes and working closely with clinical and pharmacy administration faculty. Students demonstrate their mastery of these skills by completing a major research project called a thesis. The thesis can be about any topic in pharmacy in areas such as pharmacoeconomics, pharmacoepidemiology, health service research, clinical trials, and pharmacokinetics. Since the degree is offered concurrently with the professional pharmacy degree, certain efficiencies can be realized that permits students to graduate sooner then might be expected with traditional graduate degrees. This degree takes from 0 to 2 years of education beyond the Pharm.D. program depending on your educational background and chosen area of research and study.
The Masters in Business Administration (MBA) is a general graduate business degree designed to teach people without significant business education to become a manager. Courses are designed to be broadly applicable to any type of business. A typical MBA program requires students to take courses in accounting, economics, management, statistics, marketing, finance, and business law. Students then chose one of those areas of specialty for further course work. The degree takes an additional year of education beyond the Pharm.D. and no research thesis project is required. As with the Combined Pharm.D./MS, students can realize efficiencies in their education that permits them to graduate sooner then might be expected with traditional MBA degrees.
The Ph.D. Degree in Pharmaceutical Science is a research degree that is the highest educational degree possible. It trains students to answer complex research questions and develop high levels of research and analysis capabilities. Like the M.S. program, students can study in a broad range of areas relating to pharmacy administration or pharmacotherapy. Unlike the M.S. program, however, students complete more complex research (i.e., a dissertation) and training that make them among the educated elite. This education prepares individuals for career opportunities at the highest levels of government, academia, consulting, and industry. Career opportunities with this degree are global. Students who complete the combined Pharm.D./Ph.D. can cut two years off of the time normally required to complete a Ph.D. Nevertheless, the degree still takes from 2 to 4 years of education beyond the Pharm.D. program depending on your area of research and study. Therefore, students should not enter into the combined Ph.D. program without a clear idea of what they want to do with their lives.
To help you decide whether the combined Pharm.D. graduate program is for you, we have included the following frequently asked questions (FAQ):
- Do I need a graduate degree to get where I want to go? Many good jobs in pharmacy require no more than a Pharm.D. However, many others require special expertise and training beyond the Pharm.D. For instance, most jobs in the pharmaceutical industry (beyond sales) and academia require education beyond a professional degree. Indeed, the most interesting and competitive job markets require someone who brings extra experience and training to the position. A graduate degree is a potent way of differentiating yourself from other job applicants.
- How long will it take to complete the program? See the attached table for this information. Most students should be able to save a minimum of one year off of the time normally needed to achieve a degree. The specific amount of time needed to attain the degree should be discussed with an advisor from the program.
- What kind of students are most appropriate for this program? Graduate school education is different from professional education. Classes are usually smaller, and class assignments are typically project-based. Students who need significant direction typically fare poorly in graduate school. Self-motivated, engaged students tend to excel. To a significant extent, the success of students in this program depends on the students themselves. This program cannot guarantee success. It can only offer opportunities for students to develop a variety of skills and experiences that will help students achieve career ambitions.
- What type jobs can I get with a graduate degree? See the attached table to identify how career opportunities vary depending on the training and education attained. In general, a graduate degree is most useful when applying for entry level pharmacy positions in:
- The pharmaceutical industry (pharmacoeconomics, outcomes research, regulatory affairs, sales & marketing, liaison with managed care).
- Managed care (formulary management, clinical coordinator, benefits administrator).
- Hospital pharmacy (drug information, clinical pharmacist, director).
- Long term care (clinical coordinator, research coordinator).
- Federal and state government (FDA, AHCPR, Medicaid).
- Pharmacy associations (state, national).
- Academia (clinical pharmacist, outcomes research).
- Corporate positions in chain pharmacy (management, marketing).
- How do I enroll in the program? Speak to Drs. Holdford, or Polk.