Whether you are a first-year student pharmacist or getting ready to graduate in the next few months, you might be asking yourself, “What will I do after pharmacy school?” and “What is the best path for me?” If you are looking for a career beyond traditional community or health-system pharmacy roles, postgraduate programs may be the answer.
Postgraduate programs enhance the knowledge and skills gained through a pharmacy education and provide a marketable skill-set that can take you anywhere. Although residency training is the most common pharmacy postgraduate program discussed by your faculty or preceptors, postgraduate opportunities do not stop there.
For those interested in research and/or academia, consider pursuing graduate education or a fellowship. These programs provide a multitude of opportunities in academia, industry, consulting, and government. Here is a glimpse of these exciting opportunities.
Degree Opportunities: Masters (MS), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Career paths: Academia, pharmaceutical industry, consulting, government/policy
What you do: As a graduate student, you will take classes and work as either a teaching or research assistant. Coursework is usually flexible and mainly depends on your interests with some required coursework in research methodology and statistics. A faculty member will mentor you throughout your time in the graduate program and beyond.
You will also conduct your own independent research. You will design and implement your own research project(s) from beginning to end. The final written product will be a thesis (MS) and/or dissertation (PhD). You will also present your research at scientific meetings or publish in academic journals.
Types of research:
Social and administrative pharmacy: Patient or provider attitudes and behaviors, medication safety, pharmacoeconomics, health outcomes, pharmacoepidemiology, health policy, pharmaceutical marketing, or pharmacy education.
Clinical research: Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic drug modeling, translational (bench to bedside) sciences.
Industrial pharmacy: Pharmaceutics, drug characterization/formulation, regulatory and quality compliance.
Medicinal chemistry: Drug design, receptor modeling.
Program duration/Compensation: MS programs typically last 2 years while PhD programs usually span 4 to 5 years. Some schools offer combined programs (i.e., PharmD/MS, PharmD/PhD), which may decrease time to graduation.
Typically, teaching or research assistantships provide a stipend and waive tuition fees. In addition, graduate students may be allowed to work as part-time pharmacists.
Opportunities: Pharmaceutical industry or academic fellowships
Career paths: Industry, academia, medical centers, government
What you do: Roles and responsibilities will vary with the type of fellowship. You will work under the guidance of one or more preceptors throughout the fellowship program.
As an academic fellow, you may take graduate-level courses in research and statistics. On the other hand, an industry fellow may rotate through various departments in a company or work within a specific department. Fellows work on projects with their preceptor and may have teaching responsibilities. Similar to graduate school, several fellowships provide the opportunity to work on an original research project from beginning to end, write grants, and present research at conferences.
Types of fellowships:
Industry: Medical affairs, pharmacoeconomics and health outcomes, clinical research, marketing, pharmacovigilance, regulatory affairs.
Academic: Clinical specialty fellowship (e.g. cardiology, psychiatry, ambulatory care), usually require prior residency or work experience.
Program duration/Compensation: Fellowships typically last 1 to 3 years. Fellows are paid similarly to pharmacy residents.