Is An Online Pharmacy School Program Right for You?


Here are 5 things you should know as you consider an online program.

My fellow Pharmacy Times contributor Alex Barker recently wrote a piece about burnout for practicing pharmacists but the decision to go to a pharmacy school in the first place and uproot a family can be very difficult for some students. Is online a good option? Can you still go to a good school?

Maria Sibbel, a Creighton University distance student, provides some insights into her journey. Creighton ranks as the #3 private college in the 2016 US News and World Report Pharmacy School Rankings (#1 Southern Cal, #2 Northeastern, #3 Creighton, #4 Tie: Drake University and Butler University).

While it is only the story of one of a large cohort of students, these lessons articulate the importance of providing flexibility toward the incoming classes. Maria has an interest in acute care, clinical hospital pharmacy, emergency medicine, infectious diseases, and teaching. Her journey into studying pharmacy began after the birth of her son, when she was working from home as a medical illustrator. Her son had to be flown over to the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics early in his life and It was here that Maria’s passion for pharmacy began. After seeing the impact that the health care team made on her personal life, Maria decided it was her turn to give back.

You can her complete interview here on the Pharmacy Podcast Network, but here are 5 things to know about the online program:

1. What do students do day-to-day? Maria spent the last 3 years on Creighton’s distance program, which involved live lectures from her home and living room rather than having to travel to the classroom. She reports the online program is an efficient option for students, thanks to the lack of commute or time spent moving from classroom to classroom. Another benefit to the distance program is that students can adapt their schedule to fit around their other responsibilities.

2. Is an online program a part-time program? Maria decided to organize her studies to mirror a full-time job. However, there’s still plenty of extra work required outside of the recordings, which has led Maria to likening it to “having a full-time job plus an evening and weekend job at the same time.”

3. Is a distance program easier? She cautions that students should know the rigor is the same as the face-to-face program. One can’t save all their lectures for the end of the semester, because there are plenty of assignments throughout that require students to keep on top of the material. Another major difference of an online pharmacy school program compared to a campus student is the schedule for labs. Those on campus conduct lab sessions weekly, while distance students visit the campus for two weeks during the summer and do their lab sessions back-to-back.

4. How much can you work in an online program? Maria worked as a pharmacy technician all day on a single day a week. If you’re wondering how many hours you can work while on the distance program, this differs from person to person. Maria said that “the majority of people work anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week.”

5. What’s the most important attribute an online student? If you’re interested in joining the Creighton University distance program, Maria explained that a large amount of self-motivation is needed to succeed at it. She also advised that one of the best ways to successfully study at home is to create a dedicated study space. For her, this involved transforming her living room into the study, on order to take advantage of the large picture window.

Her final recommendation for success is to create a support network and connect with other students on the program. This has the added benefit of speaking to someone who “understands the material in a different way to you," she said.

I was able to meet this support network at the Creighton reception for students, preceptors, faculty and alumni at ASHP 2017 where distance students already knew each other pretty well from their years in the program.

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