The Benefit of Dual Degree Programs

Pharmacy Careers, Pharmacy Careers Winter 2017, Volume 11, Issue 1

As a student pharmacist, it can be difficult to keep up with the fast-paced changes of the pharmacy profession. As the pharmacy profession continues to expand, we must continue to challenge ourselves by advancing our education and training.

As a student pharmacist, it can be difficult to keep up with the fast-paced changes of the pharmacy profession. As the pharmacy profession continues to expand, we must continue to challenge ourselves by advancing our education and training.

The demands of a pharmacist have evolved, and the opportunities to positively impact patient care are at an all-time high. Originally, a BS in pharmacy was the necessary degree, though today a PharmD is almost always required. The BS to PharmD evolution appears to be part of a progression that may eventually necessitate additional postgraduate work in order to remain competitive. Growth and change are inevitable in the health care world, but just how much education is enough? As a dual-degree student working toward a PharmD and master of science in clinical research (MSCR), I believe an additional advanced degree will enable pharmacy students to better adapt to the changing landscape of pharmacy practice.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), there are currently 48 schools offering 2 or more dual-degree pairings with their PharmD programs.1 Through these programs, students can supplement their PharmD with an MBA, MS, MPH, PhD, MD, or JD, allowing them to further advance their training and education by keeping up with the demands of the evolving field of pharmacy. Today, advanced training is necessary to be considered for many positions in health-system settings, which further supports the need for advanced education as a student pharmacist. With the advanced knowledge gained from a dual degree, student pharmacists can learn from a unique perspective.

Dual-degree applicants may be provided career opportunities beyond the traditional roles of a pharmacist. As more positions are created in clinical settings, those who pursue a dual degree could find themselves with unique opportunities to advance the practice of pharmacy. For example, a pharmacist with an MBA can foster management skills and educate students on the foundation of owning an independent pharmacy; a pharmacist with an MSCR can provide insight on drug development and clinical trials; or a pharmacist with an MPH can broaden students’ perspectives on health care issues in terms of the population’s needs. These degrees ultimately help pharmacists achieve their goals of enhancing patient care and better understanding health care needs.

Obtaining a dual degree can facilitate many opportunities to further develop leadership skills and maximize professional growth. With increasing residency competitiveness, a dual degree also helps set students apart from their peers while providing additional learning opportunities in an interdisciplinary environment. Collaborating with other specialized programs creates opportunities for students with different educational backgrounds to teach and ultimately learn from each other.

Having one foot in each of my respective programs has personally given me exposure to more research opportunities; with an increased number of faculty members and mentors available to me, I am provided with additional opportunities to become more involved. My experiences with specialized training on drug literature and research have also given me the confidence to pursue research projects outside of the MSCR program. Not only has this benefitted me by challenging my research capabilities, it has also given me the resources and knowledge I need for succeeding in the classroom.

Additional education combined with experiential learning make for a well-rounded pharmacist. Pharmacy practice requires an increasingly diverse skillset, one that creates a demand for educational foundations that are equally as diverse. Dual degree pharmacy graduates are likely to be better poised to meet the evolving needs of pharmacy practice. As new pharmacy schools continue to open their doors, pursuing a dual degree may help tip the scales and allow PharmD graduates to prevail in tomorrow’s job market. Now is the time to challenge yourself by thinking about postgraduate education opportunities that will develop the advanced skills necessary to be an innovative leader and health care professional in the future.

Sara Valanejad is a PharmD/MSCR dual-degree student at Campbell University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. She holds multiple leadership positions on campus and serves as an active member of ASHP. She also serves on the ASHP Pharmacy Student Forum Advisory Group and Section of Inpatient Care Practitioners Advisory Group.

References

  • Dual-Degrees [table 4]. American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy website. aacp.org/resources/student/pharmacyforyou/admissions/admissionrequirements/Documents/Table%204.pdf. Accessed February 1, 2017.