When I first started pharmacy school there was, for the most part, one universal bachelor's degree that every pharmacist in the U.S. obtained. Most of my mentors had obtained their degree as a four-year college program, whereas the standard when I was in school was a five-year degree.

But shortly thereafter there came the PharmD — and while we may dispute whether a six-year degree should be called a "doctorate" or not, this movement paved the way for many new clinical opportunities for the profession.

The diversity of opportunities for pharmacists has continued to expand in the marketplace in the last 20 years. This has given rise to many pharmacists asking about additional degrees, certifications and programs to enhance and specialize their skills and qualifications. In addition to the various career paths that have opened up, pharmacists are also thinking about additional degrees to help improve their chances of getting hired in an increasingly competitive job market.

But what are the most popular add-on degrees pharmacists are seeking these days to supplement their primary pharmacy degree? The following are some worth considering.

Nontraditional PharmD

Some pharmacists who graduated with a B.S in Pharmacy degree are looking to a nontraditional PharmD to bring their credentials up to the current market standard. This is nothing new. And while it is certainly still a possibility, few schools still offer the nontraditional PharmD, and some will question whether there is a sufficient return on the investment.

Information about such nontraditional PharmD programs is available from AACP.


Mostly, though not exclusively, promoted as an option for just-graduated PharmD students, residencies offer up to two additional years (PGY1 & PGY2) of training and specialization for pharmacists. These postgraduate and paid training opportunities offer a year of generalized experience followed, if interested, by a year of more specialized training in areas such as cardiology, oncology, geriatrics and many others.

Residencies are coordinated through a matching program developed by ASHP.


Another popular pharmacy degree add-on these days is a certification from the Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties (BPS). Graduated pharmacists choose from a variety of potential certifications like the BCPS (Board-Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist) or BCACP (Board-Certified Ambulatory Care Pharmacist) and need pass a rigorous exam to achieve the certification.

Unlike a permanent degree (like the PharmD) or accomplishment (like residencies), certifications must be renewed and maintained annually. And the BPS isn't the only organization offering certifications, as pharmacists today can become certified for many other things like immunizations and medication therapy management (MTM).

Master's degree

Some pharmacists are opting to add another full master's degree onto their existing BS or PharmD. Examples of popular pharmacy master's degrees include a Master's in Healthcare Administration, Master's in Healthcare Informatics, Master's in Public Health or even in Business (MBA).

Some pharmacy schools are even offering dual-degrees right from the start. For example, my alma mater (UConn School of Pharmacy), offers several joint PharmD programs to consider.

So which add-on degree, rotation or certification is best to help secure your own personal career goals? This is where opinions differ widely.

Academic degrees obtained from accredited institutions probably carry the most weight as they are the most difficult (and expensive) to obtain. However, it is often what a pharmacist chooses to do with that additional degree that will determine whether it was a good investment.

Of course, adding an additional degree or certification isn't the only way to secure your hopes for a successful career in pharmacy. Experience is still valuable, and many employers still consider on-the-job accomplishments to be a good measure of your potential for future success.

And while these pharmacy add-ons are not an exhaustive list of ways to diversify your skills and experience, they hopefully provide the curious pharmacist and pharmacy student a starting point for further thoughts on the subject.