Management & Leadership

Why Get an MBA With Your PharmD?

Why Get an MBA With Your PharmD?
Earning a Doctor of Pharmacy degree teaches you the ins-and-outs of managing medications. Earning a Master of Business Administration degree teaches you the ins-and-outs of managing and guiding a business. Combined, the degrees offer a potent prescription for success. Image from Pexels
Eddie Huffman profile
Eddie Huffman December 26, 2022

Pharmacy is not only a science; it's also a business. That's why a combined PharmD/MBA is an extremely useful dual degree for future sole proprietors, pharma execs, and healthcare managers.

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Pharmacy is a science, a rigorous science requiring knowledge and diligence. But it’s not only a science; it’s also a business. Many pharmacists exit their Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) programs well-prepared to combine medicines but not as well-prepared for the commercial aspects of the job. Some address this shortcoming by adding a Master of Business Administration (MBA) to their degree portfolio.

Earning a Doctor of Pharmacy degree teaches you the ins-and-outs of managing medications. Earning a Master of Business Administration degree teaches you the ins-and-outs of managing and guiding a business. Combined, the degrees offer a potent prescription for success.

That said, earning an advanced degree requires a major commitment of time and money. Why get an MBA with your PharmD? Let’s take a look at where the degrees intersect and when supplementing a PharmD with an MBA might prove advantageous to the health of your career. This article also discusses:

  • How long will it take to earn an MBA/PharmD dual degree?

Why get an MBA with your PharmD?

Not all pharmacists need extensive business training, of course. If you’re looking to work in an established pharmacy or healthcare institution such as a hospital, learning pharmaceutical sciences alone should give you ample preparation and qualifications. But if you’re hoping to operate your own pharmacy practice, become an executive, or work for a pharmaceutical firm, you may want to consider adding a business degree to the clinical one.

Oregon State University recommends its dual-degree program to prospective students who want to:

  • become a manager or executive with a community pharmacy chain or healthcare system
  • broaden their leadership and business abilities
  • own their own pharmacy
  • work for the pharmaceutical industry

A dual degree confers unique and valuable career skills, including strategic management, marketing management, and finance and business analysis. What follows are additional compelling reasons to add an MBA to your PharmD.

Expanded opportunities

The single most important reason to supplement your PharmD with an MBA: opening up more career paths. A dual degree can help you climb higher and branch out farther.

Eric Zaccaro credits his dual degree from the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy with helping him become a manager at Gilead Science, working in clinical research and product development. “We learned everything from accounting to managing people to business strategies,” he explains of the program. “I also took many [business] electives relating to healthcare.”

Universities offering dual degrees tout a variety of potential career options. They include:

  • Administrative, leadership, or management position in managed care
  • Administrator in research
  • Department head in pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution
  • Department director in state and federal healthcare agencies
  • Director of hospital pharmacy operations
  • Medical science liaison for a pharmaceutical company

Richard Bradley Rzendzian parlayed his dual degree into a pharmaceutical sales job. “My fellowship was in medical affairs, but the MBA helped transition me into a commercial role,” he says, “…by providing me with the business language necessary to communicate and relate with field personnel.”

A dual PharmD/MBA degree could even lead to work outside an obvious healthcare setting, Alex Evans writes in Pharmacy Times: “If you get creative, you might be able to land a job at a company that might not often hire pharmacists, like a management consulting company.”

A broader skillset

Some pharmacists regret not completing more business education before launching their own independent stores. Earning a dual degree helps avoid such regrets and can offer a solid foundation for the non-clinical aspects of the pharmaceutical business.

Look at Oregon State’s dual-degree program, for instance. Its core MBA coursework includes:

  • Advanced Information Systems
  • Advanced Strategic Management
  • Corporate Finance
  • Financial and Cost Analysis
  • Management Ethics and Corporate Responsibility
  • Marketing Management
  • Organization Leadership and Management
  • Practical Business Analysis
  • Supply Chain Management

Daniel Dimeo became manager of pharmacy strategies for United Healthcare after earning a dual degree from UConn. He credits the business side of his education with helping him think beyond the black-and-white, evidence-based world of pharmacy school: “What business school does so well is teaching students to think through different variations of gray. My MBA taught me how to become comfortable with answering questions that do not have a well-defined outcome and in dealing with situations where there may not even be a right or wrong answer.”

A wider network

Business school will introduce you to people outside the clinical realm, including some who already have years of real-world experience. The University of Connecticut makes sure that happens by splitting up students from the School of Pharmacy and spreading them among students from other backgrounds, according to Meg Warren, director of UConn’s full-time MBA program.

Many of Zaccaro’s fellow MBA students had 10 or more years of business experience and offered key insights, accelerating the learning process. C. Joseph Britt had a similar experience in the School of Business, he told Weintraub: “I found it useful to take class with students from backgrounds outside of pharmacy, as you learn largely from the experiences of fellow students.”


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How long will it take to earn an MBA/PharmD dual degree?

The average full-time PharmD program takes two to four years to complete. Most full-time MBA programs take one to two years. Fortunately, most dual-degree programs only add one additional year to the PharmD timetable.

Here are a few sample schedules:

  • The University of Houston offers some crossover credits, with 12 semester credit hours in its College of Pharmacy counting as electives toward an MBA and a minimum of six semester credit hours of MBA courses counting as electives toward a PharmD, pending completion of all requirements.
  • The dual-degree program at the University of Southern California takes five years, one less than if the degrees were earned separately.
  • The dual-degree program at UConn adds one year to the PharmD curriculum, requiring completion of 42 MBA credits between the second and third professional year.
  • It takes four to four-and-a-half years to complete a dual-degree program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. with graduates racking up a total of 178.5 credit hours. The dual-degree adds 24 credit hours to the PharmD.

For ambitious PharmD students who can handle a grueling schedule and sleep deprivation, it may be possible to earn both degrees simultaneously. Weintraub did so at Rutgers by taking her pharmacy classes during the day and business classes at night, maxing out her allowed credit hours. She took summer classes as well.

Some schools offer at least partial online options for dual-degree programs. They include Washington State University, The Citadel, and Creighton University.

You can also enroll separately in PharmD and MBA programs. Butler University offers both online, facilitating participation by students who don’t live near Indianapolis. Its online pharmacy degree requires some in-person immersions but enables students to complete rotations where they live. The online MBA is delivered 100 percent online.

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About the Author

Eddie Huffman is the author of John Prine: In Spite of Himself and a forthcoming biography of Doc Watson. He has written for Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Utne Reader, All Music Guide, Goldmine, the Virgin Islands Source, and many other publications.

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


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