The Rutgers Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy currently offers a dual degree program for both the Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) in addition to several other dual degree programs such as PharmD / PhD, PharmD / MPH and PharmD / MBA. Although, many pharmacy schools offer dual degree programs, this may be one of the first to offer some sort of pathway for an MD in addition to a PharmD. According to the website’s current description for the program, only “enrolled” PharmD students are eligible to apply; they may apply during the Fall of their second or third professional years (P2/P3). Once accepted, they may enter medical school after successfully finishing their PharmD program. This is important to note because one feature many people may look for in a dual degree program is the reduced time it would take to receive both degrees at once as opposed to applying and obtaining each degree separately. As a result, there appears to be no advantage in saving time; it seems one would have to finish both the MD and PharmD programs in the same length of time as it would have taken to finish the MD and PharmD separately assuming the applicant enrolls into the programs sequentially.
Now let’s review the time required to be a full-fledged MD/PharmD with a few examples:
Applicant A: Two years of pre-professional studies + four years of professional PharmD program + four years of MD program + three to fives years of residency + year(s) fellowship (depending on specialty).
Total aggregate time spent obtaining both degrees and finishing residency after a high school diploma: At least 13 years to 15 years or more (depending on fellowship/specialty).
Applicant B: The second type of applicant would already have a bachelor’s degree which would have taken around four years to complete, and would have to apply to pharmacy school which would generally take another four years…plus four more years of medical school. Applying to the MD / PharmD dual degree program would mean they would have to commit to at least 15 to 17 or more years of school and training after a high school diploma before finishing residency, and even more if pursuing a fellowship/specialty.
Assuming the average age of a high school graduate is eighteen years of age, a person finishing a MD / PharmD program and residency would probably be around 31 to 33 years of age assuming no entry into a fellowship.
Such a person finishing years of rigorous schooling should be congratulated; it is a difficult task to accomplish even one professional degree. But before one can bask in the glory of their dual titles, with the benefit of adding extra letters on their resumes and business cards along with their names, it would be prudent to review the pro’s and con’s of such a program, as each person’s life situation will vary. Here are some factors to consider:
Opportunities: The dual title will surely grant more job opportunities…more so in leadership roles which may garner higher incomes.
Knowledge: Someone with both an MD and PharmD would surely know a good deal about pharmacology and its applications in the clinical settings.
Prestige: Having both degrees will draw prestige…as you may be part of a very limited pool of specialists holding both degrees.
Skip the MCATs: No need to study for this tough exam if admitted into the program. However, your grades, extra-curricular activities, leadership qualities, and other accomplishments and experience will probably be more scrutinized.
Time horizon: Having back-to-back degrees and training will require more time, which could affect your social life. An eighteen year old will probably be in their mid-thirties before they can capture their full income potential.
Finances: Staying in school longer while being financed by high interest loans could lead to an enormous amount of debt which may take years to pay back unless you come from wealth. One would have to obtain a job after residency (or fellowship) that pays well enough to justify the time expended to earn both degrees. Adding to these expenses for a typical mid-thirty year old something: compounding interests on the loan, family expenses (e.g. wedding, children, mortgage, cars, etc).
Job placement: A dual MD / PharmD graduate should probably pursue something related to both where both knowledge and skills could be best utilized…otherwise what would be the point in wasting all the time and money? This may narrow the job searches to teaching professions or medical research and drug companies. Also, if accepting a position that could have been obtained with only one degree or the other (e.g. MD or PharmD), such as a pharmacist or as a general doctor, or even a doctor specializing in gastroenterology who may not need a PharmD, the cost-benefit for pursuing a dual-degree program with respect to time and money may not be worth it. Why go to medical school if you’re going to end up working in a hospital as a pharmacist? Or why pursue a fellowship in transplant surgery when you could without having a PharmD?
The above are only a few factors to consider for the future applicant. Of course to each their own, as one’s preferences and dreams are different from the next. Each person will need to evaluate in their own way on whether such a program with its costs and benefits fit their goals in life.