Frequently Asked Questions

Use the questions below to answer questions you might have about the program.

Residencies, fellowships, and graduate programs are all advanced training programs that prepare clinicians and scientists for careers in academia, government, or the pharmaceutical industry. Residencies train pharmacists to be specialized clinical practitioners and provide a very limited exposure to research. Fellowships are sought after residency training to provide intensive research training and typically have a duration of 2-3 years. Most fellowships involve the completion of a well-delineated research project under the mentorship of a single, established researcher. Some also offer didactic coursework to supplement laboratory and/or clinical research training. Although excellent fellowship programs exist, several recent position papers have emphasized that this may not be the ideal training path to develop competitive clinical scientists.

Graduate programs offer a greater breadth and depth of a research experience and result in the universally recognized credential of a PhD degree in approximately 4-5 years. Students also benefit from the comparatively large institutional commitment associated with formalized graduate education (eg., multiple faculty, coursework, stipends, resources to conduct a dissertation project). General graduate programs tend to focus one or more of areas in pharmaceutical sciences (eg., pharmaceutics, medicinal chemistry, biomedical pharmacology). Clinical PhD programs specifically focus on providing training in conducting translational human-based research. When evaluating clinical PhD programs you should review each program's record of training clinical pharmaceutical scientists and the methods each uses to ensure their trainees achieve specific competencies related to conducting clinical and/or translational research over traditional graduate programs. When making decisions regarding which training path is right for you, you may find the following publications to be of assistance:

Core Competencies for Research Training in the Clinical Pharmaceutical Sciences
Samuel M. Poloyac, PharmD, PhD, Kerry M. Empey, PharmD, PhD, Lisa C. Rohan, PhD, Susan J. Skledar, MPH, BPharm, Philip E. Empey, PharmD, PhD, Thomas D. Nolin, PharmD, PhD, Robert R. Bies, PharmD, PhD, Robert B. Gibbs, PhD, Maggie Folan, BSN, PhD, and Patricia D. Kroboth, PhD. Am J Pharm Educ. 2011 March 10; 75(2): 22

Report of the AACP Educating Clinical Scientists Task Force
Robert A. Blouin, Richard F. Bergstrom, Vicki L. Ellingrod, Courtney V. Fletcher, Richard D. Leff, Andrew Morris, Richard T. Okita, Jeanette C. Roberts, Timothy S. Tracy, Rosalie Sagraves, and Kenneth W. Miller. Am J Pharm Educ. 2007 September; 71(suppl): S05. PMCID: PMC2690945

ACCP Commentary: Recommended Education for Pharmacists as Competitive Clinical Scientists
Dowling TC, Murphy JE, Kalus JS, Nkansah NT, Chappell JS, Wiederhold NP, Beringer P, Crews KR, Grabinski JL, Evens RP, Leff R; American College of Clinical Pharmacy. Pharmacotherapy. 2009 Feb;29(2):236-44. (requires access to Pharmacotherapy)

Editorial: PharmD-Only Investigators Are Critical to the Profession: Let's Preserve the Fellowship as an Equally Important Way to Prepare Future Clinical Pharmaceutical Scientists: Or the Case Against the "All-PhD"
Jerry L. Bauman, PharmD., FCCP, FACC and William E. Evans, PharmD., FCCP. Pharmacotherapy. 2009 Feb;29(2):129-33. (FREE)

Editorial: Training Clinical Pharmaceutical Scientists in Today's Highly Competitive Times: It's Time to Commit to Change
Robert A. Blouin, PharmD., FCCP and Gary M. Pollack, PhD Pharmacotherapy. 2009 Feb;29(2):134-6; discussion 136-7. Papers/ClinicalScientistEd2.pdf (requires access to Pharmacotherapy)

Upon completion of this program, you will receive the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in pharmaceutical sciences and a certificate in clinical research.

Our program's multidisciplinary nature has led to the development of multiple areas of graduate study, including focus areas in pharmacokinetics/dynamics/genetics, drug metabolism and transport, neuropharmacology, immunology, renal disease, transplant, women's health, oncology, and critical care. To learn about the specific research interests of faculty affiliated with the program, view their profiles.

On average it is 4-5 years. Didactic coursework is typically completed during the first two years of the program at which point the student completes their comprehensive examination. Dissertation research follows in years three and beyond with the PhD degree conferred following completion of the dissertation and doctoral defense.

Students in the Clinical Pharmaceutical Scientist program receive full tuition scholarships from the School of Pharmacy and are employed as teaching assistants or graduate student researchers to receive an annual stipend and health insurance (details on the Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate program web site).

Yes. Completion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is an admission requirement.  The ETS code for the University of Pittsburgh is 2927.

Your curriculum is determined based on whether you enter the program with a previous professional clinical degree (e.g., PharmD or other degree in the health sciences). Required courses and experiences are described on the curriculum [cross-link]. There are specific curricular requirements that differentiate the Clinical Pharmaceutical Scientist program from traditional graduate training. Notable differences include specific courses, comprehensive examination policies, training in the responsible conduct of clinical research, serving as an investigator on an IRB-approved protocol, and conducting research that meets the NIH definition of clinical research, among others.

Generally, students identify a major advisor based on shared research interests either prior to or soon after entering the program. Your major advisor and doctoral committee should be selected by the end of the first year of graduate study. Members of the doctoral committee are proposed by the student's major advisor based on your research project. Formal policies are available on the Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate program web site.

You will be required to pass a comprehensive examination before being admitted to candidacy. The exam is comprised of a written research proposal in the NIH grant application format and an oral examination. Students in the Clinical Pharmaceutical Scientist program have additional requirements: they must propose a clinical study and address human subject protections in their written proposal. The comprehensive exam committee will also ask questions during the oral examination that will test the student's ability and knowledge in the responsible conduct of clinical research. Formal policies are available on the Pharmaceutical Sciences graduate program web site. The comprehensive exam is completed as soon as possible following the completion of all required coursework.

Yes! Students enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy PharmD program are encouraged to consider an Area of Concentration in Research or the combined PharmD/PhD program.