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Our aim in this article is to give you a general overview of each of the best online pharmacology courses. We’ll discuss them in detail one by one, focusing on their unique specifications, topics they cover, general pros and cons, and we’ll also summarize genuine student reviews from those who have already tried them.
Online education gains more and more popularity each year. As a result, the range of available online courses gets constantly wider and more attractive too. But this also means that it’s getting much harder to choose the best one for you.
Pharmacology online courses are relatively new, and many people probably don’t even know that such a specific subject can be studied remotely. Not only is it possible, but there is also quite a large variety of pharmacology courses to choose from.
Whether you prefer some of the popular online learning platforms like Coursera or Canvas Network, or you want to take a pharmacology course organized directly by some of the reputable universities, our guide summarizes the best online pharmacology course options available.
First of all, here’s an overview of the courses we’re about to compare and discuss in this article.
Best Online Pharmacology Courses – an Overview
|Course Name||Learning Platform||Institution||Level||Prerequisites||Length||Hours Required||Price|
|Fundamentals of Pharmacology||Canvas Network||The Ohio State University||Beginner||None||Variable||2-3 hours per week||Free|
|Drug Discovery||Coursera||University of California San Diego||Beginner||None||3 weeks||Self-paced||Free|
|Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety||Elevate Health||University of Utrecht||Intermediate||A BSc or Master’s degree in (bio)medical or Life Sciences||3 weeks||14 hours per week||€785($853)|
|HMX Pharmacology||HMX||Harvard Medical School||Beginner||None||10 weeks||14 hours per week||$800|
Will an Online Pharmacology Course Suit Me?
Pharmacology is the specific branch of pharmaceutical sciences that studies drug action and its biochemical and physiological effects on the organism. Pharmacology is a highly practice-oriented and constantly developing medical discipline that attracts students for a variety of reasons.
If you want to make sure you invest your effort, time, and finances in something that really matters, pharmacology should satisfy your ambitions completely. Becoming a professional pharmacologist means that you will get involved with an industry that helps people around the world overcome some of the most critical medical issues – from the most common civilization diseases to cancer or viral pandemics.
On the other hand, pharmacology is also a prosperous field that draws lucrative investments and produces important revenues for successful pharmaceutical companies. If you’re able to turn your theoretical knowledge into practical skills, this might be the beginning of the fruitful career you’ve always been dreaming of.
Some of your career options after completing education in pharmacology include becoming:
- Academic researcher
- Analytical chemist
- Biomedical scientist
- Clinical research associate
- Medicinal chemist
- Research scientist
- Science writer
Of course, your attraction to pharmacological studies doesn’t have to be fueled by such high ambitions. Many people nowadays want to understand this field for purely personal reasons. After all, pharmacology is one of those scientific disciplines that affect the lives of all of us.
If you understand basic principles and mechanisms of pharmacology, it can help you adopt a healthy approach towards medication, or improve your everyday routine and practices, if you’re, for example, providing long-term care to your chronically ill loved one.
Aside from all these concrete outcomes and benefits, pharmacological studies can also help you improve some secondary skills, such as critical thinking, data research and interpretation, and problem-solving.
Of course, pharmacology is not only theoretical science. It involves hands-on research and laboratory work that cannot be simulated virtually, so don’t expect to complete a full-value pharmacology study entirely remotely.
Some of the courses we will discuss today can serve as a perfect introduction and a useful “trial” that can help you determine whether this field is really good for you. Other courses are focused on skills improvement and further specialization for those who already have some degree or professional experience in pharmacology.
To help you determine how to choose the right course for you, we have prepared the following tips:
Best Online Pharmacology Courses: What to Look for?
Are you having a hard time deciding which pharmacology course you should choose? Here are a few things you might want to consider.
As we’ve already mentioned above, different people have different motivations for studying pharmacology. If you want to choose the best online course for you, you should know what you expect and want from your studies.
Are you driven by simple curiosity, or do you plan to build a new career in pharmacology? Do you need some particular information, or are you after the general knowledge? Have you already studied some similar courses? Or do you plan to continue with advanced studies? If you know what you want, it’s much harder to be disappointed.
Study Hours/Length of Course
Online courses represent a diverse range of learning modules. Some of them are brief and undemanding, giving you the freedom to study at your own pace. Others have a tight schedule and require a lot of commitment.
If you’re not ready to leave everything behind and immerse fully into your studies, you should be realistic about your time and energy reserves. Find a course that fits your lifestyle, and you will be rewarded with joyful and stress-free studies.
Many online courses are available free of charge. However, these are mostly introductory courses oriented on enthusiasts who don’t have any professional ambitions in the given field.
The most serious online courses organized by reputable universities usually come with a price. On the other hand, they usually provide college credits or academic certificates that can help you use and probably even monetize your newly acquired skills in practice.
Many online pharmacology courses are completely accessible to total beginners; you don’t have to have any prior education or knowledge to enroll in them. Intermediate courses, however, usually require certain qualifications or prior experience. All formal requirements are usually clearly stated in the course description.
However, keep in mind that even if there are no prerequisites related to the course, it might be a good idea to start with some basic courses focused on fundamental information. It will be much more enjoyable and easier for you to continue with more advanced courses later on.
Although you probably automatically assume that every online course is led by a qualified and reputable expert in the given field, it’s never a bad idea to double-check if that applies.
Course organizers usually state in advance who their instructors are, what qualifications and experiences in the field they have, and what are their main specialties. Aside from knowing that you are really in good hands, this also allows you to get familiar with your instructor beforehand.
There’s no better advertisement for the course than honest reviews from its students. Just keep in mind that public endorsements on the official page of the course might be a bit biased.
If you really want to know, how were or weren’t your predecessors happy with the course, look for genuine comments from users of reputable online learning platforms.
Some of the best courses offer a comprehensive support, including one-on-one chats with your instructor or conveniently facilitated contact with other members of your study group.
This will allow you to overcome any possible problems or uncertainties with ease, and you might also gain a broader perspective on the topics you study.
Of course, the more personal support course offers, the higher is usually its price. But even free courses should provide at least some basic technical support with responsive and helpful staff.
Pharmacology courses on our list can be divided into two categories – courses for absolute beginners and advanced courses for intermediate students. The first category mainly focuses on fundamental principles and mechanisms of pharmacology.
Expect to learn about the drug nomenclature and classes, routes of administration, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, toxicity and adverse reactions, and also the process of drug design and development.
Advanced courses expect you to have some basic knowledge already, so they focus on more specific topics (e.g., pharmacoepidemiology).
Online courses usually combine various formats of learning materials: videos, slides, live or prerecorded lectures, reading materials from books and published studies, etc. This makes e-learning vivid and interactive.
This varies from course to course greatly. Some of them just want you to read/watch/listen to the provided materials in the recommended time period.
Others include regular exams and award academic certificates to those who complete them successfully. If you’re planning further pharmacology studies or need to attach a reputable certificate to your CV, don’t choose the easiest option.
Unlike IT or graphic design courses, pharmacology courses usually don’t have any special technical requirements. However, it might still be useful to check whether the course works on both desktop and mobile platforms. This will give you extra comfort and flexibility to learn on the go.
Some courses may ask for additional investment in recommended learning materials or optional exams/certificates. Read the description carefully and calculate all your expenses before you enroll.
Even though many online courses are organized directly by some of the world’s most reputable universities, they often don’t count towards normal college credit.
But attending these courses might still be very useful if you decide to continue in the pharmacology studies. It will give you all the necessary basics, and you will also get a chance to test your personal “compatibility” with the field.
Fundamentals of Pharmacology – Canvas
Institution: The Ohio State University
Hours Required: 2-3 hours per week.
The Fundamentals of Pharmacology course hosted by the Canvas Network learning platform offers a comprehensive introduction into pharmacology. Whether you’re a complete laic or aspiring medical student, all your fundamental questions about pharmacology should be answered in this course.
The course is led by clinical instructor Molly Downing, Ph.D. from the College of Pharmacy at The Ohio State University. She has taught pharmacology in a variety of courses to both undergraduates and professional pharmacy students.
She also works closely with a project called Generation Rx, which is an initiative that educates the public about the safe approach towards prescription medications. Her experience and specialization make her an ideal instructor for both amateur enthusiasts and seasoned professionals.
The good thing is that this course is literally available to anyone. There are no special prerequisites, no technical demands, and it’s also completely free of charge. This course is also offered in a self-paced mode, so you can progress as slowly or as quickly as you like.
You can find out more about it here.
- Understand fundamental principles of drug action, including how drugs affect the body and how the body affects drugs
- Understand and be able to map drug’s path in the body based on the route of its administration
- Be able to explain factors contributing to varied drug response among different people.
- Understand the mechanism of action, effects, and use for major drug classes
- Be able to apply pharmacological principles in discussing emerging therapeutic strategies.
Throughout the course, students have access to various topic-related readings, videos, discussions, quizzes, and other materials. The course is structured into the following modules:
- Principles of Pharmacology
- Pharmacology of the Nervous System
- Pharmacology of the Cardiovascular System
- Pharmacology of the Endocrine System
- Pharmacology of Infectious Disease
- Pharmacology of Antineoplastics & the Immune System
This course is led by a single instructor.
- Molly Downing, Clinical Instructor at the College of Pharmacy of The Ohio State University
Reviewers Say …
Students who already had the chance to attend this course appreciated its flexibility and self-paced structure. They also like the fact that the course is very well presented and easy to understand for whoever wants to learn about the subject.
On the other hand, some of the students think that this course might not be the best choice for someone who wants to engage in pharmacology professionally, as it mainly focuses on general knowledge and fundamental basics.
- Lectures are interesting and often eye-opening
- Great source of practical knowledge for the general public
- Self-paced structure for complete freedom and ease
- Very easy enrollment and no fees
- Not intended for experienced professionals or regular pharmacology students
- No moderated discussion available
Drug Discovery – Coursera
Institution: University of California San Diego
Length: 3 weeks
Hours Required: Individual
Drug Discovery is an online pharmacology course organized by the University of California and San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
This specialized course brings you lectures from acknowledged experts coming from both relevant environments – the academic ground and the pharmacological industry. This provides students with an unprecedented range of expertise on drug discovery.
As the name of this course suggests, lectures focus on explaining the complexities of the drug discovery process. From the very beginning of drug design to the final approval, each lesson will guide you through the steps that a pharmaceutical or biotech company must take in order to bring us a new therapeutic drug.
- Understand the dynamics and mechanisms of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology market.
- Learn the major aspects of the drug discovery process from the target selection, to compound screening and designing lead candidates
- Understand modern drug discovery based on the “lock-and-key” theory
- Recognize various drug discovery tools and methods used for identifying and designing new drugs
- Understand regulatory responsibilities for drug discovery and learn how to file an Investigational New Drug Application (IND)
This course is intended as part 1 of the series “Drug Discovery, Drug Development.” This means that after you finish the course, you can immediately continue studying other related topics at a similar pace and tone. The organizer highly recommends students to take the courses in correct order to ensure complex insight into the discussed topics.
The Drug Discovery course syllabus:
- Pharmaceutical & Biotechnology Industry Landscape
- Drug Discovery: Proteomics, Genomics
- Compound Selection & Preclinical Studies
- Challenges in Fragment-Based Drug Discovery for Protein Kinases
- Key Concepts in Drug Delivery
The lectures consist of videos, readings, and quizzes. You can learn more about this here.
There are two instructors on this course:
- Williams S. Ettouati, Pharm.D., Director of Industrial Relations & Development; Health Sciences Associate Clinical Professor, N.S.
- Joseph D. Ma, Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy, University of California San Diego
Reviewers Say …
According to the reviewers, this course is absolutely worth it. The majority of students rated this course 5/5 on Coursera, while none of them went below four stars in their reviews. People repeatedly praise the course for its informativeness and focus on all the important details.
Some of them, however, also warn that it can get a little too technical at times. Several reviewers also complain that the information seems to be a little bit outdated. You might want to double-check some data from the course before you use them elsewhere.
- An attractive topic for those who want to build upon their basic knowledge
- Well explained for a total beginner to understand too.
- Possibility to continue with related courses from the series.
- Sometimes the lectures get too technical.
- Slightly outdated information
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Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety – Elevate Health
Institution: University of Utrecht
Prerequisites: A BSc or Master’s degree in (bio)medical or Life Sciences
Length: 3 weeks
Hours Required: 14 hours per week.
Price: approx. $850
Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety course is a solution for those who already reached some academic degree in the field of pharmacology and wished to improve their education.
This online course is run by the Utrecht University, one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands (established in 1636). While being able to access expert knowledge on pharmacoepidemiology and drug safety, you can also experience how e-learning works at one of the best European universities.
This course will introduce you to some of the typical problems in the field, such as confounding by indication or rare side effects. You will explore various pharmacoepidemiologic approaches to dealing with these specific issues.
The course also covers key issues in the processes of research, risk assessment, and clinical trials, and you will discuss specific topics related to molecular pharmacoepidemiology and public health too.
To participate in this course, you need to have some prior education in the field, preferably a degree in biomedical/life sciences. Besides that, you must also be willing to pay a relatively high enrollment fee. Successful students will be rewarded with an academic certificate.
Learn all the details here.
- Deep understanding of pharmacological study design issues and methods
- Be able to explain confounding and other biases
- Recognize different methods of drug safety research
- Learn the principles of drug safety and risk management
- Understand the role of pharmacoepidemiological databases
- Explain the essence of molecular pharmacoepidemiology
- Have insight into drug utilization research
This course is relatively demanding on both time and effort. Prepare to spend as much as 13 hours per week, actively attending your lectures. Additional time should be reserved for attending mandatory discussions and completing various assignments, including the final assessment.
Here is the syllabus:
- Cohort and case-control study designs
- Confounding and other biases – introduction/new approaches
- Critical appraisal of publications
- Overview and application of pharmacoepidemiologic databases
- The future of electronic health record database research
- The value of individual patient observations in drug safety research
- Continuous evaluation of harm/benefit
- Molecular pharmacoepidemiology
Although there is no concrete information on lecturers of this course available yet, the team will probably consist of some of the Utrecht University’s regular pharmacoepidemiology lecturers. This includes Prof. dr. O.H. Klungel, Prof. dr. S. Suissa, Prof. dr. H.G.M. Leufkens, Prof. Dr. A de Boer, Prof. Dr. A.C.G. Egberts, and several others
Reviewers Say …
Students who choose this course usually appreciate the vast amount of in-depth information provided in the lectures. Some describe the course as eye-opening; others claim it made them fully appreciate the complexity of pharmacology and pharmaceutics in general.
Although this course is really demanding and requires lots of time and effort, students state the organization and structure of studies make the whole process quite clear and enjoyable.
- Academic certificate
- Organized by one of the best universities in Europe
- Lots of support via discussion forums and other channels
- Higher fee
- Time demanding
HMX Pharmacology – HMX
Institution: Harvard Medical School
Length: 10 weeks
Hours Required: 3-6 hours per week
HMX Pharmacology is a comprehensive pharmacology course from the Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. This course allows you to get an in-depth look at how drugs and other therapeutics work in the treatment and prevention of various diseases.
You will learn about the most important concepts in pharmacology, including routes of administration, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics, and see how they apply in real-life scenarios, clinical environment, and drug research.
Although this course is organized by one of the most prestigious medical schools in the country, it is accessible literally to anyone. There are no official prerequisites, and the course will suit both beginners and intermediate students.
The only downside is its relatively high fee, which isn’t compensated with any college credits or other academic benefits. For those who are not sure if this is the right course for them, there’s a free trial available.
For more information on this course, click here.
- Understand fundamental concepts in pharmacology (routes of administration, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics)
- Recognize factors behind drug toxicity and adverse reactions
- Explore how pharmacology principles are applied in real-life scenarios
This course covers the following topics:
- Pharmacology and Therapeutics
- Targets of Drug Action
- Drug Toxicity
- Drug Discovery and Development
HMX Pharmacology course is led by three instructors:
- Kate McDonnell-Dowling, Ph.D. – Lecturer in Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School
- James P. Rathmell, MD – Primary Clinical Faculty Leroy D. Vandam, Professor of Anesthesia, Harvard Medical School, Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
- David E. Golan, MD, Ph.D. – Primary Advising Faculty Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Harvard Medical School, Dean for Research Operations and Global Programs, Harvard Medical School
Reviewers Say …
Reviewers enjoy the simple structure and clearly explained the information in this course. Their favorite aspects of this course include explanatory animations and illustrations of medical concepts, as well as videos depicting the clinical application of these concepts, including real patient interactions.
On the contrary, some students think that the lectures could provide more in-depth information, especially given the school’s great reputation and rather a steep price of this course.
- A comprehensive introduction to pharmacology
- One of the best medical schools in the country
- Not so good value for money
Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of the most common questions about online pharmacology courses:
Pharmacology is the study of how drugs work and affect organisms. Many pharmacology e-Students are motivated by curiosity – they want to know why drugs have side effects, how they work, or how they are developed. But an online course can also be the first step you take towards your new career in this lucrative field.
That depends on your expectations. Although you’re not going to become a professional pharmacologist just by taking an online course, it might help you land some less qualified job in a pharmaceutical company, advisory services, specialized media or sales department.
Pharmacology is medical science. It is demanding on exactness, detail-orientation, logical thinking, and it also includes some memorizing. However, most online courses are oriented on beginners and let you study at your own pace, so you shouldn’t have any major problems.
Although each e-student has different preferences, a good e-learning platform, in general, should be easy to use and navigate, honest in its reviews, and readily available in case you need assistance. For more details on this topic, check out our guide to the best online learning platforms.
Best Online Pharmacology Courses Conclusion
Pharmacology is a very attractive field, and it’s great that we all now have the opportunity to study it online. If you choose the course that is right for you, you will surely benefit from it greatly either in your private or professional life.
Those who want to learn all the basics without having to pay high fees should try the Fundamentals of Pharmacology course from Ohio State University. It’s a simple and effective way to explore pharmacology and test if it’s really the right science for you.
HMX Pharmacology is a more prestigious, yet also more expensive course for beginners organized by the Harvard Medical School, one of the oldest and most prolific medical schools in the country.
Drug Discovery is an attractively focused course from the University of California San Diego, which guides you through the essentials of drug discovery and development. It’s a great choice for those who are interested in his particular topic, or those who need to understand it for some concrete assignment.
Last but not least, there’s a unique opportunity for all medical students or professionals to broaden their knowledge with Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety course by Utrecht University in the Netherlands. This is the ideal course for those who are really committed and want to put their efforts in good use.
We hope this helped you choose the best online pharmacology course for you. If you need some more e-learning inspiration, consider reading some of our other articles: