UM pharmacy program scores No. 2 in national study

University of Montana student pharmacist Emily Kardash (right) assists a member of the public during a recent health fair. (Photo courtesy of UM)

By Missoula Current

The University of Montana pharmacy school ranks No. 2 nationally as a “most lucrative pharmacy program,” according to a prominent lender and student loan refinancing company.

And that gives UM students plenty of “bang for their buck.”

The SoFi company studied which pharmacy school graduates have the highest average salaries relative to their student debt.

When this salary-debt ratio was calculated, the UM Skaggs School of Pharmacy landed at No. 2 on a list titled “Most Lucrative Pharmacy Programs.”

“The Skaggs School of Pharmacy is well known for the quality of its professional program and the relative affordability of the educational experience,” said Howard Beall, UM associate dean for pharmacy. “As the rankings clearly show, UM’s pharmacy graduates are well compensated upon graduation, and they leave with little debt compared to almost all other schools and colleges of pharmacy.”

Beall said there are now 140 pharmacy programs across the U.S. He said the schools on the list offer the best value for student investment, with the highest average salary – $115,070 in UM’s case – relative to average student debt.

“What the rankings don’t show – and this is equally important – is that 100 percent of our graduates are either employed as pharmacists upon graduation or successfully compete for advanced, postgraduate residency training,” he said.

UM graduates between 60 to 65 pharmacy students each year, with a cap of 65 students per class.

The only university with a better salary-debt ratio was North Dakota State University, whose graduates make 1.7 times what they have in student debt on average.

At UM, pharmacy grads make 1.6 times their debt.

“Ample employment opportunities, plus a lower cost of living, can certainly help when it comes to paying down student loans,” SoFi’s Barbara Bellesi wrote. “NDSU might have earned the top ranking on our list because of the health care jobs that abound in the area: 81 percent of 53 counties in North Dakota are short on health professionals. The numbers from the University of Montana could tell a similar story: The need for health care workers in the state is growing, so the workforce must increase by 40 percent over the next decade to meet demand.”

Bellesi said pharmacy school is a big investment of both time and money, so having a better shot at paying off student debt faster makes sense when applying to schools where employment opportunities abound and earning potential is high.