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Pharmacy Technician Degree

The pharmacy technician career has evolved over time.  During the 1950s, the American Society of Hospital Pharmacists (ASHP) highlighted the need for pharmacy technicians to assist pharmacists. In 1968, many hospitals initiated training programs for pharmacy technicians, giving them a unique professional status in the fast-growing healthcare industry.



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pharmacy technician degree

Why should you become a pharmacy technician?

Did you know that the pharmacy technician career has been ranked among the best healthcare jobs by the US News & World Report? Getting a pharmacy technician degree will qualify you to work alongside licensed pharmacists. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), over 70,000 new job openings are expected in this field from 2012-2022. Becoming a pharmacy technician can be beneficial in more ways than one.

Here are some of the benefits of this profession:

  • Employment growth rate is 20% - faster than average (BLS)
  • Clean working conditions
  • Minimal education and training requirements
  • Potential to grow

What do you need to become a pharmacy technician?

The educational and training requirements for this career vary from state to state. In some states, a high school diploma would suffice, while in others, individuals must acquire formal training and complete a pharmacy technician diploma or program. You can check with your state’s board of pharmacy to find out the requirements. There are a number of schools and colleges offering pharmacy technician programs.  

pharmacy technician filling up prescription

Pharmacy technician associate degree

This is an undergraduate degree program that prepares students for the career by teaching them pharmacy technician theory, laboratory skills, and practical experience.

The degree can be completed in two years. The initial semesters are dedicated to theory development and knowledge building. Students will cover a range of introductory courses that will help them understand the basics of the field. Further in the program, emphasis is laid on practical learning and hands-on experience. Students will learn how to apply techniques for mixing and dispensing medication in a laboratory setting.

Here are some of the courses you may find in the program:

  • Pharmacy law

This course will equip students with the understanding of the laws that govern pharmacy. Students will study different state and federal laws that regulate the profession of pharmacy technicians.

  • Pharmacy calculations

This course is designed to teach students about calculations and mathematical procedures used in the practice.

  • Pharmacology

Students enrolled in this course will review the principles of drug action and pharmacokinetics. Students will learn which drugs are used in the treatment of disorders and how they affect the human body.

  • Pharmacy records management

In this course, students will learn how to interpret prescriptions and manage inventory of drugs. Topics such as the following are covered in the course: filing prescription records and third party reimbursement, etc.

Pharmacy technician certificate program

This is a short program that is designed to provide students with practical experience and career oriented knowledge. The program can take six to twelve months to complete, depending on which school you enroll in.

The coursework is divided into theoretical learning and laboratory experiences. Students will not only develop a sound understanding of pharmacy concepts, but also practically learn how to prepare prescriptions, assist pharmacists, and perform different administrative tasks.

Here are some of the courses covered in the program:

  • Dosage forms and routes of administration

In this course, students will learn how to dispense medication to patients. Topics such as the following are covered: basic measurement system, mathematical techniques, and methods of administering medications into the body.

  • Dispensing medications and the community pharmacy

This course is designed to equip students with knowledge of dispensing medication. Here are some of the topics covered in this course: mechanics of billing, inventory management, purchasing and receiving, and management in pharmacy settings.

  • Names, indications, abbreviations, and prescription reading

This course will prepare students to classify and identify different drugs. Students will learn about various drugs administered in hospitals, common pharmacy abbreviations, acronyms, and pronunciations.

  • Chemotherapy and miscellaneous pharmaceutical products

In this course, students will learn about different chemotherapeutic drugs, biologic drugs, vitamins, antidotes, and herbs.

Externship

In many pharmacy technician programs, students are required to complete an externship under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Externship programs are geared towards providing students with hands on experience and practical knowledge.

Learning outcomes

By the end of a pharmacy technician program, students would be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of drugs and prescriptions
  • Successfully dispense medication according to provided prescriptions
  • Identify and classify different drug names, brand names, and generic names
  • Use appropriate techniques for accurate processing of drug prescriptions
  • Use mathematical calculations to prepare dosages and add ingredient amounts
  • Understand how to prepare medication using aseptic techniques
  • Manage inventory and assist pharmacists
  • Work within the ethical and legal boundaries of the healthcare profession

How do I enroll in a pharmacy technician program?

The admission requirements are likely to vary from place to place. You will need to have a high school diploma to qualify for any post-secondary course. Here are the general admission requirements:

  • Provide evidence of high school completion or GED equivalency
  • Completion of high school courses such as mathematics, English, and basic sciences
  • Fill out and submit an admission form
  • Submit letters of recommendation

Get certified

In many states, pharmacy technicians are required to be certified by a recognized credentialing organization. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) is one of the leading organizations that certify pharmacy technicians in the United States.  To earn a PTCB certification, applicants must have:

  • Completed high school
  • Clean criminal record
  • Passing scores in the PTCB certification exam
pharmacy technician working in Lab

Career prospects

As a pharmacy technician, you can work in pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and general merchandise stores. Your main duties will include:

  • Filling prescriptions
  • Processing insurance claims
  • Measuring amounts of medications
  • Packaging and labeling prescriptions
  • Managing inventory
  • Assisting pharmacists

According to the BLS, pharmacy technicians made a median annual income of $29,320 in 2012. Factors such as location, certification, and skills may affect your income potential.

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Q:Where can a pharmacist technician work?

A:A pharmacist technician can work in different healthcare settings. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacist technicians can be found working in pharmacy stores, drug stores, general merchandise stores, ambulatory healthcare services, hospitals, clinics and even grocery stores. These trained professionals help licensed pharmacists dispense medication to clients.

Q:Can you tell me what is a pharmacy technician?

A:Pharmacy technicians are professionals who help licensed pharmacists dispense medications. These professionals perform a range of tasks such as the following: fill out prescriptions, measure amounts of medications for prescriptions, organize and manage inventory, process insurance claims, assist clients, take phone calls from clients, answer queries and assist with any grievances.

Q:What is a pharmacy assistant?

A:Assistant pharmacists, also known as pharmacy aides are trained professionals who help licensed pharmacists and technicians in healthcare settings and pharmacy stores. These professionals perform a number of tasks that can be administrative in nature. Assistant pharmacists can help clients with their prescription needs, attend to any issues, manage inventory, etc.

Q:How to be a pharmacy technician?

A:To become a pharmacy technician, you must at least have a high school diploma. You can acquire on-the-job training or even go for a diploma in this field. There are no strict post-secondary educational requirements for this career. To improve your career prospects, it is recommended you acquire a professional certification from The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the National Healthcare Association.

Q:How to become a certified pharmacy technician?

A:To become a pharmacy technician, you must have formal training and at least a high school diploma. An associate degree or bachelor degree can improve career prospects although they are not a mandatory requirement. Most technicians acquire on-the-job training where they work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. In some states, pharmacy technicians must have a certification or a diploma that reflects their expertise. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcare Association are two main boards which offer certification in this field.

Q:How long is pharmacy tech school?

A:If you are planning to become a pharmacy technician, the time you need to spend at a pharmacy tech school will depend on the program you enroll in. You can opt for an associate degree in pharmacy technician which takes around two years to complete. On the other hand, you can also opt for a short diploma or training course which can be completed in 6 to 12 months.

Q:How do I select the best pharmacy technician schools near me?

A:You can start by researching local schools near you. After you have shortlisted schools that best match your academic goals, you can further analyze each school. It is recommended that you evaluate the following factors: school location, costs, accreditation, recognition and ranking, student reviews, facilities, availability of financial aid and faculty.

Q:How to get a pharmacy technician license?

A:The licensing requirements for pharmacy technicians will vary from state to state. For example, in the state of California, the California State Board of Pharmacy is responsible for setting the licensing requirements for this occupation. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED, a PTCB certificate, and pharmacy technician documents. You can check with your state's board of pharmacy to find out more about the requirements.

Q:How do I choose from different pharmacy technician schools in California?

A:With so many pharmacy technician schools in California, choosing the right one can be a hassle. It is recommended that you research well and evaluate all the options. To pick the right school, check the accreditation status, ranking of the school, graduation rate, costs, location, and availability of financial aid.

Q:Do you need a degree to be a pharmacy tech?

A:No, you do not necessarily need a post-secondary education degree to become a pharmacy technician. In most states, a high school diploma or GED can qualify you for the job. However, you will need to acquire formal on-the-job training. It can be helpful to enroll in training programs or a diploma program. You could also improve your career prospects with the help of a certification.

Q:What does a pharm tech do when working at a pharmacy?

A:Pharmacy technicians are trained to provide supportive services to licensed pharmacists. The job duties can be administrative or clinical in nature. Some of the main job tasks include: answering calls from customers, accepting payment for prescriptions, processing insurance claims, measuring amounts of medication, filling in prescriptions for medications and assisting pharmacists.

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