How to Choose a Pharmacy Technician Degree

This article provides information about pharmacy technician degree programs and how this can be a good choice for a career. We also will provide information and links to some good online degree programs in the pharmacy technician space.

The decision to become a pharmacy technician is an exciting one, in that being a pharmacy technician is a rewarding career and can lead the way to a career as a pharmacist, nurse, or other medical professional. Demand across the country for pharmacy technicians is strong and expected to rise over the next ten years; the work environment is comfortable and the pay is good in relation to the amount of education needed to become a pharmacy technician.

What is a Pharmacy Technician Degree?

Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists mix, measure, count out, label, dispense, and record amounts and dosages of medications according to prescription orders. The degree allows pharmacy technicians to work under the direct supervision of a pharmacist to prepare prescriptions, choose a container, and affix a label. A pharmacy technician degree assures pharmacists and consumers that the technician has the knowledge and skills necessary to dispense prescription medications under the supervision of a pharmacist.

Why Earn a Pharmacy Technician Degree?

There is a growing demand for individuals holding a pharmacy technician degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates the number of pharmacy technician jobs will grow by 9 percent between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than job growth for other occupations. There were 372,500 people working as pharmacy technicians in 2014 and BLS expects the nation to need another 34,700 technicians by 2024. An aging population and increasing number of medications to treat age-related illness and other diseases contribute to the increased need for pharmacy technicians.

Work as a pharmacy technician is financially rewarding. Median pay for pharmacy technicians was $30,410 in 2014. The top 10 percent earned more than $45,030 that year. Those working in general medical and surgical hospitals earned the most while pharmacy technicians working in pharmacies and drug stores earned the least.

Pharmacy technicians work indoors in comfortable, temperature-controlled environments. Most pharmacy technicians work full time but part time work is available. Pharmacy technicians may work evenings, nights, and weekends to help pharmacists dispense medications in facilities that provide around-the-clock care.

Choosing Your Degree Path

Aspiring pharmacy techs can complete a diploma or certification program or a two-year pharmacy technician associate degree program. All programs require a high school diploma or equivalent. The applicant should be free of felony or drug-related convictions, and should not be under any restrictions imposed by any State Board of Pharmacy.

Programs provide students with a working knowledge of the names, uses, and doses of medications. They also prepare the student to interact with the public in person and on the telephone.

While programs vary in length, all prepare students to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam to earn the CPhT designation. The exam covers a variety of topics, including dosage and calculations, drug names, and common medications. Pharmacy technicians must complete 20 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their certification status. Not all states require certification but many employers prefer to hire pharmacy technicians.

Students may enter the workforce as a pharmacy technician with a certificate or associate’s degree.

The associate degree, known as the Pharmacy Technician Associate of Applied Science degree, indicates graduates have more information and preparation than do those with a certificate.  Many employers prefer an associate’s degree, as view the degree as a sign of increased competence and readiness for career or salary advancement. Coursework for the associate’s degree includes classes in anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, diseases of the human body, pharmacology, and pharmacy informatics and technology.

Most states regulate pharmacy technicians in some way, especially when it comes to the requirements necessary to work as a pharmacy technician. Anyone interested in becoming a pharmacy technician should check the Board of Pharmacy in his or her individual state.

Most pharmacy technicians are certified. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) uses a computer-based exam, known as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), to certifiy pharmacy technicians. Pearson VUE test centers offer certification exams nationwide. National certification ensures that all pharmacy technicians have attained the necessary level of knowledge, skill, and/or experience to work as a technician.

Online Pharmacy Technician Degree Options

Pharmacy technician degrees are available through online courses, which allow students to learn from their own homes and at their own pace. Many students complete the programs in just a few months then pursue certification, work as interns or enter the workforce directly. Some continue their education to become pharmacists or other healthcare professionals.

Online pharmacy technician coursework includes relevant courses that focus on medical terminology, assisting the pharmacist with office duties, and managing and updating patient records. Dedicated and experienced staff members guide students through the program to ensure a comprehensive educational experience.

Graduates of pharmacy technician programs may pursue certification; many employers require certification. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification requires a high school diploma and a passing score on an exam. National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification applicants must be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma, and have either completed a pharmacy technician training program or have at least one year of work experience. Pharmacy technicians must recertify every two years by completing 20 hours of continuing education in courses relating to pharmacy and healthcare.

Penn Foster offers an online pharmacy technician degree. Students may earn their degree in as little as nine months. Penn Foster provides the materials students need to sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) upon graduation. Externships are required and available with CVS/Pharmacy and Walgreens Pharmacy. The Penn Foster program is regionally and nationally accredited.

Accreditation

Accreditation ensures students and employers that the program offers a rigorous curriculum that adequately prepares students to work in pharmacies as technicians. Accreditation also assures employers and workers that the degree is relevant to the field of pharmaceuticals and will continue to be relevant to the industry in the years to come. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) accredits only those pharmacy technician programs including 600 hours of instruction or more over the course of at least 15 weeks.

Summary

The pharmacy technician field is growing quickly. Short training programs allow students to enter the workforce in just months instead of years. The role of a pharmacy technician is perfect for anyone who likes to interact with people, wants to help patients, and enjoys working with medical professionals in a pharmacy setting.

Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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