Pharmacy technicians are skilled members of the pharmaceutical healthcare team. Working under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist, these allied health professionals help keep today's pharmacies running smoothly, filling prescriptions and dispensing medication to doctors and the public.
As the job responsibilities of pharmacists widen, technicians are stepping in to carry out many routine procedures on their behalf. The expanding role of the pharmacy technician is expected to drive demand at least through the end of the decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In the past, this growing career required only a minimum age of 18 and a high school education. Technicians were primarily trained on the job. Although this is still true to an extent, employers increasingly expect job applicants to have formal training, whether through a certificate- or associate's degree-granting program. Additionally, many states now require the completion of an approved course of education before technicians can become licensed.
Students should look for pharmacy technician schools that are accredited by the Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission (PTAC). Formerly, pharmacy tech programs were accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), but PTAC accreditation will replace both beginning in late 2014.
Many pharmacy technicians sign up for year-long vocational certificate programs to enhance their prospects when applying for competitive jobs. It is a popular way to establish a basic pharmaceutical skill set on which to build in the workplace. A comprehensive program will help clarify the technician's role in the modern pharmacy. To get into a program, applicants may need to demonstrate proficiency in English communication and intermediate algebra. They may also need to pass a background check and have current immunizations.
During training, students practice the dispensing process and investigate the world of commercial drugs and the brands under which they are sold. Many programs expect graduates to demonstrate detailed knowledge of at least the top 100 brand-name and generic drugs, including what they look like and how they should be ingested by patients. Students should become familiar with the state and federal regulations that govern the dispensation of pharmaceuticals where they will practice.
Aspiring pharmacy techs master the ability to properly handle sterile products and repackage medicines without spreading disease. Aseptic techniques, clinical safety and matters of hygiene should be emphasized throughout the curriculum. Quality vocational certificate programs also give students a chance to participate in an externship involving hands-on clinical practice. Note that, in some states, pharmacy technicians must register with the state's Board of Pharmacy while in training to ensure they are qualified to interact with patients during their clinical practicum.
Coursework leading to a certificate in Pharmacy Technology includes:
After finishing training, students are free to seek state licensure and professional certification. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has information on the different state licensure laws.
What types of jobs are available to graduates of certificate-granting vocational programs?
An associate's degree is generally considered the top credential for aspiring pharmacy techs. Associate programs in pharmacy technology provide a broader scope of education that may impress prospective employers. Students at this level get the chance to practice computational skills, dive into the world of third-party insurance, and learn to operate advanced medical equipment.
After earning a degree from one of the accredited pharmacy tech schools, graduates seek state licensure or registration. This usually involves passing an exam and furnishing proof of training. Some graduates also pursue professional certification at the national level. Certification is voluntary in most states, but a professional credential is increasingly desired by employers. The best pharmacy technician programs prepare students to pass a recognized certification exam upon graduation.
A Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) has passed either the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (NPTCE) administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) administered by the National Healthcareer Association. Applicants do not need proof of postsecondary training to be eligible for these tests, but they do need a high school diploma or GED and zero felony convictions on their record.
Associate-level courses in Pharmacy Technology might include:
What careers are accessible to pharmacy techs with an associate's degree?
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We found 193 schools offering pharmacy technician degree programs in the U.S.
|Academy of Careers and Technology||Beckley||WV||320|
|Academy of Professional Careers||San Diego||CA||187|
|Aiken Technical College||Graniteville||SC||2268|
|Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute||Albuquerque||NM||17265|
|Allied College - Maryland Heights||Maryland Heights||MO||406|
|American Career College||Los Angeles||CA||1383|
|American Institute of Health Sciences||Long Beach||CA||90|
|American Institute of Medical - Dental Technology||Provo||UT||360|
|American Institute of Medical - Dental Technology||Saint George||UT||100|
|Arapahoe Community College||Littleton||CO||7436|
|Arizona College of Allied Health||Glendale||AZ||141|
|Ashland Technical College||Ashland||KY||503|
|Augusta Technical College||Augusta||GA||3265|
|Austin Community College||Austin||TX||25735|
|Baker College of Flint||Flint||MI||3896|
|Baker College of Jackson||Jackson||MI||1027|
|Baker College of Muskegon||Muskegon||MI||2727|
|Baldwin Park Adult & Community Education||Baldwin Park||CA||3295|
|Bidwell Training Center Inc||Pittsburgh||PA||119|
|Black Hawk College||Moline||IL||6118|
|Blue Ridge Community College||Flat Rock||NC||1826|
|Bossier Parish Community College||Bossier City||LA||4332|
|Brewster Technical Center||Tampa||FL||181|
|Bridgerland Applied Technology College||Logan||UT||304|
|Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute||Hudson||NC||3191|
|California Paramedical and Technical College||Long Beach||CA||169|
|California Paramedical and Technical College||Riverside||CA||436|
|Cape Fear Community College||Wilmington||NC||5470|
|Career Centers of Texas - El Paso||El Paso||TX||883|
|Carver Career Center||Charleston||WV||212|
|Central Carolina Technical College||Sumter||SC||2546|
|Central Georgia Technical College||Macon||GA||3787|
|Central Ohio Technical College||Newark||OH||1832|
|Century Community and Technical College||White Bear Lake||MN||6937|
|Charles A. Jones Skills and Business Education Center||Sacramento||CA||4132|
|Chattanooga State Technical Community College||Chattanooga||TN||7873|
|City College of San Francisco||San Francisco||CA||39386|
|City Colleges of Chicago - Malcolm X College||Chicago||IL||8638|
|Cleveland Institute of Dental - Medical Assistants||Cleveland||OH||92|
|Cleveland Institute of Dental - Medical Assistants||Mentor||OH||94|
|Cleveland Institute of Dental - Medical Assistants||Lyndhurst||OH||50|
|Clover Park Technical College||Lakewood||WA||7921|
|Columbia Basin College||Pasco||WA||5714|
|Community College of Allegheny County||Pittsburgh||PA||15556|
|Community College of Southern Nevada||North Las Vegas||NV||29905|
|Community College of the Air Force||Montgomery||AL||378162|
|Concorde Career College||Memphis||TN||755|
|Coosa Valley Technical College||Rome||GA||2313|
|Cuyahoga Community College District||Cleveland||OH||19518|
|Davidson County Community College||Thomasville||NC||2356|
|Delgado Community College||New Orleans||LA||12784|
|Delta Career Institute||Beaumont||TX||72|
|Denmark Technical College||Denmark||SC||1240|
|Denver Technical College||Denver||CO||814|
|Denver Technical College at Colorado Springs||Colorado Springs||CO||470|
|Draughons Junior College||Bowling Green||KY||304|
|Draughons Junior College||Clarksville||TN||304|
|Draughons Junior College Inc||Nashville||TN||158|
|Duluth Business University||Dultuh||MN||267|
|Durham Technical Community College||Durham||NC||4915|
|Eastern Iowa Community College District||Davenport||IA||6179|
|Eastern New Mexico University - Roswell Campus||Roswell||NM||2980|
|El Camino College||Torrance||CA||24067|
|El Paso Community College||El Paso||TX||18001|
|Eton Technical Institute||Federal Way||WA||101|
|Everest College - Everett||Everett||WA||345|
|Everett Community College||Everett||WA||6102|
|Fayetteville Technical Community College||Fayetteville||NC||8310|
|Foothill College||Los Altos Hills||CA||14193|
|Fortis Institute - Forty Fort||Forty Fort||PA||99|
|Four - D College||Colton||CA||179|
|Front Range Community College||Westminster||CO||12962|
|Gallia Jackson Vinton Joint Vocational School District||Rio Grande||OH||355|
|Gateway Community and Technical College||Covington||KY||1024|
|Gateway Community College||New Haven||CT||4157|
|Grays Harbor College||Aberdeen||WA||1950|
|Greenville Technical College||Greenville||SC||10786|
|Hacienda La Puente Unified School District - Adult Education||City Of Industry||CA||2030|
|Harrisburg Area Community College - Harrisburg||Harrisburg||PA||7572|
|Healthstaff Training Institute Inc||Santa Ana||CA||32|
|Heart of Georgia Technical College||Dublin||GA||1068|
|Henry Ford Community College||Dearborn||MI||12742|
|Holyoke Community College||Holyoke||MA||5754|
|Houston Community College System||Houston||TX||40929|
|Institute of Technology Inc||Clovis||CA||1003|
|Jones County Junior College||Ellisville||MS||4514|
|Kirtland Community College||Roscommon||MI||1307|
|Lake Superior College||Duluth||MN||3972|
|Lakeshore Technical College||Cleveland||WI||2742|
|Lamar State College - Orange||Orange||TX||1939|
|Long Technical College||Phoenix||AZ||299|
|Louisiana State University at Alexandria||Alexandria||LA||2386|
|Madison Area Technical College||Madison||WI||14474|