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Your Guide To Pharmacy Technician Schools & Degree Programs


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While it is possible to find a pharmacy technician job without formal training or certification in most jurisdictions, it is much easier with a degree or certificate. Certification programs and degrees are widely available at community colleges, vocational schools and online.

Because the main goal of training programs in this field is to prepare students to pass the certification exam, carefully consider whether your chosen program provides adequate preparation.

 Choosing a Pharmacy Technician School

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Photo: Army Medicine

AccreditationAccreditation matters. By choosing a non-accredited school, you run the risk of paying for a program that won’t properly prepare you for the certification exam. Employers may also be suspicious of degrees earned at non-accredited institutions.

Be especially careful to carefully vet online pharmacy technician schools to ensure you receive proper training. Pharmacy tech schools should be accredited by the American Society of Healthsystem Pharmacists (ASHP).

Program ContentAll curricula should cover basic topics, like medical and pharmaceutical terminology. Also look for courses on drug computation, pharmaceutical ethics, and pharmaceutical laws.

Beyond that, match your curriculum to where you plan on working as a pharmaceutical technician. A technician working at a hospital requires more hands-on training than one planning to work on an insurance company, because working in an office involves more clerical duties.

Also consider programs which involve internships at working pharmacies, as this provides valuable real-world experience. In addition, look for programs with work placement programs. This will be invaluable when you are ready to enter the workforce.

Degree Program Options

  • Certificate programs are quick and inexpensive, generally lasting for only six months. They also do not require any prior education, outside of a high school diploma or GED. However, they offer less latitude in career options for graduates.
  • Diploma programs are designed for students with an associates-level background in medicine who wish to extend their knowledge to pharmacy work.
  • Associate’s degrees take about two years to complete, but offer more comprehensive training.

 Licensing and CertificationThe requirements to practice as a pharmacy technician vary from state to state, but often includes:

  • Possessing a high school diploma or GED
  • Passing a criminal background check
  • Completion of a formal training program
  • Completing a state board exam and paying licensing fees

Certification isn’t necessary to get a job, but certified technicians will find it easier to find employment. On-the-job training is common, and some employers will pay for their trainees to become certified.

 Pharmacy Technician Degrees OverviewPharmacy Technician Certificate ProgramCertificate programs generally last around six months, and only require a high school diploma or GED for admission. Therefore, these are a good option for students with minimal higher education experience. Available in online, vocational, technical and community colleges – certificate programs focus mainly on topics needed to pass the certificate exam.

After completion of the program, graduates take the certificate exam, administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. After passing, they register to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), which completes the certification process. Certification is valid for two years.

Certification is not mandatory in most states, but greatly helps applicants find a job, as employers are much more likely to hire individuals with formal training.

Certificate program coursework may include:

  • Introduction to Pharmacy
  • Introduction to Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy Technician Practice
  • Pharmacy Calculations
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy Externship & Career Preparedness

Pharmacy Technician Diploma ProgramDiploma programs are designed to add supplementary knowledge to a previous medical-related degree. Therefore, students in diploma programs usually have an associate’s degree in medical assisting or a related field. However, a medical background isn’t necessarily required. Diploma programs also prepare a student to take the certification exam.

Diploma program coursework may include:

  • Introduction to Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy Systems of Operations
  • Dosage and Calculations of Medications
  • Anatomy & Physiology: Systems of Transport & Support
  • Anatomy & Physiology: Body Control Systems
  • Health Care Law and Ethics
  • Terminology of Body Systems
  • Terminology of Body Support
  • Microsoft Office

Pharmacy Technician Associate’s DegreeAssociate’s degrees are much longer, taking around two years to complete. However, they give a deeper understanding of medicine and impart a more complex skill set, making associate’s degree holders able to hold a greater variety of positions.

Associate’s degrees give students a broader training scope in the medical field and pharmaceutical practice. Therefore, these graduates are more likely to get higher-paying jobs in hospitals. Associate’s degree programs should be adequate preparation for the certification exam.

Associate’s degree coursework may include:

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy Systems of Operation
  • Dosage and Calculations of Medications
  • Advanced Pharmacy Calculations
  • Pharmacy Practices
  • Health Care Law and Ethics
  • Terminology of Body Systems and Support
  • Chemistry
  • Diseases of the Human Body

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