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To become a pharmacy tech, you will need to take classes to help you learn your trade.

Then, you will want to go on and complete an externship and finally, pass a national certification test. Even if your state does not require such credentials for its pharmacy techs, your job prospects and long-term career outlook may benefit from a pharmacy technician course. The more education and training you have, the further you can go in your career.

What Does Coursework in Pharmacy Tech Entail?

A course in pharmacy tech is a focused curriculum that trains you to excel in the world of retail, hospital or mail-order pharmacy. It trains you to think in a way that helps you address the needs of the patients and pharmacists you work with. You will be exposed to many courses that may seem disparate from life in a pharmacy, but which will help you as you proceed down your career path. Depending on your school, you might take some of the following courses:

  • Pharmacy Law
  • Ethics in Pharmacy
  • Healthcare Systems
  • Medical Terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pharmaceutical Calculations

After you have completed your coursework, you will go on to work in an externship. This is often a full-time position in a retail or hospital pharmacy, though you might also find a spot in a long-term care facility or some other medical establishment. Often, programs will work with the site coordinators to ensure that your experience is structured so that you are properly exposed to all of the pertinent aspects of the pharmacy tech profession. During this experiential portion of your course, you will be able to apply your learning in the real world, while still remaining under the wing of an educational institution.

The pharmacy tech course should also prepare you to take a certification examination and go on to receive a state-issued license. That is to say that a pharmacy tech course sets you up for success in your professional life.

Benefits of Taking a Course

The intrinsic benefits of taking a course in pharmacy tech involve your personal growth as a professional person. You will learn a lot about the health care system as a whole. You will learn not only specific details, such as professional jargon, but about bigger picture issues such as ethics and law. This sort of learning will enable you to understand more about how other systems work as well. While you will be an expert in one area—pharmaceutical science—you will be able to understand how other sorts of operations work too.

The more you know about the pharmacy and its various issues, the better you will be at interacting and communicating with your pharmacist, the pharmaceutical sales representatives and your fellow techs. Most importantly, with more knowledge you will be better equipped to field questions from patients who come to your pharmacy, or the nurses and doctors in a hospital. Even if you work in a mail order pharmacy, you will be able to take a part in the meetings with confidence because you will have the knowledge you need to back up your statements.

Will a Pharm Tech Course Prepare Me for Certification?

In a nutshell, yes. A comprehensive, accredited course in pharmacy tech will prepare you for certification and state licensure, where applicable.

To become certified, and then to receive a state-issued license to be a bona fide pharmacy technician, you must be prepared to take an examination. Prior to that, one road to certification requires that you also have one year's worth of work experience. Without a course, neither of these requirements could be achieved.

A course will not only prepare you to work, but to pass any certification test. The specific knowledge you need to pass the exam from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), for instance, is broken down into three parts:

  • Assisting the pharmacist with patients–66%
  • Inventory maintenance–22%
  • Management of pharmacy practice–12%

The other test is from the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), and covers some or all of the following topics:

  • Prescription receipt
  • Maintaining patient information and records
  • Insurance claims
  • Inventory management

None of these areas are easy to study in any context outside of a focused classroom. Therefore, it will be vital to take a course that can prepare you to pass the test, and to become the well-rounded professional you desire to be.

Who is Successful?

To do your best you will need to take plenty of time to study all of the information. You will need to be detail oriented, but also agile enough to tackle bigger-picture topics that come up through the course.

Overall, you may need to have a scientific mind. A pharmacy student must know about anatomy, physiology, chemistry, psychology, accounting, the metric system and mathematics. If you enjoyed your high school science courses, this is a good field for you. Even if your grades weren't where you would have liked them to be, once you embark on a professional course, you might find that suddenly the real-world applications make formerly difficult concepts fall into place.

You will also need to be a good communicator. Not only will you need to have an ease with technical jargon, but you will need to be able to listen to and understand patient needs when they come to your pharmacy, as you will be dealing with all types of people receiving every type of prescribed drug. It will benefit you to have a working knowledge of the symptoms you are likely to see, particularly if they are filling a brand-new prescription.

Pharmacy tech also requires that you be part accountant and mathematician. You will need to be good at inventory management, but also have the mathematical ability to calculate dosages according to a number of systems: metric, apothecary, household and avoirdupois. Pharmacy techs also need to be capable of compounding medications for special patients, so you must be able to sterilize a work space to create the safest, most effective medications possible.


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