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A pharmacy technician degree, typically an Associate of Applied Science program, offers specialized pharmacy-specific courses and academic core subjects. This degree program generally spans around 2 years, although completion time may vary.

The curriculum includes approximately 30 semester credit hours of pharmacy-specific courses, incorporating extensive clinical hours amounting to 192. In addition, students undertake 30 semester credit hours of academic core courses, providing a well-rounded education.

By pursuing a pharmacy technician degree, students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for a successful career in pharmacy practice. This comprehensive program equips individuals with a strong foundation in pharmacy-specific subjects and prepares them for diverse roles within the pharmaceutical industry.

Does a Pharmacy Technician Need a Degree?

It's true that not all pharmacy technicians need a degree. Some states do not require either certifications or licenses for pharmacy techs. In those states, techs may need to be registered because they are working with highly regulated substances, but no more credentials are required.

However, even in a non-regulated state, if you have a degree in pharmacy tech you will stand out from the pack as a person who is a dedicated professional. Your determination and dedication may impress potential employers and you may likely find more success in your career when you have gone through a rigorous training program and completed a degree program.

Furthermore, if you begin work in a non-regulated state with a degree and a national certificate from either the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA), you will have the freedom to move to any state you like. While the PTCB certification is perhaps more widely recognized, the NHA certificate shows great work and persistence. With that in mind, you might want to consider in advance if you would like to move in the future.

When you go through a degree program, set your sights on passing one of those national certification exams. Make sure your program is grooming you for those exams and not just state registration. You want your education to pay off for years to come, so make sure your degree program is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). This will groom you for success whether you choose to be a technician in a retail or medical setting.

Degree vs. Certificate

The difference between a certificate and a degree may seem slight, but the distinction is real. While both are pieces of paper that come at the end of a period of hard work and study, they mean different things in terms of your short and long-term success.

A certificate program is the easier of the two to accomplish. You can usually complete a certificate course in less than a year, prior to an externship. Here, it's important to see that holding a certificate from a local community college or online institution is distinct from receiving a national certification from the PTCB or NHA. Once you complete the coursework and experiential portion of a certificate program, you can then sit for one of the national certification examinations.

A degree in pharmacy tech indicates that you have completed a comprehensive course of study that not only provided detailed knowledge of the medical, pharmaceutical and mathematical aspects of a tech's career, but that you also completed core classes in the humanities and other sciences. You can achieve a two-year associate's degree in pharmacy tech from your local community college. A full degree will set you up for later success because you will be able to transfer your credits to a four-year institution if you later desire to further your education.

Additionally, when you can tout a full, academic degree on your resume, employers will take notice. The extra time in school will also allow you the opportunity to expand your knowledge base to pertinent areas such as psychology, management, accounting or marketing. Your additional knowledge will be a great asset to your employers.

It has been shown that those with more education are better communicators. This skill will be a large part of your job. When you can engage in effective communication with your pharmacist, patients and fellow techs, the workplace will hum like a well-oiled machine.

What are the Courses Like?

To complete your education in pharmacy tech, you will have to take a specific set of courses. While each school will have unique course offerings, you should come away with knowledge in these areas: biology, mathematics, chemistry and business. That is, you will need to know about the human body and its various systems. Anatomy and physiology will be part of your studies.

For mathematics, you will need to learn and be fully proficient in the metric system. You will need to know how to measure dosages using these systems: metric, apothecary, household and avoirdupois. You must also know basic accounting. The accounting part is vital when it comes to inventory. Since you will be in charge of federally-regulated pharmaceuticals, you must be able to manage full accounting of them.

The chemistry part will help you in a variety of ways. You will need to have basic lab skills when you mix oral compounds. You will also need to have a working knowledge of how chemicals react and the basics of how they work in the body.

When you take a full degree course of study, you might want to take elective courses in psychology and communications. This will come in handy when you work with patients who aren't having such a good day. After all, you will be working with people who are suffering from any sort of illnesses, including mental illness.

Specifically, you may take some or all of the following courses:

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

Who Succeeds as a Pharm Tech?

To succeed as a pharmacy tech, you will need to be a diligent, detail-oriented, personable hard worker. You will need to be able to communicate with a pharmacist who is an expert on all of the medications, but then be able to turn around to field a patient's question about over-the-counter medications or a question about dosage on a prescription. Then you will need to make an oral compound and take inventory. It's a difficult job.

When you achieve a degree in pharmacy tech, you will be fully prepared succeed in all of those areas—and more.


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