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As demand for pharmaceutical prescriptions and drugs rises, so does the need for pharmacists and the technicians who work with them. In the past, the technician's job was learned on the job under the tutelage of a pharmacist and senior technician. While that is still the case, the profession has grown and there are degrees that prepare budding techs to enter the field. There are also national certifying exams, which require preparation and study. Because of these demands, formal pharmacy technician training is increasingly important.

What Will Your Pharmacy Technician Education Consist Of?

Pharmacy technician training consists of education that covers a wide range of topics related to working in a pharmacy. Technicians learn everything from accounting for a pharmacy's inventory, and how to compound medicines for special patients. A pharmacy technician program can take the form of either a one-year certificate course or a two-year degree program that might include liberal arts coursework on top of pharmacy technician studies. The additional courses, such as communications or psychology, could come in handy in a real world setting.

Since a technician will need to interact with patients in varying states of their recovery, a tech will need to have excellent communication skills. They'll need to advise patients who have prescriptions for conflicting drugs, or who may need specific instructions on how and when to take their medications. A pharmacy tech with strong communication skills can give clear instructions in a way that a patient fully comprehends and will follow to the letter.

The pharmacy-specific courses will be absolutely vital to the education of a pharmacy tech. In fact, the scope of the curriculum for many programs includes medical issues such as anatomy and pathology. Here is a sampling of the coursework that might be found in a pharmacy tech program:

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy Math
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Inventory
  • Pharmacy Law
  • Pharmacy Ethics
  • Pharmacy Laboratory Skills
  • Chemistry
  • CPR & First Aid

How to Get Your Education

You can receive pharmacy technician training through a number of different routes. There are many schools that offer a one-year (or less) program that will focus on the courses specific to the pharmacy technician profession. Then, there are colleges that offer a pharmacy technician major so they can graduate with an associate's degree. With each, you can find opportunities to study both in campus classrooms or online. In fact, many campus-based programs might also offer online courses to augment the classroom instruction.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs have the advantage of being focused entirely on the profession, and the particular topics a tech will need to master for success. The best programs will feature an externship program that will provide you the opportunity to practice your learning in a real-world environment.

Associate Degree Programs

An associate degree program takes only two years to complete and provides a more comprehensive education for students. On top of the pharmacy-specific curriculum, you will be exposed to a wider range of courses, including more advanced courses in chemistry, for instance. You might also be able to explore other topics, such as accounting, which will help with the more administrative aspects of your pharmacy tech duties. Once you graduate with an associate degree you can transfer your credits to a four-year program and continue your education, if you think you may want to become a pharmacist.

Where Can You Work?

When you begin applying for your first job, you could find openings in any of the following environments:

  • Big-Box retailers such as Sam's Club or Costco
  • Chain pharmacies such as Walgreens or Rite-Aid
  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Clinics
  • Independent pharmacies, including small regional chains

Certification Exams

Like many professions, your pharmacy tech education can help prepare you to take an exam for national certification. Taking a professional certification exam is different from earning a certificate from a school program. You should look for schools that mention preparation for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam, as they will focus some of your schooling on getting you ready to become a certified pharmacy technician.

Each step of a pharmacy technician's education is designed to play a part in finding fulfillment in the career. When you seek accredited programs that help enable your professional growth, make sure you consider your long-term future goals in the field as well as those that will prepare you for your first job.


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