How Much Schooling Do You Need to Become a Pharmacy Technician?
Becoming a pharmacy technician is a great career opportunity. But just how much schooling do you need to become a pharmacy technician?
Before embarking on a pharmacy technician certification program, it’s helpful for you to know exactly what it is that pharmacy technicians are and what they do in their profession.
They are becoming increasingly busy as their main responsibility is to fill physicians’ prescriptions and dispense them to patients, generally in a retail environment. A pharmacy technician is an essential and valuable aid to a pharmacist as he or she generally performs the same tasks but under the direct supervision of the pharmacist.
Pharmacy Tech Training Requirements
Let’s break down the various responsibilities and job duties that a pharmacy tech will be expected to perform:
- A pharmacy technician works with physicians, hospitals and patients by providing a broad range of information on prescription drugs. Generally, a pharmacy tech is even more up-to-date than the physician when it comes to pharmaceuticals.
- A patient usually has a “plan” set by the physician and this is provided to the pharmacist who then mixes the required elements in the correct dosage to fill the prescription – a process known as “compounding".
- A pharmacy technician works with the pharmacist, by dealing with patients, mixing ingredients and dispensing prescriptions. He or she may also communicate with insurance companies and handle administrative tasks within the pharmacy such as inventory, ordering pharmaceutical supplies and maintaining a patient database.
Most pharmacy technician training programs will focus on these duties and include other tasks such as billing procedures.
Levels of Training - Certificate, Diploma, Associate Degree
You will see that the various online programs can include earning a diploma, a certificate or an associate’s degree and each program will prepare the student to manage the job-required procedures relative to that qualification.
If you want a fast-track route, you might consider a diploma or certificate program since these take between 6-12 months to complete rather than an associate degree which can take two years or more of full-time study.
The degree could be something you can do online from home, while still working in the field. Naturally, it will take longer, but will earn you the qualifications you need as a pharmacy technician and lay down the foundation toward becoming a Pharmacist.
However, the diploma course will provide you with the general pharmaceutical knowledge specific to the practice of pharmacy and can consist of a dozen or more lessons or courses.
Courses Provided by Most Pharmacy Tech Training Schools
- The practice of pharmacology, community pharmacy, medical safety, infection control and even chemotherapy instruction.
- A pharmacy technician’s course would include the preparation and dispensing of medications (compounding).
- A course consisting of measuring and dosing forms provides information on medication delivery as well as the mathematical techniques necessary to prepare and mix the prescribed ingredients.
- The newly graduated pharmacy technician will be able to measure, compound and mix medications as well as manage the other required tasks when working under the supervision of the pharmacist.
Certainly, completing a pharmacy technician’s associate degree would put you ahead of the competition since it's more comprehensive and you earn more credit hours which goes toward obtaining your pharmacy technician certification. Regardless of that, there is a large proportion of pharmacy assistants working in the field with just a certificate and even a high school diploma.
The topics included in a pharmacy calculations course would include prescriptions, drug labels, procedures and dosages and you learn the mathematical skills necessary for handling the measuring and mixing of medications. There is no doubt that an academic degree would increase the opportunities for employment and an increased starting paycheck than a certificate or diploma.
Online Training - A Good Option
If you're time constricted or are a busy stay at home mom or dad but are eager to enter this field, there are some top online pharmacy technician schools that offer: accredited certificate, diploma and associate degree programs.
These can prepare you for working outside the classroom and accreditation indicates that the course is of the best possible quality available. These programs can be completed in a few short months, cover the same topics as a full-time course and some even arrange an externship at a local CVS/Walgreens pharmacy as part of their graduation process.
These schools are all over the United States and you can also take the course online, from your home.
Next: Read what are the training, certification and licensing requirements in your state by reading this article.