Pharmacy technicians work both behind the scenes and face-to-face with customers, but always under supervision by a pharmacist. In retail outlets, they count pills, label bottles and take orders, and they have additional duties in hospitals, including preparing intravenous solutions. Although some pharmacy technicians learn on the job, you can qualify through a diploma program. Diploma programs usually take one year or less, and associate degrees are also available if you are looking for more comprehensive pharmacy technician training.

How Long Does a Diploma Take to Complete?

Certificate or diploma programs are available in vocational schools, community colleges and online. They usually last one academic year, consisting of three quarters or two semesters. For example, a certificate of proficiency as pharmacy technician from Clark College requires three quarters of study after completion of prerequisites. However, some online schools prepare students in a shorter time, for example in only five or six months, which is advantageous for students seeking to quickly enter the workforce and start making money in a job they would enjoy.

What Prerequisites are Needed?

Some pharmacy tech diploma programs require prerequisite classes, effectively lengthening the time you'll need to finish. For example, at Clark College in Washington, students must meet assessment test standards or take remedial classes in math, writing and reading. In addition, all applicants must complete seven prerequisites, including medical terminology, computer applications and human biology. Other pharmacy tech programs don't require any prerequisites, but they include classes similar to the prerequisites in the diploma curriculum.

Classroom Instruction and Hands-on Training

The specific classes in a pharmacy tech diploma program depend on the school or college. However, typical courses include introduction to pharmacy, pharmacy calculations, pharmacy law, pharmacy compounding and interpersonal communication. In addition to coursework, pharmacy tech requirements often include hands-on work experience. At Remington College, for example, students who have completed all other classes work under supervision in actual pharmacies. They receive credit for their final class by performing the duties of a pharmacy tech, such as compounding and dispensing medications and keeping records.

How Long is Pharmacy Tech School?

Pharmacy technician programs are also available at the associate degree level. Because these programs include both pharmacy tech classes and additional degree requirements, they usually take two academic years. For example, the associate degree program at Eagle Gate College in Utah takes 20 months for 90 quarter hours. The pharmacy technician classes include anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, pharmacology, dispensing and work experience. Eagle Gate also requires general education classes, including English and history, and college core classes, including management and business law. Some pharmacy techs go on to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree. Several more years of rigorous study are needed to become a trained and licensed pharmacist. The time and effort is offset by earning potential. The top 10 percent of pharmacists earn more than $159,410, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2017.

State Requirements and Certification

Pharmacy technician training is geared to preparing students to meet state or national standards for the workforce. Most states have some formal requirements for pharmacy technicians, such as approved training, registration, a criminal background check or an examination. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NCA) offer certification exams for aspiring pharmacy techs. Earning a diploma or certificate from an accredited pharmacy tech program can give you the knowledge and confidence to pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. Obtaining your certification is important because some states and some employers require pharmacy techs to be certified by PTCB or NHA. Many states also require pharmacy techs to be registered with the state's Board of Pharmacy.

Pharmacy Tech School Career Facts

Demand for pharmacy techs will continue to rise in the years ahead. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 12 percent increase in positions between 2016 and 2026 due to advances in medicine and the aging of the U.S. population. The average wage for a pharmacy tech is $33,060, or $15.90 per hour, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in May 2017. Pharmacy techs in the top 10 percent income bracket earned $46,980 or more.

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