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Pharmacy Technician Training Programs

By: CareerFactsheet editors- Updated: Aug 24, 2012

Pharmacy technicians offer a vital role to the pharmacy as a whole. They are often the first person who helps a customer whether it is simply by handing over their order or helping customers deal with billing issues. These technicians also play a pivotal role in ensuring the pharmacy works as smoothly as possible. Programs to educate pharmacy technicians are available all over the country as are the opportunities for employment which makes this an especially appealing career for a variety of people.

What a Pharmacy Technician Does

The job of a pharmacy technician is anything but ordinary. Technicians are responsible for maintaining the pharmacy as a well stocked and cared for work environment. This can include everything from sterilizing equipment to maintaining stock. Pharmacy technicians also help in mixing compounds under the supervision of a pharmacist, deal with any customer billing issues and checking orders for accuracy. Basically a pharmacy technician does anything except the unsupervised filling of prescriptions or dispensing direct medically-related advice. The entire pharmacy depends on the work a technician does in order to run smoothly.

The Job Outlook for Pharmacy Technicians

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has glowing records for the present and future of pharmacy technicians. Their 2011 report outlines states which heave heavy employment for technicians. These states include California, Texas, Ohio, Michigan and New York. While these make up some of the states with the highest employment, every state in the country reports healthy numbers when it comes to the employment of pharmacy technicians as well as pharmacy professionals in general. As the Baby Boomer generation begins to age the number of aged Americans is set to double within the next few years. This will result in an even greater demand for anyone connected to the pharmaceutical services, including pharmacy technicians.

Training and Education for Pharmacy Technicians

Becoming a pharmacy technician is an attractive option for many people not only because of the job stability and good wages, but also because it doesn't require a burdensome amount of school. Once a student has finished high school with a diploma or GED he or she can then choose a pharmacy technician program through a community college, specialized school or online program. Students can go ahead with a simple and basic one year certification program and still go onto work in a pharmacy but many programs encourage students to carry on with the full two year program which culminates with each student receiving an Associate's Degree as a pharmacy technician.

State Requirements for Pharmacy Technician Education

Pharmacy Technician Training Requirements

Pharmacy technicians programs are available through a variety of outlets. Some local community colleges offer the programs as do dedicated healthcare industry universities. Courses are also available online for those who work full time or who simply cannot get to a campus. Regardless of where or how people attend their programs, the coursework is uniform in substance. In order to determine which school is best for them, students should first take the time to understand the requirements of a pharmacy technicians for their own state. This information can be found at the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) website at www.ptcb.org.

Schools should be evaluated one at a time in order to ensure it offers exactly what the student needs to be able to work in their state as well as what he or she needs to succeed personally. Some students need more one on one attention and so smaller schools will be able to offer the best foundation for success. Others thrive in groups and so they thrive in large schools where bigger classes provide more direct feedback between professors and fellow students. Since there are so many competing programs and schools, potential students are encouraged to compare schools and programs online as well as touring local colleges and capuses to get a feel for the school itself.

Financing Pharmacy Technician Programs

Studying to Become a Pharmacy Technician
Costs for the pharmacy technician program can vary widely depending on the kind of school as well as the program itself. Many community colleges offer extremely low course costs for residents while national programs can be thousands of dollars more. Generally, students should expect to pay $1,500 - $2,500 if they choose to enroll in a national program. Local community college or vocational school programs can cost substantially less while some school can cost more, particularly if they are offering specialized certification above and beyond the degree of a pharmacy technician such as IV Certification. However, most students are urged to begin with their 2 year Associate's Degree as a pharmacy technicians before carrying on with specialized courses or degrees. This gives students the chance to begin working and to get a feel of what working environments and areas of expertise they enjoy the most.

Most schools offer some sort of financing, particularly national programs or courses where the majority of work is done remotely online. Loans are also an option for students and since the cost isn't exorbitant, they can often obtain these loans through the school financing office or through private lenders. However, students should keep in mind that program fees will not include the cost of books or materials not normally included in the programs and this should be take into consideration when considering individual schools and their programs. Also, a three month internship is considered part of the course and this should be considered in the outline of what the program offers. Taking a close look at what each school offers as a part of their tuition will help aspiring pharmacy technicians know they are getting true value for money.

Course Overview for Pharmacy Technicians

Courses in each program will cover the basics of pharmacy procedures including labeling, packaging and terminology. Pharmacy technicians need to understand a wide range of pharmaceutical practices and policies as well as what information is required from the offices of physicians and how to take an order and fill it. Schools offer students the chance to fill mock prescriptions and use various real world modules in order to simulate the work environment. This allows students to get a feel for what it's like to work in a real pharmacy before they ever graduate from their program. This can help to give them added confidence no matter what kind of job they get after graduation.

Once the pharmacy technician program has been successfully completed, graduates are ready to take the National Certification Exam which is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. This exam is the key to receiving the official license needed to work as pa pharmacy technician in their own state. The exam basically covers everything students have learned in the past two years. All students must pass this exam to work in the state as a license pharmacy technicians. If someone who has already passed the test moves to a new state they may or may not be able to begin work before taking that state's exam, depending on the company they work for. However, even if they can begin working, it will be with the understanding that they are sitting for the exam in the near future. This scenario is more likely to happen for pharmacy technicians who work for a large chain pharmacy and then transfer to another store within the company in another state.

Advancement and Growth for Pharmacy Technicians

Pharmacy Technician Career Factsheet
For some, a degree as a pharmacy technician is the first step in a health care career. Many technicians will go on the further their own education. Some will choose to attend continuing education courses which can help to hone their skills and lead them to developing specialized areas on knowledge. Pharmacy technicians who enjoy working in a hospital environment, for example, may take extra classes about other aspects of hosp[ital administration in addition to pharmaceutical courses. This kind of further education will make them increasingly desirable employees at any hospital should they choose to move. Other pharmacy technicians may find they enjoy their work so much they want to take the next step and become a fully licensed pharmacist. Taking on that level of commitment shows true passion for the field and many workplaces can offer flexible schedules in order to help pharmacy technicians who are trying to obtain such a goal.

Beyond that, pharmacy technicians can also advance within the company they work for. This is especially true for pharmacy technicians working with stand alone pharmacies and within the health care systems. These technicians will have room to grow within the organization itself, whether it's a more specialized role or simply a position as a manager or supervisor. This is especially true for technicians working in a health care system, such as a hospital. These larger organizations expand as their patient base expands and so opportunities for growth and advancement will be presented more often than they will through smaller pharmacies.

Advanced Specialization for Pharmacy Technicians

As part of both further education and advancement, some pharmacy technicians also consider highly specialized training. The most common form of this kind of training is pharmaceutical compounding. This is the practice of mixing or altering drugs in order to best serve a patient. An example of this is when a drug normally administered as a pill needs to be modified to a liquid and possibly mixed with another drug in order to achieve the therapeutic dosage or mixture needed for a patient.

Pharmacy technicians who enjoy working in clinical environments can go through courses and obtain IV Certification. This specialized certification will train them in various intravenous drugs and therapies as well as other procedures and knowledge needed for this niche work. This additional education can lead to work as a chemotherapy technician or nuclear pharmacy technician, once the student has completed the IV Certification as well as the additional coursework specific to each of the positions.

Career opportunities for a pharmacy technician are available on almost every level of the job. The job is rewarding for those with the right frame of mind and who possess the initiative to seek out ways to stand out from their peers as well as the drive to carry on with their education, be it through colleges or simply taking on more responsibility through on the job training. The position is flexible and offers employees the chance to vary their work routine, tackle new challenges and, of course, have direct contact with the client, professionals and patients they endeavor to help. All of this works to make being a pharmacy technicians one of the most rewarding jobs in the health care field today. And with projections for the number of aged Americans set to rise, along with companies wanting to expand the service of pharmacies in stores, standing alone or as part of hospitals, this paints a bright future for pharmacy technicians all over the country.

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