How to Enroll In the Right Pharmacy Tech Program
Having decided to earn your pharmacy technician certificate or degree, you may be wondering just how to choose the ideal school to receive your education and training. Naturally the first step is to find colleges that offer the diploma or degree that you would like to earn. A number of future students start by searching for schools that are within driving distance of their residence, and then comparing the tuition. While cost and location are important concerns when choosing a school, they are not the only ones. Qualifiers including reputation and accreditation must be taken into account also. And if you prefer attending classes in your home by means of your computer as opposed to in a classroom, then finding an accredited online program will also be part of your vetting process. We will cover these qualifiers and some others that you will want to include when comparing pharmacy technician schools. But to begin with, let’s discuss what a pharmacy tech does, the certificate and degree options available, and the benefits of online courses.
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The Job of a Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy techs have many job duties, but their primary duty is to dispense prescription medicines. Because they are not licensed, when dispensing prescriptions they must work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. They must also have excellent customer service abilities since they will be dealing directly with customers. Their attention to detail must be accurate when filling prescription drugs per the pharmacist’s directions. And they must have a comprehensive knowledge of pharmaceutical terminology so that they may assist customers with understanding instructions for their prescriptions as well as other pharmaceutical literature and information. However, under no situation should they ever offer medical advice pertaining to medications or anything else. Any such questions would be addressed by the pharmacist. A few of the regular daily duties a pharmacy tech may carry out are:
- Greet and help customers with prescriptions and other questions
- Prepare prescription medicines under pharmacist supervision
- Input prescription and customer data into pharmacy computer system
- Phone customers when their medications are ready for pick-up
- Fill out and submit customer insurance claim forms
- Stock shelves and monitor and control inventory
Due to the nature of their job, pharmacy technicians will spend most of their working day on their feet. And working weekends and evenings is also typical, especially for newer techs with lower seniority. But the reward for occasional tired and aching feet or sometimes having to work after hours is an extremely fulfilling career assisting customers with their health and well-being.
Pharmacy Tech Degrees and Diplomas
Students wishing to enroll in a pharmacy technician school are qualified as long as they have a high school diploma or a GED. There are essentially 2 alternatives to becoming a technician whether you enroll in a community college or a trade school. The first is to earn a diploma or a certificate, which normally can be finished in a year or less. These programs offer an introduction to the different aspects of pharmacology and pharmaceutical technology and generally include classroom and lab training. Many programs also require an internship at an approved pharmacy or other facility. The second alternative is the Associate Degree program which normally involves about two years of studies. Although not required for most entry level positions, it does provide a more comprehensive education and opens doors to more advanced positions or education in the future. Either program should furnish the necessary amount of training to pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam should the graduate choose to get certified.
Pharmacist Tech Certifications Available
Certification is not required in every state, but numerous graduates of pharmacy technician colleges choose to become certified in order to be more competitive in the job market. Also, many pharmacies will only hire a tech that has earned certification. There are two organizations that offer certification:
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
- Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).
The NHA requirements are that the applicant be 18 years or older, has graduated from high school, has completed a training program, and has one or more years of work experience. The PTCB only requires that the applicant has graduated high school and passes their examination. Re-certification is called for every 2 years by each program, which may be satisfied by performing 20 hours of continuing education.
Pharmacy Tech Classes Online
Before choosing a pharmacist tech online school, it’s important to realize that most programs do require a portion of the training be completed in a clinical setting. This is commonly fulfilled in an area pharmacy or hospital by means of an internship program. Students in most cases will have the benefit of working under a seasoned pharmacy tech so as to acquire some real world experience. However the balance or non-clinical training can be taken online in your home or via any available computer. This alternative is more accommodating for most students, especially for those who continue to work while acquiring their certificate or degree. And online programs are frequently less expensive than classroom options. Tuition and expenditures for commuting and study materials may be decreased substantially. With both the clinical and the online training, a comprehensive education is provided. But not all online programs are accredited, which is essential for obtaining certification and employment (more on accreditation later). So verify that any online program you are reviewing is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, for example the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). If you are disciplined enough to learn with a less formal type of education, then online training may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Pharmacist Tech Colleges
After you have decided whether you wish to attain a degree or a certificate, and if you prefer to enroll in an online program or attend classes on campus, you can begin to narrow your school alternatives. There are many pharmacist tech schools to pick from throughout the Country, so you need to develop a list of qualifying questions so that you can compare community colleges and technical schools. As we discussed in our introduction, you will most likely initially look for programs that are within both your financial resources and commuting distance from your residence. If you are willing to relocate or are going to enroll in an online pharmacy tech college, then location may not be critical. But there are a number of other variables that you should take into consideration in order to effectively compare programs. The following questions will assist you in collecting that information and help you to make your final decision.
Is the Pharmacist Technician School Accredited? Most pharmacist tech colleges and trade schools have acquired a national or regional accreditation. Among the most respected accrediting agencies is the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Colleges earning accreditation from the ASHP have been screened and verified to offer a complete superior education. Online schools may additionally receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which deals exclusively with distance or online education. Make sure to verify that the certificate or degree program in addition to the college you select are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides helping make sure that you obtain a superior education, it might assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Also, certification may require that the training program is accredited. And many employers will only hire entry level employees that have earned a degree from an accredited school.
Does the School Prepare You for Certification? Certification is not required in all states, but many pharmacies desire that the techs they employ are certified. The pharmacy tech college needs to prepare its students to pass the NHA or the PTCB exam. Students interested in obtaining NHA certification will also need 1 year of work experience. This condition may be met by entering a college sponsored internship program.
Does the School Sponsor Internship Programs? As we just discussed, the NHA mandates 1 year of job experience for certification, which may be satisfied by means of an internship program. Perhaps the best way to get practical clinical experience as a pharmacy technician is to train out in the field. Most pharmacy tech certificate or degree programs also require clinical training prior to graduation and an internship is a great way to satisfy the requirement. Ask if the programs have associations with area pharmacies, hospitals, or clinics for internship programs.
Does the College Provide Job Placement Help? Securing that initial position, especially with no experience, can be a challenging undertaking without some assistance. Find out if the colleges you are considering have job placement programs. If so, ask what their job placement rates are. A high job placement rate is an indication that the school has a good reputation within the field generating demand for its graduates. It also signifies that it has a sizable network of pharmacy relationships where it can place graduates.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the college they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their homes. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the pharmacist tech program as well.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the pharmacist technician college you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in your area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Find the Right Pharmacy Tech Program
Getting the ideal pharmacy tech training is an important first step to beginning your career in a fulfilling occupation where assisting people with their wellness is your mission. Traditionally, many pharmacist techs were trained “on the job”. These days, most employers can no longer afford to do this and much prefer to hire formally trained techs. Training is furnished by vocational and trade schools, technical colleges as well as community colleges. Many pharmacy technician colleges incorporate both clinical and classroom training. As we have addressed in this article, it’s essential to enroll in a school that is accredited and will ready you for certification. This holds true both for classes online and for those attended on campus. If you follow our suggestions you will be able to evaluate programs so that you are certain to make the best choice. With the right training and dedication you can realize your goal to become a pharmacy tech.