How to Select the Right Pharmacy Tech College Near Birmingham Alabama
Having decided to earn your pharmacy tech degree or certificate near BirminghamAL, you might be wondering how to select the right program to get your education and training. Naturally the initial step is to find colleges that offer the degree or diploma that you would like to earn. Many potential students begin by looking for schools that are within commuting distance of their residence, and then comparing the cost. While tuition and location are significant factors when deciding on a school, they are not the only ones. Qualifications such as accreditation and reputation must be evaluated also. And if you prefer attending classes in your home by means of your computer rather than in a classroom, then searching for an accredited online college will also be included in your vetting process. We will go over these qualifiers and others that you will want to include when comparing pharmacy technician schools. But to begin with, let's take a look at what a pharmacy tech does, the certificate and degree options available, and the advantages of online programs.
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The Job of Pharmacy Techs
Pharmacy technicians have various job responsibilities, but their main responsibility is to dispense prescription medicines. Since they are not licensed, when dispensing prescriptions they must work under the management of a licensed Birmingham AL pharmacist. They must also have good customer service abilities since they will be interacting directly with customers. Their attention to detail must be accurate when filling prescription drugs per the pharmacist's directions. And they need to have a comprehensive knowledge of pharmaceutical terms in order that they may assist customers with understanding directions for their medications in addition to other pharmaceutical literature and information. On the other hand, under no situation should they ever give medical advice regarding medications or anything else. Any such questions should be addressed by the pharmacist. Some of the regular daily functions a pharmacy technician may carry out are:
- Receive and help customers with medications and other questions
- Fill prescription medicines under pharmacist supervision
- Input prescription and customer information into pharmacy computer system
- Phone customers when their prescriptions are ready for pick-up
- Prepare and submit customer insurance claim forms
- Stock shelves and monitor and manage inventory
As a consequence of their profession, pharmacy technicians will spend most of their working day on their feet. And working evenings and weekends is also typical, especially for newer techs with lower seniority. But the payoff for occasional tired and aching feet or sometimes having to work after hours is a very satisfying career assisting people with their health and well-being.
Pharmacy Technician Certificates and Degrees
Students desiring to enroll in a pharmacy technician program are qualified provided that they have a high school diploma or equivalent. There are generally two options to training to be a technician regardless if you enroll in a community college or a trade school. The first is to earn a certificate or a diploma, which normally can be accomplished in a year or less. These programs offer an introduction to the different facets of pharmacology and pharmaceutical technology and generally include lab and classroom training. Many programs also include an internship at an approved Birmingham AL pharmacy or other facility. The second alternative is the Associate Degree program which usually involves about 2 years of studies. Although not needed for most entry level positions, it does offer a more comprehensive education and opens doors to more advanced positions or education down the road. Either program can provide the proper level of training to pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination should the graduate decide to get certified.
Pharmacy Technician Certifications Available
Certification is not required in every state, but a large number of graduates of pharmacy tech schools elect to become certified in order to be more qualified when seeking employment. Also, many Birmingham AL employers will only hire a tech that has earned certification. There are 2 organizations that provide certification:
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
- Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)
The NHA requirements are that the applicant be 18 years or older, be a high school graduate, has completed a training program, and has at least one year of work experience. The PTCB only requires that the applicant has graduated high school and passes their exam. Recertification is called for every 2 years by both programs, which may be met by performing 20 hours of continuing education.
Pharmacy Tech Schools Online
Before deciding on a pharmacist tech online program, it's necessary to realize that most programs do require that a substantial part of the training be completed in a clinical environment. This is commonly fulfilled in a local Birmingham pharmacy or health center by means of an internship program. Students in most cases will have the opportunity to work under a seasoned pharmacy tech so as to acquire some work place experience. However the non-clinical portion of the training may be accessed online in your Birmingham AL home or via any available computer. This option is more convenient for most students, notably for those who keep working while attaining their certificate or degree. And online colleges are sometimes less expensive than traditional options. Tuition and expenditures for commuting and study materials can be reduced significantly. With both the online and the clinical training, a complete education is offered. But not all online colleges are accredited, which is important for securing employment and certification (more on accreditation later). So verify that any online school you are considering is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, for instance 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 ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Pharmacy Technician Schools
Once you have determined whether you want to earn a degree or a certificate, and if you prefer to enroll in an online college or go to classes on campus, you can start to target your school alternatives. There are a large number of pharmacist tech programs to select from in the Birmingham AL area and throughout the USA, so you must create a list of qualifying questions so that you can contrast colleges and technical schools. As we discussed in our introduction, you will probably first start looking for programs that are within both your financial resources and driving distance from your Birmingham residence. If you are willing to move or are going to enroll in an online pharmacy tech program, then location may not be critical. But there are many other issues that you need to take into consideration in order to effectively compare schools. The following questions will help you in gathering that information and help you to make your ultimate selection.
Is the Pharmacist Tech College Accredited? Many pharmacist technician programs and vocational schools have earned a national or regional accreditation. One of the most highly regarded accrediting organizations is the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Programs earning accreditation from the ASHP have been screened and certified to furnish a comprehensive superior education. Online programs may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which deals only with online or distance education. Don't forget to confirm that the degree or certificate program together with the school you select are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to helping ensure that you receive a quality education, it might assist in acquiring financial aid or student loans, which are frequently not offered for non-accredited colleges. Also, certification might mandate that the program of training is accredited. And many Birmingham AL employers will only hire entry level employees that have graduated from an accredited program.
Does the College Prep You for Certification? Certification is not required in every state, but a number of employers prefer that the techs they hire are certified. The pharmacist tech college needs to prepare its students to pass the PTCB or the NHA examination. Students interested in obtaining NHA certification will also need 1 year of work experience. This qualification may be fulfilled by participating in a school sponsored internship program.
Does the College Provide Internship Programs? As we just discussed, the NHA requires a year of experience for certification, which may be satisfied by means of an internship program. One of the best ways to obtain hands on clinical experience as a pharmacy technician is to train out in the field. Most pharmacy tech degree or certificate programs also require practical training prior to graduation and an internship is a great way to meet the requirement. Check if the colleges have associations with Birmingham Alabama area pharmacies, clinics, or hospitals for internship programs.
Does the School Offer Job Placement Help? Getting that initial position in Birmingham AL after graduation, particularly with no prior experience, can be a difficult task without some assistance. Ask if the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. If they do, ask what their job placement rates are. A higher job placement rate is an indication that the school has an excellent reputation within the field generating demand for its graduates. It also signifies that it has a substantial network of pharmacy relationships where it can place graduating students.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the college they select will need to be within driving distance of their Birmingham AL home. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the colleges you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the pharmacy technician program also.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the pharmacist tech college you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Birmingham AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Find the Right Birmingham Pharmacy Tech Course
Receiving the best pharmacist tech training is a critical first step to launching your career in a fulfilling occupation where helping customers with their wellness is your mission. Traditionally, many pharmacy technicians were trained "on the job". Nowadays, the majority of employers can no longer operate this way and place a higher importance on hiring formally trained techs. Training is offered by vocational and trade schools, technical colleges as well as community colleges. Most pharmacist technician programs include both classroom and laboratory training. As we have covered in this article, it's important to enroll in a school that is accredited and will prepare you for certification. This is true both for classes online and for those attended on campus. If you follow our additional suggestions you will be able to compare colleges so that you are sure to make the best selection. With the proper training and determination you can achieve your goal of becoming a pharmacy technician in Birmingham Alabama.