How to Choose the Right Pharmacy Tech Program Near Muscle Shoals Alabama
Having made the decision to earn your pharmacy technician certificate or degree near Muscle ShoalsAL, you may be wondering how to choose the best program to get your education and training. Usually the initial step is to locate schools that offer the degree or diploma that you are interested in. Many future students begin by looking for colleges that are within commuting distance of their home, and then comparing the tuitions. While cost and location are important concerns when deciding on a school, they are not the only ones. Qualifications such as reputation and accreditation should be taken into account as well. And if you prefer attending classes at home in front 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 some 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 technician does, the degree and certification options available, and the benefits of online programs.
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The Responsibilities of Pharmacy Technicians
Pharmacy techs have various job functions, but their principal duty is to dispense prescription medications. Since they are not licensed, when filling prescriptions they must operate under the management of a licensed Muscle Shoals AL pharmacist. They must also have good customer service skills since they will be working directly with customers. Their attention to detail must be precise when preparing prescription medications per the pharmacist's directions. And they must have an in-depth knowledge of pharmaceutical terms in order that they can help customers with understanding instructions for their medications as well as other pharmaceutical literature and information. However, under no circumstance should they ever offer medical advice pertaining to medications or anything else. All such questions should be handled by the pharmacist. Several of the regular daily tasks a pharmacy tech may perform are:
- Receive and help customers with medications and other questions
- Dispense prescription medications under pharmacist direction
- Add customer and prescription information into pharmacy computer system
- Contact customers when their medications are ready for pick-up
- Complete and submit customer insurance claim forms
- Stock shelves and audit and manage inventory
As a consequence of their job, pharmacy techs will spend the majority of their working day standing. And working evenings and weekends is also typical, especially for newer technicians with low seniority. But the reward for occasional tired and aching feet or sometimes being required to work off-hours is an extremely fulfilling career helping people with their health and well-being.
Pharmacy Technician Degrees and Diplomas
Students desiring to enroll in a pharmacy technician college are qualified provided that they have a high school diploma or equivalent. There are basically two options to training to be a technician whether you enroll in a community college or a trade school. The first is to attain a diploma or a certificate, which typically can be completed in a year or less. These programs provide an introduction to the different aspects of pharmacology and pharmaceutical technology and normally include lab and classroom training. Numerous programs also require an internship at an approved Muscle Shoals AL pharmacy or similar facility. The second option is the Associate Degree program which usually takes about two years of studies. Although not required for most entry level positions, it does offer a more extensive education and can lead to more advanced positions or education down the road. Either program should provide the proper level of training to pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination should the graduate choose to get certified.
Pharmacy Tech Available Certifications
Certification is not required in every state, but many graduates of pharmacy technician colleges opt to get certified so as to be more qualified in the job market. Also, many Muscle Shoals AL pharmacies will only hire a tech that is certified. There are two organizations that offer certification:
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
- Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)
The NHA requirements are that the applicant be at least 18 years old, has graduated from high school, has completed a training program, and has one or more years of work experience. The PTCB just requires that the applicant has graduated high school and passes their examination. Recertification is required every two years by both programs, which can be satisfied by performing 20 hours of continuing education.
Pharmacist Tech Online Programs
Before selecting a pharmacy tech online school, it's necessary to realize that the majority of schools do require that a substantial part of the training be carried out in a clinical setting. This is usually fulfilled in an area Muscle Shoals pharmacy or health center by means of an internship program. Students often will have the opportunity to work with an experienced pharmacy tech so as to obtain some work place experience. Fortunately the non-clinical portion of the training may be accessed online in your Muscle Shoals AL home or via any available computer. This option is more convenient for many students, notably for those who continue to work while earning their degree or certificate. And online colleges are sometimes less expensive than traditional options. Tuition and expenditures for driving and course materials may be reduced substantially. With both the online and the clinical training, a comprehensive education is provided. But not all online colleges are accredited, which is critical for obtaining employment and certification (more on accreditation later). So verify that each online school you are looking at is accredited by an acknowledged accrediting agency, for example the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). If you are dedicated enough to learn with a less formal type of education, then online training may be the best option for you.
Questions to Ask Pharmacist Technician Courses
After you have determined whether you want to attain a degree or a certificate, and if you prefer to enroll in an online program or attend classes on campus, you can start to target your school options. There are many pharmacist tech programs to pick from in the Muscle Shoals AL area and throughout the United States, so you must develop a list of qualifying questions so that you can contrast community colleges and trade schools. As we addressed in our introduction, you will probably initially look for schools that are within both your financial budget and commuting distance from your Muscle Shoals residence. If you are able to move or are have decided to enroll in an online pharmacy tech program, then location may not be important. But there are a number of other factors that you should consider in order to adequately compare colleges. The following questions will help you in gathering that information and help you to make your ultimate choice.
Is the Pharmacy Technician Program Accredited? Many pharmacy technician colleges and vocational schools have obtained a regional or national 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 evaluated and certified to provide a comprehensive quality education. Online colleges may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which deals only with online or distance education. Don't forget to confirm that the certificate or degree program in addition to the school you pick are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to helping guarantee that you receive a quality education, it can assist in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not offered for non-accredited schools. Also, certification may mandate that the training program is accredited. And a number of Muscle Shoals AL pharmacies will only hire entry level employees that have graduated from an accredited program.
Does the School Prep You for Certification? Certification is not mandated in all states, but many pharmacies prefer that the technicians they employ are certified. The pharmacy tech college needs to prep its students to pass the NHA or the PTCB examination. Students planning on obtaining NHA certification will additionally need 1 year of professional experience. This condition can be met by taking part in a college sponsored internship program.
Does the School Sponsor Internship Programs? As we just discussed, the NHA requires a year of experience for certification, which can be met with an internship program. One of the best ways to acquire hands on clinical experience as a pharmacy tech is to train out in the field. Most pharmacy tech degree or certificate programs also require clinical training prior to graduation and an internship is an excellent way to meet the requirement. Check if the programs have associations with Muscle Shoals Alabama area pharmacies, hospitals, or clinics for internship programs.
Does the School Give Job Placement Assistance? Getting that initial position in Muscle Shoals AL after graduation, particularly with no experience, can be a daunting task without some help. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. If they do, ask what their job placement rates are. A high job placement rate is an indication that the school has a good reputation within the profession generating appeal for its graduates. It also indicates that it has a sizable network of pharmacy relationships where it can place graduating students.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the college they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Muscle Shoals AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically 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.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the colleges you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the pharmacist tech program also.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the pharmacy technician college you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Muscle Shoals AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.
Find the Best Muscle Shoals Pharmacy Tech Program
Getting the best pharmacist tech training is a crucial first step to launching your career in a fulfilling occupation where helping customers with their health is your mission. In the past, many pharmacist techs were trained "on the job". Nowadays, the majority of pharmacies can no longer afford to do this and place a higher importance on hiring formally educated techs. Training is furnished by trade schools, vocational and technical colleges, as well as community colleges. Most pharmacy tech schools incorporate both laboratory and classroom training. As we have covered in this article, it's necessary to select a program that is accredited and will prep you for certification. This holds true both for online classes and for those attended on campus. If you follow our additional suggestions you will be able to compare colleges so that you are certain to make the right selection. With the proper training and commitment you can reach your goal of becoming a pharmacy technician in Muscle Shoals Alabama.