What are Pharmacy Techs?
Pharmacy techs assist pharmacists in retail pharmacies, hospitals and other medical facilities that prescribe medicines. They count pills, measure liquid medications, use recipes to compound medicines, create labels, process payments and interact with customers or patients according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information, see our pharmacy technician career page.
Pharmacy Technology Program Information
Pharmacy technology programs are available through community colleges, online schools, universities, and vocational schools -- and may provide various options for individuals looking to advance their education and careers. Online programs allow students to work from home, on their own schedules. Campus-based programs are also available, and are a good choice for individuals who prefer a more traditional learning style. Hybrid programs combine online coursework with hands-on training. Programs sometimes include internships at local pharmacies. The time required to complete pharmacy technology schools varies by student and program, but typically ranges between five months and two years.
Pharmacy Technology Program Types
- Diploma/Certificate: Pharmacy technology diploma/certificate programs can be completed typically in as little as five months, although may take a year to complete. This route may be beneficial to individuals who want to begin their new career as quickly as possible.
- Associate Degree: A select number of colleges award pharmacy technology associate degrees. These programs usually take two years to complete, combining pharmacy tech coursework with general education classes. An associate program can be a good choice for individuals who want to earn a bachelor's degree, since associate degrees earned from accredited schools may transfer to some four-year degree programs.
Pharmacy tech programs may help students pursue professional certification after graduation, including gaining the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) designation.
Pharmacy Technology Course Descriptions
Although individual pharmacy technology courses can vary by school, most programs share a common core curriculum. The following represent courses typically found in pharmacy technology programs:
- Medical Terminology: Medical terminology is the language of healthcare and pharmacy techs on the job are expected to know it. Students learn the basic medical vocabulary for all the human body systems, with a focus on prefixes and suffixes, abbreviations, basic diseases and surgical terms.
- Dose and Medication Preparation: Students learn about medication charts, pharmacy math, maintaining sterile environments and how to fill orders correctly, regarding drug, dosage and frequency. Preparing dosages and medications is central to pharmacy tech jobs.
- Computer Applications: In this course, students learn to use pharmacy software and insurance billing programs, including automated ordering, inventory, payment methods, common insurance rejection codes and entering patient prescriptions and profiles.
- Pharmacy Law and Ethics: Students will likely learn legal and ethical matters related to pharmacies, including confidentiality and patient privacy. Without an understanding of medical law and ethics, pharmacy techs could cause harm to patients and leave themselves and their employers liable.
Related Career Options
Individuals interested in pharmacy technology programs may want to consider pursuing alternative healthcare paths, such as the following careers:
- Health Information Technicians: Manage health information data by using classification systems. Assure records are accurate and accessible. Most medical records professionals have professional certification as well as a post-secondary certificate or associate degree.
- Medical Assistants: Schedule appointments, measure patients' vital signs and provide other clinical and administrative tasks for physicians, chiropractors and other medical practitioners. Many medical assistants are trained on the job, but some have completed certificate or associate programs.
- Dental Assistants: Assist dental hygienists in providing patient care, maintain records and perform other clerical duties. In some states, dental assistants must complete an accredited one-year certificate or diploma program. In other states, they train on the job.
Links to Sources and Associations
The following websites offer more information about careers in pharmacy technology:
American Association of Pharmacy Technicians, http://www.pharmacytechnician.com/
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, http://www.ashp.org/
Pharmacy Technicians, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm
National Healthcareer Association, http://www.nhanow.com/home.aspx
National Pharmacy Technician Association, http://www.pharmacytechnician.org/
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, http://www.ptcb.org/