Pharmacy technicians work closely with pharmacists in health and professional care environments. Pharmacists often train and supervise pharmacy technicians in their work, which typically includes compounding, measuring, and dispensing medication. Many pharmacists rely on pharmacy technicians for administrative work such as inventory management, filing insurance claims, and record-keeping.
Well-developed pharmacy technician programs include classroom instruction and hands-on laboratory training. To succeed in their role, pharmacy technicians need keen mathematical acumen and attentiveness to detail.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacy technicians' industry and state greatly impact their salary and career prospects. Although pharmacy technicians earn a lower-than-average annual median salary ($33,950 compared to $39,810), the top 10% of professionals in this sector earn significantly higher annual median salaries ($49,130).
Top 10 The Best Accredited Online Pharmacy Technician Programs
|#1||Vincennes University Vincennes, IN|
|#2||State Fair Community College Sedalia, MO|
|#3||Central Piedmont Community College Charlotte, NC|
|#4||North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton, ND|
|#5||Barton County Community College Great Bend, KS|
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A 60-credit associate in applied science degree typically takes two years to complete. Learners can complete diploma or certificate programs, which require fewer credits, sooner.
Except for five states and the District of Columbia, all states require pharmacy technicians to either be licensed or hold a recognized certificate in the field before they can practice.
Most pharmacy technicians work in retail pharmacies. Hospitals, nursing homes, and mental health facilities also hire pharmacy technicians.
Pharmacists typically complete four years of professional coursework in addition to a minimum of two years of undergraduate study. Pharmacy technicians usually only complete two years of postsecondary study.
Best Pharmacy Technician Programs 2021
Online pharmacy technician programs often run asynchronously, giving enrollees the flexibility to continue their jobs. Learners who enroll in online programs also save money by not incurring room-and-board or commuting expenses.
The ranking below highlights some of the most affordable pharmacy technician programs online. Prospective students can also learn about graduation rates and scholarship opportunities.
Founded in 1801 as Indiana's first college, VU enrolls approximately 3,400 students annually. The university comprises six colleges, including the College of Health Science and Human Performance that offers an associate of science in pharmacy technology.
Applicants must meet the university's general admission requirements. They also need prerequisite coursework in math and English, a satisfactory criminal background check, and a negative drug screen result. Students need at least a "C" in all required pharmacy technology classes to remain in the program. To graduate, enrollees must complete a clinical internship.
Curriculum includes coursework in pharmacy law and ethics for technicians, addiction disorders and psychoactive drugs, pharmacy management, and principles of sociology. The two-year pharmacy technician program prepares graduates to sit for the National Pharmacy Technician Exam. Indiana requires pharmacy technicians to pass the exam before they can practice.
Located in Sedalia, Missouri, SFCC enrolls approximately 5,000 students each year. The college offers three programs for pharmacy technicians: an 18-credit skills certificate, a 30-credit professional certificate, and a 61.5-credit associate of applied science in healthcare with an emphasis in pharmacy technology.
The skills certificate prepares graduates to take the Pharmacy Technician Certificate Board Examination for the certified pharmacy technician (CPhT) credential. Some states require pharmacy technicians to hold the CPhT designation before they can practice. The professional certificate combines healthcare courses with the skills certificate coursework. The pharmacy technician emphasis of the healthcare AAS degree prepares graduates to work in retail and hospital pharmacies and several other related healthcare arenas.
SFCC's programs for pharmacy technicians include a practicum component that allows enrollees to receive supervised training under a licensed pharmacist and develop valuable hands-on skills.
Founded in 1963 and currently comprising eight locations in Charlotte, North Carolina, CPCC offers almost 300 programs in 12 career fields. CPCC offers associate of applied science and diploma programs for pharmacy technicians.
The AAS in pharmacy technology comprises 70-72 credits and includes courses in anatomy and physiology, hospital pharmacy, sterile products, and pharmacy calculations. The diploma program consists of 42-45 credits. Both programs require applicants to take the Test of Essential Academic Skills. Prior to graduation, AAS and diploma enrollees must complete a supervised clinical experience that includes hands-on training with a licensed pharmacist.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) accredits CPCC's pharmacy technician programs. Completion of an ASHP-accredited program qualifies graduates to sit for the national certification exam to earn the certified pharmacy technician credential. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board administers the exam.
Established in 1903 and the nation's second-oldest public two-year institution, NDSCS enrolls approximately 2,900 students annually. The college offers associate, diploma, and certificate programs across 84 career pathways.
NDSCS offers a pharmacy technician program at the associate and certificate levels. The 68-credit associate of applied science degree is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. The certificate program consists of 44 credits. The AAS in pharmacy technology qualifies degree-holders to register with the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy, which is a requirement for employment as a pharmacy technician in the state. Graduates can also sit for national certification tests such as the Certified Pharmacy Technician Exam.
Application requirements include a high school or GED diploma, ACT scores or results from another acceptable college placement test, and proof of English and math proficiency. Students complete an eight-week internship in an institutional practice or community setting.
Barton County Community College in Great Bend, Kansas, offers a 29-credit certificate in pharmacy technology that learners can complete in one year. Students can pursue the program entirely online. Asynchronous courses increase the program's flexibility and convenience, enabling working students to continue their education without giving up employment.
Applicants must demonstrate math skills above the basic algebra level either through testing or completing an appropriate-level math course. The program includes classes in pharmacy calculations, pharmacology, medical terminology, and advanced pharmacy operations.
Learners must complete an internship before graduating from the program. Online enrollees can meet this requirement at an approved local site. Upon completing the program, graduates can sit for the nationally recognized Pharmacy Technician Certificate Exam.
Career and Salary Outlook for Pharmacy Technicians
The healthcare field is a robust professional sector. The BLS projects jobs for healthcare professionals to grow 15% between 2019-2029, which equals about 2.4 million new jobs. Although the BLS projects a slower growth rate of 4% for pharmacy technician jobs, practitioners can find ample professional opportunities in several industries and states.
Most pharmacy technicians work at health and professional care stores, although practitioners who work for federal executive branches earn the highest mean annual salaries of $44,920. Outpatient care centers and colleges and professional schools pay the second and third highest salaries in the industry ($44,670 and $43,580, respectively).
The states with the most pharmacy technicians include Texas, California, and Florida. California pays the highest pharmacy technician salaries ($45,200), followed by Alaska ($44,280) and Washington ($43,910).
|Bottom 10%||Median Annual Salary||Top 10%|
|Less than $24,120||$33,950||More than $49,130|
Accreditation for Pharmacy Technology Programs
Accreditation is a voluntary evaluation process that schools complete to show their commitment to providing quality educational programs. Accrediting agencies assess a postsecondary institution's offerings according to accepted and established standards of rigor and quality. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) oversees the process, although it does not directly grant accreditation.
Nonprofit degree-oriented colleges and universities seek regional accreditation, while for-profit vocational schools seek national accreditation. Although regional accreditors use stricter evaluation standards, the ED recognizes both accreditation types. The ED does not disburse federal assistance funds to non-accredited institutions.
Accrediting organizations can also provide programmatic accreditation to specific programs. The Pharmacy Technician Education Accreditation Commission is the main accrediting body for pharmacy technician education and training programs.
Pharmacy Technician Certification
Practice requirements for pharmacy technicians vary between states. According to data from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, 24 states require pharmacy technicians to hold licensure or national certification before they can practice. Another 21 states require licensure or registration only (no national certification), and five states (Delaware, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia do not post any requirements for pharmacy technicians.
Many states recognize the certified pharmacy technician credential issued by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). To qualify for certification, applicants must graduate from a pharmacy technician program recognized by the organization and pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. PTCB accepts applicants with at least 500 hours of professional experience as a pharmacy technician in lieu of an associate degree or diploma.
Courses in a Pharmacy Technology Program
An associate degree in pharmacy technology typically comprises 60-64 credits and takes two years to complete. Diploma programs and the best pharmacy technician certificate online programs require fewer credits and usually take one year to complete. Other factors, such as learners' enrollment status and the program's delivery format, can impact program length.
Pharmacy technology coursework covers topics such as pharmacy mathematics, drug dosages, and compounding. Many programs also include classes in management, industry regulations, and the insurance process. See below for five common courses in both on-campus and online pharmacy technician programs.
- Students learn the fundamental concepts of pharmacology, including generic and trade names of common medications, dosage formulations, and pharmacokinetic processes that impact a body's reaction to various drugs. The course teaches enrollees about contraindications and adverse effects of different medications. Learners also study safe and proper drug administration procedures.
- This course provides hands-on training in non-sterile pharmaceutical preparations, cleaning and maintenance of compounding equipment, and accurate documentation. Students familiarize themselves with quality assurance principles and the most current pharmacy technology software to help them customize medications and keep accurate patient and dosage records.
- Safe Medication Practices
- Enrollees examine factors that often contribute to errors in the pharmaceutical field, including the environment, the organization, and the individual. This course aims to help learners improve patient outcomes by focusing on the cause and prevention of medication and dispensing oversight. Students learn various strategies to minimize the incidence of errors in community and hospital settings.
- Standards of Practice and Legislation for Pharmacy Technicians
- This course provides a professional, legal, and ethical framework for pharmacy technicians. Students learn about various state and federal regulations impacting pharmacy practice and the implications of the same on their duties and responsibilities as pharmacy technicians. The course familiarizes enrollees with standards of practice and current procedural regulations in the field.
- Pharmacy Business
- This course focuses on common business practices in community pharmacy. Coursework covers topics such as efficient inventory control and management, billing and reconciling third-party insurance claims, purchasing procedures, and customer service. Learners study pharmaceutical business terminology and examine local and state regulations relevant to the field.
Scholarships for Pharmacy Technology Students
Most schools with onsite and online pharmacy technician programs give enrollees equal access to scholarship opportunities. Students can also explore financial aid programs from professional organizations, state and federal agencies, and private nonprofit groups with a strong connection to the field. See below for three scholarships open to pharmacy technology students.
Who Can Apply: This foundation offers scholarships through several partner schools nationwide. Applicants must show admission to the pharmacy technician program at a participating institution.
Who Can Apply: The program welcomes applications from students enrolled in an accredited pharmacy program. Recipients can apply the award amount toward tuition and fees at any college or university in the United States.
Who Can Apply: Students pursuing a pharmacy degree at any level (including pharmacy technician) with a minimum 3.0 GPA can apply. Applicants must submit a technology-driven idea that improves current pharmacy practice.