Pharmacy technicians form the backbone of any pharmacy. While pharmacists get a lot of the attention and credit, it’s usually the pharmacy technician who does the bulk of the work, including processing and filling prescriptions, measuring medication amounts and organizing inventory. As a result, serving as a pharmacy technician carries a lot of responsibility that necessitates specialized training. Want to learn more about how you can become a pharmacy tech? Start with these frequently asked questions about the process, and learn how to earn your degree online.
Deciding among the best accredited online pharmacy technology programs can be a bit subjective. Some students will prefer extra attention from their professors while others will need to keep tuition costs as low as possible. Still others may prefer a school in a particular location, since that’s where they want to work after graduating. Because of this, it’s easy to see how certain factors must be considered when deciding on the best program. Therefore, the following ranking doesn’t just list schools that are the best; it also provides information about the various factors prospective pharmacy technology students might heavily consider when choosing a school.
The exact compensation a pharmacy technician can expect will depend on where they work and their level of experience. Generally, pharmacy technicians will make more money in a hospital than a retail pharmacy. However, the level of experience can play a significant role in expected salary as well. To give a broad overview of what pharmacy technicians can make, check out the chart below.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary: Entry-level||Median Annual Salary: Mid-level||Median Annual Salary: Late-career|
|Certified Pharmacy Technician||$29,513||$34,796||$43,232|
|Senior Certified Pharmacy Technician||$35,425||$41,250||$41,731|
|Pharmacy Technician Supervisor||N/A||$49,025||N/A|
|Retail Pharmacy Tech||$27,186||$30,580||$44,449|
To be competitive in the job market, an individual must earn either a certificate or associate degree in pharmacy technology. While the associate degree isn’t required to become a pharmacy technician or sit for the certification exam, it does provide a broader educational background that may open more professional growth opportunities, including a future in teaching or management.
The opportunity for specialization is possible with specific courses and certifications offered by the National Pharmacy Technician Association in areas such as compounding and chemo. These certifications can also be obtained through coursework available within formal pharmacy technology programs.
An associate degree takes approximately two years to complete and is commonly found at community colleges. Not everyone who wants to be a pharmacy technician will pursue this level, since it takes more time and money to complete than a certificate. However, it does provide a well-rounded education and increases the chances for future growth or a shift into another career, such as teaching. Students enrolled in an online associate degree program can expect to take some of the following courses:
Students learn the array of rules, regulations and laws that apply to the dispensing and handling of pharmaceutical drugs.
Teaches the mathematical concepts needed to calculate dosages and complete compounding tasks in a pharmacy.
Discusses all aspects of the pharmacy technician field, including certification requirements, ethical considerations and legal responsibilities.
Job Outlook: 12 percent growth
Job Outlook: 4 percent growth
Job Outlook: 14 percent growth
Source: (2016–2026 growth data from BLS)
Certificate or diploma programs are popular for future pharmacy technicians. Typically taking about 18 months to complete, the curriculums in a certificate program and associate degree program are similar, except the general education requirements are not included. Because a degree isn’t necessary for certification, a certificate is sufficient for either type of pharmacy technician certification available in the United States. A sample of a certificate program’s curriculum is below:
Provides an overview of how medications interact with the human body, especially when treating diseases.
Real-world experience working in a pharmacy setting under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist.
Students learn aseptic techniques and compounding sterile preparations within the applicable legal framework.
Job Outlook: 12 percent growth
Source: (2016–2026 growth data from BLS)
Becoming a pharmacy technician involves much more than just signing up and completing a program. One of the first things prospective students should do is make sure they have the necessary qualities to succeed as a pharmacy technician and enjoy that type of work.
For example, pharmacy technicians must be extremely detail-oriented. If mistakes are made filling prescriptions, people can die. It’s also helpful to be organized and be able to multi-task. A pharmacy technician may fill numerous prescriptions while interacting with customers and answering their questions or directing their concerns to the pharmacist.
Finally, pharmacy technicians must have good listening skills. They serve as the first line of interaction between the pharmacy and the customer, so they must accurately understand the concerns and issues of those who ask questions. Assuming individuals have the qualities to succeed in the pharmacy technology field, they can move through the following steps.
This is a minimum requirement to achieve certification as a pharmacy technician. Time to complete: Four years.
You obviously want to be a pharmacy technician, but do you have other aspirations, such as teaching, becoming a full-fledged pharmacist or going into management? If so, your educational path may be much different. Time to complete: Varies.
Most pharmacy technicians will either get an associate degree or certificate. Time to complete: Varies.
How much time and money you have readily available may determine the educational path most possible for you. Time to complete: Varies.
Pharmacy technology programs are very popular and widely available. Because you now know your available resources, along with the career and educational paths you wish to take, you can effectively research programs and apply for the one you choose. Time to complete: Varies.
Accreditation is critical because it ensures you will receive an education that meets certain minimum standards. Graduating from an accredited program is also important for finding a job as a pharmacy technician. Time to complete: Less than one month.
Admissions requirements will differ depending on the school and program. Students may need to take an admissions test, such as the SAT or ACT, complete essays or get letters of recommendation. Time to complete: Less than a month.
Some programs may require applicants to take the SAT or ACT. If your chosen program has this requirement, you’ll need to register for the applicable test and begin studying for it. Time to complete: Three to six months.
If you needed to write application essays, gather letters of recommendation or complete any other requirements for admission, complete them soon so you can formally apply to your chosen pharmacy technology program. Time to complete: Less than six months.
With any entrance exams taken and application requirements finished, now it’s time to submit your application. Time to complete: Less than a month.
Most employers will conduct background checks on employees before hiring them. Additionally, a criminal history may disqualify some individuals from becoming pharmacy technicians, such as those with certain drug offenses. Time to complete: Less than three months.
Complete the FAFSA (also known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and see what financial aid you may be eligible for that can help pay for the cost of schooling. Time to complete: Three or more months.
After you’re accepted, it’s time to hit the books. Do your very best to get good grades so you can stand out among the pharmacy technicians in your class and in the job market. Time to complete: 18 to 24 months.
Though you may be enrolled in an online program, your curriculum will have in-person course requirements that test your skills and knowledge in a pharmacy setting. Time to complete: Varies.
There are two certifications available; one is offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the other by the National Health Career Association. Applicants may need to pay registration fees and schedule to take their exam. Time to complete: A few weeks.
Without certification, students will face an uphill battle finding work as a pharmacy technician, so passing this exam is critical. Time to complete: Varies.
If you made good grades, impressed your supervisors during the hands-on portions of your coursework and became certified, you should be able to find a position as a pharmacy technician. Start applying for jobs. Time to complete: Varies.
Certification must be maintained. This includes completing continuing education requirements every few years. Time to complete: Less than a month.
Choosing the best pharmacy technology program can shape your professional future. When choosing a program, consider several points, many of which have been discussed above. But there are still a few other things to think about when finding the best online program.
First, check the school’s in-person curriculum requirements. Even though students may be enrolled in an online program where most course requirements can be satisfied remotely at any time during the day, some in-person requirements are still in place. Take this travel requirement into consideration when choosing a program.
Second, check a program’s career services offerings. Graduates can find post-graduate employment without any outside help from their school, but it’s certainly a lot easier when a career services office can get you in touch with contacts at desired places of employment and provide job search advice, like resume reviews and mock interviews.Search Programs
Scholarships and grants are desirable because they do not need to be repaid like loans do. There are literally thousands of scholarships and grants available to postsecondary students. Below is a list of some places pharmacy technology students can find scholarships specifically tailored to them.
Scholarships are a form of financial aid that doesn’t need to be paid back, so they are among the most desired of financial aid awards. Scholarships are usually awarded based on individual merit. This merit can include high academic performance, but might also go to students who specifically choose to study in pharmacy technology. The following is a list of resources than can help students find scholarships to pay for their pharmacy technology schooling.
Provides a detailed list of scholarships for students entering academic programs for a future career in pharmacy-related fields.
One of the premier online resources for scholarships. It has a section specifically for pharmacy tech students.
Grants are like scholarships because they don’t need to be paid back. But unlike scholarships, they are usually based on financial need, not merit (although merit is sometimes a factor). To be eligible for most grants, students will usually need to apply for financial aid including the completion of the FAFSA. For more information about grants for pharmacy technology students, check out the following resources.
Offers a Scholarship Finder that details various financial aid opportunities, including grants, scholarships and fellowships.
Available to undergraduate students working toward a bachelor’s or professional degree with the primary criteria being financial need.
When choosing a school for pharmacy technology, students must make sure the program offered is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. This not only ensures graduates from the program will be able to sit for the applicable certification exam, but that students will be eligible for most financial aid offerings. Practically all financial aid awards will only be available to students who attend an accredited academic program.