A great fit for people who want to help patients but aren’t quite sure if they want to become pharmacists, pharmacy tech roles allow them to prepare and dispense medications under supervision. Online programs for these professionals have grown significantly over the years, providing students with a variety of training options. Before applying to programs, it’s important to identify top schools, make sure programs have the proper accreditation and certification prep, and that you get the funding you need. This page breaks down everything you need to know to begin your pharmacy tech career.
Best in Class: 2019’s Top Online Pharmacy Tech Schools
With so many online pharmacy tech schools now available, learners may feel overwhelmed when trying to find a program that meets their professional needs while also living up to academic requirements and accreditation standards. To help students in this pursuit, we identified the best schools and programs for aspiring pharmacy technicians. These represent the most affordable and comprehensive programs with the accreditation you need to begin a rewarding career as a pharmacy tech. We’ve also spotlighted three programs in full so you can begin to visualize your journey from start to finish. See who stands out in 2019.
Spotlight: Brighton College
Brighton College operates its main campus in Arizona but also provides distance learning education for students throughout the country. The institution offers a pharmacy technician certificate for individuals who want to gain the skills and competencies necessary to take on this important role. During the course of their studies, learners review topics such as medical terminology, diseases, alternative medicines, classification of drugs, pharmacy procedures, HIPAA requirements, prescription processing, and the history of pharmacy.
The school works with students both while enrolled and after leaving to provide supportive job assistance and career mentoring. All learners can opt in to the school’s career exploration class, which teaches skills related to creating a resume, preparing for interviews, networking, developing professional relationships, and managing your career path.
After completing the certification requirements, learners must sit for the pharmacy tech exam. Brighton Colleges provides vouchers of up to $150 for graduates to help offset the cost of the exam. Learners pay $3,375 for this program, which includes tuition, resource fees, and an enrollment fee. It does not cover the cost of textbooks and materials. Individuals able to pay in full upfront spend only $3,075.
Spotlight: San Francisco State University
San Francisco State University’s College of Extended Learning provides an online pharmacy technician certification that includes an optional 80-hour clinical externship. SFSU’s offering exists as a self-paced certificate, meaning learners can move as quickly or slowly through the course materials as they wish. At the time of enrollment, students pay $1,399 in tuition which allows them six months of access to courses, textbooks, workbooks, and course materials. If they need longer than six months, they must pay a second time.
At SFSU, distance learners can take advantage of 24-hour access to mentoring, labs, career resources, interactive coursework, and learning exercises. Some of the topics they can expect to cover include drug identification, inventory control, calculating prescriptions, the top 200 drugs, billing and reimbursement, and drug compounding. While not required, applicants can take part in a clinical externship at an approved pharmacy if they want to gain additional real-world skills and participate in networking opportunities before graduating. Applicants must possess a high school diploma or GED to apply. Because the program exists in a self-paced format, learners can enroll at times best suited to their schedules.
Spotlight: Campbellsville University
Although Campbellsville University calls Kentucky home, this private university serves approximately 4,500 learners annually through both campus-based and distance learning options. The school provides a pharmacy technician certification path via both face-to-face and online programs. Some of the topics covered include cutting-edge medications, drug distribution, dosage calculations, brand-name vs. generic drugs, and working efficiently.
This program costs $1,999, which covers tuition and fees, an up-to-date drug handbook, malpractice insurance, and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) examination. A $300 non-refundable deposit is due to begin. The school offers several grants to help offset costs. To receive admittance, prospective students must complete an application, demonstrate that they hold a high school diploma or GED, and prove that they have no felony charges or misdemeanor drug charges on their record.
Distance learners enrolled on a full-time basis can finish this certification in as little as six months. They can receive career support and assistance along the way and take advantage of mentoring even after they graduate. Campbellsville University offers monthly start dates to help busy individuals get on the path to a new career as quickly as possible.
Why Online Training for Pharmacy Tech?
Online pharmacy technician programs appeal to many learners as they allow students to work toward their education while maintaining flexibility and balance within their personal, professional, and academic lives. Lots of distance learners decide to keep working while enrolled as many programs allow students to complete assignments at times that fit their schedules. While some classes may still need to be taken in person (particularly those with clinical components), online courses offer many benefits. Some of these include:
Many academic classes can be taken online, making it easy for distance learners to interact with their professors and peers, turn in assignments, review course materials, and take exams from any location with a secure and steady Wi-Fi connection.
Students can complete pharmacy technician programs at relatively low costs if they find the right school. At Penn Foster College, for instance, students pay just $999 for the program, practice lab kit, and PTCE exam. If attending a private institution, learners may pay more.
Time to completion
Individuals wanting to move into a pharmacy technician role can quickly find programs that allow them to jump from start to finish in less than three months. ECPI University’s Professional Development Center, for instance, provides a 10-week certificate program.
3 Types of Pharmacy Tech Programs Online
Before selecting a pharmacy technician online program, prospective online students must do their research to fully learn about what’s available. Unlike other academic paths that only exist as a degree, learners interested in pharmacy tech programs can choose from three different options. When reviewing the differences amongst certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees, individuals should consider where they want their career to go after working in the position for a few years. Those with aspirations to become a pharmacist or take on a more senior-level role often complete a different program than those who simply want to start working quickly.
Pharmacy tech certificate programs offer the most direct path to a career, making them great options for individuals who want to get into a job quickly. The length of programs vary by school: some last only a few weeks while others take close to a year. At San Joaquin Valley College, students enroll for nine months. Because these programs are shorter than diploma or associate degree paths, students may participate in fewer clinical opportunities and bypass general education coursework. For learners who don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, certificates also offer a cheaper option for gaining an education.
A perfect fit for students who don’t want to spend years in school but do want to gain more clinical experience, diplomas usually take approximately 12 months to complete if studying on a full-time basis. The program at Southeast Tech, for example, requires 48 credits and covers topics such as pharmacy principles and practices, pharmacology, pharmacy law and ethics, and pharmacy technician certification review. Many diploma programs provide more opportunities for lab work and additional requirements surrounding clinicals. Because these programs are longer and require more credits, students should expect to pay more. At Southeast Tech, students pay $11,520 in tuition alongside additional program fees.
Although a pharmacy technician degree can take significantly longer than a certificate program, individuals with career progression on their minds often decide it’s well worth it to stay in school for two years versus a few months. An Associate of Applied Science in Pharmacy Technician at Stratford University offers a glimpse of what to expect. Comprising 90 credits, this program introduces learners to all of the classroom-based and clinical courses needed to be a pharmacy tech alongside a compliment of general education classes. By pursuing this type of well-rounded education, individuals receive a leg up in the job market. As a bonus, those who decide to complete a bachelor’s or advanced degree in order to seek more advanced medical positions can apply their associate degree to the requirements of their next program.
Curriculum Review: Pharmacy Tech Classes Online
Although they work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist, pharmacy technicians take on much of the responsibility in ensuring they provide the correct medications and dosages to the individuals they serve. Because of this, it’s important for all graduates to possess a thorough and well-rounded set of knowledge upon graduating. The majority of pharmacy tech courses can be completed online at times best suited to individual students’ schedules, but many programs also mandate an externship. This must be completed in a local, approved pharmaceutical setting. Review the courses highlighted below, but conduct additional research to learn more.
Introduction to Pharmacy
Enrollment in this course guarantees newly admitted students the opportunity to study the foundations of the discipline. Learners cover topics such as the history of pharmacy practice, the future of the industry, key concepts surrounding communication and customer service, and pharmacy-specific laws and ethics.
Foundations of Pharmacology
Students take this course to learn about the common vocabulary shared in the industry and what specific terminologies, abbreviations, and formulations mean in their work as a pharmacy tech. Individuals cover the drug classifications alongside an introductory study on how the human body responds to medications.
With a focus on giving learners the confidence needed to work in a pharmacy or hospital setting, this course introduces them to common roles and responsibilities, skillsets, and characteristics of effective techs. They also learn how to successfully manage inventory, oversee compounding, and give special consideration when serving neonatal and pediatric patients.
This course introduces learners to the skills and competencies they need to possess in order to effectively calculate prescriptions for individuals. Some of the special topics covered include solving concentrations, dilutions, allegations, and parenteral dosage and administration.
Students looking to deepen their knowledge of pharmacology cover topics such as common diseases and treatments, medicating the immune, renal, cardiovascular, and circulatory systems, understanding anatomy and physiology, and prescribing medicine for the endocrine, reproductive, and nervous systems.
Other courses include pharmacy software applications, pharmaceutical calculations, issues in pharmacy, outpatient pharmacy systems, and a pharmacy externship.
Understanding Pharmacy Tech Certification Online
Although not required, completing certification as a pharmacy technician offers many benefits for individuals and does not cost a lot of money. Individuals interested in learning more about this process can review our list of frequently asked questions below. Those seeking more answers should visit the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the National Healthcareer Association website.
Why should pharmacy techs receive certification?
While not always required, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) reports higher earnings and more opportunities for career growth for individuals who receive certification than those who bypass this step. When competing for a new role, certification also helps applicants stand out from those who who aren’t certified.
How do I become certified?
To receive the CPhT title, individuals must pay $129 for the exam and fill out an application. Schedule an appointment after receiving authorization and pick one of the 1,400 approved testing locations throughout the country. Individuals take the multiple-choice exam consisting of 90 questions (and requiring two hours) before receiving their official scores within one to three weeks of the exam.
Are there any requirements for receiving certification?
Applicants must possess a high school diploma or GED. They must also disclose any actions taken in criminal cases or by the State Board of Pharmacy. In addition to receiving a passing score on the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), they must also comply with all PCTB certification policies.
Do I need to receive licensure as a pharmacy technician?
Simply put, it depends on the state in which you live. Some states require individuals receive licensure in order to demonstrate minimum competencies and protect the well-being of individuals seeking pharmaceutical drugs. As of 2016, 11 states mandated licensure.
Do I need to register as a pharmacy technician?
Again, it depends upon the state in which you live. More and more states are requiring pharmacy techs to register so they can be tracked as they move from state to state. This helps ensure that no individual imperils life by misfiling a prescription without consequences by simply moving to a different state. As of April 2016, 34 states (and Washington D.C.) maintained a list of registered pharmacy techs.
How frequently are certification exams offered?
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board works with Pearson testing centers to make the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam available often. Students can schedule their exams through the Pearson VUE website and can select from Monday to Friday testing days. Some centers also offer Saturday testing days for individuals who work during the week.
Do I need to renew my certification?
Yes. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board requires that all individuals who receive CPhT status seek recertification every two years. To do this, individuals must complete at least 20 continuing education hours every two years and demonstrate that they are in good standing with the state board and with PTCB.
Online Pharmacy Tech Programs with Financial Aid Support
Before enrolling in a program, most students need to consider their financial options. Luckily, pharmacy technicians can select from a number of funding options at their fingertips, with options including federal financial aid, grants, work-study funds, institutional scholarships and grants, and a number of scholarship options provided by private foundations or pharmaceutical corporations. Learners should also check with their state department of education to see if any options exist. Check out EduMed’s comprehensive guide on financial aid to learn more about this process.
Many online pharmacy tech programs maintain financial aid departments that offer support and resources to current and future students. Some learners may find it most helpful to meet with a financial aid officer for one-on-one sessions while those juggling personal, professional, and academic responsibilities may benefit best from financial aid videos that can be viewed 24/7 on the school’s website. Information can be found on institutional websites, including detailed information on potential funding options, a list of relevant scholarships for pharmacy tech students, and details about receiving federal loans via the U.S. Department of Education. Some schools offer in-house payment plans for individuals who may not be able to provide the full amount up-front but can pay during the course of enrollment. As reviewed earlier in this guide, Brighton College provides a similar scheme.
Career Growth for Pharmacy Technicians
Before moving to a pharmacy technician career, individuals considering this path want to understand how stable the job market is for workers and how it may shift in years to come. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roles for pharmacy technicians are projected to grow by 12% between 2016 and 2026 – a rate high above the national average for all occupations. Approximately 402,500 Americans currently fill these roles, but the BLS projects an additional 47,600 new roles will be added. Reasons for this growth include an expanding aging population requiring more medication, more incidents of chronic diseases, and an increasing number of responsibilities given to pharmacists – requiring them to seek additional support from pharmacy techs.
The majority of
pharmacy techs work in pharmacies and drug stores (52%), but they can
also be found in hospitals (16%), general merchandise stores (10%),
and food and beverage stores (8%). When looking at career growth
rates for other medical support roles, pharmacy techs rank favorably.
Roles for dental assistants will grow by 19%, as compared to medical
assistants (29%), medical records and health information technicians
(13%), and medical transcriptionists (-3%).
After completing a
pharmacy tech program, some learners may decide to pursue further
education and become licensed pharmacists.
How Much Do Pharmacy Technicians Earn?
Pharmacy techs earn varied salaries based on where they work and where they fall on the spectrum of earners.