Pharmacy technology is a field of study which prepares graduates to work as assistants to licensed pharmacists. Common core topics for a pharmacy technician associate program include medical and pharmaceutical terminology, concepts in pharmacology, pharmaceutical measurement, health care law and ethics, business mathematics, and customer service basics. In addition, many online pharmacy technician programs include a clinical practice component. Though in some cases, this may be completed as on-the-job training. Graduates may find jobs with retail pharmacies, clinics, or hospitals.
Why an Associate Degree?
In order to work as a pharmacy technician, all that is needed is a certificate or associate degree. This is a growing field with good job prospects for graduates. If you attend a properly accredited program, you should be prepared to take any required certification exams. Depending on where you live, these may or may not be mandatory, but can make it easier to secure employment. In addition, at the associate level, students will complete a range of general education courses. This foundational course work could serve as a great base if students choose to continue on a to a bachelor’s degree program in the future, whether it be in health care or an unrelated field.
Getting Into an Associate Degree Program
While you should be sure to verify the admissions requirements for the individual school you are interested in, below are a few common ones to keep in mind:
- A high school diploma or equivalent
- Any transcripts from other college course work
- Application form and fee
- Application essay (if required)
Inside a Pharmacy Technician Associate Degree Program
While each program is unique, students should be able to complete this type of program in about two years. Of course, this will depend on the specific number of courses required, any transfer credits applied, your level of enrollment, and whether or not you take any breaks from the program. Common classes include medical and pharmaceutical technology, health insurance billing and procedures, pharmaceutical math and measurements, medical records management, health care law and ethics, business mathematics, and customer relations. General education courses will cover composition, mathematics, natural science, humanities, and social science.
In an online pharmacy technician associate degree program, you will have the flexibility to work around any work, family, or transportation needs. Since most online schools operate in an asynchronous format, there are no specific course times. Rather, you are free to access the virtual learning platform at any time and from any location with internet access. Streaming audio and video, chat, discussion boards, and virtual meeting technology all help to keep students engaged in the learning process. While clinical practice courses may be required, as a distance learner, these can be arranged near where you live.
What’s Next for Pharmacy Technician Associate Degree Holders?
If you would like to earn your pharmacy technician associate degree online, a number of online schools and colleges with distance learning programs offer this track. After completing an accredited program, some graduates may seek certification, depending on requirements in their state and employer preferences in the area. Certification is offered through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association. In some cases, employers may actually pay for the certification exam. Check with the state pharmacy board in your area for specific requirements.
The job outlook for pharmacy technicians is strong, with 32% growth predicted from 2010 to 2020 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This is more than double the growth predicted for jobs overall during the same time frame. The mean annual wage reported for this occupation in 2012 was $30,430. These statistics, of course, may not reflect actual job availability or starting pay, which can depend on level of experience, geographical location, and the specific type of employer.