Pharmacy technician schools are institutes or programs that train, qualify and certify pharmacy technicians for their profession. A pharmacy technician is one kind of health worker who performs jobs in medical offices related to pharmacy such as reviewing prescription requests or insurance related documents, dispensing medication, instructing patients in the use of medical equipment, administrative work, etc. The medical offices they work in may be in hospitals, clinics, hospices, long term care facilities, doctor’s offices, pharmacy manufacturers, etc. Pharmacy technicians almost always work under the direct supervision of a licensed health professional (usually, but not always, a pharmacist).
Until the late 1990s, people in USA who wanted to become pharmacy technicians needed only a high school degree. However, the US federal government then appointed the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) to certify pharmacy technicians who had received proper training before they could begin working. This line of work is expected to have a very strong growth over the next decade with a projected 25 % increase in between 2010 and 2020. As a result more and more pharmacy technician schools are opening up as more and more universities offer pharmacy technician programs (including online courses). The top five schools in the US for training as pharmacy technicians are National College, Everest College, Virginia College, Kaplan College and Brown-Mackie College. The highest ranked online program is provided by the US Career Institute.
All pharmacy technician schools need to cover a number of subjects. These are pharmacology, chemistry, medical and pharmaceutical terminology, dosage calculations, drug reactions, pharmacy record keeping, interpreting prescriptions, pharmacy law, dosage forms, drug preparation and compounding of prescribed medications. Each of the above topics normally has separate courses dedicated to them. Pharmacy administration, pharmacy computing and medical billings are other courses which are optional to students. In addition to the classroom courses students must take part in clinical externships. These externships permit the students to use the theoretical knowledge they gained in classes to perform the duties of pharmacy technicians in a real world setting. They do so, however, under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist who evaluates them and submits a report of their performance to the classroom instructor. This report has a bearing on the overall grade. There is additional laboratory work that the students must undergo. Pharmacy technician schools also hold frequent seminars on matters such as pharmacy ethics, etc for the students to attend.
Getting a degree from pharmacy technician schools may take between 6 months and 2 years depending on the sort of degree being sought after. The shortest program is the pharmacy technician certificate program and takes 6 months. Only a high school diploma is needed in order to enroll in this and it arms the student with only the basic and rudimentary skill set needed in order to perform the functions of a pharmacy technician in retail or clinical jobs. This program does, however, prepare students to take certification exams. The next step is the pharmacy technician diploma which is a year-long and often has a prerequisite of students needing to have associate level medical degrees in order to enroll. This program builds on the background knowledge of the previous degree by infusing the student with supplementary, skill based education and prepares them for certification exams. The final step is the 24 month long pharmacy technician associate’s degree. This is the part that involves field work placements and externships and covers a broad range of skills in the medical field with emphasis on pharmacy training and preparation for certification exams.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) offers the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE). While this is not a legal requirement in order to work as a pharmacy technician, it is difficult for any candidate who has not passed this exam to find work. Hence all pharmacy technician schools recommend their graduating students to sit for this exam.