If you’re interested in becoming a pharmacy technician, you’re in luck—there are thousands of programs available and many opportunities to advance in this rewarding and affordable career path. You’ll find that a pharmacy tech certification doesn’t take nearly as long as other degrees, and you can still make a comfortable living fresh out of school with the right grades and experience.
In this guide, we’ll go over some tips for getting your certification or associate’s degree online. There are thousands of online programs out there, and many find that online pharmacy school fits with their busy schedule a bit better.
Decide Your Pace
First and foremost, you’ll need to decide what kind of pace you want to work at. There are fast-track programs that can get you through school and certified in about 10-12 months, but these usually require a tougher time commitment than other programs. These are usually best for people straight out of high school or that need a rapid career change. If you
can spare about a year’s time, you can obtain a certification and (hopefully) start working right away in your new field.
Other online (and offline) programs take longer, because you’re earning an associate’s degree instead of just a certification. An associate’s degree generally takes 21-24 months to complete, but, of course, this depends on the program and several other factors. The bottom line is that you need to find the program that fits your desired pace; otherwise, you
might get burnt out too quickly and not finish your schooling.
There are also work-at-your-own-pace programs available, so you don’t have to follow any tough timelines. These programs are great for the busy professionals, parents, or slower learners of the world.
Choose A Program
Once you have a better understanding of what your timeline is, you can make a more informed choice on the program you want to enroll in. Online programs come in many lengths and financial commitments, so be mindful of how much you’re willing to spend as well. Does the program offer financial aid? Some smaller programs do not.
Again, you can also choose a work-at-your-own-pace program, which might be the most financially sound choice. Either way, you’ll still be getting the education you need to take your exams and potentially earn a certification.
Some people find that online courses are superior to in-person classes, but it ultimately boils down to personal preference. The best choices are informed ones, so do your research and be honest with yourself about what you want and expect from the program.
Pass Your Courses and Take Your Exam
When you finally pass your pharmacy tech course, you’ll need to take the CPhT exam. For more information on the exam, you can go here. The Pharmacy Tech Certification Board will test you on your knowledge with an exam consisting of 90 multiple-choice questions.
There are a few prerequisites, however, before you can apply for the exam:
Completion of a PTCB-Recognized Education/Training Program or equivalent work experience.
Full disclosure of all criminal and State Board of Pharmacy registration or licensure actions.
Compliance with all applicable PTCB Certification policies.
You can also take the exam if you have the equivalent of 500 hours of training time in a pharmacy technician environment.
The test does require a fee of $129, and you’ll need to renew your certificate after a few years as well.
Get Your Certification
If you receive a passing grade on your exam, you’ll be able to obtain your Pharmacy Technician certification. From there, it’s off into the world to find work. In most cases, the program you trained in will likely have connections to pharmacies, and can potentially offer you work placement. In other cases, you might have to hit the pavement and do a search
for your new job. The BLS listed about 422,000 pharmacy tech jobs last year, so there are certainly positions out there!
The great thing about entry-level positions like pharmacy tech is that you can always advance and seek more education to improve your position and income. For example, if you spend some time as a pharmacy tech, you might find that you like the pharmacy enough to pursue your pharmacology degree. Or, you might decide that you don’t like the
pharmacy at all, and want to go an entirely different direction with your education. Whatever the case, entry-level positions are a great starting point, and won’t leave you bankrupt in order to test the waters.
The Bottom Line
Pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician can be both rewarding and affordable, and offers a unique opportunity to explore a side of the healthcare industry you don’t hear much about. There are plenty of online programs and others to consider, so don’t limit yourself. Make sure you do your research and find the right program for your budget, time
constraints, and learning style. Good luck!
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