Pharmacist Assistant: Programs & Courses

Find out what you need to start a new career as a pharmacist assistant. Learn about some of the programs and courses available that can help you get the training and certifications needed to work as a pharmacist assistant by reading below. Schools offering Pharmacy Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Sort of Programs Are Out There for Training as a Pharmacist Assistant?

Pharmacist assistants, also sometimes called pharmacy technicians, are entry-level workers in a pharmacy who handle prescriptions, customer service, and minor administrative tasks. They work alongside the pharmacist to deliver patients their medication and explain possible side effects. Pharmacy technician certificate, diploma, and associate's degree programs are available, so there are many options for pursuing this career. No matter what credentials are earned, all pharmacist assistants must pass a certification exam that affirms they meet basic competencies. Because pharmacy technicians are responsible for handling controlled substances in the form of prescriptions, there are some additional regulations they must meet.

Credentials Required Certificate, diploma, or associate's degree
Common CoursesPharmacology, medical terminology, anatomy and physiology
Other RequirementsHigh school diploma, clean background check, immunizations, first aid classes
Certification or Licensure Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
Job Outlook* 12% growth from 2016-2026 (pharmacy technicians)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are The Requirements to Join a Pharmacist Assistant Program?

In general, applicants for pharmacy technician programs must be legal adults who have a high school diploma or equivalent. Most pharmacy technician programs will also require that applicants be up to date on their immunizations, be able to pass a background check, and take a drug test. Prior drug-related charges will disqualify a candidate, due to the nature of the job involving inventory management of prescriptions. Some programs also require that students have taken first aid or CPR classes as well.

How Long Do Pharmacist Assistant Courses Usually Take?

The duration of pharmacy technician programs differs depending on what credential a student is aiming for. Certificate programs can be completed in as few as eight weeks, although this is rare and a more typical duration would be two semesters. Diploma programs often require three semesters, while an associate's degree takes four to five semesters, or two years. Program lengths may vary somewhat from school to school.

What Is the Difference Between Certificates, Diplomas, and Associate's Degrees for Pharmacist Assistants?

While all three credentials will qualify you to work as a pharmacy technician, it can be difficult to decide which path is best. Certificate programs are designed to move quickly; as a result, they are often less in-depth and are less likely to offer substantive hands-on experience through internships and other forms of practical training. Diploma courses are between certificates and degrees in terms of duration and comprehensiveness, and are far more likely to offer practical training. Associate's degree programs will offer general education in addition to the focused coursework and practical training found in diploma programs, and are considered a form of higher education. Some employers may prefer workers with a degree, so it might be wise to look at job listings in your area to see what the preferred credential level is.

What Certifications Are Needed to Work as a Pharmacist Assistant?

There are two different nationally accredited certification exams available for pharmacy technicians offered by different organizations. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) offers the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), while the National Healthcare Association offers the Pharmacy Technician Certification exam (ExCPT). Completion of either results in the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CphT) credential being granted. Since both are recognized across the country, it is often a matter of preference as to which to take, although the exam taken may determine what professional organizations you are allowed to join, should you choose to do so. Some programs will include one attempt at either of these exams as part of the cost of tuition, which may be worth taking into account when applying.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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