Pharmacy Technician Training Programs – What to Expect?

To prepare you to start a pharmacy technician career, various settings offer degree, certificate or diploma programs. For example, a great number of community and technical colleges, and some universities, medical centers, health systems/hospitals, vocational schools—even some retail pharmacies—offer pharmacy technician training programs. Many are delivered on campus or onsite, while others allow students to complete all their courses online from the comfort of home.

Are you considering completing pharmacy tech education? With the variety of programs out there, naturally they’re not going to be exactly the same. But we wanted to give you a general idea of what to expect.

Pharmacy Technician Curriculum

A career as a pharmacy technician is multi-faceted. Medical and scientific knowledge, technological applications, legal and regulatory standards, customer service, mathematical calculations, organizational skills and attention to detail, team dynamics…there are many important pieces reflected in the successful work performed by pharmacy techs.

While curricula will vary from school to school, some typical courses include:

  • Orientation of the Pharmacy and Pharmacy Technician’s Role
  • Medical and Pharmaceutical Terminology
  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Basic & Applied Pharmacology
  • Retail/Community and Hospital Pharmacy
  • Pharmaceutical & Dosage Calculations/Math
  • Pharmaceutical Law and Ethics
  • Pharmacy Records Software

Also many to most pharmacy technician programs include at least one mandatory internship (also called an externship, clinical or practicum).

“Some courses that I’ve taken in the pharmacy technician program that I’ve really enjoyed are Therapeutic Agents, which is a basic foundation in pharmacology and pharmacokinetics for technicians and Pharmacy Practice, which involves a hands-on lab that teaches technicians how to fill prescriptions, compound medications and perform aseptic techniques.” ~ Rosie Crawford

Some AWESOME Aspects of Pharmacy Tech Programs

If it’s a quality pharmacy technician training program, students will have extensive opportunities to gain hands-on experience, not only during internships, but also in the school’s onsite labs. Not only does this provide a valuable form of practical learning, it also pumps students up as they mentally prepare for their career.

The most rewarding part of my program is putting everything I’ve learned on paper into use in a real hands-on way,” said Rosie Crawford, a student we interviewed earlier this year. “I am the type of person that learns best by actually doing what I’ve been taught. The fact that we have a real pharmacy in our classroom is a great way to learn from experience.”

Some of the other amazing aspects of reputable pharmacy technician education programs is small class sizes, they allow students to find out about the range of career opportunities in the field, and they can prepare students to sit for the national certification exam.

Tips for Dealing with the Challenging parts of the Program

Depending on your learning style, some pharmacy technician courses you might find difficult, such as pharmacology (which can involve a lot of memorization) or the math and calculation course(s).

Luckily, quality pharmacy tech training programs have small class sizes, which make it easier to talk to your instructor one-on-one.  Small class sizes also allow you to get to know your classmates more easily and potentially form study groups to help one another. Regularly reviewing your notes, making flashcards to help with memorization, and accessing extra help, either from your instructor or from tutoring services that might be available at your school, can help you succeed in even the most challenging classes.

Like many educational programs, time management can also be a challenge. Pharmacy tech programs can be fast-paced and it may seem overwhelming keeping on top of classroom lectures, internships, assignments, exams and labs. Student Rosie Crawford shared this insight:

“…you learn very quickly the importance of prioritizing and staying organized. Many of my classmates have families with children, multiple jobs and they still manage to be successful in the program, and to me, that is truly inspiring. I have found that writing everything down in my planner and organizing myself the night before have both been essential to my success.”

Find out about pharmacy technician programs in your area, including accredited programs.