Pharmacies rely heavily on pharmacy technicians to ensure that patients receive the medicines they need to fight disease and stay healthy. Pharmacy techs fill prescriptions, count pills, mix compounds, package the medicine, file insurance claims and perform administrative tasks. According to the National Pharmacy Technician Association, the pharmacy tech field is fast growing and ranks number 43 out of 500 for best jobs for women. Before obtaining a job as a pharmacy tech, you must undergo specialized training through a certification program, many offered online so you can learn from home.
Online pharmacy tech certification programs come from a variety of different providers, including specialty schools such as Gatlin Education and Allied Schools, both of which specialize in online certifications. Industry associations, such as the NPTA, provide online certificate programs that give you the convenience of earning a pharmacy tech certification on your own time. Other providers of pharmacy tech certification programs include traditional four-year institutions and community colleges.
Each program for certification covers basic topics a tech will need to know to gain an entry-level position in a pharmacy. Topics include pharmacy rules and regulations, interpreting a doctor's prescription or drug order, Health Insurance Privacy Act requirements, pharmaceutical calculations, preparing medicines and insurance billing. The length of time to complete an online program varies, from 330 hours up to 840 contact hours. Along with online course work, some programs also include a virtual or in-person externship to give each student hands-on experience. Many programs also help students set up the externships with established pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS.
Prerequisites and Requirements
Before starting a program, you may have to fulfill certain prerequisites. Common prerequisites include graduating from high school or earning a GED, understanding high school level math and speaking, writing and understanding English. Access to a computer with high-speed Internet is also required to complete the programs. Other requirements include passing a criminal background check. Certification is voluntary in nearly every state, but most State Boards of Pharmacy do recommend national certification and some require certification to earn a license to practice in that state. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board requires recertification every two years, including completing at least 20 continuing education credits during the renewal process.
Many of the online programs do not offer a certification exam, but rather prepare students to take the national certification exam offered by the NPTA, which works with the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. The national exam takes place at third-party computer testing centers located across the country, takes two hours to complete and consists of 90 multiple-choice questions. To help you prepare for the certification exam, most programs offer practice tests, online study materials and exam outlines.
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