Pharmacy technicians are the medical professionals responsible for apportioning and dispensing prescribed medication. Pharmacy technicians primarily distribute medication to private customers, although they may also work with healthcare professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), roughly half of pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies or drugstores. The BLS also notes that pharmacy technicians outnumber pharmacists in the United States by around 90,000 individual employees.
Educational and professional regulations for pharmacy technicians vary by state. Specific requirements typically include a high school diploma, completion of a comprehensive exam, a background check, and attendance of continuing education courses administered on an annual or semi-annual basis. Some states may require certification; currently, only the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association offer certification for pharmacy technicians. Many of today's aspiring pharmacy technicians begin their career with an accredited online associate degree. The best online pharmacy technician associate programs prepare students for all of the demands and responsibilities of this rewarding profession, including post-degree certification and other state requirements. The asynchronous (or self-paced) format of most online associate degree programs is also ideal for students with full-time jobs, childcare duties and other commitments that may interfere with campus-based learning.
Learn more about what you can do with an online associate degree in pharmacy technician and assistant program and what kind of career opportunities you can look forward to with this comprehensive guide.
Choosing a Program
WILL AN ONLINE PHARMACY TECHNICIAN ASSOCIATE PROGRAM PROVIDE ME WITH THE SKILLS I NEED TO ADVANCE MY CAREER?
Online associate in pharmacy technician programs introduce the fundamental elements of this highly skilled profession. Coursework often covers subjects like medical terminology, pharmaceutical math and measurements, anatomy and physiology, pathology and pharmacology, and core STEM subjects like biology, chemistry and algebra. Many programs require offsite internships or externships, wherein students receive supervised training from experienced pharmacy professionals.
WILL AN ONLINE PHARMACY TECHNICIAN ASSOCIATE PROGRAM WORK WITH MY SCHEDULE?
Online pharmacy technician associate programs offer a flexible alternative to traditional education. Students are able to access course lectures and readings, participate in virtual discussions with fellow students, submit written assignments, take exams, and communicate with their professors from the comfort of their home computer. Current e-learning technology also allows students to study on the go using a laptop, tablet, smartphone, and other portable devices with Wi-Fi capabilities. For added convenience, online students can usually coordinate externship or internship courses at hospitals, pharmacies, and other sites within a reasonable distance of their current residence.
WHAT JOBS CAN I GET WITH MY PHARMACY TECHNICIAN ASSOCIATE DEGREE?
The BLS notes that most pharmacy technician roles require at least a high school diploma or GED. Therefore, students who graduate with a pharmacy technician associate degree can stand out in a competitive job market. Pharmacy technicians may also enter the workforce as pharmacy aides, who typically handle record-keeping and inventory needs at pharmacies and drugstores. Other job titles in the pharmaceutical industry require additional education; these roles include medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians, pharmacists, and pharmaceutical sales representatives.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ONLINE PHARMACY TECHNICIAN ASSOCIATE PROGRAMS?
Choosing a program is an incredibly personal decision, and only you can properly evaluate whether a target school's strengths match your educational needs. The following ranked list of schools should serve as a helpful starting point in your search for the best online pharmacy technician and assistant associate degree programs in the United States. If you are considering an online pharmacy technician and assistant associate program, be sure to contact admissions specialists at different colleges and universities to learn more their about specific associate degree requirements and offerings.
Accredited Online Associate in Pharmacy Technician Programs
|Casper, WY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
Casper College students may pursue an associate in pharmacy technology or an associate in health science with an emphasis in pre-pharmacy technology.
The online pharmacy technology program takes about 10 months to complete, and distance students only need to visit the school's central Wyoming campus for lab courses. Students take part in an experiential learning experience by working with professionals in the field. Students may complete these experiences throughout the state at approved sites like pharmacies, long-term care communities, hospitals, and clinics.
Candidates seeking the health science degree must complete 60 credits, taking courses in human anatomy, precalculus algebra, and chemistry. This track provides students with engaging coursework as they prepare to apply to one of the college's eight health science programs. They can also access the Health Science Simulation Center, which features human patient simulators, state-of-the-art medical technology, and high-definition audio/visual equipment. Students can use this facility to engage in various real-world situations related to their area of study.
To apply to either of these associate degree in pharmacy technician online programs, prospective students must fulfill prerequisite courses in biology, chemistry, math, and medical terminology while maintaining a minimum 2.0 GPA. Students attending college for the first time must provide their ACT or SAT scores.
Casper College delivers programs and courses tailored to the needs of online learners, with three start dates during the year and a 24/7 help desk. Both on-campus and distance students benefit from academic advising, career services, a digital library, and a writing center.
Minnesota State Community and Technical College
|Fergus Falls, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 36%||
M State's 40-credit associate degree in pharmacy technician online allows students to complete course requirements from anywhere with an internet connection, with the exception of an in-person lab in Wadena, Minnesota. Through the program, students learn how to submit drug orders, access patient profiles, and prepare and fill prescriptions.
Students take classes on medical terminology, medication processing, pharmaceutical calculations, and pharmacotherapy. They also must participate in an experiential learning experience, working alongside established professionals in both a hospital and retail setting. Program staff help students coordinate these experiences, worth three credits each.
The program also benefits from an advisory board of regional pharmacy leaders, who ensure the curriculum meets high standards of excellence and efficacy. Thus, students gain assurance that the program offers the rigor and coursework needed to help them qualify for well-paying pharmacy technician jobs.
Distance learners can access all the services available to their on-campus counterparts. Key resources include career services, academic advising, financial aid assistance, and online tutoring.
To apply to this pharmacy technician associate degree online, prospective students submit their official high school, GED, and/or college transcripts. Accepted students begin the program in the fall, typically graduating within two years when attending full time. All applicants must also undergo a criminal background check.
Graduates possess the knowledge and academic requirements to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. Individuals who pass this exam and then work for at least one year in sterile compound pharmacy may also seek compounded sterile preparation technician certification.
The school has campuses in Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead, and Wadena.
Central Piedmont Community College
|Charlotte, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 17%||
CCPC, located in Charlotte, North Carolina, offers an associate degree in pharmacy technician online that prepares students to take and pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. The program uses PioneerRX pharmacy software to deliver hands-on, simulated learning experiences for students, teaching students day-to-day processes they must master to work as pharmacy technicians.
In North Carolina, pharmacy techs with associate degrees receive distinction as "validating technicians." This distinction allows graduates to take on more responsibilities in the distribution of medication, opening up greater job opportunities than if they held a pharmacy tech certification alone.
Students start the pharmacy technician associate degree online program in the fall and usually graduate within five semesters. The program features a blend of online and in-person coursework, combined with two clinical experiences at an approved hospital, clinic, or retail site. At 75 total credits, the degree features courses on topics like pharmacy calculations, pharmacology, industry trends, human biology, handling sterile products, and hospital and community pharmacy.
Although CPCC charges different rates for resident versus nonresident students, the school also assists with applying for financial aid and a variety of scholarship opportunities. Enrolled students may also access career services, a writing center, academic advising, and technical support.
Eligible applicants for the associate degree in pharmacy technology online program must hold a high school diploma or GED and submit their official transcripts. They also must take a math and English placement test. Individuals with previous college experience must submit transcripts from all schools attended.
Saint Paul College
|Saint Paul, MN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 28%||
Featuring online, hybrid, and in-person classes, the Saint Paul College AAS pharmacy technician program prepares students to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam and effectively serve in retail, hospital, and long-term care pharmacies. The program focuses on performing accurate calculations, preparing prescriptions, delivering good customer service, and screening prescriptions.
Classes in this 60-credit program cover topics like medication tech, handling sterile products, pharmacotherapy, pharmaceutical calculations, and legal and ethical issues in the profession. Students also complete two internships -- one in retail and one in a hospital -- totaling 180 hours of real-world experience. Most full-time students graduate within four semesters, or two years, although the program also allows for part-time attendance.
Before starting the pharmacy technician associate degree online, students must take an assessment and log sufficient scores in reading, writing, and college-level mathematics. Eligible applicants also must hold a high school diploma or GED and maintain at least a 2.8 GPA across all general education courses.
Candidates who work towards a bachelor's degree benefit from the school's articulation agreements. Many students leverage their pharmacy tech associate degree to seek a BA in healthcare administration at Concordia University St. Paul, a BA in individualized studies from Metropolitan State, or a BS in healthcare and human service management from St. Mary's University-Twin Cities.
The college is located in Minnesota's capital city.
Accredited Online Pharmacy Technician Certificate Programs
Hutchinson Community College
|Hutchinson, KS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Hutchinson Community College's online pharmacy technician program is affordable, flexible, and efficient. The 33-credit online certificate program can be completed in three semesters. HCC offers pharmacy technician classes online to fit students' busy schedules, and the program combines distance courses with hands-on practical experience. Although HCC credits may be transferable, the program is designed for students looking for employment as a pharmacy technician. From preparing medication and assisting pharmacists to helping patients and reviewing medical records, pharmacy techs have complicated jobs, and HCC's curriculum trains students for this specialized field. All HCC graduates can sit for the national certification exam.
University of Alaska Anchorage
|Anchorage, AK||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 26%||
UAA is the largest institution of higher education in the Alaska system. While UAA is now a large public research institution, the school maintains the career-focused mission it had at its founding as Anchorage Community College in 1954. UAA offers a pharmacy technician certification online program through its School of Allied Health. Students take six pharmacy courses through UAA's Blackboard online education portal to complete the 16-credit program. UAA's online pharmacy tech certificate program curriculum combines the business, customer service, and professional aspects of pharmacies with courses in communication, medical calculation, and medication ordering. UAA students will receive their occupational endorsement certification once they complete the requirements, regardless of their performance on the exam. Students can start the program at any age. Online students have full access to academic advising and other students services. Hybrid courses are also available.
Barton County Community College
|Great Bend, KS||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
Barton Community College is committed to community-oriented and student-focused education. The school offers an online pharmacy technician certificate that prepares students to become effective pharmacy assistants through online lectures and classes. As part of the 29-credit program, students must complete an in-person internship; that requirement can be fulfilled at any approved pharmacy. Students will learn through the BARTonline portal, which features a variety of resources for students, including additional support for military members. Pharmacy tech classes can be completed in two semesters; classes cover the retail, administrative, and pharmaceutical aspects of a pharmacy technician's job. BCCC's curriculum prepares students for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians national exams.
Sinclair Community College
|Dayton, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
The advanced pharmacy technician certificate program at Sinclair College helps students develop practical experience in the field. The school's mandatory 105-hour internship requirement stipulates that students must work at a pharmacy to learn every aspect of the job that they will be doing when they graduate. The online pharmacy technician certificate at Sinclair includes several pharmacy courses that cover everything from healthcare laws to the fundamentals of the pharmacy business. In addition to preparing students to excel on certification exams, the Sinclair pharmacy tech program also prepares students for work in retail, hospital, or elder care pharmacies. Sinclair offers special services to veterans and military personnel. All students have access to tutoring services, the writing center, mathematics labs, and other students services. Sinclair's certificate program is 30 credits long and takes just one year to complete.
Kirtland Community College
|Roscommon, MI||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 45%||
Rural Michigan's Kirtland Community College offers pharmacy technician classes online. The Roscommon County school has a number of online degree and certificate programs, including pharmacy technology. KCC's education is twofold: students are taught the fundamentals of effective pharmaceutical science and then the practical skills needed to work in a pharmacy. Students acquire practical skills through the school's 144-hour internship program. KCC's pharmacy technician curriculum covers medical science, mathematics, communication, and computer science, ensuring that distance learners are prepared to use the latest technology and to work effectively with others. Students take classes for two semesters during the fall and winter, and can graduate in less than one year. There is no application fee for KCC's pharmacy tech program.
What Else Can I Expect from an Online Pharmacy Technician Associate Program?
|Timeline||18 months to 2 years|
|Program Costs||$6,000 to $20,000 in annual tuition|
|Related Areas of Study||Pharmacology, Healthcare Administration, Medical Technology, Nursing, Pathology|
|Accreditation||Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)|
Sample Pharmacy Technology Courses Online
While every school determines its own classes, most offer courses that examine similar topics so that students graduate prepared to enter the profession. The sample curriculum below offers examples of what you can expect to study in online pharmacy technician programs.
- Pharmacy Law: This class examines state and federal laws that determine pharmaceutical practice. It reviews the rules that govern a pharmacy technician's activities and how they fulfill their professional responsibilities. The legal knowledge gained in addition to an understanding of the ethical standards you must consider prepare you for a career as a certified pharmacy technician.
- Over-the-Counter Drugs: Students review the various types of nonprescription drugs sold to treat common illnesses and disorders. This equips you with the knowledge needed to answer customers' questions when they purchase medications for self-treatment. Lessons in ethics and customer service equip students for a position as an effective pharmacy technician.
- Pharmacology: Critical information about how drugs interact with one another, the human body, and the effects of drugs on the nervous system are covered in pharmacology. In addition, this class may explore pharmacodynamics, i.e., how drugs affect different organisms.
- Pharmacy Calculations: Professionals in pharmacy careers must learn the fundamentals of calculations, including how to convert measurements and determine appropriate dosages. Students also develop an understanding of dilutions/concentrations, flow rates, and business math.
- Communications: Interpersonal skills needed to interact with medical professionals, patients, customers, and colleagues develop in this course. These competencies include not only oral communications, but also non-verbal communications, such as body language and eye contact.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Pharmacy Technology Degree?
How long it takes for students to complete a pharmacy technician program depends on several factors. For one, the length of a program decreases if students attend school full time rather than part time. Students must also decide if they want to enroll in either a certification program or pursue an associate degree. A certification program provides the fundamentals needed for a pharmacy technician career over one year or less, whereas an associate degree generally requires two years of college-level coursework for credits often transferred to earn a bachelor's degree. On average, completing an associate degree requires earning 60 credits.
Some online programs require learners register for specific classes in a set sequence and login at specific times so that they progress through their studies as a cohort with fellow students. This differs from learning at an individual pace and can also affect how long it takes to complete a program.
Accreditation for Online Pharmacy Technician Programs
Make certain you choose an accredited school when you enroll in pharmacy technician courses online. Accreditation demonstrates the rigorous standards the school maintains, which mean students graduate with the knowledge needed for career entry and success. In the U.S., six regional accreditation agencies accredit most colleges and universities. However, some agencies like the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools also offer national accreditation. Schools with national accreditation generally offer trade-oriented and vocational certificates and carry less prestige than their regionally accredited counterparts.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) jointly grant accreditation to pharmacy technician programs through the Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission. This partnership promotes and helps guarantee the quality of pharmacy technician training programs and education. Students should determine if ASHP or ACPE provides accreditation for the pharmacy technician programs that most interest them for increased security in assuring the quality of the program.
Both the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee the accreditation process for the nation's colleges and universities. The U.S. Department of Education promotes equal access to education and maintains a list of the country's regionally accredited universities and colleges on its website. Similarly, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation monitors which institutions maintain national accreditation and offers a searchable online database.
Employment Outlook for Associate in Pharmacy Technician
The job outlook for employees in the healthcare sector -- including pharmacy technicians -- is quite strong. According to the most recent data from U.S. News & World Report, pharmacy technicians face an unemployment rate of 2.1%; by comparison, the national unemployment rate for all occupations is currently set at 3.7%.
The following table compares unemployment rates for pharmacy technicians and other personnel in the healthcare industry.
|Occupation||Unemployment Rate (2018)|
|Occupational Therapy Assistant||4.6%|
|Diagnostic Medical Sonographer||1.1%|
|Clinical Laboratory Technician||3.5%|
|Physical Therapist Assistant||2.4%|
|Home Health Aide||5.2%|
Source: U.S. News & World Report
As the table indicates, the unemployment rate for pharmacy technicians is on par with other assistive healthcare roles. The BLS also predicts above average growth for pharmacy technician jobs with a 12% increase between 2016 and 2026, resulting in roughly 47,600 new positions.
Earning a Living
The BLS notes that pharmacy technicians in the U.S. currently earn a median annual salary of $31,750, which amounts to a wage of $15.26 per hour. However, earning potential for pharmacy technicians largely depends on their place of employment. The table below compares average earnings for pharmacy technicians at five different workplaces.
|Place of Employment for Pharmacy Technicians||Average Annual Salary|
|Federal Executive Branch||$43,730|
|Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories||$40,520|
|Scientific Research and Development Services||$40,430|
|Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools||$40,260|
|Outpatient Care Centers||$39,930|
Annual salary for a pharmacy technician also depends on their level of professional experience, as well as other factors like certification, employer size and city/state of employment. The next table looks at salary growth projections for five of the most common career pathways for pharmacy technician degree holders.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary for Entry-Level||Median Annual Salary for Mid-Career||Median Annual Salary for Experienced||Median Annual Salary for Late-Career|
|Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)||$26,000||$30,000||$33,000||$36,000|
|Hospital Pharmacy Technician||$29,000||$33,000||$36,000||$39,000|
|Compounding Pharmacy Technician||$31,000||$35,000||$37,000||$41,000|
Of the five occupations listed, hospital pharmacy technicians experience the highest rate of career salary growth with a 65.4% increase between the entry-level and late-career figures.
Graduates from a pharmacy technician associate degree program qualify for dozens of entry-level roles, although individual eligibility may depend on certification and other state-specific requirements. Four common careers for pharmacy technician degree recipients are outlined below.
Pharmacy Technicians: Pharmacy technicians distribute prescription medication at pharmacies, drugstores, and hospitals. Their job requires extensive knowledge in pharmacology and familiarity with hundreds of medications. Because the U.S. heavily regulates the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy technicians must also have a firm understanding of all laws and ethical standards guiding their profession.
Pharmacy Aides: Pharmacy technicians distribute prescription medication at pharmacies, drugstores, and hospitals. Their job requires extensive knowledge in pharmacology and familiarity with hundreds of medications. Because the U.S. heavily regulates the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy technicians must also have a firm understanding of all laws and ethical standards guiding their profession.
Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives: Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives play a key role in the pharmaceutical industry: the distribution of medications and medical supplies to businesses, organizations and/or government agencies. Those who work with pharmaceutical supplies must earn at least a bachelor's degree. These professionals generally possess a strong background in pharmacology and pharmaceutical studies, statistics, economics, and marketing.
|Occupation||Median Annual Salary||Projected Growth 2016-26|
|Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives||$60,340||5%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Advancement Opportunities for Pharmacy Technicians
Students may want to build on the knowledge gained through an online pharmacy technician program to pursue a bachelor's degree. Earning a four-year degree can open more career opportunities and lead to an increase in annual salary. In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics found that adults with a bachelor's degree earned 57% more than adults with a high school diploma in 2016.
- BS in Pharmacology: Students examine how living matter and chemical agents interact. They also study biologically active substances like agricultural, industrial, and household chemicals to understand their action mechanisms.
- BS in Nursing: This degree educates students on the foundations of patient care and clinical practice through textbook and simulation studies. Nursing and nursing research prepares graduates for careers in hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, law firms, and nonprofit organizations.
- BS in Biological Sciences: Learners in this program explore the evolution of organisms, how genetics and the environment cause diversity, and what factors contribute to health and disease.
- BS in Chemistry: Students study the major fields of chemistry: organic, physical, and inorganic. In addition, specialized courses deepen knowledge of nuclear and biophysical chemistry while lab experiences engage students in hands-on learning.
- BS in Science Education: This program prepares future educators of primary and secondary school students. Students often choose to concentrate in a specific area of science, such as biology or physics, so that they can teach two or more science subjects.
Making professional connections and learning about different approaches to the pharmacy profession is crucial to your success. Professional organizations offer a great entry point for students who want to learn more about their chosen career path. Below you'll find three of the country's most prominent organizations established for professional pharmacy technicians. These organizations may host networking events, provide online training or continuing education, and maintain active job boards for college graduates.
- American Association of Pharmacy Technicians: Founded in 1979, the AAPT provides leadership, advocacy and professional development opportunities for professional pharmacy technicians. The association's website features a virtual career center, an online store, and information about the AAPT's annual conference.
- National Pharmacy Technician Association: The NPTA offers certification in three core areas: sterile products, chemotherapy, and compounding. Member benefits include complimentary magazine and newsletter subscriptions, invitations to industry events, discounts on continuing education courses, and access to an extensive professional network.
- American Pharmacists Association: The APA's website features a section dedicated to pharmacy technicians and assistants. Available resources include a printable 'pocket drug guide,' electronic skill-building manual, and information about certification and professional development programs.
Financing Your Online Associate in Pharmacy Technician Program
Despite the relative affordability of online programs, most students still need financial assistance. Students should complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to learn more about loans, grants, and other opportunities offered through the U.S. government. Additionally, private grants and scholarships are widely available through nonprofit organizations, companies, and private sources. Check out our collection of resources below to learn more about financial aid options.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online programs can provide an affordable and flexible option for women trying to balance the demands of work, family, and earning their degree. We've curated a list of valuable scholarships specifically for women.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.
- Best Online Associate in Pharmacy Technician Programs of 2017
Rank School Location 1 North Dakota State College of Science Wahpeton, ND 2 Allen County Community College Iola, KS 3 Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls, MN 4 Ultimate Medical Academy-Tampa Tampa, FL 5 North Central Missouri College Trenton, MO
- Best Online Associate in Pharmacy Technician Programs of 2016
Rank School Location 1 Sinclair Community College Dayton, OH 2 North Central Missouri College Trenton, MO 3 Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, KS 4 University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage, AK 5 Minnesota State Community and Technical College Fergus Falls, MN 6 Allen County Community College Iola, KS 7 Kirtland Community College Roscommon, MI 8 Vincennes University Vincennes, IN 9 Great Falls College Montana State University Great Falls, MT 10 Barton County Community College Great Bend, KS