Do you have a strong eye for detail and enjoy helping people? If so, a career as a pharmacy technician might be in your future. Pharmacy technicians play a vital support role in preparing and dispensing prescription medications — acting as a liaison between pharmacists and patients.
Employment prospects for pharmacy technicians are strong due to advances in pharmaceutical research and to an aging population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 20% through 2022 and Yahoo ranks it as the No. 1 career field in high demand requiring little schooling.
We were able to catch up with Tim Sanders — one of the program’s instructors and the man who helped launch the course more than a decade ago. Here’s what he had to say:
Discuss your role in helping to launch this program.
In early 2002, a pharmacist friend of mine approached the College with the idea of offering a Pharmacy Technician training course. After preliminary discussions, an advisory committee was requested to finalize the proposal. We formulated an outline, identified potential instructors and created subject material. During the summer, we came up with a syllabus and program goals to present to the dean. It was approved to start in the fall of 2002.
Briefly discuss your credentials and background and how it relates to instructing this course.
As a registered pharmacist, we all possess the knowledge to teach at the pharmacy technician level. In what students are exposed to two days a week for 13 weeks it took us five days a week for three to four years in pharmacy school (not counting pre-pharmacy college curriculum).
I have been a registered pharmacist since 1970 after passing a two-and-a-half-day national board exam. I worked in retail chain pharmacies including the now-defunct Liggett-Rexall, Eckerd and Revco Drugs. During a brief four-month period, I worked part time in a hospital pharmacy but did not prefer it over retail. There was no patient contact or the opportunity to talk to and educate patients about their medicines.
During my time with Revco, I was a district store operations manager, regional director of pharmacy operations for the Southeast (about 500 stores and 1,100 pharmacists), and district pharmacy supervisor. In all of these positions, training and teaching is the key to success, whether it be one-on-one or presenting material with up to 100 in attendance. This background allows me to guide each student to success using anecdotes, funny experiences and information to be used in their new job/career.
Give us an overview of the program. What can students expect to learn?
This program has proven successful in giving the student who applies themselves with all of the knowledge needed to pass the national Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) exam. Even though they have not worked in a pharmacy, of those who have reported back to us, more than 90% have passed on the first try.
Who is the ideal student for this program?
A diligent disciplined student who can apply themselves outside the classroom. Since so much material is compressed into 13 weeks of two nights a week, you must study every day to keep up with reading, learning and memorizing. It is an advantage to having worked in a pharmacy but most have not. But, as I previously noted, more than 90% have successfully passed the PTCB on their first attempt. I have heard of other programs that take two years and cost more than $10,000 to cover the material. We are proud to offer a better alternative.
What are the employment trends showing in this industry?
The trends continue to be strong. Have you noticed there seems to be a pharmacy on nearly every corner? Each pharmacy generally employs two to 10 pharmacy techs. Some companies will only allow part-time hours, but many offer full-time employment and benefits.
Where are some of the best places to work as a pharmacy technician?
Ultimately, the “best job” is the one that fits the technician’s personality (extroverts do better in retail while introverts do better in hospitals or managed care where patient contact is less), time availability, areas of interest, geographic location and experience.
Many challenging areas of extra training and certification could be medication compounding, mail order, medication dose packaging (for nursing homes), intravenous preparation, nuclear medicine preparation, insurance administration, and pharmacy computer instructor in addition to what we normally think of as a pharmacy technician in the local retail pharmacy.
What does the future of this profession look like?
The future is strong as recent predictions of 20% growth by 2020 remain constant. The aging of America, the extended life spans and the introduction of new medications all add to the demand in the pharmacy field. The opportunities for pharmacy techs increases as more demands are put on the healthcare system to be both affordable and accessible.
Is pharmacy tech in your future?