Pharmacy Tech College
How to Select the Best One Near Birmingham Alabama
Having decided to earn your pharmacy technician certificate or degree near Birmingham AL, you might be pondering just how to choose the ideal school to receive your education and training. But just how do you go about evaluating and comparing schools so that you ultimately pick the right one? Many prospective students start by searching for schools that are within driving distance of their residence, and then comparing the cost. While cost and location are critical factors when selecting a college, they are not the sole ones. Qualifiers such as accreditation and reputation should be considered also. You might also decide to look into some accredited online pharmacy tech programs as an option to attending classes on campus. We will address these qualifiers and others that you will want to include when comparing pharmacy technician schools. But first, let's discuss what a pharmacy technician does, the certificate and degree options available, and the advantages of online programs.
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Pharmacy Tech Job Responsibilities
Pharmacy techs have various job duties, but their primary duty is to dispense prescription medicines. Because they are not licensed, when filling prescriptions they must perform under the supervision of a licensed Birmingham AL pharmacist. They must also have great customer service abilities because they will be dealing directly with customers. Their attention to detail must be precise when filling prescription medicines per the pharmacist's directions. And they must have a comprehensive knowledge of pharmaceutical terminology in order that they can assist customers with understanding instructions for their prescriptions as well as other pharmaceutical literature and information. However, under no situation should they ever give medical advice pertaining to prescriptions or anything else. Any such questions should be directed to the pharmacist. Several of the regular daily tasks a pharmacy technician may perform are:
- Receive and help customers with medications and other questions
- Fill prescription medicines under pharmacist direction
- Input prescription and customer data into pharmacy computer system
- Phone customers when their prescriptions are ready for pick-up
- Fill out and submit customer insurance claim forms
- Stock shelves and monitor and control inventory
Due to the nature of their job, pharmacy techs will spend the majority of their working day on their feet. And working weekends and evenings is also very common, especially for newer technicians with lower seniority. But the reward for occasional tired and aching feet or occasionally having to work off-hours is an extremely fulfilling career helping customers with their health and wellness.
Pharmacy Tech Degree Programs
Individuals wishing to enroll in a pharmacy tech program are qualified provided that they have a high school diploma or equivalent. There are basically two options to becoming a technician whether you enroll in a community college or a trade school. The first is to earn a certificate or a diploma, which normally can be finished in a year or less. These programs present an introduction to the different elements of pharmacology and pharmaceutical technology and typically include lab and classroom training. Many programs also include an internship at an accepted Birmingham AL pharmacy or similar facility. The second alternative is the Associate Degree program which typically takes about two years of studies. Although not required for most entry level positions, it does furnish a more extensive education and opens doors to more advanced positions or education in the future. Each program should furnish the proper level of training to pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam should the graduate choose to get certified.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Choices
Certification is not required in every state, but numerous graduates of pharmacy technician colleges choose to become certified so as to be more qualified in the job market. Also, a number of Birmingham AL pharmacies will only hire a tech that has earned certification. There are two organizations that provide certification:
- National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
- Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).
The NHA requires that the applicant be at least 18 years old, has graduated from high school, has finished a training program, and has one or more years of professional experience. The PTCB only requires that the candidate has graduated high school and passes their exam. Recertification is required every two years by each program, which may be met by completing 20 hours of continuing education.
Pharmacy Tech Online Classes
Before selecting a pharmacy tech online college, it's necessary to understand that most schools do require a portion of the training be carried out in a clinical environment. This is commonly satisfied in a local Birmingham pharmacy or hospital through an internship program. Students in most cases will have the opportunity to work under a seasoned pharmacy technician so as to receive some real world experience. Fortunately the non-clinical portion of the training can be taken over the internet in your Birmingham AL home or via any available computer. This alternative is more accommodating for many students, especially for those who keep working while acquiring their degree or certificate. And online schools are often more affordable than classroom options. Tuition and costs for commuting and study materials may be decreased substantially. With both the online and the clinical training, a complete education is offered. But not all online colleges are accredited, which is essential for securing certification and employment (more on accreditation later). So verify that each online college you are considering is accredited by a recognized accrediting organization, such as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). If you are disciplined enough to study with a less structured form of education, then online instruction may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Pharmacy Technician Colleges
Once you have decided whether you would like to obtain a certificate or degree, and if you want to enroll in an online program or go to classes on campus, you can begin to target your school alternatives. There are numerous pharmacy tech schools to pick from in the Birmingham AL area and throughout the Country, so you need to develop a list of qualifying questions so that you can compare colleges and trade schools. As we covered in our introduction, you will probably initially look for schools that are within both your financial budget and driving distance from your Birmingham residence. If you are able to move or are going to enroll in an online pharmacy tech college, then location may not be critical. But there are many other factors that you need to consider so that you may effectively compare programs. The questions below will help you in gathering that information and help you to make your final decision.
Is the Pharmacy Tech Program Accredited? The majority of pharmacy technician programs and trade schools have obtained a regional or national accreditation. Among the most respected accrediting agencies is the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Schools earning accreditation from the ASHP have been screened and certified to furnish a complete quality education. Online schools may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which deals exclusively with distance or online learning. Don't forget to confirm that the certificate or degree program as well as the school you select are accredited by a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to helping make sure that you receive a quality education, it might help in getting financial assistance or student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited schools. Also, certification might mandate that the training program is accredited. And a number of Birmingham AL employers will only hire entry level employees that have earned a degree from an accredited school.
Does the Program Prepare You for Certification? Certification is not mandated in all states, but numerous pharmacies prefer that the techs they employ be certified. The pharmacy technician school should ready its students to pass the NHA or the PTCB examination. Students planning on obtaining NHA certification will also need one year of job experience. This qualification may be satisfied by entering a college sponsored internship program.
Does the College Provide Internship Programs? As we just covered, the NHA mandates a year of professional experience for certification, which may be satisfied through an internship program. Perhaps the best way to obtain hands on clinical experience as a pharmacy tech is to train out in the field. Most pharmacy tech degree or certificate programs also require clinical training in order to graduate and an internship is a great way to satisfy the requirement. Check if the schools have a working relationship with Birmingham AL area pharmacies, clinics, or hospitals for internship programs.
Does the College Provide Job Placement Assistance? Finding that initial position in Birmingham AL after graduation, particularly with no professional experience, can be a daunting task without any assistance. Ask if the colleges you are researching have job assistance programs. If they do, find out what their job placement rates are. A higher job placement rate is an indicator that the school has an excellent reputation within the field generating demand for its graduates. It also means that it has a sizable network of pharmacy relationships where it can refer graduates.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the school they pick will need to be within driving distance of their Birmingham AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the schools you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the pharmacy technician program as well.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the pharmacy tech college you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Birmingham AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Birmingham Pharmacy Tech School
Finding the ideal pharmacy tech training is an important first step to starting your career in a rewarding occupation where helping customers with their wellness is your purpose. In the past, many pharmacist technicians were trained "on the job". Nowadays, the majority of pharmacies can no longer operate this way and much prefer to hire formally trained techs. Training is furnished by vocational and trade schools, technical colleges as well as community colleges. The majority of pharmacy technician schools include both laboratory and classroom training. As we have discussed in this article, it's important to choose a program that is accredited and will prepare you for certification. This applies both for online classes as well as for those attended on campus. If you follow our other suggestions you will be able to evaluate schools so that you are sure to make the right selection. With the proper training and dedication you can achieve your goal to become a pharmacy tech in Birmingham Alabama.