Pharmacist Certification and Diploma Programs

Certificate- or diploma-level programs in pharmacy technology teach students the skills and knowledge to assist pharmacists in preparing and dispensing medications. Review BLS data for median hourly salary and job outlook, and learn about professional certification and common coursework in a diploma program.

Essential Information

While a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) is a minimum requirement for full pharmacists, students wishing to complete a shorter curriculum will find that many schools offer diploma programs in the related field of pharmacy technology. The only prerequisite is possession of a high school diploma or GED.

Pharmacy technology diplomas prepare students for work as pharmacy technicians, pharmacist's assistants and other entry-level positions. Pharmacy technician programs teach the methods used to store and label medications, mix medical substances, fill simple prescriptions and notate patients' medical records. Through a combination of classroom instruction and supervised clinical experience, students learn to operate medical equipment to mix medical compounds, form pills, fill capsules and compose liquids, as well as teaching relevant medical terminology and billing techniques as well. Online diploma programs in pharmacy technology are very common, though most require students to complete an on-site clinical assignment.

Diploma in Pharmacy Technology

Since working as a pharmacy technician involves understanding how to mix precise amounts of substances, students are advised to develop their mathematics and scientific skills before enrolling in a diploma program. High school courses in art or machine shop might help students develop the fine motor skills needed to operate the medical equipment used in pharmacy technology. The classes offered in pharmacy technician diploma programs emphasize practical skills used to assist pharmacists. Students learn about the effects of various medications on the human body, the equipment used to mix substances and computer programs used to monitor prescriptions. Common courses include:

  • Pharmaceutical technology
  • Mathematics for pharmacy technicians
  • Legal aspects of the pharmaceutical industry
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Medicinal compound mixtures

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Retail pharmacies, hospitals, clinics and pharmaceutical companies all employ pharmacy technicians. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) predicted that there would be job growth of about 9% in the field between 2014 and 2024. According to the BLS in 2015, pharmacy technicians earned an hourly median wage of $15.23.

Professional Certification and Continuing Education Options

Pharmacy technicians usually need to register with their state of employment. Registration requirements vary, but generally include holding a diploma in pharmacy technology and paying a registration fee. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) offer voluntary national certification tests for those interested in improving their job prospects.

Earning a diploma in pharmacy technology will give students access to a job market projected to grow 9% over the next decade. Students can improve their job prospects by earning professional certification through an organization like PTCB and ICPT.

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