While some pharmacy technical diploma programs are available in California, education in this field is usually offered within undergraduate certificate or associate degree programs. Associate degree programs typically cover the same career training as certificate programs but also include courses covering general education subjects. Generally, all pharmacy technician programs include clinical rotations as part of the curriculum.
Applicants to a pharmacy technician program may need to have completed certain prerequisite courses, such as math and computers. In addition, prior to starting clinical work, students may be required to meet other requirements, such as providing proof of current immunizations, drug screenings, criminal background checks and physical examinations. They may also need to be CPR certified. The American Society of Health System Pharmacists also requires students enrolling in pharmacy technician programs to have a high school diploma or equivalent.
Los Angeles-based CBD College has a pharmacy technician diploma program that offers day or evening classes and prepares students for state licensure. This nine-month program includes classroom assignments, hands-on clinical experiences and an externship in a pharmacy setting. Students learn about dosage forms, abbreviations used in pharmacies, weight and measure conversions, pharmacy laws and sterile product preparation. They'll also learn to identify trade and generic names of commonly used medications. CBD College has an on-site placement department to help students find jobs after they graduate and obtain certification.
Located in Norwalk, Cerritos College offers pharmacy technician training through certificate and associate degree programs. Students in the certificate program complete 32-33 units of coursework, which includes two clinical experiences. The first clinical is 120 hours and the second consists of 200 hours. To earn the associate degree, one must complete the certificate requirements plus general education and elective courses totaling 60 units. The pharmacy technician and general education courses are held at the college, and the clinical segments are offered at pharmacies or hospitals.
Pharmacy technician work experience may also be available to students. Applicants must be proficient in math, writing and reading. Other requirements include a high school diploma, transcripts and criminal background clearance. Candidates may need to have CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) certification prior to starting clinical rotations. Students who successfully complete either of these programs can take the PTCE and register with the California State Board of Pharmacy.
The pharmacy technician certificate program at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga focuses on preparing students for employment in the field. Prior to enrollment, students must complete math and computer courses that are geared towards health sciences, as well as a course that introduces them to the field of pharmacy technology. Once in the program, students tackle topics in community and institutional pharmacy operations, pharmaceutical calculations, the pharmacology of body systems and sterile product development.
The two-semester program is rounded out with a 240-hour pharmacy internship, which offers hands-on experience. Students interested in becoming pharmacy technicians may also enroll in the associate degree program, which requires the same pharmacy courses as the certificate program but adds general education coursework. Students who complete either program are eligible to apply to the California State Board of Pharmacy for registration as pharmacy technicians.
City College of San Francisco
The two-semester pharmacy technician certificate program at City College of San Francisco in San Francisco can be completed in nine months. The required 684 hours of study consist of didactic (lecture/lab) and hands-on training in simulated hospital or retail pharmacies. To be eligible for entry into this program, applicants must meet English and math requirements, have knowledge of anatomy, type at least 35 words per minute and complete an introductory computer course.
College of the Sequoias
College of the Sequoias is located in Visalia and offers a two-semester program for aspiring pharmacy technicians. Consisting of theory and clinical experiences, this 10-unit program consists of five courses and a clinical externship. Through two sequential pharmacy technician lab courses, students gain knowledge of non-compounded product preparation, sterile and non-sterile products, drug distribution databases, hazardous products and pharmacy billing. The externship, which takes place in the second semester, allows students to gain experience in local pharmacies. Successful completion of this program makes students eligible to take the PTCE to obtain certification as pharmacy technicians.
Cosumnes River College
Cosumnes River College, which is located in Sacramento, has an ASHP-accredited pharmacy technology program that results in an Associate in Science degree. The curriculum includes lectures, lab courses and practical experiences. Students complete 19 units of pharmacy technician courses, with the remaining units consisting of general education and elective courses to meet the 60-unit requirement. To be eligible for entry into this program, applicants must complete courses in business technology, computer information science, math, biology and pharmacology. Students complete a 216-hour clinical experience in an acute care setting and 135 hours in a retail/community pharmacy under the supervision of certified pharmacy techs or registered pharmacists. Prior to starting clinical work, candidates must provide proof of immunization and complete a TB test, drug screening and criminal background check.
Foothill College in Los Altos Hills offers a nine-month certificate and a two-year associate degree program for aspiring pharmacy technicians. Degree-pursuing students must complete the courses included in the certificate program as well as general education courses. Offered only in the fall, this program requires applicants to complete prerequisite courses and be proficient in math and English. The curriculum includes coursework, lab studies and at least four clinical rotations (retail and/or hospital). Students who finish the associate degree requirements can transfer to a bachelor's degree program. This program is accredited by the ASHP.
Los Angeles ORT College
Los Angeles ORT College, with campuses in Los Angeles and Van Nuys, has a 65-credit hour Associate of Applied Science degree in pharmacy technology administration program that offers morning, afternoon and evening sessions. The morning session has classes five days a week for 48 weeks, while the afternoon and evening sessions have classes four days a week for 76 weeks. Participants must attend an orientation session before beginning the program. Students learn about pharmaceutical purchasing, insurance billing and payment collection, sterile and non-sterile environments, pharmacy ethics, federal and state regulations, inventory control and medication preparation. Graduates are prepared to take the state licensing examination.
Santa Ana College
Santa Ana College in Santa Ana has a pharmacy technology program that offers day, evening, weekend and hybrid classes. The training program can lead to three different awards: a basic certificate, advanced certificate or associate degree. The two-semester basic certificate program includes five pharmacy technician courses and an 80-hour externship. The 26-unit advanced certificate option requires seven courses and a 240-hour externship. This option can be completed in three or four semesters. Students wishing to earn the degree must complete the advanced certificate coursework plus additional general education courses. The advanced certificate and associate degree programs are ASHP-accredited.
Santa Rosa Junior College
Located in Santa Rosa, this college offers a 25-unit certificate program that prepares students to take the PTCE and apply for registration as pharmacy technicians with the California State Board of Pharmacy. The program teaches students about the fundamentals of pharmaceutical practice, including calculating dosages, the dispensing and compounding of medications and pharmacology. Students can also choose electives that cover the skills needed to administer medication and the role of pharmacy technicians in a hospital setting. Clinical experience in a hospital pharmacy is also required. Students may opt to enroll in the Associate in Science in Pharmacy Technician program, which includes additional general education coursework.
To work as a pharmacy technician in California, one must be registered with the California State Board of Pharmacy, which typically requires completing an approved training program and passing the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE). Candidates can also take a certification exam through the National Healthcareer Association and earn the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) credential.
For a program to be state-approved for license preparation, it must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education or American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP) or include at least 240 hours of training. Pharmacy technology associate degree programs, regardless of accreditation, also qualify graduates to pursue licensure.
School Comparison: At a Glance
|School Name||School Type and Setting||Pharmacy Technician Programs Offered||Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2018-2019)|
|CBD College||Two-year, private not-for-profit; large city||Pharmacy Technician Diploma||$38,635*|
|Cerritos College||Two-year, public; large suburb|| Pharmacy Technician Certificate of Achievement,
Associate in Arts in Pharmacy Technology
|$1,346 in-state; $8,710 out-of-state*|
|Chaffey College||Two-year, public; large suburb|| Pharmacy Technician Certificate,
Associate in Science in Pharmacy Technician
|$1,172 in-state; $7,604 out-of-state*|
|City College of San Francisco||Two-year, public; large city||Certificate of Achievement in Pharmacy Technician||$1,696 in-state; $10,372 out-of-state*|
|College of the Sequoias||Two-year, public; midsize city||Pharmacy Technician Skill Certificate||$1,390 in-state; $7,690 out-of-state*|
|Cosumnes River College||Two-year, public; large city||Associate in Science in Pharmacy Technology||$1,104 in-state; $8,712 out-of-state*|
|Foothill College||Two-year, public; large suburb|| Pharmacy Technician Certificate,
Associate in Science in Pharmacy Technician
|$1,563 in-state; $7,503 out-of-state*|
|Los Angeles ORT College||Two-year, private not-for-profit; large city||Associate of Applied Science in Pharmacy Technology Administration||$23,700*|
|Santa Ana College||Two-year, public; large city|| Pharmacy Technology Certificate,
Pharmacy Technology Advanced Certificate,
Pharmacy Technology Associate Degree
|$1,160 in-state; $8,960 out-of-state*|
|Santa Rosa Junior College||Two-year, public; midsize city|| Pharmacy Technician Certificate,
Associate in Science in Pharmacy Technician
|$1,328 in-state; $8,174 out-of-state*|
Source: *National Center for Education Statistics.