Should I get a Pharmacy Technology Degree?

Written by: 
Daymar College

Looking to become a pharmacy technician? What does a pharmacy technician do on a day-to-day basis? What skills are needed to be a successful pharmacy technician? What will you learn with a Pharmacy Technology Degree?

The Pharmacy Technician Role

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists calculate and dispense prescription medication to customers in hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. Pharmacy technicians typically do the following:

  • Collect and input information needed to fill a prescription
  • Calculate and dispense medication for prescriptions
  • Package and label prescriptions
  • Organize inventory and alert pharmacists to any shortages of medications
  • Process payment for prescriptions and insurance claims
  • Utilize a computer system to record prescription dispensing and patient information
  • Answer phone calls and greet customers behind the pharmacy counter
  • Arrange for customers to speak with pharmacists if customers have questions about medications or health matters

Important Skills for a Successful Pharmacy Technician

There are many skills a pharmacy technician must obtain during and after they achieve a pharmacy technology degree. Here are a few of the most important skills:

Stamina. A pharmacy technician spends much of the day on their feet. Having the stamina to stand 8 hours a day is crucial for the pharmacy technician.

Customer-Service Skills. Pharmacy technicians spend much of their time interacting with customers, so having good customer service skills is a requirement of pharmacy technicians in a retail setting.

Detail Oriented. Serious health problems can result from mistakes in dispensing prescriptions. Although the pharmacist is responsible for ensuring the safety of all medications dispensed, pharmacy technicians must have great attention to detail so that health issues are avoided.

Listening Skills. Pharmacy technicians must communicate clearly with pharmacists, doctors and patients when taking prescription orders. Good listening skills are important for pharmacy technicians to properly perform their duties.

Math Skills. Pharmacy technicians need to have an understanding of basic college math concepts used in pharmacies when counting pills and compounding medications.

Organizational Skills. Working as a pharmacy technician involves multi-tasking many responsibilities. Pharmacy technicians need good organizational skills to complete pharmacy work while at the same time providing good customer service to patients.

Pharmacy Technology Degree Curriculum

All career colleges are not equal. Make sure the career college you attend offers the following pharmacy technology degree curriculum so you can be prepared for a new career as a pharmacy technician.

Public Speaking – Pharmacy technicians spend a lot of time interacting with patients and good public speaking skills should be taught in career college settings that offer pharmacy technology degrees. A pharmacy technician with good public speaking skills will be aware of what is going on and listen to the customer to decide whether they need to speak with a pharmacist. They show empathy to their customers and are aware of their feelings and emotions. The pharmacy technician will wait for feedback from the customer and engage with their customer to create a communal relationship with them.

Critical Thinking – Pharmacy technology degree instruction will help students not jump to conclusions since the pharmacy technician must collect the data, weigh the facts and think the matter through before dispensing medication or giving health advice to customers. The education will instill in the pharmacy technician a willingness to stay well-informed and have self-confidence in their abilities to practice pharmacology.

Medical Terminology – Pharmacy technicians will need to learn medical terminology to effectively dispense medication and talk with patients about medicine. Here are a few terms that the pharmacy technician must know to be successful in their role at a pharmacy:

  • Absorption Rate – The amount of time it takes for a drug to enter the bloodstream after it is administered to a patient.
  • Adverse Reaction or Side Effect – an undesired or negative response to a medication or multi-drug interaction.
  • Allergy – a reaction to a medication or being highly sensitive to a substance.
  • CC – Abbreviation for cubic centimeter
  • Co-Pay – the cost a patient must subsidize for medication after their deductible is met.
  • Formulary – A predetermined list of drugs that are preferred by a managed care system.
  • Generic Drug – a medication not protected by patent and distributed at a lower cost.
  • Half-Life – The amount of time it takes for half of a drug to be eliminated from the body.
  • HMO – Health Maintenance Organization; health insurance plan where the patient is assigned a primary care physician and the primary care physician must refer the patient to a specialist.
  • OTC – medication sold “Over the Counter” and purchased without a prescription
  • PPO – Preferred Provider Organization; health insurance plan that allows members to decide on physicians and specialists directly without referral.
  • Ratio – used to show the relative difference between two quantities.
  • Symptom – a sign or characteristic of an illness or disease.

Medical Law & Ethics – The pharmacy technician is held to high standards of medical law and ethics, as they are responsible for protecting personal information. The American Association of Pharmacy Technicians has a Code of Ethics that mandates that a healthcare professional who assists pharmacists provide the best possible care for patients. There are also many laws a pharmacy technician must learn to provide the best possible care. Here are a few medical laws a pharmacy technician needs to be aware of while performing their duties:

  • Pure Food & Drug Act (1906) – prohibits the interstate transportation or sale of misbranded drugs.
  • Kefauver-Harris Amendment (1962) – requires all medication in the US to be pure, safe and effective.
  • Poison Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 – requires all Over the Counter drugs to be in child resistant containers.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) – ensures a safe and healthful workplace
  • Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 – passed to improve the portability and continuity of health coverage during a life event and helps to protect patient information.

Pharmacy Technology & Calculations – The four main components in Pharmacy Math are weight, volume, temperature and time. Some of the math needed to prepare for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) exam include:

  • Proportions Math – stating the ratio as fractions, setting the two fractions equal to each other, cross-multiplying and solving the resulting equation.
  • Ratios vs. Proportion - A ratio compares two quantities by using division to calculate the solution, whereas proportions assume that the two ratios are equivalent.
  • Measurements and Conversions in Pharmacy Math – understanding the ratio of liquids when preparing and dispensing medication (i.e. 30mL = 1 oz.)
  • Temperature Conversions – Fahrenheit and Celsius (i.e. 32 Fahrenheit is equal to 0 Celsius)
  • Dosage Calculations for Children and Adults – rules used when either the manufacturer or prescriber has not offered a recommended dosage for children. Clark’s Rule uses weight in Lbs. to calculate the child’s dose. Young’s Rule uses age to formulate the proper child’s dosage.
  • Dilution Math – a technique that uses a solvent to increase the volume of a liquid solution to decrease the concentration.
  • Intravenous (IV) Dosage Calculations – the drop rate of an IV is based on the amount of liquid, time period administered and a drop factor (gtts./mL).

Pharmacy Operations & Claims – the pharmacy technician must be able to operate and submit claims for patients while performing duties. Here are a few terms that the pharmacy technician must learn during a Pharmacy Technology degree program:

  • Pharmacy Management System – the system that stores, processes, transmits and receives billing data.
  • Adjudication – the payer’s processing of a claim to determine whether the drug is covered.
  • EDI – Electronic Data Interchange; how claims are sent electronically
  • CMS – Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; the federal agency responsible for health care.
  • Health Portability and Accountability Act – the legislation mandating that patient health information remain private and confidential

Computer Applications – The pharmacy technician must be able to learn and use many different computer applications including insurance claims processing applications, record keeping and coding, medication dispensing machines and register interfaces.

If you're still searching for pharmacy technician training schools, make Daymar College your first choice. Daymar College offers campuses in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Daymar College also offers an Online Pharmacy Technology Program.  Upon graduation, our career services staff can help you find a place to apply your newly-learned skills and start your rewarding career helping others as a pharmacy technician.