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Accurate and precise pharmaceutical work is an important part of a well-oiled health care system, and it isn't only pharmacists themselves who bear that responsibility. Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in a variety of ways, working to make sure each patient gets the medicine they need to get well.
Pharmacy tech degree programs typically last between one and two years, depending on the study track you choose. Certificate and diploma programs don't take as long to complete, but associate degree plans also provide general education credits that can transfer to bachelor's programs if you choose to continue your education after spending some time in the workforce.
If you're thinking about moving into the health care field but don't have space for college in your day-to-day schedule, look into online pharmacy tech degrees. Online degrees for pharmacy tech students typically allow you to complete assigned work at your own pace and may take less than a year to finish.
Best Colleges For Pharmacy Tech Degree Programs 2018-19
We gathered data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on hundreds of technical, career and community colleges to find out which ones were the top destinations for aspiring pharmacy technicians. Tap the methodology button for some detail on how we calculated the scores and rankings, and read on below for our list of the ten best colleges for pharmacy tech degree programs.
Our No. 1 school overall also took the No. 1 spot in the flexibility category, offering placement services for graduates, weekend/evening degree plans for on-campus students and an online student body that encompasses nearly 53 percent of all enrolled students. Vance-Granville Community College also boasts a student-faculty ratio of 13:1, close to 20 percent better than the average ratio of 16:1 at national universities.
The pharmacy technology diploma program at this North Carolina institution focuses on career-specific subjects of study but does contain at least one general education course on its curriculum each semester. The suggested degree path takes three full-time semesters to complete, beginning in the fall and ending with a 12-credit summer session.
Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California, reported the second-lowest average tuition of any school that made our list, charging students a total of just over $1,550 in 2015-16. It was also the second-largest school in our top ten, awarding a total of 1,365 degrees in 2015, and it posted a graduation rate that only one other school on our list could beat.
The Silicon Valley school offers two different program approaches for pharmacy technology students. The certificate plan and the associate degree plan each require the same 52 credits of core coursework, but students seeking an associate degree must also complete a general education track that brings their total number of earned credits to 90 or higher.
The most affordable tuition and fees of any school in our top ten can be found at this Culver City institution, where students in 2015-16 paid just $1,220 on average for their basic enrollment expenses. It also had the second-highest proportion of students who took at least some of their classes online, reporting distance education enrollment of more than 48 percent in 2015.
West Los Angeles College provides a few different paths for pharmacy tech students. The for-credit program can lead to either a certificate of achievement or an associate degree, depending on how you choose to approach your study, while the Westside Extension career training plan confers no college credit but can be completed in as little as 9 months.
As the largest school to make our list, awarding more than 2,300 degrees in 2015, Atlanta Technical College may provide the right atmosphere for students who like the hustle and bustle of a busy campus. Conversely, students looking to split their class time with partially online pharmacy tech degrees may find what they're looking for here as well -- more than 45 percent of students take at least some of their classes via distance education.
ATC's pharmacy technology diploma program is laid out as a four-semester study plan that features 47 credit hours of occupation-specific coursework, 9 hours of general education classes and a five-hour practicum. Students must pass a background check and maintain a 2.0 grade point average or better.
Just three other schools on our list posted lower average tuition rates than Turtle Mountain Community College, where the NCES reports that students paid a mean figure of $2,250 for the 2015-16 academic year. The Belcourt, North Dakota, institution also had a comfortable student-faculty ratio of 11:1, taking the No. 3 spot in that category among schools that made our list.
The pharmacy technician program at TMCC leads to an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree and consists of 65 credit hours of coursework, of which general education classes make up between 35 and 40 percent. Occupational subjects studied include medical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, sterile product preparation and pharmacology.
American National University is a private, for-profit, nationally distributed chain of institutions that maintains campuses in six states. It was one of the smallest schools we looked at in this analysis, awarding just 45 total degrees in 2015, and had the lowest student-faculty ratio (6:1) of any institution in our top ten.
Campus-based students at the Dayton location of ANU can enroll in the school's pharmacy technician diploma program, which features an off-site externship at a working hospital or retail pharmacy. If you're seeking online degrees for your pharmacy tech studies, ANU offers both the diploma program and an associate degree plan through its distance education extensions based in Virginia and Tennessee.
Our No. 7 school made its mark on the flexibility category by offering alternative tuition payment plans for students, placement services for graduates and certain entire degree plans that can be earned exclusively through weekend and evening courses. The Florence, South Carolina, campus of Virginia College also featured our list's highest proportion of pharmacy tech students among its 2015 graduating class.
The non-degree program for pharmacy tech students at this national chain of for-profit institutions is designed to teach you how to prepare and label prescription medications, transcribe doctors' orders and interact effectively with patients. Classes alternate their delivery method between traditional and distance education, so students seeking partially online pharmacy tech degrees may find the type of program they're after.
This Sharon, Pennsylvania, institution is the second-smallest school in our top ten -- it graduated fewer than 100 students in 2015, according to the NCES -- which can be an effective environment for student success. Just three other schools in our top ten had a higher graduation rate than Laurel Technical Institute, another private, for-profit school, which may be due in part to its low student-faculty ratio of 8:1.
Laurel's pharmacy technician study plan is designed to provide a mix of classroom-based academic work, practical experience and laboratory time that prepares you to work in just about any type of pharmacy facility. The program here leads to a diploma and features a 150-hour internship section.
Spending on instructional expenses like course development and classroom technology can mean the difference between a cutting-edge education and one that's behind the times. This public, non-profit school in Cleveland, Wisconsin, set aside a larger percentage of its annual budget for instructional expenses than any other school on our list and posted a graduation rate in the top 30 of all pharmacy tech schools nationally.
The technical diploma program for pharmacy techs at LTC is similar to many other offerings on our list, lasting through two terms of full-time study and focusing on essential occupational skills. The 17-credit certificate plan is designed for working pharmacy techs who want to add some pharmaceutical theory and history training to their vocational knowhow.
This private, for-profit school in Honolulu posted the highest 2015 graduation rate in our top ten, reporting to the NCES that better than four out of five students earned their degrees within 150 percent of their expected time to completion. Hawaii Medical College also topped our list for the proportion of its annual budget set aside for academic support expenses like counseling and career services.
Students at HMC study medical ethics, customer service, anatomy and physiology, medical insurance billing and retail and hospital pharmacy practice, along with other customary pharmacy tech courses. The externship -- a section in which students earn college credit for training in a real-world pharmacy -- requires 225 hours of supervised work.
Pharmacy Tech Degree Programs and Common Career Paths
It may be possible to start a career as a pharmacy technician without first completing any formal education, but employers often prefer candidates who take the time to earn a degree or certificate before breaking into the field. Here's some info about the different academic paths available.
Career Outlook for Pharmacy Tech Majors
Knowing what to expect from the career market can save you from some of the potential surprises of the post-graduation job search. Take a look at these job growth projections for pharmacy tech careers, calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Pharmacy Tech
Scholarships and other financial aid options for pharmacy tech students are typically offered at the state or regional level, such as the $2,500 Franklin D. Boyce Scholarship available in Eastern Virginia. Here's a quick list of scholarships and other student aid that can be applied to pharmacy tech degree programs.
March 1 (preliminary application); March 15 (full application)
Renewals for the fourth and fifth year are based upon a non-competitive progress report reviews and attendance to annual progress report meetings.
Renewable if recipient continues to qualify academically per transcript.