A pharmacy technician is someone who assists a pharmacist in either a retail pharmacy or a hospital. They help patients get their prescription medications filled, keep things organized, and handle administrative tasks. Pharmacy technicians play a vital role as part of the healthcare team.
But do you need a degree to be a pharmacy technician?
You do not need a college degree to be a pharmacy technician, but you might have to be certified or licensed depending on where you live and the employer. You do typically need your high school diploma or GED to work as a pharmacy technician.
You can earn your pharmacy technician certification through an online program, a community college, or a trade school. You can get your pharmacy technician license by applying through your state's board of pharmacy.
Most employers prefer to hire certified pharmacy technicians and some states require it. Most employers don’t typically tend to require pharmacy technicians to have degrees.
What are Pharmacy Technician Degrees?
Pharmacy technician degrees are typically associate degrees that are offered by community colleges. They generally take two years to complete and there are both online and in-person options available.
Associate degree programs can be very expensive. The typical cost of pharmacy technician school for an associate degree is $5,000 to $10,000.
These degree programs cover specific pharmacy technician topics such as health science procedures, pharmacology, billing and coding, anatomy and physiology, clinical procedures, insurance applications, and billing and coding.
In addition, associate degree programs can include classes in writing, basic math, humanities, and creative arts. Associate degree programs typically take two years to complete.
Are Pharmacy Technician Degrees Required?
Getting a pharmacy technician degree may help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to become a pharmacy technician, but it is not required.
Most employers only require that you have your high school diploma/GED and possibly your certification, and some even allow for on-the-job training for pharmacy technicians with no formal training or education. In addition, even states that have the strictest requirements for pharmacy technicians do not require a college degree.
A degree may be required for some types of pharmacy technician specialties, but it is not common. If you want to advance from a pharmacy technician to a more advanced career, a degree can be helpful as many higher-level occupations require one.
We have Online Pharmacy Technician Classes here at Stepful, for example, that prepares you for your PTCB certification and only costs $1,999 and takes 4 months to complete.
Pharmacy Technician Degree vs. Certificate
If you are looking at different pharmacy technician training programs, you will have to decide whether you want to attend a certificate program or earn a degree.
Pharmacy technician degree programs can cost anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the program you choose. In contrast, certificate programs typically cost between $500 and $2,000.
Certificate programs can also be completed much more quickly than associate degree programs. Online pharmacy technician certificate programs can be completed in as little as 3 months, while associate degree programs take two years to complete.
You can learn more about how long pharmacy technician programs take here.
Overall, the quickest and cheapest way to become a pharmacy technician is by pursuing a certification instead of an associate degree.
Alternatives to Getting a Pharmacy Technician Degree
As mentioned, the main alternative to getting a pharmacy technician degree is to get a certificate. You may also have to get your pharmacy technician license depending on the state you live in. You can learn more about the differences in our pharmacy technician certification vs. license guide.
If you decide to get a certificate instead of a degree, there are several good options you can consider.
Online Pharmacy Technician Training Programs
Online pharmacy technician training programs cover all of the information you need to know to pass your certification exam and become a successful pharmacy technician, all from home and with a flexible schedule. These types of programs are usually the least expensive option.
There are many different online training programs. You’ll want to make sure you choose one from a trustworthy organization.
Our Online Pharmacy Technician Program here at Stepful is a great choice if you’re interested in becoming certified and getting a job. Our program takes just 4 months, offers a money-back guarantee, and includes career support. We have an 85% certification rate and will help you prepare to earn your CPhT certification from the PTCB.
Pharmacy Technician Certificate Program from a Community College
Many community colleges offer in-person pharmacy technician training programs. Community college programs usually last two semesters, taking between 4 to 12 months to complete.
For example, the programs at Tidewater Community College and Columbus State Community College each take 6 months to complete, and the program at Piedmont Community College takes 4 months.
Some programs offer a diploma in addition to a certificate, but diploma and certificate programs cover the same basic information, and employers and states (that require it) only really care about the certificate.
Community college pharmacy technician programs cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.
Is Getting a Pharmacy Technician Degree Worth It?
If you want a career as a pharmacy technician or want pharmacy technician experience before moving on to a more advanced healthcare career, you probably want to earn your certificate as quickly as possible.
In most cases, spending two years and tens of thousands of dollars on a pharmacy technician degree isn’t necessary. Most employers are happy to hire certified pharmacy technicians and do not expect job candidates to have an associate degree.
The fastest and most cost-effective way to become a pharmacy technician is to complete an online pharmacy technician certification program.
Pros of Getting a Pharmacy Technician Degree
Earning a degree is a great goal, and there are some benefits to having a pharmacy technician degree. These include:
- More education. Choosing a degree program over a certificate program means you will spend more time in the classroom and be able to cover more material. Degree programs will include courses like writing and humanities in addition to pharmacy technician-specific courses.
- Looks good on a resume. While employers do not expect pharmacy technicians to have a degree, it certainly doesn’t hurt to add more credentials to your work resume.
- Jumpstart for more advanced degrees. If you plan to get an advanced degree in science or healthcare, starting off with an associate degree might help you get there. Getting a pharmacy technician degree may help you if you plan to apply to a doctor of pharmacy program in the future.
Cons of Getting a Pharmacy Technician Degree
When deciding on a type of pharmacy technician program to attend, you’ll also want to keep the following in mind:
- Time-consuming. Getting a pharmacy technician degree will probably take at least two years. Spending two years in school means you’ll be waiting longer to start your career and start earning money for yourself and your family.
- Expensive. It is no secret that college degrees are expensive. It is impossible for most people to pay for a degree upfront, and many people spend years trying to pay back their student loans.
- Unnecessary. Most employers’ main concern is whether or not a pharmacy technician candidate is certified. No states require pharmacy technicians to earn a degree, and it is rare for an employer to require it.