Pharmacy tech students have a few options when it comes to degrees. Pharmacy technician degrees are available at the associate’s level, and many schools offer certificates and diplomas for students who already hold a degree. (See: Popular Pharmacy Technician Schools). The level of education you choose to pursue can influence your career direction and your chances of finding employment, so it pays to be as informed as possible when deciding on a degree.
Pharmacy technician certificates can usually be completed in less than a year. They provide the basic, fundamental skills necessary to perform the job functions of a pharmacy technician in a retail or clinical environment, and help prepare graduates to take any certification exams for pharmacy technicians. No prior education is usually required to enter a certificate program, outside of a high school diploma.
Pharmacy technician diploma programs last around a year, and are designed to add supplementary, skill-based education to the background knowledge provided by a previous degree. Many students with associate degrees in medical assisting or a related field pursue pharmacy technician diplomas to move into the pharmaceutical industry, though a medical background is not necessarily required. Diploma programs also prepare graduates to take certification exams.
Pharmacy technician associate’s degrees generally take around 24 months to complete, and provide a more thorough education and a stronger skill set than certificate and diploma programs. Pharmacy technician students in an associate’s degree program receive a relatively broad scope of training in the medical field as well as focused training in pharmacy practice, and typically utilize outside externships to provide on-the-job experience.
As a side note, please be aware that there is a significant difference between employment as a “pharmacy technician” and a “pharmacist.” A career as a pharmacist involves considerably more schooling and a much more rigorous certification process that is only given out at a small number of pharmacy colleges.