Pharmacists and pharmaceutical technicians are the professionals that we encounter during the second round of our healthcare experience. First, we go to the doctor to diagnose our illness or injury, then we go to the pharmacy to explore treatment options and pick up prescribed medications. Careers in pharmacy are for professionals who want to be involved in the administering and educating of prescription medications and treatments in various settings in the community.
An online pharmacy degree can prepare you for this career that involves both medication and customer service. Numerous pharmacy programs are available online. You can pursue a shorter certificate or associate’s degree, which will let you work as a pharmacy technician. Or, pursue the doctorate of pharmacy (called a PharmD) to work as a pharmacist. Regardless of your degree, pharmacy is a great field to enter. Pay is good, and demand is steady for all levels of talent. The field is growing rapidly due to an aging population and increased medication rates.
ONLINE PHARMACY TECHNICIAN PROGRAMS
If you are interested in an entry level position in pharmacy, think about earning an online certificate or associate’s degree. These programs are designed to help you meet the minimum qualifications to become a pharmacy technician or aide. Pharmaceutical technicians dispense prescription medications for other healthcare professionals and customers in retail pharmacies, hospitals, or care facilities. You may even be able to earn specializations to improve your employment chances.
Pharmacy technician careers are great for young adults looking to kickstart a career or professionals of all ages who are looking for new opportunities. In most cases you won’t need a license to qualify as a pharmacy technician, but most states require a criminal background check and postsecondary formal education or formal training accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASH). Some states require pharmacy technicians to pass an exam and receive certification. Working as a pharmacy technician may help you determine if you want to become a licensed pharmacist, which requires additional years of education. Pharmaceutical technicians make about $30,920, but are in high demand that is expected to grow by 9% in the coming years.
ADVANCED PHARMACY DEGREES
Pharmacists dispense medications and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions for patients. They may also perform a range of tasks such as conducting health and wellness screenings, providing immunizations, overseeing medication given to patients, and providing advice on healthy lifestyles. To become a dispensing pharmacist, you will need to earn a doctoral degree (PharmD) and complete the PCAT exit exam, plus pass two additional exams (NAPLEX and MPJE). Most programs require at least four years of work, in addition to already owning a bachelor’s degree. Online PharmD programs are not terribly common, but do exist. Some hybrid programs—partly online, partly on-campus—are more readily available. Examine your options to find the right fit for you. Programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) may have greater credibility with employers.
Many online pharmacy degrees offered through distance learning are at the master’s level. These degrees are typically geared for professional pharmacists who want to move into other arenas. Depending on your degree selection, you could study such topics as pharmaceutical business or regulatory affairs. As a licensed pharmacist, you can also earn online certificates to acquire advanced knowledge or learn about new career areas, such as forensic chemistry. Advanced careers in pharmaceuticals are highly competitive—the growth rate of demand for pharmacists is predicted to be a mere 3% through 2024—but highly compensating, with an average salary of $122,230.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Pharmaceutical technicians and pharmacists alike must be able to interact with a variety of clients and understand their various needs and goals. Pharmacists have a deeper analytical understanding of prescription orders as well as the effects and appropriate circumstances for giving out medicine. Professionals that pursue careers as pharmaceutical technicians are typically well organized and have the math skills to perform the counting and organizational tasks required.
An online pharmacy technician program can cost between $5,000 and $7,000. The cost of certification exams can float between $100-200 for prospective pharmaceutical technicians. The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education quotes the cost of a PharmD at around $100,000 but it can be as high as $150,000.