Prescription for Success: Pharmacy technicians are in demand

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A great profession with many opportunities for career growth, pharmacy technicians assist registered pharmacists in the vital work of providing medication and other health care products to patients.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for pharmacy technicians will grow much faster than the national average for all occupations over the next 10 years. The increasing number of middle-aged and elderly people, who use more prescription drugs, will spur demand for technicians. In addition, as scientific advances bring treatments for medical conditions, more pharmacy technicians will be needed to fill a growing number of prescriptions.

“It’s a good career and there is a high demand for skilled technicians,” said Allied Health Professor Jane Coughanour, coordinator of CCAC’s Pharmacy Technician program.

Students in the Pharmacy Technician program at CCAC have the option of earning a certificate in three semesters or an Associate of Science degree in five.* The certificate program prepares CCAC graduates to enter the workforce as a pharmacy technician in a variety of settings—acute care, ambulatory care or long-term care, as well as research facilities, mail-order pharmacies and home infusion companies.

CCAC’s associate degree program prepares graduates to assist registered pharmacists working in retail or hospital pharmacies, where they may compound and distribute medications, develop intravenous admixtures and provide other pharmaceutical supplies. In addition, the program prepares graduates for the certification exam that is required by some hospitals.

CCAC students also participate in an externship, where they have the opportunity to gain valuable job experience by working full-time in a hospital for six weeks and a retail or outpatient facility for two weeks. Supportive, personalized instruction by professionals experienced in their fields is one of the many benefits of a CCAC education.

“It’s a good career and there is a high demand for skilled technicians.”
—Jane Coughanour, Professor, CCAC Allied Health programs

“We prepare students for hospital, clinical and retail work, as well as for the certification exam,” said Coughanour. “All of our graduates have found jobs, and some who have gone on to pharmacy school or nursing said the CCAC Pharmacy program prepared them well for those disciplines.”

*Admission to both programs is limited by the availability of clinical sites. A separate application for program admission is required, and a student must maintain a 2.0 college-level cumulative GPA to remain in the program.

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Stephanie Krueger

Stephanie Krueger

Student success story
Busy mom fulfilling her dream at CCAC

Stephanie Krueger always loved math and science, and she has long held the desire to work in a lab, preparing life-enhancing medications. After 10 years working as an accountant, she decided to finally follow her dream.

After starting out in the Medical Laboratory Technician program at CCAC, she realized the Pharmacy Technician program fit more with her goals. Switching majors was not difficult with the help of the advisors at CCAC South Campus, and now she is set to graduate in the fall with a Pharmacy Technician Associate of Science degree. Krueger is looking forward to working in a hospital pharmacy where she can make IV bags and medications and work closely with the patients.

As a busy mother of six with five still at home, taking classes and studying has been something of a balancing act. While classes have been challenging, her professors have been there for her every step of the way.

Professor Dr. Charles Karnack, a registered pharmacist who works at Mercy Hospital, is an example of CCAC’s faculty—highly skilled educators with real-world experience. “They’re preparing us really well,” said Krueger. “I’m learning so much and the lessons are always reinforcing what we’ve learned.”

She likes the fact she can email her professors if she has a question, and she can drop into CCAC’s Math Café and learning assistance center whenever she needs help. These free student services have been “fantastic.”

Krueger also cites CCAC’s small class sizes as a definite plus. Students and professors are able to get to know one another, and as a nontraditional student, she never feels isolated. “It’s the perfect environment to learn something new.”

Career Facts

Pharmacy technician
Opportunities are increasing for trained pharmacy technicians to work in retail or hospital pharmacies. Working under the supervision of a pharmacist, technicians assist customers, fill prescriptions, maintain records and prepare medications. This career requires strong customer service skills, along with solid math skills and familiarity with medical and pharmaceutical concepts.

Who is a good fit?
Pharmacy technicians should be at ease helping customers and referring questions to the supervising pharmacist. Because the job requires measuring and preparing medications, careful attention to detail is important.

Education
Pharmacy technology training typically includes mastering health care and pharmacy terminology, basic pharmaceutical preparation skills, as well as solid skills in biology, computers, communication and math.

Median pay
$29,650 annually

Job outlook
Projected growth is faster than the national average, with an estimated 106,000 new openings anticipated by 2022.

Source: 2013 Onetonline.org

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