Pharmacy techs are highly in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in this field is projected to grow 6% through 2032, twice the average growth rate. People in this field work in hospitals, retail pharmacies, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities and have a number of responsibilities, including verifying information on prescriptions, entering prescription information into computer databases, maintaining patient profiles, answering telephones, inventory procedures, cost analysis, checking for outdated medications, and more.
If you’re interested in becoming a pharmacy technician, many online programs are available. They range in length from three months to a year and cost anywhere from $180 to $15,990. Here, we look at what you need to know to choose the best pharmacy tech online program and cover ten of the most notable programs.
Affordable Online Pharmacy Technician Schools
U.S. Career Institute
Tyler Junior College
University of Houston
Piedmont Community College
U.S. Career Institute
This online pharmacy technician course at U.S. Career Institution is 100% online and can be completed in as little as four months. The program prepares students for exams, including the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) offered through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Exam fees are included in tuition. Graduates of the program are also eligible to take advantage of an optional externship program to get valuable hands-on experience. The U.S. Career Institute has partnered with Walgreens to offer students this experience at no extra cost.
What to know: Residents of DC, Louisiana, Minnesota, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia will not be able to gain licensure by completing this program.
This one-semester online program from the City University of New York teaches the applied and practical information required to pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), including pharmacy law, maintaining inventory control systems, and pharmacology.
What to know: Classes are entirely online through Google Classroom, but CUNY offers scheduled class times on evenings and Saturdays.
Penn Foster’s Pharmacy Technician Career Diploma program prepares students for the PTCE and ExCPT certification exams. It’s a self-paced program that can be completed in as little as three months, though the average time to finish is eight months. Students get 24/7 access to online resources, and the program costs include a PTCB practice test voucher (a $29 value) and the PTCB exam (a $129 value).
What to know: This Penn Foster curriculum does not meet the educational requirements for licensure or certification in the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, Utah and Washington.
Penn Foster Pharmacy Technician Professional Career Diploma (with externship)
This Penn Foster program includes an externship and is fully accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). It prepares students to sit for the ExCPT and PTCB certification exams and can be completed in as little as 11 months; the average completion time is 17 months. A voucher to cover the cost of the PTCE certification exam is included in tuition. Penn Foster has partnered with retail pharmacies, including Kroger, Walgreens, and CVS, to offer externship opportunities. This hands-on experience lasts at least 130 hours over four to 13 weeks at a local pharmacy, with additional costs being covered by the student.
What to know: This Penn Foster curriculum does not meet the educational requirements for licensure or certification in the District of Columbia, Oklahoma, and Washington.
Ashworth College’s self-paced online program prepares students for the ExCPT and PTCE; tuition includes a voucher for either exam. This program is all online, but students can complete a 160-hour externship for hands-on training. Ashworth College has partnerships with CVS and Walgreens, or you can make arrangements with a local pharmacy. Ashworth is part of the Penn Foster Network and ASHP/ACPE accredited.
What to know: This curriculum does not meet the educational requirements for licensure or certification in Alabama, the District of Columbia, Illinois, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
The Pharmacy Technician program from TJC will prepare students for the PTCB exam. The self-paced program covers everything from a review of the top 200 drugs and drug names and classes to drug compounding, inventory control, billing, reimbursement, and more. Students in this program have the opportunity to participate in a practicum experience, and TJC is partnered with several nationwide pharmacies to help with placement. This externship is an excellent way to get hands-on experience before entering the workforce.
What to know: This course does not meet state requirements for North Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
This self-paced online program from the University of Houston usually takes about a year to complete. Classes are 100% online and prepare students for the PTCB National Certification exam. Students also have an opportunity to complete a 100+ hour externship at a national pharmacy chain to get hands-on experience.
What to know: This course does not meet state requirements for North Dakota, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia. Externship placements can take up to 12 weeks to secure.
Piedmont Community College’s self-paced, asynchronous online pharmacy tech course is flexible and affordable. This 16-week, 192-hour course prepares students for the PTCB exam. Classes are 100% online via Blackboard. This class is the most affordable one we reviewed, and North Carolina students may be eligible for scholarship funds.
What to know: This program meets North Carolina pharmacy tech standards; students who reside or plan to work out of state should check to ensure this program meets state requirements.
This program at Ross College is offered in conjunction with its sister school, Ross College Sylvania. The program lasts 36 weeks, with six modules and a six-week externship. Following the online classwork, students participate in an externship program to get hands-on experience applying what they learn, and Ross takes care of placement. Tuition includes a voucher to cover the cost of the PTCB exam.
What to know: For 2022, 73% of those who completed the program were employed the year after graduation. Check with your state to make sure this program meets the appropriate requirements.
Stepful’s online pharmacy tech program consists of a four-month online training course and an externship of 160 clinical hours. This program prepares students for the PTCB Certified Pharmacy Technician exam and boasts an 85% certification rate. Tuition includes online Zoom classes led by an instructor, clinical work, exam prep, coaching, and job support services. Stepful has partnered with pharmacies nationwide to help find convenient placements for clinical assignments.
What to know: This course comes with a 100% money-back guarantee. You get a full refund if you don’t get a job offer within six months of certification. Check with your state to make sure this program meets the appropriate requirements.
How to Choose an Online Pharmacy Technician School
Accreditation helps you know that a program provides quality education. In the United States, programs are accredited by private organizations created for the sole purpose of reviewing institutions of higher learning and educational programs for quality.
The accreditation process requires every part of a program to be examined by experts. You can trust that accredited programs live up to their promises to students. Accreditors ensure that schools are honest about their admission requirements and whether they will adequately prepare you to work in the field. An accredited program should provide reliable information about many things, including the total costs, the odds of finding employment after graduation, the likely salary you will earn, and the qualifications of the instructors.
Attending a program with an externship gives you a chance to gain hands-on experience before you become a skilled pharmacy technician and join the workforce. These externships are typically done in retail pharmacies, and many schools have agreements with large retail chains to help place students for this part of their education. Not all programs offer externships, but it’s a good idea to consider choosing a program that provides this opportunity.
State requirements vary significantly, and only some online pharmacy tech programs will meet every state's requirements. Before applying for a program, check with your state’s regulating body to ensure that the program meets all of the requirements.
The cost of these programs varies significantly. Generally, the more expensive a program is, the more it offers students, but this is not always true. Programs that provide externships are likely to cost more, and many of the more expensive options have perks, like vouchers for certification exams, money-back guarantees, or job placement assistance.
An online pharmacy technician course can take anywhere from a few weeks to about a year. Some programs are self-paced, which means you can work through the content as fast or slow as you want. Others have synchronous learning with virtual class meeting times throughout the semester.
Some programs are transparent about their success rates, openly telling how many students graduate, pass exams, and secure employment. Programs with high certification rates do an excellent job of preparing their students for what comes next.
What is the pharmacy technician school curriculum like?
Every program is unique, but generally, the curriculum will cover the following topics: history of medicine, HIPAA regulations, insurance, introduction to the pharmacy system, pharmacy operations, pharmaceutical calculations, dosage calculations, medical terminology, federal and state laws, ethics, dispensing medication, drug classifications, how drugs affect the body, retail pharmacies, hospital and health system pharmacies, non-sterile compounding, and sterile compounding.
Do I need an ASHP/ACPE accredited pharm tech program?
Not necessarily, but this will vary by state. Check the requirements in the state or states where you wish to practice.
Do pharmacy technicians need a certification?
Again, it varies by state, so check the requirements where you plan to work. Some states require certification and have much more stringent requirements than others. It's also worth noting that even if your state does not require a specific certification, certified pharmacy technicians may be more desirable to employers.
How much is pharmacy technician training tuition?
It varies significantly depending on what the program offers. Programs with teacher-led classes, externships, and money-back guarantees will likely cost more than self-paced programs with only online courses.
Pharmacy technicians play an essential role in retail and hospital settings. If you're looking for pharmacy technician classes online, there are plenty to choose from. Use the information here to choose the right online pharmacy technician course for you.
Program outcomes may vary depending on each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guranteed.