Pharmacy technicians are the backbone of pharmacies in drug stores and hospitals alike. They support pharmacists directly by dispensing medications, acting as cashiers, answering patient questions, and much more. And as such, pharmacy technicians require ample training to excel at the job.
The best pharmacy technician training programs prepare aspiring pharmacy techs to thrive in any pharmacy setting and exhibit exemplary skills in patient communication, medication dispensing, computer software, and much more.
Best Pharmacy Technician Training Programs of 2021
- Best Overall: Ultimate Medical Academy
- Best for Career Advancement: State Fair Community College Stackable Certificate Program
- Best for Job Placement: Ashworth College
- Best Apprenticeship Program: CVS LearnRX
- Best Affordable Program: Penn Foster
- Best Hybrid Program: North Dakota State College of Science
- Best for Accelerated Study: U.S. Career Institute
Best Overall : Ultimate Medical Academy
This associate degree program results in a diploma. It prepares students to sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (PTCE) and provides hands-on skills training.
Externship included in coursework
Less than two years to complete associate degree
School is only institutionally accredited
Limited financial aid options
Must be in Florida for externship
Ultimate Medical Academy offers the best overall pharmacy technician training program, largely because it allows students to earn a health sciences associate degree in less than two years. In just 18 months, you could be sporting a pharmacy technician diploma and scoring a job at your dream pharmacy.
This training fully prepares you for entry-level roles in the pharmaceutical industry, as it covers all of the hard and soft skills you need to succeed as a pharmacy technician, as well as all of the practical and theoretical knowledge you’ll need to best serve patients.
The UMA associate degree includes courses on pharmacology, sterile products, anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, pharmaceutical calculations, drug dosage and interactions, pharmacy law and ethics, and community and institutional pharmacy. The course ends with a 180-hour externship at the Clearwater, Florida, campus. Other than the externship, all of the coursework is online and flexible.
Because this is a degree program, you’ll also have to take general education classes like English composition and psychology. If you already have a degree and have taken such courses, you may be able to get some general education credits transferred to Ultimate Medical Academy. However, you can save some money by opting for a less expensive certification program if you don’t feel the need to get a second degree.
UMA’s pharmacy technician program prepares you to sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (PTCE) administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). When you pass, you earn the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) designation.
Students must be 18 years of age and the only admissions requirement is a high school diploma.
Tuition for this program is similar to that of a traditional university. At $450 per credit hour, it isn’t inexpensive, but UMA offers some financial aid options, including federal financial aid. You may also qualify for a monthly payment plan to make tuition more manageable.
Best for Career Advancement : State Fair Community College Stackable Certificate Program
With three stackable programs (skills certificate, professional certificate, associate degree), State Fair Community College allows students to dip their toes in the water and easily advance if they wish.
Three study plans to choose from
Stackable certificates for advancement
Not all courses offered every semester
Expensive out-of-state tuition
State Fair Community College offers a unique stackable program that allows students to slowly earn credentials in the pharmaceutical industry. It’s the best option for career advancement for students who just want to start by dipping their toes in the water—you can start small but advance your career over time, thanks to the three separate pharmacy tech programs that build upon one another.
The skills certificate (18 credit hours) prepares you to take the PTCE exam and earn the CPhT credential. The professional certificate (30 credit hours) builds upon the skills certificate with a professional practicum and additional health courses. The associate degree program (61.5 credit hours) results in an associate of applied science and includes even more courses, including microbiology, advanced medical terminology, and general education requirements.
All of the coursework for all three programs takes place online. This is a great option for students who want to get a feel for the pharmaceutical industry without committing to a full degree while keeping educational doors open. Because the programs are stackable, you can enroll in them one after the other without having to repeat classes or deal with transfer credits.
There is no externship included in the online version of this training, so if hands-on training is required in your state, you’ll be responsible for securing and completing that experience.
To be admitted into State Fair Community College, you must have a high school diploma and ACT, SAT, or ACCUPLACER test scores. Placement score requirements vary depending on the classes you want to enroll in.
Unfortunately, tuition for non-Missouri residents is quite expensive at State Fair Community College (up to $487 per credit hour), but all students can apply for federal financial aid, scholarships, and private loans.
Best for Job Placement : Ashworth College
Ashworth College has a robust network of career and professionalism support services for students, as well as partnerships with Walgreens and CVS for externships.
Prepares you for two national exams
Includes exam vouchers
Externship placement assistance
Self-paced structure requires self-directed learning
Does not meet training requirements for nine states
If you want to feel confident you can get a job after pharmacy technician school, enroll at Ashworth College, which has the best pharmacy technician training program for job placement opportunities.
Not only does the curriculum prepare you to sit for two different pharmacy technician exams—the National Healthcareer Association's (NHA's) ExCPT Pharmacy Technician certification exam and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board's (PTCB's) Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE)—but it also includes vouchers for each, saving you nearly $400 in exam costs.
Additionally, Ashworth College has partnerships with CVS and Walgreens to place pharmacy technician students in 160-hour externship programs, a requirement to graduate from the program. This externship will provide invaluable skills as well as expand your network of pharmacy professionals before even leaving college.
The coursework is all online, with the exception of the externship. Note that this program awards a career diploma, not a degree, so it’s not a good fit for those looking for an associate degree. Still, the curriculum covers everything you need to know to succeed as a pharm tech, including medical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacology, and more.
This program is one of the most affordable pharmacy technician programs out there, with a flat fee of $799 if paid in full. The cost increases to $999 if you enroll in a monthly payment plan, which can go as low as $50 per month.
All Ashworth College students get access to Ashworth’s career support network, which includes an exclusive job board, resume builder, online portfolio builder, career advice modules and videos, and professional listservs.
Best Apprenticeship Program : CVS LearnRX
CVS offers a fast-tracked on-site pharmacy technician apprenticeship program where trainees can get hands-on experience and get paid at the same time.
Get paid while you learn
Ample job opportunities
CVS covers exam costs
Must be hired by CVS first
Pre-screening process is selective
Want to skip the school part and start working right away? Get paid to learn when you join the CVS pharmacy technician apprenticeship program, LearnRX, which is the best apprenticeship program for aspiring pharmacy techs.
To become part of the CVS LearnRX program, you must first be hired as an employee at CVS, such as a cashier, stock associate, or any other support role. The program begins with a pre-screening of new hires and an invitation to apply. If you apply and are accepted into LearnRx, you’ll first undergo a “pre-apprenticeship,” which involves classroom training. Courses include an introduction to pharmacy basics, pharmacy workstations, and inventory management.
Then, you’ll complete a 180-hour externship onsite at a CVS location, most likely the one where you're employed. You’ll work under the direct supervision of the location’s pharmacist. Once you complete the training, CVS pays for you to take the PTCE or ExCPT exam.
If you pass, you can then work as a pharmacy tech at CVS or apply for pharmacy technician jobs at other pharmacies and institutions. There are no requirements for LearnRX candidates to remain with CVS after the training is complete.
The pay for this apprenticeship varies among CVS locations, as hourly wage is largely influenced by geographic location. In total, the LearnRX training takes 120 days or four months.
Apprentices must be 18 years or older by the end of their training because the national certifying boards require students to be 18 years old to take the exam.
Best Affordable Program : Penn Foster
For less than $1,000, Penn Foster’s pharmacy technician program prepares students to sit for two industry exams to become a certified pharmacy technician.
Prepares you for two national certification exams
Externship placement assistance
No financial aid available
Self-paced structure requires diligence
Hard copy books are an additional cost
Penn Foster’s pharmacy technician program is one of the best affordable programs available. For less than $1,000, you get access to one of the most comprehensive pharmacy tech training curriculums out there, complete with prep for two national exams and an on-site externship at a CVS, Walgreens, or Kroger pharmacy.
The cost of the PTCE exam and lab supplies are included in your tuition. You’ll start with basic classes like pharmacy technician orientation and career readiness and then move into science courses, including pharmacology and body systems, pharmacy law and ethics, math calculations for pharmacy, sterile and nonsterile compounding, and pharmacy billing and reimbursement.
The externship consists of 160 working hours under the supervision of a pharmacist and takes eight to 12 weeks to complete. While Penn Foster provides assistance with externship placement, it’s up to the student to find a suitable pharmacy in their region.
Once you complete the externship, you can graduate from the program and sit for the PTCE or ExCPT exam. Penn Foster doesn’t cover the cost of the ExCPT exam, which is $115 (as of July 2021).
This program is entirely self-paced, so students who aren’t self-directed or disciplined may not do well with the Penn Foster pharmacy technician training program.
Penn Foster is a private school that doesn’t participate in the United States Department of Education student aid programs, so students aren’t eligible for federal financial aid. However, Penn Foster does offer payment plans.
Penn Foster is nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), an accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Best Hybrid Program : North Dakota State College of Science
The North Dakota State College of Science program is a good fit for students who need some flexibility, but also value hands-on training.
Certificate and degree options
Hybrid format helps develop skills
95% national exam pass rate
In-person component makes it less accessible
Pricier than other certificates
If you value face-to-face learning, consider earning your pharmacy technician certificate or associate degree at North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS) which offers a hybrid model with both in-person and online learning.
You can choose to enroll in one of two available programs: the pharmacy technician certificate program or the pharmacy technician associate of science degree. Both programs include live video instruction and face-to-face instruction at the Wahpeton, North Dakota campus.
NDSCS’s programs are far more structured than the other programs in this guide. They’re best for students who require or desire structured learning environments, accountability, and collaboration. For either the certificate or associate degree program, you’ll attend scheduled video lectures, complete online coursework, and travel to the Wahpeton campus for the hands-on skills training portion of the program.
Both programs include eight weeks of internship and, as such, prepare you to sit for either of the national pharmacy technician certification exams (PTCE and ExCPT). Note that NDSCS does not include exam vouchers in the cost of tuition.
With tuition at $150 per credit hour (in-state) to more than $260 per credit hour (out of state), the cost is middle of the road. However, those who don’t live in or near North Dakota might consider looking for a closer school with a similar program. Many schools around the country have comparable programs, but NDSCS stands out thanks to its 100% job placement rate and 95.5% exam pass rate.
Best for Accelerated Study : U.S. Career Institute
Students can complete this pharmacy technician training program in as little as four months and be ready to sit for two exams: the Pharmacy Technician Certification exam (PTCE) and the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) exam.
Prepares you to sit for two exams
Monthly payment plans available
Fully online learning
No financial aid available
No externship placement
Limited 1:1 student support
Earn your pharmacy technician certification in as little as four months with the U.S. Career Institute’s training program, which prepares you for both the PCTE and ExCPT exams.
In addition to your online coursework, you can take advantage of the U.S. Career Institute’s partnership with Walgreens for an externship. The 80-hour hands-on training increases your employability as a new pharmacy technician.
This program is split up into five units, each covering a subset of critical knowledge you need to succeed as a pharmacy tech. You’ll learn about the pharmaceutical industry as a whole, medical terminology, pharmacy law and ethics, communication skills, drug pathways and interactions, vaccines, antimicrobial agents, pharmacy math, and much more.
All coursework is online and self-paced. You have up to one year to complete the program, but it can be completed in as little as four months. The more you study, the quicker you’ll finish.
Tuition for this program is more affordable than most. Pay a flat fee of $979 upfront, or enroll in a monthly payment plan for $1,229 to $1,279 total cost. U.S. Career Institute doesn’t offer financial aid, but students are eligible for military benefits.
Our research indicates that Ultimate Medical Academy offers the best overall program for aspiring pharmacy technicians. In just 18 months, students can earn a health sciences associate’s degree and prepare to sit for a national certifying exam for pharmacy techs. Although the tuition is expensive compared to some other programs, Ultimate Medical Academy’s program does result in a degree, which is valuable to employers. Students also get hands-on training during a 180-hour externship.
Compare the Best Pharmacy Technician Training Programs
|Ultimate Medical Academy
|$450 per credit hour||18 months||Yes||Online|
|State Fair Community College stackable certificate program
Best for Career Advancement
|$117 to $487 per credit hours||18 to 61.5 credit hours||No||Online|
Best for Job Placement
|$799 to $999||Up to one year||Yes||Online + externship|
Best Apprenticeship Program
|No cost||4 months||Entire program is on-site||In person (job site)|
Best Affordable Program
|$999 to $1409||Self-paced||Yes||Online + externship|
|North Dakota State College of Science
Best Hybrid Program
|$150 to $263 per credit hour||One year||Yes||Online and in-person|
|U.S. Career Institute
Best for Accelerated Study
|$979 to $1279||As little as four months||Yes||Online|
How to Choose the Best Pharmacy Technician Training Program
Choosing the right pharmacy technician training program depends on a number of factors unique to each prospective student, with a primary factor being budget. After carefully considering the financial aspect of pharmacy technician training (including loans, scholarship opportunities, and federal financial aid opportunities), ask yourself these questions when looking for a pharmacy tech training program:
- How long will it take to complete the program? Your timeline will largely dictate which program is best for you.
- What exams does the program prepare you for? Check to see if the program fulfills the eligibility requirements to sit for national pharmacy technician certification exams, such as the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) exam from Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).
- Does the program meet education requirements in your state? Careers in pharmacy can be tricky since different states have different education requirements.
- Is the program online or in-person? If there are in-person components, can you make arrangements to travel to the campus or make temporary living arrangements?
- Must you complete an externship? If you’re required to complete supervised clinical hours as part of your training, check whether the school provides assistance with externship placement, or if you’re on the hook for researching and securing an externship yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician?
It can take anywhere from a few months up to two years to become a pharmacy technician. It may take longer than two years for students who enroll in an associate degree program but then get off track.
How Much Do Pharmacy Technician Training Programs Cost?
The cost of pharmacy technician programs varies greatly. For certification programs, you might pay a flat fee of around $1,000. For university programs, you’ll likely pay per credit hour, which can range from less than $100 per credit hour to over $400 per credit hour.
Are Pharmacy Technician Training Programs Worth It?
Pharmacy technician training is invaluable if you want to work as a pharmacy tech. Employers generally require some sort of formal training or certification, and some states even require a government-issued license. A pharmacy technician training program prepares you to fulfill any certification or licensure requirements in your state or by your preferred employer.
What Do You Learn in a Pharmacy Technician Training Program?
In a pharmacy technician training program, you’ll learn the basics of anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology, as well as the following topics:
- Pharmacy law
- Pharmacy ethics
- Pharmaceutical calculations (dosage)
- Medical terminology
- Healthcare systems
- How to manage supply and inventory
- Pharmacy records management
When researching the best pharmacy technician training programs, institutional accreditation was a primary factor among others. All of the pharmacy tech training courses in this review are accredited by at least one accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or partnered with a recognized professional association. Some accrediting agencies include The Higher Learning Commission, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), and the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC).
We also only chose programs that offer an online learning format for at least part of the program, knowing that many students prefer to learn remotely or have to learn remotely due to location restrictions or other obligations. Note, however, that some pharmacy technician training programs require students to complete an externship or in-person skills labs. It’s up to each student to fulfill the requirements of the program they pursue.
Finally, we read student reviews and researched the community and student life engagement for each program to find pharmacy technician training opportunities with robust support and involvement for students, even those in online programs.