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Overview of an Associates in Pharmacy
A two-year associate degree or associate of applied science degree in a pharmacy technician program is a terrific way to launch a career. A two-year, associate degree, whether taken online or on campus, will prepare students for the top pay and best positions as pharmacy assistants or technicians and can also prepare students to pursue an education that will allow them to assist pharmacists or work as pharmacists in the future.
In fact, right now is a great time to pursue an education and career in any corner of the healthcare industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is projecting stellar growth in nearly every healthcare occupation, whether students assist pharmacists in providing medications or explaining medication to customers, or if they work as a pharmacy technician themselves. With an associate degree in pharmacy, you are sure to be in high demand.
An associate degree in pharmacy or pharmaceutical science is a two-year degree that focuses either on the foundations of being a pharmacist or on the occupation of a pharmacy technician and similar pharmacy assistants or professionals. Technician degrees are some of the easiest to find through online learning platforms. There are some degree programs that are focused on the chemistry and biology courses necessary to support later studies in pharmaceutical sciences and there are others that are tailored to training future pharmacy technicians. In either program, you are likely to take courses that cover human anatomy & physiology, calculus, biology, medical ethics, healthcare terminology, the efficacy of medication and how medications can interact, and possibly organic chemistry.
Assuming that your associate degree is from an accredited institution, you can use your pharmacy program in an application for a four-year pharmacy management degree or other related degree programs. However, your pharmacy technician degree is best-suited to a bachelor's degree in health sciences while an AS in Pharmacy is tailored to further work in pharmacy education, such as a pharmacy management degree. Regardless, your associate degree will be ample foundation for a long career.
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The positive aspects of an associate degree in pharmacy or pharmaceutical science are many. Chief among them is the fact that you can use an associate degree to immediately start your career. Whether your degree is specific to the pharmacy technician or pharmacy assistants occupations or one designed to support your eventual graduate degree in pharmaceutical science or a pharmacy management degree, you can use your two-year degree to find work.
You can also use either degree as a foundation for a career. Either sort of degree should help you land a job as a pharmacy technician, which will provide loads of experience that you can apply to later jobs or degrees.
Another positive aspect of an associate degree is that it only takes two years to complete. If you buckle down and finish an online degree in a timely fashion, you can even take some time away from school to work and apply your knowledge. Your pay will be higher than someone with no degree at all and you will find that your experience pays off when you look for the next job or apply for a baccalaureate education program.
There are also drawbacks to an associate degree in pharmacy. With a two-year degree you might be able to land a job at a higher pay rate than someone with no degree, but you'll soon find that your earnings and promotion potential are capped at a certain level. This might be frustrating after you've worked hard to finish a degree. This may also be true of an online technician degree, which isn't as well suited to continuing education, though it's an easy way to complete your education online.
You might also find that your pay level isn't quite what you'd expected. After all, there are no iron-clad guarantees that a degree will pay off at all. Furthermore, you will still need to move on for at least two more years of schooling to complete a bachelor's degree or a master's in prder to hold positions meant for pharmacists.
Even if you pursue non-academic coursework in hopes of attaining a certificate, your choices are going to be limited. Many certifications for professionals require that you have a baccalaureate education or greater rather than an associate degree. On top of this, an associate degree in pharmacy is unlikely to help you attain any relevant state licenses.
Certificate Vs. Associate's
If you are considering a career as a pharmacy technician, you might see many opportunities to work on a certificate program. This is a valid choice but you should compare a certificate with an online or traditional associate degree program. After all, most schools that offer a pharmacy tech certificate also offer an online associate degree. While your certificate will take less time and still land you a job at a pharmacy, you will also find that your career stalls out at this level. You can take a bit more time to finish your associate degree and have a stronger foundation for the future.
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What Pharmacy Associates Degrees are Available Online?
- Associate of Science in Pharmacy/Pre-Pharmacy:
This type of pharmacy degree is designed to prepare you for future studies that lead to the position of pharmacist. AS degrees typically focus on purely analytical STEM subjects. In this case, you’ll need to take several chemistry classes, which means you may not be able to find one of these programs fully online.
- Associate of Applied Science in Pharmacy Technician:
An applied science degree is generally one that trains you for an occupation and relies on information from that occupation rather than academic research. Thus, you might find it difficult to transfer credits from such a program, in case you desire a baccalaureate degree later.
- Associate Degree in Pharmacy Technician:
This degree is designed to groom you and your fellow students for a career as a pharmacy technician. If you are considering a baccalaureate degree, discuss how your credits might transfer. This way you can have a reasonable expectation for your future academic career. These are the most commonly found online pharmacy associate degrees.
- Associate of Arts in Pre-Pharmacy:
An AA degree in pre-pharmacy is likely to be functionally identical to an Associate of Science. While arts degrees generally indicate that the curriculum weighs heavier on humanities topics, pre-pharmacy degrees will likely be weighted to STEM subjects such as human biology and chemistry.
- Associate of Science in Pharmacy Technology:
Your AS degree is sure to provide a solid foundation for a career in health sciences. This degree type will likely focus you on issues directly related to your career goals. That is, your coursework will not feature many chemistry or hard-science classes. Rather, you will study pharmacology and pharmacy systems. This may make it easier to find this degree online. If you decide to become a pharmacist later, this means that you might need to take all of those upper-level chemistry courses, and their prerequisites, too.
Each school will have its own prerequisites for an online Associate in Pharmacy program. It also depends on whether your intention is to enter a pre-pharmacy or pharmacy technician program. For pharmacy tech, you might need to pass college algebra, introductory anatomy, and a college writing course. Pre-pharmacy students might need to up the ante with courses like calculus I, physics, and anatomy and physiology.
On top of this, your department might have a minimum GPA requirement. This requirement could be anywhere from a 2.0 to 3.5, on a 4.0 scale. However, GPA requirements like this are not common, especially in pharmacy tech programs. Online students will need to send in the same documents as those students who choose to attend in-person.
How long does it take to earn a Pharmacy Associates Online?
Associate degrees for pharmacy technician or pre-pharmacy are designed to take approximately two years, as a general rule. However, some students take up to four years to complete their associate degrees. However, you should try to avoid prolonging your studies.
When you apply for a degree program in pharmacy, you should have a game plan that will keep you in school on a full-time basis. Include your plan for financing your school work and make a schedule that allows you to study while also attending to your other obligations. Make sure that school remains at the top of your priorities. After all, a degree will have more long-term impact than many short-term concerns.
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Potential Careers in Pharmacy with an Associates
- Hospital Pharmacy Technician
Your two-year degree can help you land a job in a hospital pharmacy. In this position you will be less likely to interact with patients, unlike your retail colleagues. However, you will work with nurses and doctors who call in a large volume of prescriptions every day. Some hospital pharmacies also have a compounding function, which means that you will mix custom medications for patients who have special needs.
The average salary for this profession is - $43,700.
- Pharmacy Technician
This profession works directly under a licensed pharmacist and is largely responsible for customer service. Pharmacy techs also are responsible for filling prescriptions, consulting on simple medical matters, and working with payment issues related to insurance.
The average pay for a pharmacy technician is – $35,600.
- Lab Assistant
If you have accrued laboratory experience in the course of earning your associate degree, you might pursue work in a research laboratory. Your duties might involve processing specimens. For instance, you could process samples in a centrifuge. You will likely be called upon to maintain inventories of various chemicals, equipment, and catalog samples, too.
The average pay for this occupation is – $35,400.
- Registered Nurse
You might decide to expand on your work in healthcare by returning for a nursing degree. Registered nurses can work in a wide range of specialty areas including psychiatry, neurology, cardiology, and pediatrics, among many others.
The average salary for licensed registered nurses is – $65,400.
- Pharmaceutical Sales
Your academic background in pharmacy may help you land a job in pharmaceutical sales. You will need to have a strong command of medical and scientific terminology to converse with your primary customers, the doctors who order pharmaceuticals.
This can be a very fun and rewarding position with an average salary of – $84,500.
Options to Advance
Once you have your associate degree in pharmacy or pharmacy tech, you can get to work assisting pharmacists and the customers who come to your counter. In order to advance and ensure long-term success, you will need to pursue a certification from a national association for pharmacy techs. That credential will ensure long-term employment and promotions.
You can also take the credits from your accredited two-year degree program and apply them to a pharmacy baccalaureate degree. Though you might decide to shift gears to some other field, your online associate degree in pharmacy tech will prepare you for more courses in health sciences, while a pre-pharmacy degree preps you to pursue a career as a pharmacist.
The advantage of working with your associate degree for a few years is that you can gain the experience needed to make a sound decision for your future. You'll discover your true strengths and weaknesses, and your interests are sure to broaden and mature as a result.
Best Associate of Science in Pharmacy Programs
Mount Wachusett Community College
MWCC offers students an excellent, low-cost way to get started on a career in pharmacy. Their two-year program focuses on the chemistry and biology courses that will pave the way to the next phase of your career – a baccalaureate degree. As part of the Associate Degree in Pharmacy, you will take care of the core curriculum so that your final undergraduate years can be dedicated to STEM subjects.
- Associate of Science in Pharmacy
- Associate of Science in Chemistry
- Associate of Science in Health Information Management
Seminole State College of Florida
Seminole State offers an Associate of Arts in Pharmacy that will put you on track for a career as a Pharmacist. The two-year option is perfect for students who wish to save money on their core curriculum and get a jump-start on pharmacy-related courses. Small class sizes afford you the attention you need and there are options for online learning, as well.
- Associate of Arts in Pharmacy
- Associate of Arts in Health Sciences
- Associate of Science in Clinical Pharmacy Technology
American National University
South Bend, IN
Kentucky Campuses: Danville, Lexington, Louisville, and Pikeville
Virginia Campuses: Charlottesville, Danville, Harrisonburg, Lynchburg, and Roanoke Valley
West Virginia Campuses: Parkersburg and Princeton
ANU offers a pharmacy technician program that will steep you in the medical terminology, scientific knowledge, and pharmacy procedures that you need to succeed. The degree program also covers chemistry, law, and ethics.
- Associates Degree – Pharmacy Technician
- Associates Degree – Medical Assisting
- Associates Degree – Health Information Management
Texas Campuses: Dallas, Fort Worth
Louisiana Campuses: Lafayette and Shreveport
Remington offers comprehensive training for budding pharmacy technicians. Your courses will cover topics such as dosage calculation, pharmacy law, therapeutics, medical safety, and principles for career development, among others. Remington has six campuses that offer pharmacy tech training in Texas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Alabama.
- Associate Degree in Pharmacy Technician
- Associate Degree in Medical Assisting
- Associate Degree in Medical Billing and Coding
Western Wyoming Community College
Rock Springs, WY
WWCC is your ticket to kicking off a stellar career as a pharmacist. Through their program, you can complete the core courses that your baccalaureate program will require, but at a fraction of the cost. On top of that you will be able to establish a post-secondary foundation in biology, chemistry, and human anatomy.
- Associate of Science in Pre-Pharmacy
- Associate of Science in Computer Science
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Traditional Schools Offering an AS in Pharmacy
Kentucky, Ohio, and Online
Daymar College will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to survive and thrive in the ever-growing field of pharmaceuticals. You'll understand dosing, drug interactions, as well as record keeping. Once you graduate, you can seek employment in a local pharmacy, hospital, assisted living facility, or nursing home.
- Associate Degree in Pharmacy Technology
- Associate Degree in Healthcare Administration
Online – St. Louis, MO
Vatterott Educational Centers offer a pharmacy technician degree that your future employers will seek. You'll receive in-depth training in medical terminology, pharmacology, law and ethics, as well as instruction on how to succeed as a pharmacy tech.
- Associates of Occupational Studies – Pharmacy Technician
- Associates of Occupational Studies – Veterinary Technician
Oklahoma City Community College
Online - Oklahoma City, OK
If you have your heart set on a career as a pharmacist but also wish to save a bit on quality education, OCCC will prepare you for a baccalaureate program in pharmacy. Their biology, chemistry, and other STEM courses will set the foundation for a successful professional life.
- Associate of Science in Pre-Pharmacy
- Associate of Science in Chemistry
- Associate of Science in Allied Health
Online and Casper, WY
Casper College offers a terrific alternative to traditional education. Their online education in pre-pharmacy is exactly the sort of pre-professional foundation you need to get started without breaking your budget. If you are local to Casper, the program is available in traditional classrooms, but you can also take the degree wholly online.
- Associate of Science in Pre-Pharmacy
- Associate of Science in Pre-Dentistry
- Associate of Science in Pre-Physical Therapy
Minnesota State Community and Technical College
Detroit Lakes, Fergus Falls, Moorhead, Wadena, and Online
Whether you choose the online option, a traditional campus, or a blend, Minnesota State can set the stage for a brilliant career in pharmacy. They offer a route to CSPT certification and they are fully accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).
- Associate's degree in Pharmacy Technology
- Associate's degree in Health Science Technology (see their website for a full range of degree options)
Frequently Asked Questions
Is there a minimum GPA requirement for pharmacy programs?
Because of the difficulty of these programs, they often have a minimum GPA requirement for those entering a pharmacy program. This usually means that you must have a GPA of a certain level, often this is a 3.0 GPA requirement. You are also likely to need to have completed certain prerequisite courses such as biology and/or chemistry with passing grades. Some programs even require that you complete the PCAT exam, that is the Pharmacy College Admission Test. These will be programs that are strongly focused on pharmaceutical science, but that also means that they will have high standards in education and provide you with excellent credentials once you leave to start your career.
Do I need to pass an exam to work as a pharmacist?
Yes. You will probably need to pass two exams to work as a pharmacist. These are the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) and the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE). However, the MPJE isn’t required everywhere, so you’ll want to check with your state licensing board for all requirements. However, if you are just getting into the field and you wish to work as a pharmacy technician, you will take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam instead. This will prepare you to get your first job in the field.