Veterinary technologists and technicians must complete a postsecondary program in veterinary technology. In 2016, there were 221 veterinary technology programs accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Most of these programs offer a 2-year associate’s degree for veterinary technicians. Twenty-one colleges offer a 4-year bachelor’s degree in veterinary technology.
Retail pharmacy techs are in the public eye and deal directly with patients who need medications and advice to enhance their quality of life. Where a hospitalized patient might ask a drug-related question of her doctor, in this setting the pharmacy tech is likely to be asked about the administration of a particular medication, such as correct dosages and should the medication be taken with food or on an empty stomach. When questions extend the scope of knowledge for you as a tech, you will then relay the question to the pharmacist for the correct answer. In the retail world you will also need to maintain inventories. Unlike a hospital, you will only have the main pharmacy inventory to maintain, rather than multiple Omnicell machines in addition to the primary supply area.
Veterinary technologists and technicians handle lab work, radiology, nursing care, surgery assistance and dozens of other tasks related to animal health care. "We do everything except diagnose, prescribe and do surgery," says Julie Legred, a veterinary technician and executive director at the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America. They often work in private clinics and animal hospitals, assisting veterinarians with the care of animals. While the job might sound like a lot of fun, Legred is quick to point out that "it's not just holding puppies." She adds, "You're not going to make a lot of money, you have to pick up poo and you get peed on." In other words, the work isn't glamorous, so only those with a real commitment to animal care tend to stay in the field.
"Medical technician'' means a health care worker who is not licensed or registered by a New Hampshire regulatory board and who assists licensed health care professionals in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. For the purposes of this chapter, medical technicians shall be limited to health care workers with access to controlled substances and with access to or contact with patients in a health care facility or in a medical establishment.
Pharmacy technicians work under the direction of a licensed pharmacist to dispense medication and provide information to customers. Pharmacy technicians typically work behind a pharmacy counter at a drugstore, grocery store, hospital, nursing home or other medical facility. This position involves working with pharmacists, patients and occasionally with pharmaceutical reps.
Pharmacy techs must have strong attention to detail, as the majority of their daily tasks involve measuring, dosing and dispensing prescription medication according to very specific orders. They must also have good written and verbal communication skills to communicate effectively with the pharmacists they work with, patients, and medical professionals or medical representatives they come into contact with.
For a state with such a large population of veterinary technicians, it’s not surprising that Texas also has many schools with AVMA-approved vet tech programs. The schools with fully-accredited programs are Cedar Valley College in Lancaster (both the on-campus and distance learning programs), Lone Star College in Tomball, McLennan Community College in Waco, Palo Alto College in San Antonio and the Vet Tech Institute of Houston. There are also three programs in Texas under initial accreditation: Blinn College in Bryan, Pima Medical Institute-Houston and Vista College in Lubbock.
As the job description expands, career opportunities increase, and the outlook for employment as a pharmacy technician is very strong. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook, with a large percentage of the population aging the field is expected to increase by 12 percent through 2026, which is faster than average. This means that now is an excellent time to become a pharmacy technician. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Since you’ll be required to work with computers, software and financial transactions in your dealings with the public, learning some accounting principles—specifically billing and reimbursement—will come in handy. Consider taking a mathematics course. Understanding patient maintenance software, pharmaceutical software and prescription processing software will also give you an advantage. Learn about data management and take a course in Microsoft Excel to further give yourself an edge.
Most programs allow students to gain clinical experience during their training. Depending on state laws, students may also choose to gain on-the-job training without enrolling in a postsecondary education program. Clinical experience may take the form of a structured training program at a retail drugstore that has partnered with the school. Another option is to complete hands-on training at an approved pharmacy or medical center.
Service technicians also use many common hand tools, such as wrenches, pliers, and sockets and ratchets. Service technicians generally own these tools themselves. In fact, experienced workers often have thousands of dollars invested in their personal tool collection. For example, some invest in their own set of pneumatic tools—such as impact wrenches—powered by compressed air.
Mail order pharmacies present an opportunity to service a wider range of customers than local community pharmacies. For the pharmacy technician, this translates into good pay, benefits and the possibility of a flexible work schedule. Perhaps the most solitary of the three workplaces, mail order is great if you’re looking for pharmacy technician jobs where you can work independently or behind-the-scenes.
Palo Alto College offers multiple training options, including an Associate program and two Certificate programs. All programs are based at their campus in the city of San Antonio. The college has about 8,376 students in total, with most students on 2-year programs. The college is institutionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges. Fees for tuition for in-district students are roughly about $2,088 and are $5,550 and $10,740 for in-state and out-of-state students respectively. Books and supplies can cost roughly $2,074, although this will depend on the program.
The PTCB has a practice test section on their website, so you can get a feel for the rigorousness of the exam. The exam itself consists of 90 multiple choice questions, 80 of which are scored and 10 are unscored and interspersed randomly throughout the exam. You have one hour and 50 minutes to complete the exam, which covers some of the following topics:
“You have a wide variety of equipment to choose…There’s a lot of information to digest, and it’s always changing, but Ryder does a good job of keeping you up to date with the latest manual [and] factory training…We have a very vast knowledge compared to other companies and people in the diesel industry…They’re generally pushing you to obtain your training.”