Schooling for Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy Technician

You can find a pharmacy on almost  every corner and they all need techs to handle inventories, assist the pharmacist, work with customers and perform special work like compounding medications for patients with very specific medication needs. Here’s a look at how to become a pharmacy tech and the schooling you will need. 

Pharmacy technicians act as the link between the pharmacist and the customer. They provide customer service and relay patient requirements to the pharmacists. Technicians also take care of inventory, compound medicines and stock machines. The specific duties of a tech vary depending on the where they are working.  A pharmacy tech might work at:

  • Chain drugstores
  • Big-box retailers
  • Mail-order pharmacies
  • Independent Drugstores
  • Wholesale druggists, such as Costco
  • Hospitals

Hospital-based pharmacy techs, for example work with IV medications and do laboratory preparation to ensure that patients get exactly what they need. The lab work can also include in-depth cleaning to ensure sterility and the safest possible pharmaceutical environment. Other techs in the hospital may be charged with maintaining the drug-dispensary machines that nurses rely on to access medications at a moment’s notice.

Retail pharmacy techs are public facing and deal directly with patients and customers  who need medications and advice to enhance their quality of life. Where a hospitalized patient might ask a drug-related question of their doctor, in a retail pharmacy the technician is likely to be asked about the administration of a specific medication,  like the correct dosages and if medication be taken with food or on an empty stomach. When questions extend the scope of knowledge of a tech, it is then relayed to on to the pharmacist for the correct answer. In the retail inventories also need to be maintained, but unlike a hospital, only the main pharmacy inventory is maintained, rather than multiple machines and the primary supply area.

A mail-order pharmacy tech is in a more office-like environment, filling prescriptions from a workstation while working amount many other techs. The day of a mail-order pharmacy tech might start with meetings with pharmacists and other techs, fand then duties could include preparing compounds, updating the patient database, filling vials of medicine and inventory work. Just because a mail-order technician is behind-the-scenes and is not public facing, does not mean that their jobs are easy.

Steps to Become a Pharmacy Tech

Becoming a pharmacy tech is a rather straightforward process:

  • Have a sincere interest in pharmaceuticals and the medicines that help health and recovery from illness, as well as biology, chemistry and math and a real desire to assist patients with meds. You must be able to communicate with people from a wide range of backgrounds
  • Find the best, accredited, program to learn pharmacy tech. You can choose between an online or campus program, although some schools both types of classroom. Make sure the program includes an externship and make sure to research student success in passing the PTCB exam for national certification.
  • Complete either the certificate program or degree.
  • Complete an externship in a real-world pharmacy.
  • Apply to a pharmacy location that best meets your interests and skills.

Types of Programs

There are a wide variety of programs available to pharmacy techs. One of the first big decisions is whether get a full degree or a certificate. Next, you need to find a program that is on a traditional campus or one you can access online.

Certificate programs are an excellent option for students who are changing careers and need to make a quick, smooth transition to a new field. They can also be a great choice for people who know that they will likely not pursue education beyond their certificate.

A certificate program takes about a year and is focused exclusively on the profession of pharmacy technician. When the academic work is complete, there is an externship portion that introduces you to the daily life of a pharmacy tech and offers a modicum of of experience that will help round out your resume.

A degree program is typically two years and results in an associate’s degree (AA) which distinguishes your credentials and gives you a foundation on which to build. Once you complete your AA you will have a transcript of accredited courses that can apply to a full, four-year degree in the future. 

What to Look for in Online Pharmacy Tech Programs

Online pharmacy tech programs are expanding to meet the growing demand for the profession. They offer students flexibility that can aid in their education to a great degree. For example, you may work as a pharmacy tech while pursuing your formal education. When researching programs, keep a few specific things in mind:

Accreditation.  Be sure your program is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)

Externship. Even if you attend a virtual campus, your program can still help facilitate an externship with pharmacies in your local area. Check with your admissions counselor about how you can complete this portion of your education and what types relationships the program has with national or local pharmacy locations. 

Certification.  Research how well alumni of the program do on the PTCB test, even if you do not plan to sit for it. You want to have same level of knowledge to best serve your patients, customers, and pharmacists. The PTCB gives you a national certification that can give your resume a special distinction.

Professional Certification for Pharm Techs

When you have competed your classroom or online program, you can take your career further by becoming professionally certified. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) offers the CPhT credential to those who want to distinguish themselves in the field. 

To be certified you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Have a high school diploma or a GED
  • Fully disclose any criminal background to the State Board of Pharmacy 
  • Comply with all certification policies
  • Receive a passing score on the certification exam

The PTCB has a practice test section on their website, that allows you to get a feel for the difficulty of the exam. The exam itself consists of 90 multiple choice questions, 80 of which are scored and ten are unscored and spread randomly throughout the exam. You have an hour and  50 minutes to finish the exam; it covers some of the following topics:

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy law
  • Medication safety
  • Pharmacy quality assurance
  • Billing and reimbursement
  • Information systems application
  • Order entry and the fill process
  • Sterile and non-sterile compounding

Difference Between TENS and EMS

If you are one of the millions who experience the ill effects of endless muscle or nerve pain, you  may have heard about an EMS or TENS unit that could give you non-addictive, medicate relief.  You probably have some questions about what the difference is between these two devices. There are several differences between the two, so if you are considering TENS vs EMS, it is crucial to understand what each is designed to do and when you should use over the other.

Are TENS and EMS Units the Same Thing?

The simple answer is no, TENS and EMS are not the same thing. They are two different machines used for different applications. TENS units are used to relieve pain while EMS are used for muscle growth and athletic training. If you suffer from chronic nerve or muscle pain, you may have heard that a TENS or EMS unit can provide you with non-addictive, drug-free relief. While both units are powerful therapeutic solutions, only the TENS unit is used strictly for pain therapy. EMS machines are used for the rehabilitation of muscles after injury, as well as athletic training, but are not solely for pain relief. In general, EMS units are used for therapeutic muscle stimulation and growth, and TENS units are used to relieve pain symptoms. 

It is important to note that these units don’t function the same way. TENS uses electrical currents to confuse pain signals which essentially diverts pain from being “felt”. EMS sends an electrical signal to your muscles that causes a contraction for the purpose of exercising and building muscles; this is the same electric signal your brain would send to your muscles to make them contract. Knowing what makes these two therapy devices unique will help you decide if you should choose a TENS unit or an EMS unit. Alternatively, you may want a TENS EMS combination machine which can not only relieve pain but build muscles therapeutically to prevent pain in the future.

What is EMS (Electric Muscle Stimulation)

EMS or Electric Muscle Stimulation is the process of causing muscle contractions by using an external electrical charge or pulse that is created by an EMS machine or device. How does exactly does EMS work? Electrodes are placed on the skin over the muscle that you are going to exercise. An electrical charge is sent into the muscle charging the muscle’s fibers which then causes the muscle contraction. This is the same action muscles go through during exercise and motion. So, it is basically exercising your muscles as if you were sending the signal for the muscle to contract yourself. This is different from TENS, as they do not make the muscles contract.

What an EMS Unit is Used For

EMS stands for electronic muscle stimulation. These units are made to offer relief by stimulating the muscles themselves. Electric Muscle Stimulation is used in therapy to treat swelling and inflammation which puts a strain on both the muscles themselves and their supporting joints. By reducing inflammation, these units can help restore function and prevent joints from becoming dislocated by strained muscles. Physical therapists and doctors often recommend EMS units to their patients for muscular pain relief. They can reduce muscle spasms and edema, which are leading causes of muscle pain and loss of function. Also, they are often used in clinical and home settings to encourage greater healing by stimulating blood flow and improving range of motion. When used for blood flow stimulation, they are often able to ease muscle tension and to reduce stiffness in joints and muscles that can cause restrictions in motion. EMS units are particularly good at increasing blood circulation in the back and neck because these areas tend to be a source of more tension than the rest of the body. You could use an EMS unit if:

  • You suffer from muscle spasms
  • Have poor blood circulation
  • Have suffered from muscle atrophy
  • Your muscles need to be stimulated and re-educated
  • Your muscles are weak and lack tone
  • You have lost range of motion due to an injury or illness
  • You have recently had a surgery and doctors want to prevent DVT in your lower legs

What a TENS Unit Does

TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. These units are designed to give pain relief by sending comforting, non-painful impulses through the skin to the nerves underneath. This electronic stimulation can reduce or eliminate the pain due to a nerve disorder or chronic health condition.

What is Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation or TENS?

Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation or TENS is a pain therapy using electrical impulses to relive pain naturally, without the use of drugs or narcotics. The electrical pulses stimulate nerve endings and the skin to create endorphins and confuse pain signals; TENS units deploy the stimulating pulses to distract your brain and help prevent pain signals from reaching your brain. These units can also stimulate your body to create its own natural painkillers known as endorphins, and these natural feel-good chemicals are key to pain relief and mood enhancement for those who suffer from painful chronic conditions. Manu TENS units offer a number of modes and programs so the therapy can be directed to an individual’s needs. It is easy to change the modes on these units for maximum pain relief. However, it is important to keep in mind that the level of pain relief will vary according to the individual and their condition. You might use a TENS unit if:

  • You have acute or chronic pain,
  • Have pain after a surgery
  • Suffer from post-operative incision pain
  • Have regular migraines or tension headaches
  • You have suffered from sports or activity injuries that cause chronic pain
  • You suffer from arthritis
  • You have tendonitis or bursitis
  • You have cancer pain
  • You suffer from pain from wound healing

Which Unit Should You Choose?

Deciding between a TENS and EMS unit can be a challenge. If you are not sure if your pain is caused mainly by muscle or nerve problems, talk with your doctor or physical therapist. They can direct you towards the best unit to help control pain. If you currently take medications for nerve pain, a TENS unit may be a better choice than an EMS unit. If you are currently taking medication to target muscle pain, stiffness, or spasms, then an EMS unit is probably a better choice than a TENS unit. These types of units are also a good choice if a masseuse, physical therapist, or chiropractor has noted that your pain may be caused by muscle tension. In some cases, if you suffer from chronic pain that involves both the nerves and the muscles you can find relief from combination units that offer both TENS and EMS capabilities. These lightweight combo units are designed to offer the best in therapeutic solutions for those who suffer from ongoing pain or chronic health conditions. 

Hop Profile [El Dorado]

There are all kinds of things that may spring to mind when you hear El Dorado.  In another time was a golden king, a jeweled city paved with gold, then a whole empire, rich beyond description. Many searched for it and Edger Alan Poe even penned a poem about a knight in search of the golden one. However, all of that hunting never resulted in the myth of El Dorado into a reality. However, today, we’ve got our own El Dorado in the form of a plant – hops.

A bit like the El Dorado of myth, there are some mysteries around the El Dorado hop.

CLS Farms in the Moxee Valley, Washington is where El Dorado was created. There are a few sources that say it was developed in 2008 and then released in 2010. The question is did it really only take two years to develop? Such a feat would be truly legendary by hop breeding standards, where it typically takes ten to fourteen years for a new hop to be ready for commercial use. So, what’s the real answer? For that, we will just have to wait for additional breeding information from CLS Farms to know any of the specifics.

So, does this hop bare any resemblance to the myth it is name after? There are a few similarities:  it is mysterious and for a lot of brewers, it is a king among hops. But, what about the gold? You just have to look inside. Just like the streets of the fabled city ran with the yellow stuff, lupulin within the cone shines a deep golden.

Brew With El Dorado Hops

Unfortunately for the home brewer and local gardener, the El Dorado hop variety is owned by CLS Farms and rhizomes are currently not available.  

If you plan to grow hops in your backyard, it is helpful to talk to other hop farmers in your area or visit the staff at your local home brewing supply store. They will be able guide you as to which varieties grow well in your area. Unfortunately,  it currently won’t be El Dorado. 

The Acid Composition Breakdown

  • Alpha Acid: 13 – 17%
  • Beta Acid: 7 – 8%
  • Co-Humulone: 28 – 33%

Oil Composition Breakdown

  • Total Oils: 2.5 – 3.3 mL/100g
  • Myrcene Oil: 55 – 60% (of total)
  • Humulene Oil:  10 – 15% (of total)
  • Caryophyllene Oil: 6 – 8% (of total)
  • Franesene Oil: 0.1% (of total)
  • B-Pinene Oil: 0.56% (of total)
  • Linalool Oil: 0.70% (of total)
  • Geraniol Oil: 0.02% (of total)

General Characteristics:

  • Origin — CBS Farms (Moxee Valley, Washington)
  • Growth Rate — Vigorous
  • Yield — 2300 – 2500 lbs/acre
  • Maturity — Early to Mid Season
  • Storage — Good; Retains 60% to 70% alpha acid after 6 months storage at 68°F

Aroma & Sensory Description:

El Dorado has bold, intense aromas of stone fruit, especially cherry and apricot. Other fruit aromas include pear, a zest of citrus, and watermelon. On the nose, it imbues aromas that are almost reminiscent of candy, like Lifesavers or Starburst.  

Spicy notes are subdued, playing second fiddle to the fruit, but may have a background note of grass, wood, and mint.


It’s very likely your local homebrew supply carries the El Dorado variety. However, it’s always a good idea to give them a call first to check if they have stock. If they do not have it in, you can typically put in a request, but there is no need to worry about not being able to get your hands on it.

Because of El Dorado’s extreme popularity, it is readily available through many brewing retailers online. You will have the ability to buy the hop in many forms, including pellets, whole cones and hop hash. A few online retailers even offer El Dorado as steam distilled extract.


El Dorado is a dual-purpose hop., meaning it can be used for flavor/aroma, bittering, and dry-hopping.

When bittering with El Dorado you should anticipate a firm, yet subtly balancing bitterness. It will not overwhelm, and it has been described as a rind-like drying bitterness. With its subtle bitterness, it seems particularly well-suited for use in Lagers, Blondes, even cream ales; however, its alpha-acid is considerable enough to play a single-hopped tune in something like American IPA that is geared more toward flavors than bracing bitterness.

Used later in the boil, where less of its high Mercyene and Cohumuline content gets boiled away, it produces fruity flavors and aromas that run the spectrum of apricot, peach, and cherry; along with a pithy hit of citrus and some grassy undertones. This is a good hop to pair with other fruit-centric hops or leave to do the lion share of the flavor and aroma work, and pair it with a hop that has a much bolder bitterness.

Dry-hopping with El Dorado will no doubt give you an increase in fruity aromas turning them candied and intense. You can substitute with/for Galena and Simcoe hops. 

Using El Dorado Hops for different beer styles:

  • Blondes
  • Lagers
  • American Pales, IPA / DIPA
  • Cream Ale & California Common
  • Red & Amber Ales
  • American Wheat
  • American Wild Ales

Sponsor: Michigan Hop Alliance is an excellent resource for bulk hops.

Michigan Hop Alliance 5790 North , E Omena Rd, Northport, MI 49670