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Demand For Pharmacy Technicians Growing

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
September 8, 2009

As the American population ages and requires more prescription drugs, demand for pharmacy technicians--who assist pharmacists with drug dispensing and other tasks--is expected to increase. As a result, colleges are reporting record enrollment in pharmacy technician programs.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the state will be short 5,000 pharmacy technicians by 2015, and so the profession is attracting both recent graduates and laid-off workers.

"Pharmacy technician is hot, hot, hot," said Joan Stephens, director of continuing education and professional studies at Madonna University, where the 13-week pharmacy technician program fills to capacity quickly.

Linda Branoff, program coordinator at Baker College, likewise noted that the school is planning to add extra pharmacy technician classes to help meet demand. "Because of the economy," she explained, "a lot of people are going back to school and trying to find jobs that are still going to be there."

The Highlands Ranch Herald in Colorado reports that at Arapahoe Community College, the number of pharmacy tech students has grown from four to 90, boosted by unemployed workers wishing to learn recession-proof trades. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that pharmacy tech positions will increase by 27 percent in the next seven years.

Jan Bielecki, 63, for example, trained as a pharmacy tech after losing his job as an auto engineer in Detroit. He is now working at Troy Professional Pharmacy, a community drugstore. While his earnings are less than before, "at least," he said, "I am working."

Certification as a pharmacy technician varies from state to state. Michigan does not require technicians to pass a national exam, so students can choose between one to two-year accredited programs or far shorter programs at places like Madonna.

Branoff noted that the advantage to taking the longer programs is that they provide more training which helps students pass national exams, and they are preferred by businesses. But Stephens said that Madonna's program attracts students who have "bills and kids and they can't take two years to get there."

Yet a recent law passed in Ohio may provide an indication of how regulation may be changing for the profession. The legislation, signed in January 2009, mandates qualification of the state's pharmacy technicians by age, schooling, competency examinations and background checks, and includes criminal penalties for employers who fail to comply. The law was enacted in response to the tragic death in 2006 of Emily Jerry, a toddler who died from a lethal dose of sodium chloride in her chemotherapy medication.

Drug Topics reports that Ohio State Sen. Timothy J. Grendell, who sponsored "Emily's Law," hopes that the stricter regulation will be a model to other states.

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