Retail pharmacies in the San Francisco Bay Area such as Walgreens and CVS are currently scrambling to hire well-trained pharmacy tech program graduates.
It’s why you’re researching schools offering a pharmacy tech program near you — you’re attracted to a healthcare career that offers a big return after graduation.
It’s unlikely, however, that all your questions about the schools on your short list have been answered by some of the research you’ve been undertaking, such as reading school websites, social media pages, and Yelp reviews. When that happens, it’s time to start digging deeper with your fact-finding. It’s time to get up close and personal and arrange to speak with the school’s program instructor, current students, and even the school’s CEO or owner (yes, this person should be happy to speak with you too).
A good pharmacy technician school will ensure these face-to-face options are available to you, such as during a visit to the school to meet with an admissions adviser. If they’re not, don’t be shy in asking to meet with these people. After all, you’re not only a prospective student — you’re also a customer. A customer who can easily walk away as enroll at the school.
Preparation is key before these meetings. Make a list of all the questions about the pharmacy tech program you need answering. And bring that list with you to the school as a reference. You don’t want to forget to ask a question.
Below is a list of questions that should be on any prospective student’s school-vetting list. How many of them are on your mind as you seek to find a pharmacy tech program that’s going to lead to the job results you desire?
Questions to ask your Pharmacy Tech Program Instructor
How much pharmacy technician experience do you have?
When you ask this question you’re wanting to hear that the instructor not only has a history of successful teaching behind them, but that they also have experience working in a pharmacy setting. When an instructor has worked in a pharmacy before, they’ll be able to pass on past working experiences to creatively bring to life what’s being taught in class. You’ll learn best pharmacy practices in a way you could never get from just reading a textbook.
What’s your teaching style?
While you’re the best judge of how you learn in a classroom environment, when you ask the instructor about their teaching style, listen to see if their syllabus offers practical instruction to compliment their lectures. You’ll want enough variety in your training to maintain your enthusiasm for the length of the program, while also ensuring you graduate as a versatile and well-rounded pharmacy technician.
How many students make up the class?
It’s no fun feeling like you’re just making up the numbers, unable to get a word in edgewise — so be sure to find out how many students usually make up the class. If the class feels on the large size to you, ask if the instructor is able to give their students personalized attention in the form of overseeing work being done in class, and offering assistance during times of learning difficulties.
How does the pharmacy tech program prepare me for my clinical externship?
You may already know the program offers a clinical externship after the classroom training, but when you ask the instructor this question, you’ll be learning about the specifics of what’s going to be taught in class and how that relates to preparing you for your externship, such as at retail pharmacy. Knowing this information will give you the confidence that the program is clearly job-oriented, and you won’t be surprised with unfamiliar work on the first day of your externship.
Questions to Ask Current Pharmacy Tech Program Students
Do you feel the reason you came to the school is paying off for you?
It’s easy for school’s to say one thing, and then do another. Asking this question will give you valuable insight into how the school follows through on the promises it makes to students. You’ll quickly learn if the school should remain on your short list.
What do you like most about the program?
When you ask this question look to see if students answer with enthusiasm and a smile on their face. Are they excited to talk about the program? Does it sound like they made the right decision in enrolling at the school? If current students are visibly enjoying the program, the chances are good you’ll feel likewise.
Are you experiencing any challenges?
Some students may not be experiencing any challenges, or be unwilling to express a personal challenge to a stranger. However, don’t be put off asking the question. If a student is candid enough to express a challenge they’re experiencing or have overcome, you’ll quickly learn whether or not staff at the school are pro-active in assisting students with their problems during the school year.
Are you confident about graduating and finding a job?
Of course, the goal of you enrolling in the program will be graduating and finding a pharmacy technician job. Asking students if they’re confident about their graduation and job prospects will provide you with a quick litmus test about the morale of the current class. Hearing the students’ answers to this question will either fill you with encouragement or trepidation.
Questions to ask the school CEO or owner
Why did you start the pharmacy technician program?
It may feel daunting to you to ask the CEO or owner of the school questions about the program, but the fact they’ve made themselves available to spend some time with you is a great sign you’re dealing with a school that has the best interest of their students at heart. When you hear the answer to the question, does the reason the program was started speak to ideals that go above and beyond the school making a profit? Are you hearing reasons that resonate with you on a level that makes you feel you’ll be part of something more than a school’s bottom line?
What are your hopes for the pharmacy tech students?
This may seem like a strange question, but when you give it a little more thought it may be one of the most important of all questions to ask. When you listen to the answer, are you getting a feeling that students are treated like family? Are you hearing it’s the school’s mission to ensure students are given every opportunity to succeed, no matter their back ground or personal circumstance? Feeling comfortable with the answer given to this question could make the difference between enrolling at the school, or not, for you.
What is the job success rate for pharmacy tech graduates?
If you’ve done your research, you’ve already read former student testimonials that jobs after graduation are a reality. However, a good school will also be able to provide you with hard employment statistics. For instance, California’s Bureau for Private Post-Secondary Education requires schools publish a “Fact Sheet”, a document that reports student outcomes such as graduation rates, job placement rates, and salary levels for graduates of each program. You can usually find this information posted on the school’s disclosures web page. If not, ask the person who should have this information at their finger tips.
Neil Armstrong, the U.S. Astronaut, said that ‘research is creating new knowledge.’ By expanding your research to include speaking with a school’s instructor, current students, and the CEO or owner, you’ll be adding to your own knowledge about the pharmacy technician schools on your shortlist. Armed with new found understanding, you’ll be ready to confidently choose a pharmacy tech program that you feel will get you results.
BAMA is proud to partner with Walgreens to provide students with a 240-hour, on-the-job
clinical pharmacy technician externship at one of the largest drugstore chains in the US.