Changes at pharmacies will spur demand for skilled technicians

PIT PT DemandForSkillBy Jason Gray

Walk-in clinics, on-demand vaccinations and screening services are appearing at an increasing number of drug stores and pharmacies nationwide. The expansion into basic health care services gives consumers a new community hub for routine care.

This new business model has meant an expanding role for pharmacy technicians, and while the supply of technicians has been able to keep pace with demand, many pharmacies are seeking individuals with experience and great skills. That underscores the importance of a sound education for pharmacist technicians – one that is steeped in the fundamentals of the trade. Great skills can be a springboard to career advancement.

Pharmacy technicians have traditionally been the licensed pharmacist’s assistants. They speak with patients, help dispense prescriptions and perform a range of daily, administrative tasks. As health care reform and co-located health clinics have changed the pharmacy business model, the pharmacy technician role has changed, as well.

There are about 1,600 clinics serving 20 million patient visits across the United States, according to the Harvard Business Review. By co-locating with existing neighborhood pharmacies and drug stores, they provide a convenient, fast and low-cost alternative to primary care physician offices.

Pharmacy chains see a potential benefit for their business. They use the clinics to encourage patients to fill prescriptions with them, and ideally continue to use that pharmacy for other needs.


A bigger role in patient treatment

Most walk-in pharmacies use nurse practitioners and physicians assistants to see patients for routine care and minor illnesses. Pharmacy technicians who work at the host pharmacy will often play a supporting role, particularly in recording and archiving data. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about half all pharmacy technicians work at retail drug stores and pharmacies.

Adding clinic services means pharmacy employees are adding clinic-specific duties to their normal workload, which was already changing in recent years. Health care reform acts require electronic health records system usage across nearly all health care providers and facilities. Pharmacy technicians often enter information into these systems and inform the pharmacist on duty if there are changes or alerts in the patient’s records.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, a national organization of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, says pharmacy technicians will play an increasingly vital role in ensuring pharmacies are well-integrated in the overall health information technology system. “Such roles require pharmacy technicians to gain expertise in information technology systems, including knowledge of interfaces, computer management techniques, problem resolution, and database maintenance,” according to the ASHP.

Aging demographics in the United States will also drive more job growth and opportunities for pharmacy technicians. “A larger amount of middle-aged and elderly people – who typically take more prescription drugs than those who are younger – will drive the need for technicians in all practice surroundings,” according to the ASHP.


A need for more experience

A 2013 ASHP study showed that there was a 4.2 percent vacancy rate for pharmacy technicians, and a 2.1 percent gap for pharmacists. “The survey indicates that even though the number of pharmacist positions continues to increase in hospitals and health systems, the supply of pharmacists is able to keep up with the demand,” said Douglas J. Scheckelhoff, M.S., ASHP vice president of practice advancement.

But many pharmacist and pharmacy technician candidates are short of experience. “A majority of pharmacy directors continues to perceive moderate to severe shortages of pharmacy managers (60.6 percent) and experienced pharmacy technicians (56.1 percent),” according to the ASHP study authors.

“With technicians assuming a greater role, ASHP advocates that they be required to complete more accredited training and certification programs,” Scheckelhoff said. “This way employers can be assured that their technicians have the foundational knowledge and training and have shown that they are competent. Currently, state regulations are inconsistent with regards to training and certification requirements.”

As innovations like pharmacy walk-in clinics continue to expand, demand for skilled pharmacy technicians will grow. But people who choose a pharmacy technician career will need to ensure that they have comprehensive training and the flexibility to keep up with changes in the healthcare system. 

Right prescriptions: Five key qualities of a pharma technician

PIT PT Career SkillsBy Magaly Olivero

A successful career as a pharmacy technician requires a combination of technical and interpersonal skills to deliver safe and effective patient care.

As assistants to licensed pharmacists, pharmacy technicians help dispense medication to customers or health care professionals. They work in many settings, including national retail pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, community pharmacies and pharmaceutical manufactures and distributors.

Job opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for other occupations nationwide, according to national labor statistics. Graduates with an associate degree focusing on the pharmacy technician profession have the flexibility to immediately enter the job market. They may also pursue a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college.

Successful pharmacy technicians posses the following qualities:


Attention to detail

Pharmacy technicians must fill prescriptions, mix medications, assign dosages, prepare intravenous solutions and more. All these tasks require an unprecedented attention to detail to ensure the highest quality and safety standards. Critical thinking skills, along with a strict adherence to protocol, are key. Making careless mistakes when dispensing medication can pose serious and potentially life-threatening consequences to the physical and mental health of a patient.


Communication skills

Strong interpersonal skills are critical to the success of a pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians must effectively communicate with many, different people, including patients and family members, pharmacists, prescribing doctors, and other health care professionals. Those who work in a retail setting must be adept at communicating with and educating customers to ensure they properly understand their medication regimen. Pharmacy technicians who work in a health care setting must be comfortable collaborating with a wide range of colleagues.



Demonstrating compassion is an essential component of being a pharmacy technician, especially for those who work with customers in a retail environment. It’s important to recognize when patients may be under duress. Perhaps someone is dealing with a serious diagnosis, worrying about how they will pay for their medications, or struggling to manage debilitating side effects. Each of these encounters may require a different and sensitive response. The right response may have a great benefit to patient care.


Mathematical skills

Preparing prescriptions correctly – such as determining the correct strength of a solution or the usual dosage of a medication – may require making many different mathematical calculations. Pharmacy technicians must be accurate and precise when it comes to calculating, weighing and measuring chemicals as they prepare medications and solutions. Adding an extra zero to a prescription can turn a helpful treatment into a dangerous one. Pharmacy technicians must ensure that medications are filled correctly every time.


Ethical behavior

A commitment to ethical behavior is important because pharmacy technicians have access to confidential information about patients’ medical history. They also must uphold standards of practice and legal restrictions associated with dispensing medication.

Computer science flourishes in Philadelphia

PIT-PennJobs_IMAGE-0421Written By Magaly Olivero

Graduates with degrees in the fast-growing field of computer science who are entering the job market need look no further than the Philadelphia area, according to industry recruiters.

“Computer science is probably one of the most in-demand technical skills and degrees that companies are looking for right now,” said Beth Dang, recruiting director for information technology at Experis, a unit of staffing and consulting giant ManpowerGroup. Information technology in general hasn’t slowed down at all even during the past five years when we were going through a recession,”

Dang covers the Philadelphia and Baltimore areas.

Information technology professionals (which includes computer science majors) have been a staple on global staffing giant ManpowerGroup’s annual top-ten list of the professionals that companies need most but can’t find.

Forty percent of businesses in the United States have difficulty filling these jobs. More than thirty-five percent of the business leaders surveyed said they couldn’t find talent with the necessary technical skills.

Given this scenario, students with degrees in computer science from a college that offers hands-on job experience through internships and other workplace opportunities have a clear advantage. Even an associate’s degree in computer science can pave the way for a rewarding career. Many computer scientists find positions where they can develop their skills and grow professionally.

The major role of computer scientists

Computer scientists design and create new approaches to technology and find innovative uses for existing technology. They solve complex computing problems that help companies to operate more efficiently and economically, while at the same time meeting the needs and expectations of their customers.

“Computer science is the most popular degree under the information technology umbrella,” said Kevin Maas, division manager for Jobspring Partners’ Philadelphia office, which exclusively works in information technology markets. His team also runs an event series, Tech in Motion, which aims to educate, connect and inspire technical professionals in Philadelphia.

“Anyone who graduates with an information technology or computer science degree is not going to have much trouble finding a job,” said Maas. “The cool thing about information technology is that it’s part of every single industry and every single company.”

Industry giants in business, medicine, science, technology, finance and other fields offer many career opportunities for computer scientists, recruiters said. But with technology at the core of so many endeavors, computer scientists can also find meaningful positions at start-ups and small and medium businesses, they said.

Philadelphia is fast becoming a hub for computer science and information technology professionals, according to recruiters. For example, Comcast Corporation is building a state-of-the-art innovation and technology center in Center City. The proposed $1.2 billion, 59-story tower will be located next to the company’s global headquarters.

Dang estimates that 75 percent of the 10,000 jobs housed in the new Comcast center will be in the information technology field. “There are more jobs than there are viable candidates for those roles,” said Dang. “There just aren’t enough people trained to do that type of work.”

“Philadelphia has done an amazing job at increasing technology funding and incubating a lot of start-ups so they can grow their business organically without having to move to New York, Boston or Washington, D.C.,” said Maas. “They’re doing a lot to keep information technology talent right here in the city.”

More companies want computer scientists “who are technically savvy and have good communication skills,” said Dang. In the past, company employees in information technology, business and marketing were more likely to work in silos with little interaction between departments.

“Now it’s very different,” she said. “Companies what people in their information technology and business departments to communicate and collaborate so each has a better understanding of the company’s goals, products and services.”

With future projections of a robust job market, Dang said she encourages high school and college students to consider a career in information technology and computer science.

“You’ll be able to find a job when you get out of college,” she said.

Careers in Tech – Firms need soft skills, software degrees

PIT-HotCareers_IMAGE-0421Article Written By Jason Gray

Tech skills are a hot commodity in any workplace in today’s economy. But even in Philadelphia’s extensive tech economy, companies hiring computer programmers, mobile application developers and software engineers want well-rounded applicants.

They are seeking strong communication skills, an ability to collaborate and innovate. They are looking for an overall sense of professionalism. In most instances, they also place a high value on industry-specific knowledge.

“We want people to have real skill sets,” said Karissa Justice of Azavea, the Philadelphia-based geospatial tech company. “People may have a degree in the tech field but no skills.”

Such skills can be essential for recent graduates to find a job and enjoy long-term professional success. In some instances, it may even allow someone to secure a position for which their technical background isn’t exactly right. Some companies may be willing to hire someone who has excellent soft skills and can be developed on the technical side.

Technology is constantly changing. Preferred programming languages and best practices change often.

Critical thinking, willingness to learn and teamwork skills can be critical. “We hire one out of every 30 to 35 people we interview, because it ultimately comes down to fit,” Rappaport said. “The people we hire like to teach – they’re the go-to people at their last position — but are still hungry to learn from the people around them.”

Mike Rappaport, CEO of Chariot Solutions, urges people hoping to enter the industry to develop their soft skills in addition to their software skills. “For soft skills, our consultants have to be well-rounded,” he said. “You can be deeply technical but not have the people skills or understand business as we need to.”

Potential benefits for a well-rounded candidate
Demand in the Pennsylvania area for technology professionals is strong, as it is in most other parts of the country. These jobs generally pay well.

Consider computer programmers and software engineers who write the code behind software programs. Most programmers specialize in a couple programming languages. They earn a median wage of $74,280, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Software developers and mobile app developers are the creative minds behind programs. Developers usually need more experience or education to be successful. The median wage is $90,000 with the top 10 percent of developers making more than $138,000, according to the BLS.

Software and app programmers are in particularly high demand in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Workforce Development agency lists the careers as one of the Statewide High Priority Occupations. “There’s a sense of urgency in this state,” Rappaport said. “Everyone has plans and are moving forward in ways completely reliant on software and infrastructure development. It’s about the hospital systems, insurance companies — people we don’t think of as tech companies. We want more companies to make their home in Pennsylvania, and we need to bring more tech into the area to support them.”

Many of the job openings at tech companies around Philadelphia ask for at least an associate degree. “I’d say having a degree is a big plus and makes life a lot easier to get the first job,” he said.

Internships to develop industry-specific skills
Rappaport added that companies need “skills related to the industry in which they work.”

This may include knowledge of finance for individuals who are looking for banking technology jobs, manufacturing processes, retail and a range of other industries.

Indeed, internships and volunteer work are often accepted as experience if the work fits the company’s market, even if the work does not directly involve software development. For example, Azavea hosts a three-month fellowship for students interested in geographic information systems.

And Chariot has an apprenticeship program that grew from a training program they offered to other companies. “I can’t put someone out to my customers if they haven’t proved they’re the real deal,” Rappaport said. “We believe they have the ability – we’re trying to give them the experience in addition to the classroom training.”

“I understand job seekers frustration that you need experience to get experience, but in the field of software development, experience doesn’t just mean holding a job with a title,” Justice said. “There are many open source projects or small personal projects people can work on to get hands-on experience actually making something.”

Top Careers in computer science

APIT-GreatComputerCareers_IMAGE-0421rticle Written By Magaly Olivero

Demand is rising for professionals holding computer science degrees as an increasing number of organizations rely on technology to operate effectively in today’s competitive business world.

Computer scientists design and develop all types of software, including operating systems and phone apps to interactive games. Graduates with computer science degrees have the flexibility to pursue numerous career paths with job growth projections faster than for other occupations nationwide.

Some people start by earning an associate’s degree that allows them to enter the workforce immediately after graduation or transfer to a four-year college to earn a bachelor’s degree. An associate’s degree in computer science is among the top 10 associate’s degree majors ranked by salary potential, according to PayScale.

Here’s a look at computer science career opportunities.

Systems design and analysis
Computer systems designers and analysts assess an organization’s needs and design information systems solutions that are tailored to the company’s requirements. These specialists learn how to choose, create and troubleshoot customized hardware and software systems. They also keep computer systems secure and up-to-date.

Mobile application development
From searching for a restaurant to tracking down the latest weather news, there’s likely a computer app that will bring the information directly to a smartphone or tablet. People with expertise in mobile application development create the software for wireless devices, including smartphones, tablets and wearable technology. Among the most prominent examples are the new iWatch from Apple. More consumers are using small devices to communicate, view entertainment programming and stay abreast of current events.

Website development
Website developers are responsible for the technical aspects of a website, such as programming, coding, page interactions, performance, speed and capacity to handle traffic from visitors. These professionals focus on how a site works – whether it’s the Internet or intranet (private network) – and how customers will use these websites. Web development can range from creating a single page to building complex Internet and intranet sites. Job prospects for web developers are projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which expects demand will be driven by the growing popularity of mobile devices and ecommerce.

Software engineering
Software engineers apply engineering principles to create computer systems that meet the unique specifications of a company. They often design, test and build software. Software engineers craft the designs that computer programmers implement when creating the codes for operating a program or system.

Technical support
Computer support specialists assist people and organizations that use computer software and equipment. Some specialists support information technology employees, while others assist non-information technology users who are experiencing computer problems. Employment opportunities for computer support specialists are projected to grow 17 percent from 2012 to 2020. More support services will be needed as organizations upgrade their computer equipment and software, industry experts predict.

Balancing act: how to manage work, family and school

PIT-BalancingAct_IMAGE-0421Article Written By Magaly Olivero

An educational institution that understands the needs of students who must balance work, family and school can make a big difference when you’re trying to earn a degree. Such schools offer practical and emotional support.

This comes as an increasing number of people go back to school full or part-time as a way to advance their careers. By 2020, adults older than 25 will be make up 45% of the national student body, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s an increase of seven percentage points from current levels.

But many of these older students and even those closer to the traditional age must support themselves and family. They face difficult juggling acts on a daily basis.

The thought of adding schoolwork to an already long list of responsibilities at the office and at home may seem daunting. A school that allocates resources to help students manage their lives can ensure someone completes their studies.

The end effect: Broadening your educational credentials – whether you’re pursuing a degree for the first time or going back to school for more training – can increase your odds of getting a raise or promotion. Earning a degree can also provide the advanced skills and confidence to find a more professionally rewarding and better paying position at another company.

Here are a few factors to keep in mind if you’re trying to manage work, family and school.

You are not alone
The National Center for Education Statistics’ data underscores a truth: Lots of working adults go back to school or become college students for the first time. Some will be looking to learn new skills to help with their present careers. Others will be looking to start a new profession.

Look for flexibility
Many colleges are tailoring their degree programs to accommodate the needs of busy adults with family and professional duties. Look for a college with programs that have online classes and flexible scheduling with evening and weekend classes. You may want to start off with an associate’s degree program, many of which are geared to students with hectic lives. Associate’s degree program can be completed in two years and typically cost less than a four-year degree. This can be an important consideration for a working student.

Tap all available resources
Find a college with qualified counselors who can offer personalized support, advice and perspective to help you balance all the demands in your life. Speak with a representative from the financial aid department to determine if you’re eligible for assistance. Find ways to manage your time more effectively – a skill that’s important for academic and professional success.

Ask your family to pitch in
By honest with yourself and your family by setting realistic goals and re-evaluating your commitments. Family members may need to temporarily pitch in a bit more at home. Remind them that the sacrifices made now will pay off in the long run when you land a better paying position – a move that benefits the entire family.

The benefits of an associate’s degree in computer science

PIT-AssociateDegree_IMAGE-0421Article Written by: Magaly Olivero

Earning an associate’s degree in computer science can provide the foundation for expanding your educational credentials and landing a dream job.

An associate’s degree program allows you to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to join the workforce or pursue a more advanced educational degree. Earning an associate’s degree is a great way to jumpstart your career and improve your earning potential over a lifetime. Associate’s degrees are awarded at junior colleges, community colleges, vocational schools and technical colleges.

Consider these four reasons to purse an associate’s degree in computer science.

Explore career options
If you’re not ready to make a commitment to a four-year bachelor’s degree program or haven’t settled on a specific career path, then pursuing an associate’s degree might be an ideal way to explore your options. Working toward an associate’s degree may also allow you to complete your general educational requirements while you consider the direction you want your career to take. You’ll be able to explore career options with faculty who are knowledgeable about their industries.

Stepping stone to a bachelor’s degree
With an associate’s degree, you have the flexibility to transfer the credits you earned to a four-year bachelor’s degree program, either right after graduation or later on in your career. Many associate’s degree programs include the general educational requirements needed in a bachelor’s degree program. Most associate’s degree programs involve 60 credits and can be completed in two years of full-time study. Tuition for an associate’s degree typically cost less than a four-year degree.

Enter the workforce
An associate’s degree prepares you for immediate career opportunities in the field of your choice right after graduation. Many associate’s degree programs offer a combination of coursework and hands-on experience so you can develop the skills, knowledge and confidence required to enter the workforce. Once you’ve landed a job, you may consider whether you want to pursue a bachelor’s degree part-time.

Earning power
Graduates of associate’s degree programs typically earn more than those who hold lower degree certifications or high school diplomas. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people holding an associate’s degree in 2014 had a median weekly salary of $761 – that’s $93 more than a high school graduate and $273 more than someone who didn’t graduate from high school. Those wages can add up to a significant amount of money during the course of a professional career.


A place to develop core tech skills

PIT-EssentialCourses_IMAGE-0421 Article Written by: Jennifer Nelson

Thinking about developing apps, writing code and getting in on the ground floor of a software engineering start up? A two-year computer science degree from the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology is the ticket.

Students have the sort of hands-on experience with core courses like CSS, JavaScript, JavaScript Frameworks and Ruby on Rails, to separate themselves from the competition. “Our graduates write code and can hit the ground running better than students who left a 4-year degree program,” said Professor Abbas Abdulmalik, Computer Science Program Manager at PIT.

They become computer programmers, mobile app developers, systems analysts and design specialists and find jobs in many, different industries. There is hardly a sector today in which technology has not been playing larger role. That includes even manufacturing, whose machinery runs more efficiently because of innovations in software.

The state-of-the-art hardware and software used in class enable students to learn on exactly what leading companies are working with. That makes them valuable to the IT industry from the start.

One complaint Abdulmalik hears from the real world is that no one knows how to code. “Our students know how to code,” he said.

A detailed, well-rounded education

The Computer Science degree program at PIT backloads tech courses early in the first semester so students develop the skills they need. They get a feel for what they will be working on in the real world almost from the beginning.

What’s more, employers continually say that new hires often don’t communicate well or know how to write reports and submit presentations once they land a job. Those are skills a PIT degree focuses on, as well. More and more employers desire not only tech-savvy talent, but holistic thinkers, problem-solvers and those adept at communicating well. Humanities courses like Composition 1 and 2 cover those bases.

The “sexy” words in computer science programs, the types of courses that get everyone excited about are probably Ruby on Rails, jQuery and AngularJS right now. “This is what employers look for, tools that allow new hires to quickly develop reliable code,” says Abdulmalik. “They can write code from scratch, but frameworks are important tools that help you get things done quickly. These classes are very popular picks.

Workers who can contribute

Abdulmalik says in the past some engineering firms were willing to hire graduates who lacked the skills and knowledge to contribute fully early on but showed great potential. The companies gave these young professionals time to develop. But given the competitiveness in the business world today, that is increasingly less possible.

Start-ups, small- and mid-sized companies do not have the luxury of waiting for their employees to learn fundamental skills on the job. They need workers who can contribute quickly.

With a computer science tech degree from PIT, students are fully ready to do outstanding work. They have theoretical and practical knowledge to work for a wide range of technology companies and other organizations.

Students also have a better background than many other students to succeed at a four-year degree program. Many PIT graduates are so well prepared that they opt to continue their education, earning bachelor’s degrees and even beyond.

Instructors at PIT come from real world tech backgrounds or hold positions in the IT field. They possess a keen sense of the skills that many organizations are seeking. They can also speak in-depth about common work issues in IT. PIT instructors care about students’ success.
PIT has the right combination of resources to help any graduate achieve their career goals.

My Life at PIT by Abimbola

Abimbola OlatonaWritten by: Abimbola Olatona (

I choose Pennsylvania Institute of Technology [P.I.T.] because I became inspired by a friend who graduated from the Practical Nursing program at P.I.T., and through the encouragement of love ones that believed in me. Feeling that I have the potential to become great in life gave me the courage to register in P.I.T.’s Allied Health Practical Nursing program. My goal is to become a practical nurse. I knew furthering my education as a full-time worker and a mother of three little children was going to be very challenging. It was a long night for me before the morning of my first day at school. I couldn’t sleep most of the night; however, I was excited in looking forward to achieve what the day had in store for me. I had to start the day by getting the children ready for school and dropping them off at their schools before coming back home to prepare myself for my school day. My first day at P.I.T. as a student was a happy moment in my life. I felt fulfilled and encouraged with the warmness of the class atmosphere. My first class was English 110, and the teacher was very warm and welcoming with an assuring look on her face that she will be there to help us achieve our goals. We were asked to introduce ourselves to one another after our teacher formally introduced herself to the class. Before the class ended that day we all are comfortable and felt very familiar with one another. Some students exchanged contacts and bonded relationships. Despite all of the stress and challenges in combining work, family and academics, I still try as much as possible to spend time with my family. I leave school around 1.00 pm every school day to pick up my children and then come home to do chores. I get back home by 3.30pm to cook dinner. After that, I study and complete my school work. Sometimes I finish late at night just to make sure everything is set for the following day. I will be focusing my energy into studying and being successful for my future and be happy to face these challenges because I believe it is for a better future.

A Day in the Life of PIT by Rugiatu Kamara

Rugiatu KamaraWritten By; Rugiatu Kamara

First semester of college can be an exciting, and also a confusing time. I was nervous before school started because everyone told me that classes are extremely hard and very competitive. January 20, 2015, was my first day at P.I.T. As I was going through my first semester, I realized that there was a big difference between my studies at P.I.T. and those at Delaware County Community College (DCCC). At P.I.T., not only did I get to study in small classrooms with few students, but I was able to study with students that were very determined and interesting. Furthermore, the environment of the school is very nice and quiet. The other difference I noticed is the parking lot. It is not crowded like the one at DCCC. P.I.T.’s parking lot and the classrooms are very close; students don’t need to walk a long distance. The smell and fresh air coming from the trees, makes me fall in love with the college every day. Moreover, all the teachers at P.I.T. are very friendly and encouraging. They are always ready to answer any question you ask them. Tutors are always available to help students with their school work. Computer rooms are opened to all students; it is not crowed or noisy. In conclusion, my experience in my first semester at P.I.T. is enjoyable. I will definitely recommend it to any of my friends or family members that are ready to pursue their education in other to get a degree and have a better life.