Training the next generation of pharmacy technicians

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(Last Updated On: January 7, 2015)
By Diane Tezeno
pharmacytech80Houston residents Arthur and Benita Billingsley’s vision of providing a training ground for pharmacy technicians at an affordable price became a reality last year with the opening of Texas Pharmacy Tech Academy in southwest Houston.

The new academy, accredited by The Workforce Commission Careers Schools and Colleges, reduces the time it takes individuals to complete the standard pharmacy technician training program from nine months to 10 weeks.

“We provide the curriculum and training that individuals need to pass the pharmacy technician certification process and do not charge as much tuition as regular training programs,” says Netressa McKinney, the academy’s director of operations.

McKinney, a childhood friend of Benita Billings was part of the initial discussions that led to creation of the academy.

“We were sitting around talking about how we could run a program in a shorter amount of time at a lower cost,” says McKinney.

Two months after their brainstorming session, the trio secured a building for the academy and last August received approval for the catalog from the Texas Workforce College of Careers for their proposed training program.

Through the academy students learn a range of skills, including reading, filling and dispensing prescriptions, maintaining pharmaceutical records and handling various classes of drugs as well as the proper handling and disposal of bio-hazardous materials, and more.

“The student will learn dosage calculation, the top 200 medications, how to mix IVs and medications together, how to compound medicines together for individuals that need a specific medication they cannot get from most retail pharmacies,” says McKinney.

“Our  lab is set up with a retail pharmacy where a student will learn how to deal with a patient from the very beginning of them coming into the pharmacy with their prescription to the prescription being filled and checked out at a register,” says McKinney.

Students gain an overview of the concepts, techniques and procedures needed to work with and back up a pharmacist in a hospital or retail pharmacy setting.

McKinney describes it as one of the first pharmacy technician training programs of its kind in the Houston area.

According to McKinney, the average cost of similar training in a traditional nine month pharmaceutical training program can range from $12,000 to $15,000.

“Tuition in our academy is $1725.00,” says McKinney.

“Those other propriety programs basically pushed the numbers – what I mean is that they pushed the students into the programs to cover their costs for the school.  Our program not just pushes students in for numbers or finances, but to help them to determine if the program is for them,” says McKinney.

The Billingsley’s and McKinney are excited to offer a more affordable alternative to individuals seeking to become pharmacy technicians through an accelerated training program.

My fulfillment level is to be able to give back where someone was able to give to me. and to be able to help students not only go to school, but to have a career.

Texas Pharmacy Tech Academy also provides IV Certification once the 10 week program.

“We will be certifying the students to become IV certified once they have completed the program.  It is an additional cost apart from the regular tuition which is basically instructional.  We also offer tutorials for our students who are in need of extra time and attention,” says McKinney.

Pharmacist Arthur Billingsley teaches the 10-week curriculum along with colleagues Derrick Truby and Paul Henry.

His wife serves as the academy’s executive director overseeing the program, while McKinney, serves as director of operations, handling a range of services from admissions to career placement.

Since opening last February, the school has received numerous inquiries from individuals who are unemployed or looking for a career change.

“A lot of individuals who are coming into inquire about the school are individuals who are not currently working and looking for a career who are from the neighborhood area – there are a lot of people who are not currently working who are looking for a career,” says McKinney.

According to McKinney, the program’s goal is to offer a sound program, knowledgeable instructors and “to see the students through to the finish.”

Texas Pharmacy Tech Academy is open to anyone in the general public with a high school diploma or GED.

This program is for everyone, there is no age limit, it is for anyone and everyone who wants to change careers in this challenging economy.

“In today’s economy, not only does a bachelor or master’s degree help people. Today you need to have an additional certification to fall back on if you lose your job in the corporate world,” says McKinney.

McKinney describes it as “an excellent opportunity to make decent money, rather than minimum wage.”

“Looking at some of the analysis, students can expect on the low end $25,000 to a potential high range in the industry of $48,000,” shares McKinney of salary prospects for certified pharmacy technicians.

The Academy enrolled students in the program’s first classes on Nov. 5 and 19 and Dec. 3.

“If you are 16 years old you can enroll in the program with a parent’s consent,” says McKinney.

Academy officials have reached out to FBISD and HISD for the last three years of their 12th grade seniors and sent flyers to them and have distributed word on the new program at career fairs, via commercials on Channel 20, direct mail, word of mouth, chambers of commerce, health fairs, apartment complexes, and more.

“Our main goal is to reach out to individuals who not only are currently working and looking to change their careers or have lost their jobs and are looking to change careers, but also high school seniors who are graduating and they don’t think that the college atmosphere is what they want at this point in their lives,” says McKinney.

Students completing the curriculum with a minimum grade of 70% are awarded a certificate of completion and are eligible to apply with the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board to take a certification exam.

Texas Pharmacy Tech Academy is designed to impact the lives of individuals who are looking to make a change in their careers.

 For a schedule of classes for 2013 visit or for more information, contact Netressa McKinney at 832-767-2177.

Training the next generation of pharmacy technicians