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As most people know, a health care related career is some of the most important work a person can do. Whether a doctor, a nurse, or a pharmacist or pharmacy technician, health care workers strive to keep people healthy. And what could be more important than that?

For those looking into a health care career, the position of Pharmacy Technician may appeal to you. Depending on the workplace, a Pharmacy Technician has a variety of duties and responsibilities, from counting out pills to corresponding with customers, and each duty is important. Even routine tasks, such as labeling bottles, can be of life-or-death importance-- as, of course, it's imperative that patients are given the correct medications in the correct doses.

The hourly earnings of a Pharmacy Technician also vary from workplace to workplace. Pharmacy Techs who earn the most generally work in hospitals, where they earn an average of $13 hourly. The lowest-earning Pharmacy Technicians work in health or personal care stores, with about a $10.50 hourly wage. Obviously, where you choose to work as a Pharmacy Technician matters. And because hospitals and other highly specialized locations pay best, they also look for the best Technicians-- that is, Pharmacy Techs with certification.

Training to Be a Pharmacy Technician

While some smaller drug stores, etc., simply provide on-the-job training to untrained Pharmacy Technicians, most higher-paying locations look for Pharmacy Technicians with formal training and certification. To obtain this, most aspiring Pharmacy Techs attend online or classroom training courses. When choosing a Pharmacy Tech course, there are several things to keep in mind, such as length of course, depth of subject matter, and quality of the course (accreditation).

How Long Will it Take?

Most Pharmacy Technician training courses run from about six months to a year, depending on the course. In that time, you will learn the skills required to operate a pharmacy, follow correct pharmaceutical procedures, provide the correct drug dosages, and assist the pharmacist in administrative tasks. This course also helps to prepare you for your PTCB (Pharmacy Technician Certification Board) exam or ExCPT (Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians).

While there are very few current federal and state laws governing the need for Pharmacy Tech certification, having a PTCB or ExCPT certification is becoming the standard. Passing one or more of these examinations is of key importance.

What if I Need to Finish Faster?

If you don't have the six months to a year it takes to complete a Pharmacy Tech training course, there are several options available. As the certification is more important to potential employers than the formal training, you can choose to focus your time on studying for the test. You can do this either by studying the test materials, or taking one of the variety of short "crash course" cramming sessions offered by some schools. Most of these courses are from a few hours to several days, and are designed to give you all the information you need to pass you PTCB or ExCPT exams.

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The Cooper Institute (CI) was founded by the guy who wrote the book "Aerobics" in 1968 and started the whole world on this fitness craze. Since most of us are too young to remember a time before physical fitness was a common factor in our lives, it's interesting to see how much Dr. Cooper's book changed the way we live.

CI is located in Texas and runs many of their education courses in Dallas. If you're not local to Dallas (or willing to take a vacation), then their education programs may be of little help for you. Even their DVD course has a 'hands on' component that's given for a day and a half at their Dallas headquarters.

NCCA
The Cooper Institute Personal Trainer Certification, also known as "CI-CPT" is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Therefore it qualifies as one of our premier certifications around. It's accreditation is relatively recent, however that isn't a negative at all. The NCCA takes so long to permit new members, it's a very positive sign that CI has made it through the tough process.

Certifications Available
For our purposes, we're interested in the CI-CPT designation...or the Cooper Institute Certified Personal Trainer certification. (This use to be known as the CI-PTr, in case you see old references, it's the same thing.)

Eligibility
The eligibility isn't too difficult. You must be 18 years old, like all the others. You must have your CPR training from a trusted organization. By trusted, they mean American Red Cross. Online Certifications are given the standard "Not Accepted, No Exceptions" answer; so don't even try to use that as your entry pass!

Guess what, that's it! Really. As you noticed, you do NOT need to pass one of their classes in order to take the exam. Which is a nice deal compared to a few of the certifications that want you to pay them for classes and materials you may not need just to be eligible to sit for the exam.

Exam
Well, the one problem with the exam is its only given in Dallas, TX. So if you aren't going to be in Dallas on your exam date (which is around twice a month), you aren't going to be Cooper Institute Certified.

Which is really too bad, as the CI Certification is a good certification that's well respected in the area and slowly getting more popular around the country. Until they start to branch out (if they even intend to...), it'll probably be more of a regionally recognized certification. That doesn't mean that walking into a gym with a CI-CPT certification will be a negative, but you should be prepared to describe what CI is and have a reference for them to check out.

Costs
Disregarding the travel cost if you are out of town (they do have a hotel at the Institute!), the certification isn't prohibitively expensive. To take the exam it costs $250 to sit for the exam. You can even register 48 hours before the exam. (It's given twice a month and the dates are known for about a year out)

The retake fee is a tad bit less, $195 to retake the exam again. You get a year to retake the exam at that rate. I don't believe there is a minimum wait period...other than the 2+ week wait between exams.

Workshops
There are two 'workshops' that Cooper Institute offers, both are non-mandatory to sit for the exam, but very helpful in preparation for the exam.

Personal Training Education Workshop

Personal Training DVD with Live Training

They both cost over $500 and you have to be in Dallas to participate.

Validity
The CI-CPT certification is valid for three years from when you pass the test. That's a good period of time, since most are for 2 years.

CEC's
Like all NCCA accredited certifications, the Cooper Institute requires mandatory Continuing Education Credits before you can renew after the three year certification. They expect their certificate holders to stay current with at least 30 hours of the new information in the industry.

To make sure you take all the right courses, they suggest you check their website (http://www.cooperinstitute.org)

Renewal

Renewal isn't really that difficult. Here's what you need to do:

1. Complete a Renewal Form

2. Pay the Renewal Fee ($62.50, with an extra $50 if you need to extend an extra 6 months to get all your CEC's completed)

3. Submit proof of your minimum 30 hours of continual education over the last 3 years.

That's it! It's really not too bad with no ridiculous requirements or anything that is just a sham payment back to Certification Company like a few organizations do.

Acceptance / Popularity
The popularity and value of the CI-CPT is much greater in the Dallas / Texas area than in, say, Maine. It's seen as a regional certification, not because it's worse than an ACE or NCSF, but because it's just locally administered and therefore harder to find outside of the immediate area.

Summary
In the Texas region, there are few better certifications than the CI. It's very well respected in the area and has a TON of resources for local trainers. In fact, it's a fantastic set up for the Texas area, such that I wish I had that type of support in my area from my organizations.

Until CI starts to branch outside of its immediate area, it's going to be a limited option for the most of us. However, if you're in the area, I think you should definitely check it out. Keep in mind the entire experience - not just the exam - and support network they have in the Dallas area. You may find it is your best option by far.

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