NOCE Student Finds Second Career Success in Pharmacy Tech Certificate Program Student Success Profile

July 23, 2021

As an 18-year veteran tanker and freight truck driver, Michael Lee knew that the time would come when his body would no longer be able to take the long hours and grueling physical requirements of the job. Like many middle-career adults, Michael knew he needed to rethink his future and his retirement. Michael was ready for a new career and North Orange Continuing Education (NOCE) was there to help him find it. 

“After many challenges and sleepless nights of studying, my dream of becoming a pharmacy technician has become a reality,” says Michael who is now working as a pharmacy technician for a well-known retail drugstore chain. “I owe everything to NOCE and their Career Resource Center which provided me with resume assistance, interview preparation, job market advice, and lots of encouragement.” 

Serving more than 29,000 students annually, NOCE operates three locations in Anaheim, Cypress, and Wilshire (Fullerton) as well as over 100+ community-based locations in partnership with K-12 schools, churches, community centers, senior centers, skilled nursing facilities and rehabilitation centers. Accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Schools, Western Association of Schools and Colleges, NOCE is a stand-alone institution, serving as the noncredit arm of the North Orange County Community College District, which also includes Cypress College and Fullerton College.

Encouraged by an uncle who is a pharmacist, Michael entered the pharmacy tech program like many adults—ready to work hard but unsure of his academic ability to succeed. Compounding this was the fact that Michael suspected he might have a learning disability—he had been required to repeat the first grade, had heard stories about himself acting out in school at a young age, and always found it difficult to focus while reading long passages of text. Having never been diagnosed, Michael had always just worked through these challenges.

With the help of NOCE’s Disability Support Services (DSS), it was determined that Michael’s suspicions were correct—he had a learning disability. As a result, accommodations were made to help Michael succeed which included being allowed to record lectures so he could easily review them later. To aid concentration, he was given a quiet place for testing. And to allow for his slower reading speed, he was given extra time on tests.

“DSS equipped me with all the necessary accommodations I needed to be successful in my pharmacy technician courses,” says Michael. “The Pharmacy Technician Certificate program, along with the support from my uncle, gave me the tools I needed to pass my PTCB exam and work as a licensed pharmacy technician.” 

NOCE’s tuition-free Pharmacy Technician Certificate program is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), can be completed in as little as 10 months, and prepares students for state licensure and employment as an entry level pharmacy technician at a retail or hospital pharmacy. Technician responsibilities may include receiving new prescriptions and verifying them, maintaining patient profiles, requesting medication refills, typing medication orders into a database, packaging and labeling, and maintaining inventory.

Like many community college career education programs, NOCE’s Pharmacy Technician program was developed in response to regional job demand. According to the US Department of Labor, most pharmacy techs in California make $45,090, but can make over $70,770 a year with the right education and training. Considering NOCE’s Pharmacy Technician Certificate can be completed in as little as 10 months, these in-demand jobs provide excellent opportunities for those looking to change careers (or start a new one) quickly.

NOCE’s Career Services Center also played a key role helping Michael transition from his certificate into a real career by helping him develop career-readiness skills, practice interviewing, and create a professional resume. At the same time, like all NOCE students, Michael was assigned a counselor to personally support him on his educational journey. 

“NOCE felt like a family,” says Michael. “There was always a door open and someone ready to talk to me if I needed it. When I passed my certification exams, one of the first people I texted was my counselor, Kim Thompson. The great thing about NOCE is that they don’t just tell you how to succeed but show you and support you along the way.” 

Looking back, Michael’s advice for students like himself is simple: 

“Don’t sell yourself short. You can do it. There are going to be bumps in the road but you can overcome them and you’re not alone. I can’t put it into words how supportive and helpful NOCE has been.”