Colleges announce joint pharmacy tech degree

A documented shortage of pharmacy technicians has inspired a partnership between the North Dakota State College of Science and Bismarck State College to deliver the NDSCS Pharmacy Technician program to the central and western portion of the state beginning Fall 2016. Students will enroll through NDSCS but may attend classes in Bismarck. Above, students in the Wahpeton program in class. NDSCS officials chose not to identify the two students above.

Starting with the 2016-17 school year, North Dakota State College of Science will bring its pharmacy technician program to Bismarck State College and, by extension, central and western North Dakota.

Degrees for the program will be awarded by NDSCS, which will broadcast pharmacy technology instruction from the Wahpeton campus to Bismarck students.

“We will have a room full of pharmacy technician students here in Wahpeton who are receiving instruction from one of our faculty,” said Ken Kompelien, NDSCS’ dean of arts, science and business. “At the same time, that same instruction — the lecture and the content of the course — will be broadcast to a classroom on the campus of BSC. And there will be a group of students … who will be able to take in the lecture.”

Bismarck State College students will also participate in labs and other hands-on pharmacy experiences, Kompelien said.

“Most of our adjunct faculty (for the program) are pharmacists and we will utilize our existing instructors to provide that instruction,” he added.

Harvey Link, vice president of NDSCS’ academic affairs office, said the adjuncts will provide specific, specialized instruction.

While NDSCS offers the specific pharmacy classes, BSC will provide its students with the general education and overall campus experience, explained Barbara Spaeth-Baum, NDSCS’ executive director of college relations and marketing.

“What we’re hearing is there’s a number of students who want the experience of being able to have a home campus, a local campus,” Link said.

The two colleges formed the partnership in response to a resolution from the North Dakota Pharmacists Association. During their 2015 convention, the association encouraged the North Dakota Board of Pharmacy and NDSCS to join forces it in finding a way to expand pharmacy technician education programs to meet needs in central and western North Dakota, Kompellien said.

NDSCS and BSC announced the partnership with a well-received conference luncheon held in Bismarck Friday, April 29.

“The executive director of the pharmacy association’s comment was, ‘We put the request forward last year and within a year, BSC and NDSCS responded.’ They were extremely pleased that we were able to do this,” Link said.

NDSCS’ 100 percent placement rate for pharmacy technician students, as based on the 2015 graduate placement report, was also singled out for praise.

“(There was) just applause at how much this is needed,” Spaeth-Baum said. “They are going to walk into jobs and careers right away.”

The pharmacy technician has become an extension of the pharmacist, both at pharmacies and through telephone pharmacy work, Link explained.

“The technician is a real integral member of the pharmacy community and they have to work extremely close with the pharmacist,” he said.

Physician technology students will be able to take one year of study and receive certification or two years of study and receive an associate of applied science degree.

“The pharmacy technician content, that specific instruction, is the same for both the one-year certificate or the two-year associate of applied science degree,” Kompellien said. “What we provide in the AAS degree is an expansion of some of the general education courses, some of those key concepts and skills maybe to give those graduates a competitive advantage, perhaps, in some areas, a broader-based education and background. But both can function at an equal level in the workplace.”

Opportunities for sponsoring a current or upcoming NDSCS student are available. For more information, please contact Leslie Shirek at 701-671-2578 or

“I think (sponsorships are) going to be critical to the success of the collaboration,” Link said.

NDSCS’s pharmacy technician program is the only one of its kind available through the North Dakota non-tribal university system.

“Our pharmacy technician program … with great connections between the state board of pharmacy and North Dakota State University’s college of pharmacy, it all came together,” Kompellien said. “At all levels within the industry, there has been and continues to be very close cooperation and collaboration to best meet the needs of the workforce.”

NDSCS has seven candidates for the applied associate of science degree this year and had 14 receive degrees and four receive certificates last year. The pharmacy technician program started at NDSCS in the Fall of 1994.

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