How To Become A Pharmacy Technician | HowToBecome Creer Guide (2023)

Pharmacy technicians are responsible for handling all aspects of the prescription fulfillment process and assisting the pharmacist with day-to-day operations. Aspiring pharmacy techs can complete a one-year diploma or certification program at a pharmacy technician school or a two-year associate degree program. This career guide provides in-depth information about pharmacy technician training, careers and job opportunities in this fast-growing field. Once they're on the job, pharmacy technicians earn a median annual salary of $35,100 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS)

This career guide provides in-depth information about how to become a pharmacy technician, from going through the initial training to the job outlook over the next decade.

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Step 1

Complete a postsecondary education program (Optional)

TheAmerican Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is the accrediting body forpharmacy technician programs. ASHP-certified programs are available at manycommunity colleges and vocational schools. Most certificate programs can becompleted within a year or less, while associate degree programs typically taketwo years to complete. Coursework covers technical and practical training in thefollowing areas:

  • Pharmacy law
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy ethics
  • Anatomy
  • Healthcare systems
  • Physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Pharmaceutical calculations

Step 2

Complete pharmacy technician on-the-job training

Most programs allowstudents to gain clinical experience during their training. Depending on statelaws, students may also choose to gain on-the-job training without enrolling ina postsecondary education program. Clinical experience may take the form of astructured training program at a retail drugstore that has partnered with theschool. Another option is to complete hands-on training at an approved pharmacyor medical center.

Step 3

Become a certified pharmacy technician

Some statesrequire pharmacy technicians to become certified. Even in states wherecertification is not required, most employers will only hire pharmacy techs whoare certified by thePharmacy Technician Certification Board(PTCB) or theNational Healthcareer Association(NHA).

Step 4

Become a specialized pharmacy technician

Some pharmacytechnicians choose to work exclusively for a retail drugstore chain and willcomplete specialized training to serve as a general pharmacy technician,community pharmacy technician or central pharmacy operations technician, or in asimilar role.

Step 5

Maintain the pharmacy technician certification

Pharmacytechs need to pass arecertification exam, administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) orNational Healthcare Association (NHA) every two years. You need to complete at least 20 hours of continuingeducation before sitting for the exam. Approved continuing education activitiescan include seminars, workshops, conferences, college courses, and service tothe credentialing agencies. As a technician you will have to document yourcontinuing education and submit it online for verification. There's also abiennial fee associated with recertification.

Pharmacy Tech Salary and Jobs Outlook

Becoming a pharmacy technician can be a gateway to a career as a pharmacist, nursing assistant or other medical professional. Demand for pharmacy technicians is expected to remain high for the next decade, making this career path potentially rewarding for those who wish to work in a pharmacy setting.

The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians in 2020 was $35,100, although this varies by state. The bottom 10% of earners make less than $25,400 per year, while the highest 10% earn more than $50,430.

Pharmacy technicians in California, Alaska, Washington, District of Columbia, and Oregon are the highest earners, on average. The BLS reports that the highest-paying positions are available with outpatient care centers, the federal government, and colleges and universities. Pharmacy techs that work in food and beverage stores and health and personal care stores typically make lower annual wages.

State

Pharmacy Technician Job Growth Per State

Job growth for pharmacy technicians is expected to grow 4 percent from 2019 through 2029, roughly the same as all occupations, according to the BLS. Demand for experienced and skilled pharmacy technicians is expected to stay strong as consumers live longer and increasingly turn to pharmacists for prescription medication to manage chronic diseases and take care of aging-related health issues.

The following states are projected to expand their pharmacy tech job openings the most by 2028:

1. Arizona

25%

2. Georgia

22%

3. Colorado

19%

4. Texas

19%

5. Utah

18%

6. Maryland

15%

7. Nevada

15%

8. D.C.

14%

9. California

13%

10. Idaho

12%

What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

Pharmacy Technician Jobs: The Basics

Pharmacy technicians work under the direction of a licensedpharmacist to dispense medication and provide information to customers. Pharmacytechnicians typically work behind a pharmacy counter at a drugstore, grocerystore, hospital, nursing home or other medical facility. This position involvesworking with pharmacists, patients and occasionally with pharmaceutical reps.

Pharmacy Technician Jobs: In-Depth

Most technicians are certified — the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) is earned by passing the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) — and have completed several hundred hours of on-the-job training in order to be able to work with different prescription drugs, understand pharmacy operations and protocol, and abide by ethical standards. Basic job duties include dosing medications and filling prescription orders, taking care of administrative tasks, and handling basic customer service duties at the counter. Some pharmacy techs lead a team of pharmacy staff members as a lead pharmacy technician. Others may be responsible for managing supply and inventory or providing pertinent information to other healthcare professionals.

FAQs on Becoming a Pharmacy Technician

How do you become a pharmacy technician?

Most states require pharmacy technicians to be licensed or registered by completing an ASHP-certified program with an employer or at a vocational school. In states that require pharmacy tech certification, you also must pass an exam.

How much does a pharmacy technician make?

Pharmacy technician salaries typically range from $29,000 to $42,000. The average pharmacy tech makes $36,450 a year, according to the BLS.

How long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?

Most pharmacy technician training programs take a few months to a year to complete. Associate degrees in pharmacy technology take up to two years to complete.

How much does it cost to become a pharmacy technician?

The cost to become a pharmacy technician depends on your training and educational path.

  • Certificate programs can cost between $5,000 and $25,000.
  • Associate degree programs typically range in cost from $5,000 to $15,000 a year.
  • Some employers may provide free state-approved training to become certified.

Are there pharmacy technician programs online?

You can find several pharmacy technician certificate and associate degree programs online. However, all ASHP-certified programs require some hands-on experience working at a pharmacy or in another clinical setting.

Types of Pharmacy Technician Programs

Diploma and Certificate Programs

A pharmacy technician diploma or certificate program can be completed in one year or less and provides the basic education and training needed to sit for the Certified Pharmacy Technician exam. These programs introduce students to basic concepts in pharmaceutical technology, record keeping, pharmacy law and ethics, and pharmacology. They typically include a combination of classroom learning and lab training so that students learn how to dispense medication, prepare sterile products, and manage prescription orders.

Graduates of a one-year program can apply for entry-level positions at drugstores, hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, or with mail-order pharmacy companies. Pharmacy tech certification programs typically require students to complete an externship at an approved pharmaceutical facility, hospital or retail pharmacy.

Examples of courses available in pharmacy technician diploma and certificate programs include:

Introduction to Pharmacy

This course introduces students to pharmacy practices and terminology.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Pharmacy and medical terms

  • Basic pharmacy operations

Dosage Forms and Routes of Administration

Students gain an understanding of how medications interact in the body after administration and how to use basic mathematic principles for dosing.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Administration of medication

  • Basic measurement systems and best practices

  • Mathematical techniques and methodologies used in pharmacies

Science of Pharmacology

This class covers the process by which drugs are approved for general use, as well as drug administration issues for patients.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Drug approval process

  • Drug administration processes for individual patients

Hospital Pharmacy Practice

This course details basic pharmacy operations in a hospital setting.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Hospital pharmacy operations

  • Basic guidelines for working in a hospital setting

  • Role of the pharmacy technician in a hospital setting

Pharmacy Ethics

Students are introduced to the laws and ethics governing pharmacy practice.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Modern laws governing pharmacy and pharmacology practices in the United States

  • Ethical considerations for different customer situations

  • Pharmacy technician codes of conduct

Associate Degrees

Students interested in a more comprehensive educational experience can enroll in a pharmacy technician associate degree program. Although a degree is not required to apply for entry-level positions, some students choose to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree so they can advance in their careers and apply for jobs as a compounding lab technician, pharmacy service technician, pharmacy implementation specialist or similar roles. Earning an associate degree can also help a student prepare for a Bachelor of Pharmacy or a bachelor's degree in a related field.

The comprehensive two-year program covers topics in pharmacy operations, pharmacology and advanced administration, and may include an externship component. Students take a series of general courses in mathematics, science, psychology, humanities, and English, in addition to pharmacy- and medical-specific courses to fulfill degree requirements. Graduates of this program can process medication orders, have extensive knowledge about pharmacy law as it applies to filling prescriptions, and demonstrate fundamental knowledge of medical terminology.

Examples of courses offered through a pharmacy technician associate degree program include:

Interpersonal Communications for the Workplace

Students learn effective interpersonal communication skills for working with customers in a medical environment.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Strong communication skills to communicate effectively with pharmacists and customers

  • Customer service skills

  • Non-verbal communication

Pharmacy Calculations

This course covers mathematical equations and best practices for managing calculations in a pharmacy.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Fundamental mathematical concepts

  • Applied mathematics

  • Best practices for using mathematical formulas to solve problems

Pharmacology I

Key principals of drug interactions and the human body are studied, along with the drug types and their effect on the nervous system. This course typically covers basic principles of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Human anatomy and physiology of the nervous system

  • Drugs for the treatment of nervous system disorders

Over-the-Counter Drugs

This is a review of nonprescription drugs for common disorders and best practices for managing customer questions about self-treatment.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Advanced knowledge of nonprescription drugs and medications

  • Customer service skills

  • Pharmaceutical ethics

Pharmacy Law

This course details federal and state laws governing the practice of pharmacies and rules regulating pharmacy technicians' activities.

Skills & Knowledge Gained

  • Comprehensive knowledge of relevant state and federal laws related to pharmacies

  • Ethical considerations and legal issues pertaining to pharmacy technicians

Even after completing an associate degree, graduates will have to stay current with changes occurring in the industry or with particular pharmaceutical companies, since new drugs and generic brands are always entering the market. Additionally, they should have cultivated the following skills:

Attention to detail

Pharmacy technicians' primary responsibility is dispensing prescription medication, which requires great attention to detail. Pharmacy techs must be able to measure, mix, dose and dispense appropriate amounts of medication based on the pharmacist's orders. They may also be involved with data entry tasks to update patient records and fill prescription orders.

Pharmaceutical literacy

Sometimes, pharmacy technicians will need to read and interpret pharmaceutical literature and prescription information. They need to be knowledgeable about pharmaceutical and medical terms and, in some cases, translate information for the customer's benefit.

Outstanding customer service

Even though it is not pharmacy technicians' responsibility to provide medical advice, they will be responsible for interacting with customers when dispensing medication. They must have basic customer service skills to ensure they are providing customers with the correct prescriptions, contact customers to advise them that the prescription is ready and follow up with any inquiries customers may have about their order.

Organization

Pharmacy technicians can work in a variety of settings. Some settings, such as retail drugstores and grocery store pharmacies, may be busier than others on a daily basis. Pharmacy technicians, therefore, must be able to handle different types of customers, work with great precision under pressure and keep everything organized behind the counter.

Finding Online Pharmacy Technician Programs

Even though pharmacy tech certification and degree programs require hands-on training, some general coursework can be completed online. Many accredited schools offer online pharmacy tech programs that make it easier for a student taking care of a family or working a full-time job to complete their education. Here are some things to look for when exploring online pharmacy technician schools:

Accreditation

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the Commission on Credentialing (COC) accredit pharmacy technician training programs in the United States. Enrolling in an accredited program ensures the program maintains a high standard of quality and complies with the accrediting institution's requirements.

Hands-on Training Opportunities

Since most certification and degree programs for pharmacy technicians require hands-on training through an externship or similar training, it's important to determine what types of partnerships the school has secured for externships. Some schools offer externship placement as a courtesy to students, while others require students to seek out and apply for training on their own. In either situation, students are typically responsible for organizing their own transportation to the pharmacy, lab or other approved facility to complete this component of the program.

Certification Preparation

Certification is not required in some states, but most employers prefer pharmacy techs to be certified. An online pharmacy tech certification program needs to provide comprehensive training to prepare a student to sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam. Those interested in National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification must have at least one year of work experience, which can be acquired through an externship program offered by the school.

Pharmacy Technician Credentials

In addition to becoming a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT), pharmacy techs can acquire other certifications that allow them to explore attractive job opportunities. Options include:

  • Sterile Products (IV) Certification
  • Certified Pharmaceutical Industry Professional
  • Chemotherapy Certification
  • Compounding Certification
  • Nuclear Pharmacy Technician (NPT) Training

Skills of a Successful Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy techs must have strong attention to detail, as the majority of their daily tasks involve measuring, dosing and dispensing prescription medication according to very specific orders. They must also have good written and verbal communication skills to communicate effectively with the pharmacists they work with, patients, and medical professionals or medical representatives they come into contact with.

Pharmacy technicians must take the lead in educating themselves on drug information and any major changes occurring in the industry. They may be required to read about drug studies, review pharmaceutical literature or produce reports about different prescription medications and dispensing activities. Since many work in busy retail drugstores or emergency rooms, they must also have strong organizational skills and be able to work in a fast-paced environment without making mistakes.

Pharmacy Technician Tools and Technologies

Pharmacy technicians are typically trained in all medical software programs used by the pharmacy so that they can fill prescription orders accurately, manage patient billing information and coordinate patient communications in a timely manner. Most become proficient in the following types of software programs:

  • Accounting software for medical billing and reimbursement
  • Database software to check for drug compatibility
  • Inventory management software, such as Cardinal Health Pyxis CII Safe
  • Label-making software
  • Medical software covering a variety of areas, including patient records and prescription processing

Similar Careers

With additional training, certifications and education, pharmacy technicians can advance in their careers to serve as pharmacists, doctors or other medical professionals. Below is an overview of the median salary, projected job growth and educational requirements for selected related occupations.

Cardiovascular
Technologist

39%

Salary

$54,330

Education and Training:

Associate degree or postsecondary certificate

Dental Assistant

25%

Salary

$35,390

Education and Training:

Some states require completing an accredited educational program and passing a state exam.

Doctor

18%

Salary

$111,630

Education and Training:

Four years of medical school and 3-8 years in an internship or residency program

Mail Order Pharmacy
Technician

20%

Salary

$29,810

Education and Training:

High school diploma; on-the-job training; state licensure in some states

Medical Secretary

12%

Salary

$32,240

Education and Training:

High school diploma; on-the-job training

Medical Technologist

22%

Salary

$59,430

Education and Training:

Bachelor's degree; licensure in some states

Pharmacist

14%

Salary

$120,950

Education and Training:

Doctor of Pharmacy and a license

What Do Similar Occupations Earn?

Individuals completing a training program at pharmacy technician schools can explore other careers in healthcare after completing a bachelor's or graduate degree in a related field. Pharmacy techs may move their career forward by serving as pharmacists, medical assistants or registered nurses.

'"Subject";"10th Percentile";"Median Salary";"90th Percentile"\n"Pharmacy Technicians";20580;29320;42400\n"Pharmacists";89280;116670;145910\n"Medical Assistants";21080;29370;41570\n"Doctors";60070;100317;167529\n"Registered Nurses";45040;65470;94720'

Accredited pharmacy technician certification and degree programs are available at many colleges across the country. Use the search tool below to explore programs by state and degree level.

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How To Become A Pharmacy Technician | HowToBecome Creer Guide (1)

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