How To Become a Pharmacy Technician
A pharmacy technicians' role is to assist pharmacists in preparing and selling prescription medicines. This in turn allows pharmacists to focus on their supervisory duties and improve their responsibilities to patients. These days, more and more retail and grocery stores are now offering pharmacy-related services due to the increase in the number of elderly requiring more medication.
Add to that pharmacy regulation and new medication developments, pharmacy technician employment is expected to continue to surge. These health professionals can work in pharmacies found in the hospital, grocery, drug stores, retail chain stores, mail order and other establishments.
Therefore, this is an excellent time for you to become a pharmacy technician and education is the most common route to enter this field with most employers seeking candidates that have completed a pharmacy technician training program.
This is an ideal job for you if:
- You want to work in a fast-paced role.
- You enjoy helping others.
- You are patient and friendly.
- You are alert, observant and organized.
- You are tech savy.
- You have excellent communication skills.
Additionally you should have strong math skills including basic algebra as some employers seek a math proficiency exam score of 80%. Finally in hospital settings you are expected to be proficient in operating and maintaining minor equipment as well as lifting patients.
- The number one reason for high customer turnoever is poor customer service, not price! (Digby J., 2014)
Steps on Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
Here are the required steps for you to consider when mapping out your career:
1. High School Diploma/GED: This is the first requirement needed to become eligible for a pharma technician position.
2. Pharmacy technician training program (required in some states). These accredited programs take between 6 months to 2 years to complete. The program is a mix of classroom and laboratory work with an externship. The following are some of the pharma technician classes that you would attend:
- Medical and pharmaceutical terminology.
- Pharmacy techniques.
- Pharmacy law and ethics.
- Pharmacy recordkeeping.
- Pharmacy calculations.
Alternatively, on-the-job training might be a requirement in some states. Training is done on the job and conducted by the pharmacist in charge.
3. Certification. Employers prefer to hire certified pharmacy technicians (CPhT).
4. License. Finally, most states now require pharmacy technicians to be licensed with the State Board of Pharmacy.
After successful completion of an accredited pharmacy technology program you will receive a diploma, associate degree or a certificate of completion, depending on the type of program you are planning to enroll in. As already mentioned in step 3, subject to the state you will be working in, you may also be required to register with the State Board of Pharmacy before you can apply for your first position.
Watch the video below to learn about the program geared towards becoming a pharmacy technician.
The most widely known and acceptable national certifications available for pharmacy technicians are:
- Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) offered by PTCB.
- Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) run by ICPT.
The two exam certifications are somewhat similar but there are few differences between them. Both are from accredited state bodies and the passing of either of these exams will earn the individual the designation of a nationally Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).
- The current job growth for pharmacy technicians is 12%!
To sit the national certification exams you must have a high school diploma/GED and have not been a convicted felon. PTCB applicants should not have any drug-related or pharmacy-related convictions. After successful passing recertification is required every two years. A 20-hour continuing education (ED) is required for recertification purposes. The number of hours should be completed within the two year certification period.
Start your research here, view pharmacy technician training requirements in your state along with salary data, job outlook and certification.
Main Duties of a Pharmacy Tech
- Counting, labeling and measuring medications correctly.
- Billing and payments from customers and other third parties.
- Maintains supplies and pharmacy inventory.
- Medications reconciliation
- Operate and maintain minor equipment as well as lifting patients (hospitals)
- Reviewing insurance information
- Filling hospital unit-dose medication cards.
- Misc. duties: answering phones, trainees training, operate a cash register etc.
Future Job Opportunities for Pharmacy Technicians
Once you become a pharmacy technician and have a number of years of experience you can seek out to specialize in any of the following areas. This will increase your level of responsibilites which are generally more advanced than entry-level positions and will be able to see a noticeable difference in your pharmacy technician salary.
- Institutional pharmacy technicians.
- Pharmacy purchasing agent.
- Medication reconciliation technician.
- Managed care pharmacy technician.
- Pharmacy technician educator or trainer.
- Pharmaceutical sales representative.
- Nuclear pharmacy.
- Oncology pharmacy tech
On a final note, the pharmacy technician career is one of the fastest growing jobs in the US overall ranking at no. 10 for workers of age 14-26 and no. 22 for women. With completion of both training and certification in less than two years the career of pharmacy technician is appealing especially since there are online pharmacy technician schools that can facilitate learning at your own pace.
The increase in the number of elderly requiring medication, pharmaceutical regulation and rapid spread of technology in the development of new medication will guarantee that pharmacy technician employment will grow faster than many other occupations.