Becoming a CVS Pharmacy Technician

Did you know that there are now almost 10,000 CVS Pharmacy locations across the US? As the nation's largest pharmacy chain - and it's still growing - it's estimated that 75% of the US population live within six miles of a CVS retail pharmacy location.

Pharmacy technicians have a big role to play in the smooth daily operations of these businesses, and that role has, according to the company itself, only increased since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. That event alone caused CVS to announce they planned to add thousands more pharmacy technicians to their staffing in 2020 and beyond.

This all means that for anyone considering becoming a pharmacy technician, no matter where they live in the US, a position as a pharmacy technician with CVS will very possibly be one of the options they consider. 

If you've looked into the cost of studying for a career in the profession at a community college and ultimately decided that it was beyond your means, a CVS pharmacy technician training can be a reasonable and attainable goal. 

But what many of these would be pharmacy techs do not realize is that CVS itself offers pharmacy technician training to those who meet their standards. Here we'll cover what these are and how you can apply.

More About CVS

CVS Pharmacy - which is now a part of the larger parent company CVS Health - began life in 1963 as a single small pharmacy chain in Lowell, Massachusetts known as the Consumer Value Store.

Over the years that have followed, via both natural growth and the acquisition of smaller pharmacies and pharmacy chains, CVS, which its former CEO Tom Ryan preferred to suggest stands for "Convenience, Value, and Service", is now the nation's largest pharmacy chain - over rival Walgreens.

In addition to its pharmacy and general convenience retail services that are found in every CVS some branches now operate Minute Clinics, providing basic healthcare services like some vaccines and health screenings and basic treatments for colds, flus and other minor ailments.

CVS Health stores typically employ six to eight pharmacy technicians, who provide a mission-critical role of assisting pharmacists in filling customers’ prescriptions and managing inventory.

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CVS Pharmacy Technician Job Description

As anyone who has long experience working as a pharmacy technician can often tell you the role they play can differ significantly from employer to employer. At CVS, according to the company themselves, the pharmacy tech is expected to be both a useful and skilled assistant to the pharmacists and a great customer service advocate for customers.

On the technical side of things CVS pharmacy technicians are involved in every aspect of filling a prescription for a customer. They are often the people who will accept the initial prescription, collect and verify health insurance information, obtain any necessary health insurance pre-authorizations to ensure the prescription is covered at the right rate, collect co-pays, help count the dosages of medication dispensed and more. They are also often called upon to act as general cashiers.

CVS expects its pharmacy technicians to have a good working knowledge of every aspect of this role and as a result openly state that preference is given in hiring to those who have passed the national pharmacy technician certification exam - either the PTCE or the ExCPT. However, in many cases training is available from CVS themselves to give candidates the knowledge and experience to do this.

This is what 64-year-old Tuduetso Marang had to say about becoming a gainfully employed CVS pharmacy technician in the summer of 2017.

“It hasn’t been easy,” she says. “It takes a lot of determination for whatever you want out of life. And this is what I want in life right now: doing something so my children don’t have to take care of me.”
A female pharmacy technician at CVS

As a CVS pharmacy technician, Tuduetso Marang sorts prescriptions and interacts constantly with customers. She admits her road to the job hasn’t been easy.

Pharmacy Technician Training CVS

Contrary to what some believe, there is no formal program or CVS pharmacy technician training program application currently in place that could be described as a 'CVS Pharmacy Technician Training' Program. What there is however is a strong leaning towards training and promoting from within, something that has served the company well over the years, with several of its key executives, including former longtime CEO Tom Ryan having begun their careers with the company at an entry level and then 'rising through the ranks'.

This preference for internal promotion means that those employed by CVS in other roles - cashiers, stockers, etc, - can apply for training to be promoted to Pharmacy Tech via their Apprenticeship Initiative. As the company is growing in some stores these Rx techs can then receive additional training to work in the onsite Minute Clinics where state law allows, offering even more interesting job growth potential.

Pharmacy technician apprentices must live within commuting distance from the likely work locations, so that a cohort of pre-apprentice program completers have a solid chance to secure a job offer and show up to work
consistently.

The CVS Apprenticeship Initiative

The company’s first apprenticeship training program began in 2005, with retail pharmacy technicians. For CVSH, an apprenticeship training strategy for direct hires opens up a new talent pool of motivated workers who are interested in the role of a pharmacy technician, but not yet trained or licensed.

The CVS Registered Apprenticeship Program, now in its 16th year, prepares low-income job seekers for careers as pharmacy technicians — jobs that often lead to management positions in many of the company’s nearly 10,000 retail stores.

It begins with a pre-screening and an invitation to apply. Those accepted into the program undergo intense training to acquaint them with the intricacies of a job in which there is literally no room for error.

The CVS Apprenticeship Initiative consists of two parts, both of which are to be completed primarily at the candidate’s home store, as in the store at which they are already employed.

The 'Pre- Apprenticeship' paid 'classroom training' module is usually primarily conducted in equal parts online and in store covers all the following and more:

  • Introduction to Pharmacy Basics
  • Introduction to Pharmacy Workstations
  • Introduction to Inventory Management

This training is usually completed in store under the supervision of a training manager during the candidate's regular working hours.

The second part of the apprenticeship program consists of 180 hours “externship” of on the job, paid training in the candidates’ home store that almost always leads to a formal job offer. This is conducted under the direct supervision of the store pharmacist and their assistants and provides the kind of hands on, real world experience a pharmacy technician school may not.

In addition to their on the job training apprentices complete additional online training that ensures they understand concepts like the protections offered to patients by HIPAA, as well as other technical knowledge related to paperwork and the legal aspects of the job. The training also covers office skills and math and English basics. Apprentices may also attend regional training sessions in person, but will be reimbursed for travel if they do so.

Once the training is complete, CVS pays for candidates to take their certification exam which, if they pass within 180 days, qualifies them for an available full time position in the company, either at their 'home store' or another branch.

Successful apprentices are also given a separate certificate and letter of recommendation that can be given to other employers to assure them that the candidate is qualified to work as a pharmacy technician.

Not every candidate who makes a request will be given training. Suitability for the Rx tech position is decided by managers and via a series of online tests and assessments.

In addition, candidates must be 18 years old at the time that the training ends, primarily because taking the PTCE or the ExCPT now requires that. In most cases a high school diploma or GED are required as well and basic physical requirements will need to be met as well.

For those who do 'make the cut' however the training they receive as a CVS ​pass the certification exam is usually comprehensive and a great foundation to pass the certification exam that will allow them to become a full time pharmacy tech at CVS or, should they prefer, in another setting. The fact that the training is paid - usually at the candidates current CVS pay rate - is a bonus for many as well.

In addition to promoting from within CVS also works in many states with local social service offices to help provide pharmacy technician training and job opportunities for TANF recipients to help them get started in a new career.

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The Pharmacy Tech Training CVS Experience

If there is one thing that most of those who have been through CVS pharmacy technician training agree on is that it is hard work. This, however, is something that is true of all retail pharmacy tech positions. It is a demanding and very varied job, and the typical day for a CVS pharmacy technician involves a great deal of interaction with both other pharmacy staff and customers.

In terms of salary, something that is obviously very important to most people, CVS Pharmacy does not have a standard pay scale and hourly wages vary according to the state a candidate is working in. During their apprenticeship, as previously mentioned, candidates are paid at the prevailing rate of their current role, which will usually vary between $8 and $10 per hour.

After certification, the average national hourly wage for a new retail pharmacy technician is between $11 and $14, but that figure may rise in larger urban areas.

"Nationally, there are nearly 400,000 pharmacy technicians who earn an average salary of $30,000."  CVS Health

CVS Pharmacy also offers it Rx techs a relatively extensive benefits package, including all the following, which they become entitled to after 90 days of employment:

  • A comprehensive health insurance package, which can, if employees chose, include vision and dental coverage as well.
  • Paid leave offered at the rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked for sick leave and between 20 and 30 paid vacation days off after one year.
  • Paid maternity/paternity leave of four weeks after an employee has been with the company for over 12 months.
  • 401K
  • Some tuition reimbursement for career related ongoing education.
  • CVS store discounts
  • Wellness programs for both mental and physical health issues

CVS Pharmacy Technician Growth

As a CVS pharmacy technician there is ample room for growth.

There are opportunities for technicians to advance into supervisory or management roles and, in some cases, return to school to move into professional health care occupations within CVSH, such as pharmacists or nurses.

In addition, the growth of the company's Minute Clinic offerings is opening up opportunities for pharmacy technicians to work even more closely with patients and get a broader experience of the medical field in general.

Find more information about how CVS Health is shaping the future of health at https://www.cvshealth.com/.

Search Pharmacy Technician Programs

Get information on Pharmacy Technician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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