Pharmacy technicians are important health professionals that assist in collecting patient information and filling prescription medications. As an allied health career, pharmacy techs are a vital part of the medical field.
While most allied health careers may require post-secondary education, some ways to become a pharmacy tech do not require this additional schooling.
Several routes are available for those looking to prepare for an impactful career in pharmacy technology, including enrollment in pharmacy technician programs, in-person and online training resources, advanced education, and certification.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
It is essential to know what requirements and expectations are in place before pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician. Many, if not all, pharmacy tech positions require that a person earn a high school diploma or a GED.
Beyond this initial high school degree, the requirements and skills needed to become a pharmacy technician differ depending on the company and location. Some companies may require hands-on training or certificate programs, and others may prefer to hire pharmacy technicians with advanced education.
Major pharmacy retailers, like CVS Pharmacy and Rite Aid, may offer a formal training program to teach new pharmacy technicians the ins and outs of the field. Pharmacies may offer online training programs or a mix of workbook exercises and immediate hands-on training.
If a company does not offer its own pharmacy technician programs, it may require you to enroll in a training program at a local community college or vocational school. You can request enrollment information from your chosen programs to move forward.
Becoming a pharmacy technician without prior training or certification can often be tricky. It may be beneficial to consider your first job as an experience-building position if formal training programs are the route you prefer.
With any pharmacy technician job, you will receive on-the-job training and experience. Those without continuing education may need to participate in more on-the-job training or intensive training programs before working in a pharmacy.
It is essential to review your state’s regulations to become a pharmacy technician. There are only several states where becoming a pharmacy technician is possible with only a high school diploma.
States That DO Not Require Post-secondary Education
- New York
- South Carolina
- New Jersey
Some of these states require that you apply for a license from the State Board of Pharmacy Registration. These include Missouri, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, Vermont, and Delaware.
Some pharmacies may have certification policies that require pharmacy technician certification. There are two main certifications that retail pharmacies across America widely recognize.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
A pharmacy technician can apply for certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). After passing the PTCB exam, you will become a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).
National Healthcare Association
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) is another program for aspiring pharmacy techs. The NHA requires a certification exam to become a certified pharmacy technician, known as the ExCPT.
Being nationally certified may help to give you an advantage when applying for pharmacy technician positions. A private pharmacy or retail setting will likely accept either certification exam.
States that Require Certification
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
For those looking to pursue advanced education in the field of pharmacy technology, post-secondary schooling is an excellent way to gain more training and provide an edge when applying for jobs.
A post-secondary degree may increase your chances of getting hired or receiving higher wages. Additionally, a degree can open up opportunities for career advancement.
Diploma programs offer skill-based education and pharmacy technician training. These pharmacy technician programs typically last between nine months to a year and can be an excellent way to prepare for a pharmacy technician certification exam.
Make sure the diploma program you choose is accredited by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists. (ASHSP)
Associate’s Degree Program
Associate pharmacy technician programs are a great way to receive further education in the field. You may be able to enroll in an on-campus program at a local vocational school or pursue an online program from an accredited college.
An associate’s degree is typically completed within two years and often comes with a higher cost than other options. Not only will pharmacy technicians be a part of an advanced training program, but they will also get to take courses relevant to the field, including math, biology, and pharmacy.
Associate pharmacy technician programs offer you the experience and ability to pursue further schooling or apply your skill set elsewhere. While your pharmacy will likely provide on-the-job training for these administrative tasks, handling them in an organized way is vital.
Skills Needed to Become a Pharmacy Technician
There are many necessary skills and traits needed to become a pharmacy technician. These skills ensure patient safety and optimize the healthcare experience.
Good Organizational Skills
A pharmacy technician’s job is to fill and review prescriptions for patients. It is essential to remain organized and vigilant while completing these tasks as they directly impact the health and life of patients.
Your company may also expect you to fulfill administrative tasks like processing insurance claims or filing paperwork.
Understanding of Medical Terms and Procedures
Having a sense of medical terminology is vital for pharmacy technicians. Understanding medications’ names and functions will allow a pharmacy tech to communicate with patients effectively.
Because pharmacy techs are often responsible for counting, measuring, and compounding medications, it is vital for them to understand how to read prescriptions and have a basis for how specific medications function and interact. For pharmacy technicians working in hospitals, understanding intravenous medications and how to prepare them is crucial.
Pharmacy technicians work directly with patients to provide them with their proper medications. Communicating effectively establishes a trusting relationship between pharmacy technicians and their patients. Because of this relationship, a pharmacy tech must have excellent communication skills.
Open to Collaboration
A pharmacy tech should be willing and open to collaborating with other medical professionals within the field of pharmacy operations. The medical field is full of collaboration, so a pharmacy tech must be willing to follow directions, accept constructive criticism, and be open to other ideas and perspectives.
Open to Learning
The learning process does not end after you complete a pharmacy technician training program. Healthcare is ever-changing, meaning it is important for a pharmacy technician to be able to learn and adapt quickly.
Pharmacy Technician Earnings and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, pharmacy technology will increase by 5% in the next ten years. Pharmacy technician jobs are available in drug stores, grocery stores, hospitals, and private pharmacies.
The median annual wages of pharmacy technicians are $36,740 per year.
When Pharmacy Technician Certification Helps
While becoming a pharmacy technician with just your high school diploma and a training program is possible, pursuing certification or further education may be beneficial to make the most out of your career.
In doing so, you may have less difficulty finding a job and also be able to receive higher earnings. Additionally, you may have further options to become a travel pharmacy tech in states that require certification.
Become a Travel Pharmacy Technician
Becoming a traveling pharmacy tech is an excellent way to enhance your career and gain experience in new areas.
Pursuing a travel pharmacy tech career allows you to travel to new and exciting locations while utilizing the skills and experience you have received from your schooling or training program.
It is essential to check the state regulations of your desired travel destination before accepting a position. You may need to obtain certification or provide registration documentation before working in your chosen area.
Click the APPLY button in the navigation to pursue a travel pharmacy technician career and get matched with your perfect travel pharmacy tech job!