The Career Path of a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians have a steady job in the medical field working in pharmacies alongside pharmacists. They work with prescription medications, provide customer service and assist the pharmacist while working in the pharmacy of a medical facility or a retail store. If you’re considering a career as a pharmacy tech, this guide can help you understand how to get started and the path you can take with your career.

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Education and Training to Get Started

In many cases, you only need a high school diploma or equivalent to become a pharmacy technician, and then you would train on the job after you’re hired. Nonetheless, some states require that you get certification in this field. Also, it’s possible that a workplace will prefer certification or that certification will help you stand out compared to other job candidates.

You could get pharmacy technician certification with a training program or an exam. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board offers certification through an exam, while the National Healthcareer Association requires a training program or one year of work experience.

One path is to attend a postsecondary education program, which can be part of a community college or vocational school. A program in pharmacy technology will educate on medications as well as include subjects such as dispensing medications, pharmacy ethics, pharmacy-related arithmetic and more. Usually you would also gain hands-on clinical experience in a pharmacy. These programs often take up to a year to complete, or you could get an associate’s degree that takes a bit longer. It’s a good idea to choose a program that has been accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Career Paths and Specialties

Pharmacy technicians can work in medical facilities or retail settings, and the workplace changes the focus of the job in certain ways. For example, pharmacy techs can bring medication to patients within medical facilities. This role could differ slightly depending on whether you work for a hospital, long-term care facility or different medical setting. On the other hand, if you work in a retail setting, you could be employed by a corporate pharmacy, a department store, a grocery store or another type of store.

It’s also possible for pharmacy technicians to work outside a medical facility or retail store. Your options could include a research lab, a mail-order pharmacy, a college, a pharmaceutical company or a health insurance company, to name a few.

Also, you can become specialized through certification, a course, on-the-job training or a degree. Some examples of pharmacy technician specialties include compounding, vaccines and immunization, chemotherapy, HIV treatment, sterile products or automated medication dispensing.

Alternative Careers

If you’re interested in working in a pharmacy but in a different role than that of a pharmacy tech, you could start a career as a pharmacy aide or enter an educational program to become a pharmacist. Outside the pharmacy, you could become a technician or assistant in a different capacity within the medical field. For example, you could be a dental assistant, an ophthalmic medical technician, a medical assistant or a medical records and health information technician.

Career Advancement

While it’s possible to become a pharmacy tech with just a high school diploma, you can advance in your career. Becoming a certified pharmacy technician (CPhT) is one way to get to the next level. Then, you could move into other positions, such as a pharmacy technician instructor, a hospital day lead technician or a pharmacy affairs program manager. If you are interested in furthering your education, you could use your pharmacy tech experience as a stepping stone to advance into a career as a pharmacist.

It’s relatively easy to get started with a career as a pharmacy technician. You have other similar options in the medical field available to you, or you could start as a pharmacy technician and find room for advancement. This career puts you in a steady medical position, which can be a long-term career or a starting point to a different role.