Where to Find Pharmacy Tech Job Training
Pharmacy technicians have many duties. Being a part of the medical field, they have to work to ensure and improve patients’ health. They must be skilled in many areas and undergo extensive training to work in this fast-paced environment.
Some technicians choose to get formal education to prepare for this career, while others may opt for on-the-job training through pharmacy technician programs.
What Is It Like to Be a Pharmacy Technician?
A pharmacy technician works under a pharmacist to dispense medication to medical professionals or consumers. Their daily tasks include receiving written prescriptions, measuring the medication, confirming the prescription’s credibility, and packaging/labeling the medication.
Certain pharmacy technicians may also mix/compound medications, depending on their level of expertise and the state where they work. Some may specialize in specific areas, such as immunizations or chemotherapy medications.
A pharmacy technician’s job and duties are very fast-paced and can have you jumping from one thing to another. Therefore, you must have impeccable organizational skills and quick thinking.
A look into the life of pharmacy technicians includes printing bottle labels, checking the refill books, following up on medical donation programs, counting prescriptions, ordering medications, scheduling and setting any volunteer pharmacists and technicians and handling prescription pick-up.
To be successful in this career, it’s best to be exposed to all the common tasks of the job and work in multiple pharmacies. If this is your career, you have to be dedicated and have the ambition to be noticed for better positions. Always accept to work extra shifts or at other pharmacies within the hospital or chain system to show your willingness to learn and improve.
States with No Prerequisites for Pharmacy Technicians
Each state has a Board of Pharmacy that has regulations and rules around pharmacy jobs. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy has everything set out, so it’s easy to find your state’s board.
Additionally, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board has the pharmacy technician requirements by state, which helps you get started on this path. The board of pharmacy would need the aspiring pharmacy technician to be certified from two main certifications.
The states that would accept you with no training and registration are:
When you apply for the pharmacy technician job, the pharmacist or the lead pharmacy technician will train you in the duties. Some pharmacies even have an in-house pharmacy technician training program. This is a great way to get paid pharmact tech training.
These states’ small or private pharmacies give you on-the-job training. The training mainly consists of observation of the various duties and responsibilities you have to do at the pharmacy. This may go from a few hours to a couple of days.
After the pharmacy feels like you’re ready or the period is over, you will start working as a pharmacy technician. For the first couple of weeks, you will be working under the supervision of the pharmacist or leading pharmacy technician.
As you become used to the duties, you will be allowed to work with less supervision and eventually on your own. On-the-job pharmacy technician training with no prior education and experience comes with a huge learning curve. You have to have the dedication to learn the job and expect to be in training for 6 months sometimes.
Mail-order pharmacies or large retail pharmacies usually offer more formal pharmacy technician training programs for newly hired technicians. This type of pharmacy education combines classroom learning with on-the-job training.
These programs give you the opportunity to become a certified pharmacy technician.
States with Minimal Prerequisites
These states don’t need many requirements:
Pharmacy technicians in these states must be registered with the state’s Board of Health; however, no specific licensing or training is needed. If the pharmacy wants to hire you, you would have to register with the state.
This process usually requires you to pay an application fee of $25 to $150, be subject to a background check, provide proof of a high school diploma or something equivalent, and provide some proof of identity.
Most of the time, you can start working as soon as the registration documentation has been submitted, waiting for final approval. The on-the-job training is the same as in states without registration.
States that Require Training
Finally, these states require you to have completed an accredited pharmacy technician program:
- New Mexico
- South Carolina
These states have no standard training program; however, you would need to pass an exam offered by the National Healthcareer Association, which is called Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT).
This exam is difficult to pass without proper preparation or experience as a pharmacy technician. That’s why it’s better to complete a pharmacy technician program first before taking the exam.
However, there are many resources online that will help you prepare for the exam. Some websites are free, while others charge a small fee. There are also preparatory exam books that you can purchase.
The exam book sets usually consist of a lab book, textbook, medical terminology dictionary and flash cards. You will have to be extremely motivated to learn and understand the information to pass the ExCPT.
Pharmacy Technician Training Programs
On-the-job training is offered by different types of pharmacies, such as retail, mail-order, and hospital pharmacies.
Training in a retail pharmacy
Training here includes a combination of classroom education, computerized learning, and hands-on experience of being a pharmacy technician. These training programs are usually credited by the PTCB.
You must first learn all the legal factors of being a pharmacy technician. This is done through computerized lessons; however, this can be different in various states. You would read the data given in the tutorials and then be tested. If you pass, you move on to the following tutorial. If not, you must repeat it until you’ve mastered it.
You need to know information such as the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) standards, which guide you in handling patients’ personal information. You have to understand these regulations, as you and the pharmacy can be fined if you do not follow the policies.
Other interactive tutorials include:
- Transcribing a prescription. You would look at some previous prescriptions, then try to put the information into a form. The computer will tell you if you did it correctly or not. This helps you read prescriptions quickly and find the needed data. It also helps you learn ‘sig codes,’ which are short-from words. For example, the pharmacist may write ‘every 4 hours’ as ‘q4h’.
- Matching generic names to brand names. Typically, brand-name medication is very pricey. It is important to know, so you can substitute brand names with generics when necessary.
Once you have mastered these tutorials, you then shadow one of the pharmacy technicians. They will explain what they do at each task and why they must do certain procedures. This usually starts with working at prescription pick-up and drop-off windows.
After mastering this, then you will start filling prescriptions. Then as you settle, you will be skilled in the administrative factors of your duties. Your training program may take 6 weeks or 6 months, depending on how fast you learn.
Pharmacies (such as Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid) that use the pharmacy technician certification board training programs would usually have you take classes.
Training in a mail-order pharmacy
Mail-order pharmacies have very different working conditions than retail pharmacies. The most significant difference is that you do not have any customers to deal with. While you may perform the same duties, pharmacy technicians who work in a mail-order pharmacy only deal with customers through the phone or email.
Large mail-order pharmacies handle many prescriptions daily and work like factories. This is much more fast-paced than the retail or smaller mail-order pharmacies. These pharmacies have various departments to handle mixed kinds of duties.
An example is:
- Pharmacy technicians who deal with customer service
- Those who input prescription data
- Those who handle the insurance claims
- Those who process shipping orders for prescriptions
The pharm technician may operate in a certain department in a mail-order pharmacy. In this case, you may only be trained in that area. You may also be trained to use the dispensing machine that fills prescriptions.
Training in a hospital pharmacy
Most hospitals would only hire certified pharmacy technicians with three to five years of experience in the field. When you train in a hospital pharmacy, you will find that it is only focused on hospital procedures and policies.
This includes learning to use the computer system and motorized equipment commonly used in the hospital pharmacy. Hospitals need their pharmacy technicians to be extremely skillful in executing their duties. You would complete your on-the-job training in 2 weeks.
It would be best if you considered your long-term career goals when doing your pharmacy technician job training. If you want to work in the hospital, it’s best to start with a training program in the retail pharmacy first, as it provides in-depth training that can lead you to be certified. If you do not like dealing with customers, then mail-order pharmacies are the best choice.
Is the pharmacy technician certification exam difficult?
The PTCB exam difficulty depends on a variety of factors, such as how much you studied, what questions you have to tackle, and how good you are at taking a test. The average pass rate for the exam is 72%, which is high!
However, the 90 multiple-choice questions on the exam are randomized, which means that each person will be faced with different questions. This is why you have to be prepared for everything and anything.
Why should you consider a pharmacy technician training program?
You can earn up to $35 100, according to the May 2020 data from the Labor statistics. There is also room for advancement by getting additional certifications, such as hazardous drug management or immunization, which can bump up your earnings.
Pharmacy technicians are crucial to the healthcare industry and will always be in demand. It is unlikely that their duties will be outsourced or automated, which ensures job security. This is excellent, as you can be a pharmacy technician with or without formal training.