What Do I Need to Become a Pharmacy Technician?

A Pharmacy technician is a healthcare professional who works with pharmacists, nurses and doctors to keep pharmacy inventories while preparing and packing prescribed medication for patients.

Pharmacy technicians are the people oto be certified by these bodiesn the frontline of pharmacies who greet patients when they collect their medication at pharmacy windows. Pharmacy technicians are often also responsible for particular pharmacy administrative duties like filing and processing claims and serve a critical support role to pharmacists.

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What Steps Should I Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician?

There are several steps that you should follow to cement a career as a pharmacy technician:-

1. Attain your high school diploma, or equivalent qualification

Successful pharmacy tech candidates are ordinarily good at chemistry, math, biology, and physiology. While working towards your high school qualification, you may want to participate in voluntary work at a healthcare facility to build your exposure in the healthcare field.

2. Work in a pharmacy or enroll in an accredited pharmacy technician training program

There are many pharmacy technician training programs available, including a number offering online courses that carry certification through the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). The course durations range from nine months to a year.

To obtain this ASHP accreditation, applicants must graduate from a training program certified by the ASHP and ACPE. The ASHP and ACPE recently combined to form the Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission (PTAC).

A curriculum for a pharmacy technician through the PTAC comprises several skills, including professional role awareness and client-facing skills.

The alternative to completing an accredited training program is to find pharmacy employment and gain experience to obtain national and regional certification while working. This route is more extended and less common, as many pharmacies only employ certified staff. For information on accredited training programs in your area, click here.

3. Obtain national and regional certification

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) provide regulations and certifications that ensure pharmacy technicians receive their training in a manner that befits a career in the field and conforms to set rules.

The PTCB and NHA are the certifying standards for pharmacy technicians, meaning they can receive further accreditation based on ongoing experience in their positions. Although some states do not require pharmacy technicians to be certified by these bodies, most employers require it. Although certain states do not require certification, all 50 states recognize it.

You can contact a state board through The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP), which carries a list of contact information for each state’s delegation.

4. Remain actively certified

Once certified, you must renew your certification from the PTCB or NHA every two years. Other requirements include 20 CE (continuing education) hours from the PTCB and ten from the NHA during this period.

What Do the Different Pharmacy Technician Training and Certification Entail?

Once you’ve obtained your high school diploma or its equivalent, you can decide what path to follow next. Several options are available to you, but ultimately you will want to achieve your accreditation through the PTCB or NHA. Let’s investigate your choices before applying for that accreditation and how to achieve it.

Pharmacy Technician Training Programs

Certified pharmacy technician certificate programs take less time to complete than associate degree programs do and can be successfully completed in around nine months. Most of these programs can be completed online and are designed to assist in preparing students to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), the official certification exam of the PTCB.

Some of these certificate programs offer hands-on learning experiences while working in a pharmacy.

Diploma programs take around 12 months to complete and also prepare would-be pharmacy technicians to take the PTCE. Students enrolled in a certificate or diploma program will cover topics that include pharmacology, pharmacy practice, pharmacy billing and pharmacy law.

Pharmacy technician associate’s degree

An associate’s degree program enables students to follow either an Associate of Science (AS) or an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Pharmacy Technician. Normally, either of these degree programs needs approximately 90 credits and takes about two years to complete. Some programs can be completed in 18 months or so.

Associate’s degree programs will often include an internship or externship for more practical training, with pharmacy technician associate’s programs available as online classes with in-person laboratory classes. Certain on-campus degree programs can include assisted living facilities while studying.

Common topics for pharmacy technician associate’s degree programs include pharmacology, institutional and community pharmacy, medical terminology, medication safety, and pharmaceutical calculations.

Pharmacy technician certification through employment

This path to certification means learning to perform an entry-level pharmacy technician job through working for a single employer and being trained on the job. A few pharmacy technicians adopt this route without choosing to study first, but several states don’t allow it. Pharmacy techs must be certified in those locations before they can be employed.

Training through a pharmacy

Becoming a pharmacy technician without formal education means training through a retail pharmacy, which covers every part of the position. Often, these on-the-job training programs have the backing of the PTCB or NHA, with digital learning, classroom-type lessons, and practical experience.

In-house training tutorials

A novice pharmacy tech needs to learn their job outlook and the various legal intricacies of their job, generally with the help of online training documentation. The documentation will vary between states, and the employer will evaluate the technician’s progress. They will move on to the following tutorial if they pass the evaluation or redo it if not.

Some documentation will include HIPAA regulations that only involve reading and understanding but are vitally important for pharmacy technicians to know as it guides them concerning handling patient information. Non-compliance with these regulations can result in heavy fines and even termination.

Other more-interactive tutorials require practical work like transcribing and capturing prescriptions using Sig codes and matching generic medication to corresponding brand names. Once mastering these, pharmacy technicians will shadow more experienced technicians, and finally, they’ll be allowed to begin filling prescriptions and training in administration.

Training duration

This in-house training can take up to six months to complete. Pharmacies using Pharmacy Technician Certification Board training programs also host classroom-type learning sessions.

Classroom training may only happen once or twice a year in a specific location, and a trainee pharmacy technician will only move forward once able to participate in and complete these classroom lessons.

The Difference Between Degree and Certificate Pharmacy Technician Programs

Although the practical differences between pharmacy technician programs are minimal, they will help you to be able to correctly determine which will suit you best.

A pharmacy technician certificate or diploma program

You can complete a pharmacy technology certificate or a pharmacy technician diploma program much faster than an associate degree, which means you can find employment and enter the field as a pharmacy technician sooner.

Although you still require a high school diploma or a qualification like a GED, accessibility to these courses is easier and generally less expensive.

A pharmacy technician associate’s degree program

Studying toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Pharmacy Technician, for example, is very similar to a certificate program, but there are some additional courses in subjects like English, math, liberal arts and science attached. These can be completed, mostly online, in about a semester. A college degree will take, on average, two years to complete.

Does It Make More Sense to Enroll for an Associate Degree instead of Attending Pharmacy Technician School?

There are several reasons that students choose to complete associate degree programs instead of other forms of pharmacy education for technicians, but ultimately the choice is entirely yours. Let us examine some of the benefits of both associate degree programs and online pharmacy technician programs.

Benefits of an associate’s degree program

The reasons to consider an associate degree to become a pharmacy technician are:

Commit to higher learning

A degree means you’ll attend classes that provide a complete education experience. You will attend courses like public speaking, critical thinking and problem-solving, which will help you succeed in your chosen career and also provide well-rounded life skills. Undergoing an associate degree shows a commitment to higher learning.

Future growth opportunities

A major benefit of an associate’s degree course is that you can transfer an associate degree qualification in order to study for a 4-year college degree in the future. Many degree-qualified pharmacy technicians have gone on to follow more qualified careers in pharmacology through additional study.

Students looking to advance their future prospects can transfer their credits from the college where they completed their associate’s degree to a university of their choice, depending on agreements between the institutions involved. Completing a degree gives you more opportunities for further education and a capacity for higher earnings.

Become a role model

Pharmacy technician associate’s degree programs bring opportunities for better life circumstances and afford you the chance to become a role model and motivation for friends, co-workers and family.

Study further while employed

After graduating and securing a job as a pharmacy technician, an associate’s degree affords you a better chance to continue your studies while also gaining work experience and a stable income. A pharmacy technician associate’s degree means you can begin to forge a growing, more qualified future in the healthcare field.

Benefits of a pharmacy technician certificate or diploma program

The reasons for choosing a certificate or diploma as a pharmacy technician program are:-

Finish studying sooner

Although it could take as little as one semester less to complete, a diploma or certificate or program means you can complete the quicker form of training and begin searching for pharmacy technician jobs. Whether you choose either route, you will still need to write the pharmacy technician certification exam before you’ll become a certified pharmacy technician.

The diploma or certificate program will probably suffice if you’re happy to work yourself up in your profession.

Pharmacy doctoral program admission requirements

You might be looking for the quickest and easiest route to gain admission to a doctoral program through a pharmacy school.

As most pharmacy schools need biology, physics and chemistry to qualify as an applicant, a pharmacy technician program offering a diploma or certificate could fast-track your application requirements. If this is the case, you don’t really need the degree program.

Necessary Skills for a Pharmacy Technician

Like choosing any profession, you should take time to make sure you possess the qualities and skills needed as a pharmacy technician before you make a final decision. Some of the skills that good pharmacy technicians should have are:-

  • Adaptability
  • Critical Thinking
  • Cultural Awareness
  • Management
  • Numeracy
  • Patience
  • Problem Solving
  • Professionalism
  • Safety Awareness
  • Technical Proficiency

The list above displays the varied nature of a pharmacy technician’s role within the healthcare industry. As such, the position can be exceptionally rewarding who possess the skill set but immensely frustrating for those who don’t.

Where do Most Pharmacy Technicians Work?

Pharmacies and drugstores account for 50% of the workplaces of pharmacy technicians employed in the United States. Another 17% work in hospitals, while 10% of the professionals call food and beverage stores their place of work.

While major chain pharmacies are the most common pharmacy technician employers, other pharmacy techs work at health clinics, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, health clinics, mail-order pharmacies and compounding pharmacies.

Certified Pharmacy Technician Responsibilities

Certified pharmacy technicians have broad and varied responsibilities within a pharmacy environment, including:-

  • Administrative tasks
  • Collecting and recording patient records
  • Communication with health insurance companies
  • Completing inventory checks
  • Formulating delivery schedules
  • Interaction with patients
  • Maintaining pharmacy cleanliness and organization
  • Placing medication orders
  • Pricing of medication
  • Processing prescriptions

FAQs

What does a pharmacy technician do?

Pharmacy technicians work directly under a head pharmacist’s supervision to prepare and distribute medications accurately. Their duties include maintaining inventory and patient records, placing orders, and the upkeep of regulatory requirements.

Can you progress as a pharmacy technician?

There are various levels of pharmacy technicians so that you can progress with hard work, experience and further study. In no specific order, some of these levels are clinical pharmacy specialist, pharmacist specialist, pharmacist assistant, senior pharmacy technician, lead pharmacy technician, clinical pharmacy technician and pharmacy technician.

How do I get a pharmacy technician job in a hospital?

Hospitals will generally only hire certified pharmacy technicians with three to five years of experience. If hired, the hospital will train you to use the computer system and any other necessary pharmacy equipment. Once hired, in-house hospital training typically takes up to two weeks.

What to study to become a pharmacy technician?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to become a pharmacy technician may vary depending on your qualifications and experience. However, some key things you may need to study in order to become a pharmacy technician include:

  • Pharmacy law and ethics
  • Pharmaceutical calculations
  • Prescription processing
  • Pharmaceuticals and their uses
  • Labeling and dispensing of medications

Conclusion

As a pharmacy technician, you’ll be in a profession that’s in demand. If you’re good at your job and apply the necessary application required for the role, job security should never be a concern. The demand for prescription medications in the US is constantly increasing, so the need for professionals like pharmacy technicians is also growing.

Pharmacy technicians uphold pharmacy regulations and meet critical medication dispensing needs, making them valuable healthcare industry members. With the demand for accredited pharmacy technicians expected to grow at a rate of 4% until the turn of the decade, the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects thousands of new openings in the field.