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What is a Pharmacy Technician?
A pharmacy technician is responsible for assisting pharmacists in the workplace. Certified or licensed pharmacy technicians will take prescriptions, count tablets, bottle medication and serve customers under the supervision of a pharmacist. Requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician vary by state, but even in those states that do not require it is advised to pursue certification as it provides the training necessary to work and provides an advantage over other potential employees.Pharmacy technicians provide a solid backbone for a pharmacy and pharmacist, being legally allowed to perform many of the tasks that may otherwise diminish a pharmacists ability to assist customers and patients.
How To Become a Pharmacy Technician
In order to become a pharmacy technician, you will need to maintain a mentality of a lifelong learner and complete a series of steps detailed below. The five steps you will need to adhere to in order to become a pharmacy technician are:
- Obtain a Professional Certificate: Earning a professional certificate like the CPhT or an associate’s degree from an ASHP accredited college or university is the first step in your quest to become a pharmacy technician. Although not required, hiring managers and pharmacy owners look favorably upon applicants that invest in their education to learn the foundational elements of their craft. With formalized classes like pharmacology, pharmacy technology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy law, and pharmacy operations, students will quickly learn the trade from 6-12 months depending on the number of classes taken in the certificate program and 24 months for the associate degree program.
- Get Trained: The next step in the process is to acquire valuable OJT or on-the-job-training. Getting trained through a series of clinical practicum through the college or university plus hands-on learning at a retail pharmacy outlet, drugstore, or medical facility.
- Board Certification: The third step in the process is to become board certified by the National Healthcare Center (NHC) or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). While some states require a pharmacy technician to become board certified and others do not yet mandate a board certification, many employers will only hire a board-certified pharmacy tech.
- Specialize: After earning your professional certificate, gaining essential training, and earning your board certification, you should consider specializing in your craft. From working at an insurance carrier to a community pharmacy, specializing will provide deep insight into a specific organization versus being a generalist with a little knowledge about a few entities.
- Continuing Education: The fifth and final step in the process is about maintaining a mentality of being a lifelong learner. By creating a growth mindset and committing to never stop learning will make the required twenty hours of continuing education a piece of cake.
Best Pharmacy Technician Programs
The best pharmacy technician programs are the ones that fit you: your goals, your aspirations, your learning style, and your priorities. Key elements of a solid pharmacy technician program are the school’s accreditation, certification prep, and learning modalities.
- Accreditation: Both the COC and ASHP are independent, third-party accrediting bodies that assess and audit pharmacy technician programs around the country. By enrolling in a nationally accredited pharmacy technician program, you are signaling to prospective employers your understanding of the industry and commitment to becoming a professional in pharmacy.
- Certification Prep: The next consideration is to understand what help the school provides students prepare for the PTCB certification examination or the NHA certification exam. Whether in class or online, the school should offer clinical experience and externships to provide students with an optimal number of hands-on learning opportunities prior to sitting for a certification exam.
- Learning Modalities: Most students prefer to blend classroom learning with hands-on learning. During your application process with the school, take the time to understand what partnerships the school has with hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies in the community that extend learning opportunities outside the classroom.
Popular Job Titles of a Pharmacy Technician
The job of a pharmacy technician can be found across the entire country from large metro areas on the coastal regions to rural communities in America’s heartland. As such, you will find a number of titles used to describe the job of a pharmacy technician depending on the employer and scope of job responsibilities for a given job. We have assembled a list of commonly used job titles for a pharmacy technician below for your future reference:
- Lead Pharmacy Tech, Certified Pharmacy Technician
- Accredited Pharmacy Technician
- Senior Pharmacy Technician
- Technician, Inventory Specialist
- Lead Pharmacy Technician
- Billing and Quality Technician
- Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
- Compounding Technician
- Lead Pharmacy Tech
- Pharmacy Technician or Pharmacy Tech
Job Responsibilities of a Pharmacy Technician
In a recent survey of Pharmacy Technicians completed by the U.S. Department of Labor, professional from around the country provided unique insight into their jobs. The survey gathered fascinating information about a pharmacy tech’s job duties and responsibilities. The top 5 job responsibilities of a pharmacy technician include the following:
- Be a customer resource to address basic concerns, finding products, and relaying information to the pharmacist of record
- Process refill requests and written prescription to verify information is accurate and complete
- Answer telephones, responding to customer and vender requests
- Complete orders by filling bottles with defined types of medications and properly affix label
- Manage storage and security of prescription drugs
Educational Requirements for Pharmacy Techs
Programs for pharmacy technicians take between six months and two years. A program for becoming a pharmacy technician will provide students with a basic education and understanding in chemistry, pharmaceuticals, and customer service. Students will learn the basic operations of a pharmacy, and depending on the state, the various tasks that they may perform in a pharmacy setting. Additionally students will study basic business, accounting and law classes for a better understanding of some of the non-pharmaceutical aspects of the business. As a result, students of such programs will have a well rounded understanding of how pharmacies operate by the time a program is completed.
A curriculum in a pharmacy technician program may include:
- Chemistry for Pharmacy
- Business Office Machines
- Medical Terminology
- Pharmacy Law
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Employment Opportunities for Pharmacy Techs
Pharmacy technicians will find work within the numerous pharmacies located throughout the United States. These include those found in hospitals, supermarkets, large pharmacy chains and privately owned pharmacies. The role of a pharmacy technician is to assist a licensed pharmacist in customer care and preparation, though pharmacy technicians are typically unqualified to answer questions regarding treatment or medication. Pharmacy technicians provide assistance in the daily operations of the pharmacy. Some individuals may pursue a career as pharmacy technician then pursue the education necessary to become a pharmacist alongside their work. PharmD programs often choose pharmacy technicians due to their experience and knowledge making them better candidates as pharmacists.
States with the Highest Employment of Pharmacists
- California 34,870
- Texas 33,030
- Florida 27,660
- Illinois 19,330
- New York 17,660
Top Paying States for a Pharmacist
- Washington $42,170
- California $39,760
- Alaska $39,600
- North Dakota $38,510
- Oregon $37,990
Largest Employers of Pharmacists
- Health & Personal Care Stores 207,480
- Medical and Surgical Hospitals 61,530
- Grocery Stores 31,300
- General Merchandise Stores 30,270
- Department Stores 12,770
Pharmacy Technician Career Outlook
The job market for pharmacy technicians is expanding as the population gets older at a projected rate of 9% through 2024 which will add approximately 34,700 jobs during this reporting period. The demand for pharmacists is expected to increase in the coming years and in turn the demand for technicians is also expected to increase. Currently there is a shortage of pharmacists, as there are not enough programs producing pharmacists to meet the demands of populace.
This gap is expected to grow as healthcare becomes more readily available to the populace, and the average age of the citizenry of the United States increases. As a result, the growth of positions for pharmacy technicians is expected to increase to offset the lack of pharmacists available as a whole, and increasing opportunities for technicians as a whole. As the market increases, so do the responsibilities of the technician which over the years have seen the inclusion of clerical work, mixing, and intake quickly becoming part of the technician's job. Though there is little room for advancement, in larger pharmacies or stores it is possible for experience technicians to obtain supervisory positions.
Though it is possible to work in a pharmacy without certification or licensure, ones income will dramatically increase if they choose to do so. The average income of a pharmacy technician is approximately $30,920. One should see an increase in income with certification. Individuals who maintain long term employment or garner significant experience may also see increases in pay over the course of their career. Those who work in larger pharmacies and obtain supervisory positions will be among the highest earners.
Additional Resources for Pharmacy Students
- American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)
- American Society for Pharmacy Law (ASPL)
- American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (ASCP)
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)
- Professional Compounding Centers of America (PCCA)
- American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP)
- College of Psychiatric and Neurologic Pharmacists (CPNP)
- American Society of Pharmacognosy
- American Institute of the History of Pharmacy
- American Pharmacists Association (APhA)
- American Society for Automation in Pharmacy (ASAP)
- American Society for Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics (ASCPT)
Those seeking a career as a pharmacy technician may also want to consider a career as a physical therapy assistant, occupational therapist assistant, or medical assistant. For additional information on pharmacy, check out our Pharmacy Career Guide on our blog.