How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Research the requirements to become a pharmacy technician. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in pharmaceutical technology.

Should I Become a Pharmacy Technician?

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist and are responsible for dispensing medications. They must always direct patient questions about health or prescription medications to a pharmacist. Pharmacy technicians' duties include filling prescriptions and interacting with patients. In order to fill a prescription request, they might count, measure, weigh, pour or mix the medication. After a pharmacist has verified and validated a prescription, technicians choose a container and prepare and affix the label. Other duties pharmacy technicians can be responsible for include completing insurance claim forms, stocking inventory and maintaining patient profiles. Pharmacy techs often spend many work hours standing, and some may work weekends and nights.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma; formal training resulting in a certificate and associate's degree preferred by some employers
Degree Field Pharmacy technology
Training Many technicians learn through on-the-job training
Licensure and Certification Most states have regulations for pharmacy technicians, which may result in a license; some states and employers require certification
Key Skills Customer service, organizational, listening and math skills; attention to detail; ability to use automatic bottle filling machines and label-making software
Salary $29,810 per year (2014 median salary for all pharmacy technicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine

Step 1: Complete a Pharmacy Technician Program

There are no formal education requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician beyond a high school diploma. However, many employers prefer job applicants who have completed a formal training program. Pharmacy technician programs can be found at community colleges and vocational schools. Programs generally award a certificate or associate's degree and can last between one to two years. In these programs, students become familiar with medications, pharmacy procedures, pharmaceutical terminology and pharmacy law.

Success Tips:

*Participate in an internship. An internship may be part of a pharmacy technician program or available after an individual has completed their educational requirements. Interns are able to work and learn under the supervision of a professional pharmacy technician and gain valuable experience in the field. This is also a chance for individuals to learn about dosage, names and actions of different medications

Step 2: Learn State Requirements.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that many states have regulations for pharmacy technicians. This could include the number of formal training and continuing education hours required, exams and fees. Depending on a state's regulatory laws, pharmacy technicians may be recognized with a license after passing an exam. Prospective technicians should check with their state's Board of Pharmacy to determine what's necessary to pursue employment.

Step 3: Consider Becoming Certified

Although not all states and employers require pharmacy technicians to be certified, voluntary certification may be helpful when seeking employment. Two organizations that offer certification examinations are the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Both organizations offer the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) designation. Eligibility requirements for the CPhT exam include a high school diploma and, in the case of the NHA, completion of a pharmacy technician training program or at least one year of experience in the field. To maintain certification, both organizations require pharmacy technicians to earn a minimum of 20 continuing education (CE) credits over a two-year period.

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