Become a Drug Technician: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a drug technician. Research the education requirements, training, certification information, and experience you will need to start a career as a drug technician. View article »

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  • 0:02 Should I Become a Drug Tech?
  • 1:01 Get Formal Training
  • 2:09 Earn Certification
  • 3:27 Find Employment
  • 4:04 Pursue Continuing Education

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Drug Technician?

More commonly known as pharmacy technicians, drug technicians assist licensed pharmacists in the accurate measuring, packaging, labeling, and delivery of prescription medicines. They also perform basic customer service duties, such as answering phone calls. Drug technicians might work in pharmacies or hospitals, and they tend to spend many hours standing.

Education Required High school diploma meets minimum requirements; most technicians have also completed a formal training program in pharmacy technology
Licensure and/or Certification Certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) is required in many states
Experience Varies, but many employers prefer at least one year of experience
Key Skills Strong communication, critical thinking, time management, mathematics, customer service, judgment, and decision-making skills; strong understanding of medical terminologies and different pharmaceutical brands
Additional Requirements Might need to undergo background screenings and drug tests in addition to meeting physical requirements
Salary (2015) $31,680 per year (Mean salary for all pharmacy technicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Job postings from employers (October 2012)

Let's examine the education and other requirements to become a drug technician.

Step 1: Get Formal Training

Although it's possible to begin this career with only a high school diploma, many states require that entry-level pharmacy technicians have some kind of formal training. Training programs, which usually span 6-9 months, are offered at hospitals, universities, community colleges, and vocational schools. A typical training program teaches students about properties of different medicines, proper dosage, correct dispensation practices, and appropriate professional standards and behavior. Certificate and associate degree programs in pharmacy technology are also available and generally come with more requirements.

Success Tip:

Get volunteer experience. High school and college students who want to gain experience in a hospital setting before embarking on a career as a drug technician might find it beneficial to spend some time as a hospital volunteer. Hospital volunteers are often given rudimentary training in basic health care issues, such as hospital safety and patient confidentiality policies. Entry-level applicants who have volunteered in a hospital setting might be more desirable to prospective employers.

Step 2: Earn Certification

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) is a nationally standardized exam administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) that's designed to evaluate the knowledge and competence of pharmacy technicians. The test consists of three sections that cover topics like patient assistance, inventory control, and pharmaceutical administration. Many employers require that prospective employees hold certification from the PTCB.

Certification also might help individuals fulfill requirements in states that regulate the practice of drug technicians. Additional state requirements can include meeting certain age requirements, passing a background check, and providing proof of training. States also typically accept certifications earned by passing the National Health Career Association (NHA) Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT).

Success Tip:

Register as a pharmacy technician trainee. Some states allow pharmacy technicians who are still working on their certification to register as pharmacy technician trainees. Trainees can gain employment while still completing the certification process. They're typically required to complete their certification in one to two years.

Step 3: Find Employment

Drug technicians may be employed in a variety of retail and institutional environments, including independent pharmacies, hospitals, grocery store pharmacies, and nursing homes. Occasionally, drug technicians are employed by police departments or other government entities that administer drug and alcohol tests.

Success Tip:

Complete an internship. Some schools offer internships to students enrolled in their programs. Many major pharmacies also offer internships. These internships can last around ten weeks and sometimes lead to opportunities for career advancement.

Step 4: Pursue Continuing Education

Many state governing bodies require that drug technicians regularly renew certifications by earning additional hours in adult education courses. The number of hours required by each state varies.

Success Tip:

Join the National Pharmacy Technician Association, which offers its members online classes, exam study guides, information about advanced certification programs, and job information.

Remember, to become a drug technician, you might need formal training and certification to meet employer or state requirements.

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