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Become an Oncology Technician: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become an oncology technician. Research the job description and the education and certification requirements, and find out how to start a career as an oncology technician. View article »

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  • 0:03 Become an Oncology Tech
  • 1:00 Enroll in a Pharmacy…
  • 1:32 Get Certified
  • 2:40 Enroll in a Tech…
  • 3:00 Maintain Certification

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Video Transcript

Become an Oncology Technician

Oncology technicians are pharmacy technicians who have chosen to specialize in oncology, which is the branch of medicine dealing with cancer. Pharmacy technicians work in concert with pharmacists in a variety of medical settings, and their primary job duties include preparing and distributing medication to ailing patients.

Training for this career generally occurs through on-the-job. Students may pursue postsecondary education as well, starting with a pharmacy technician program and then specializing in oncology. Oncology technicians need good communication and organizational skills, as well as attention to detail. They also must be able to use general office and medical records software. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that pharmacy technicians in general earned an average annual salary of $31,680 as of May 2015.

Degree Level High school diploma required; postsecondary education recommended
Licensure and/or Certification Two organizations offer certification: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
Key Skills Good communication and organizational skills; attention to detail; computer skills using general office and medical records software
Average Salary (2015) $31,680 (for all pharmacy technicians)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Let's trace the steps involved to become an oncology technician.

Step 1: Enroll in a Pharmacy Technician Program

To compete for most oncology technician jobs, candidates need formal education. Aspiring pharmacy technicians might choose to enter a certificate or associate's program in pharmacy technology. These programs can be completed in one year to two years and are found at vocational schools and community colleges. Course topics can include medication dispensation, record keeping, and pharmaceutical ethics. Most programs also provide hands-on experience through clinical training periods.

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Step 2: Get Certified

Depending on a pharmacy technician's home state and employer, certification might be required for employment. Even if certification isn't mandatory, it can often improve job prospects. Many employers will cover the cost of certification exams for their employees.

Certification is granted by two organizations: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), which requires a high school diploma and the successful completion of an exam; and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) , which requires that candidates have a high school diploma, be at least 18 years old, and have completed a training program. Students who have not completed a training program can substitute work experience, but they must have at least one year of experience.

Success Tip

  • Enroll in an exam preparation program. Some community colleges offer programs that prepare students to take pharmaceutical technician certification exams. These programs review important ideas and concepts, such as medical terminology, calculations and measurements, and the history of pharmacy.

Step 3: Enroll in a Pharmacy Technician Oncology Program

Pharmacy technicians looking to study oncology can find certificate programs that provide specialized training. These programs might cover topics like chemotherapy preparation, therapeutics, advanced calculations, and pain management.

Step 4: Maintain Certification

Practicing pharmacy technicians must renew their certifications every two years to confirm that they're staying informed about advancements in the field. Re-certification can be completed by taking a series of continuing education courses.

To recap, an oncology technician typically needs a certificate or associate's degree in pharmacy technology, and states or employers might require certification as a pharmacy technician. Additionally, an oncology technician might complete specialized training.

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