July 8, 2024

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician (6 Steps)

A detailed primer on becoming a pharmacy technician. In this article, we explore the education requirements and certification options available.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician (6 Steps)

Pharmacy technicians are crucial in health care settings, helping pharmacists and other medical professionals dispense, stock, and label medications. As the demand for pharmaceutical services continues to grow, so does the need for skilled and competent pharmacy technicians.

In this step-by-step guide, we will outline the education, training, and certification requirements you need to become a successful pharmacy technician, as well as the reasons you may want to consider this career path.

What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

Pharmacy technicians are vital members of the health care team. They work under the direct supervision of licensed pharmacists to perform various tasks related to medication dispensing and management. Their primary responsibilities include:

  • Receiving and processing prescription requests from health care providers and patients
  • Medication preparation, including counting, measuring, and mixing medications
  • Labeling and packaging medications for dispensing
  • Maintaining an accurate inventory of medications and supplies
  • Ensuring that medications are stored properly
  • Providing attentive customer service and answering questions

Steps to Become a Pharmacy Tech

 To become skilled and qualified as a pharmacy technician and begin working in the field, you will need to complete the following steps.

Step One: Get a High School Diploma or Equivalent Degree

The first step is to obtain your high school diploma or GED. High school courses in math, chemistry, and biology can prepare you for the tasks and skills required in this field.

Step Two: Apply to a Pharmacy Tech Certificate Course or Degree Program

Once you have your high school diploma or GED, you can enroll in a pharmacy technician certificate or degree program. You can find pharmacy tech programs at community colleges, vocational schools, and online institutions. There are many different programs, so it's crucial to find the best one for you. When selecting a program, consider the following factors:

Associate's Degree vs. Certificate: An associate's degree program typically takes two years to complete, while a certificate program can often be completed in less than a year. Both programs provide the training and education you need to become a pharmacy technician, but an associate's degree offers a more comprehensive education and may provide more job opportunities.

Accreditation: Ensure that the program you choose is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Visit their website to find a list of accredited programs. Accreditation ensures that the program meets the industry standards that employers are looking for.

Externship: Select a program that offers hands-on experience through an externship or clinical rotation. An externship will give you valuable real-world experience and may introduce you to job opportunities once you have completed the program.


Step Three: Pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Test

After completing an accredited pharmacy technician program, you will need to sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), which is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Passing this exam will grant you the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) credential, recognized nationally and usually required by employers.

Step Four: Professional Certification for Pharm Techs

Although the CPhT is the primary credential for pharmacy technicians, there are additional certifications available depending on your desired specialization. For example, you may want to pursue certification in skills such as sterile compounding, medication therapy management, or diabetes care. These certifications can open up additional job opportunities for you.

Step Five: State Certification

Each state has its requirements for pharmacy technicians, which may include obtaining a state license or registration. Be sure to research the requirements for the state where you plan to work and complete the necessary steps to obtain licensure or registration.

In general, the licensing process usually involves submitting an application, passing a background check, and completing any state-specific requirements. Maintaining your license is likely to require continuing education, so be sure to stay up-to-date with your state's regulations so you can ensure your license remains active.

Step Six: Find a Job

Pharmacy techs work in various settings, including retail pharmacies, hospitals, mail-order pharmacies and nursing homes. They also work in pharmaceutical research, drug manufacturing, or government agencies.

On top of the many settings available, pharmacy technicians can also specialize in different areas, such as oncology, pediatrics, or nuclear pharmacy. These specializations may require additional training or certifications but can lead to more fulfilling and financially rewarding career opportunities.

Why Become a Pharmacy Technician?

You may be wondering if this is the right career for you. It's up to you to decide if your personality aligns with the skills needed in the pharmacy world. To thrive as a pharmacy technician, you should be detail-oriented, possess strong communication skills, have an interest in medicine, and be comfortable working with computers.

If that resonates with you, let's explore how this career might fit into your life. There are several reasons to consider becoming a pharmacy technician, including:

  • Job Stability: The health care industry continues to grow, and pharmacy technicians are critical in ensuring patients can access the medications they need.
  • Flexibility: Pharmacy technicians can work in a wide range of settings, and they can pursue part-time or full-time employment. These possibilities allow you to choose a schedule that fits your lifestyle for a healthy work-life balance.
  • Growth Opportunities: As a pharmacy technician, you will have the opportunity to advance your career through additional training and certifications. If you choose to pursue a degree in pharmacy to become a licensed pharmacist, your experience as a pharmacy technician will serve you well.

Pharmacy Technician Salary & Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for pharmacy technicians was $37,790 in May 2022. Pharmacy technicians in hospital settings earn an average yearly salary of $45,300, while pharmacy techs in retail pharmacies earn $36,360.

Pharmacy technicians are in demand, with employment expected to grow by 5 percent from 2021 to 2031. Like most health care professions, this growth is primarily due to a large aging population, which leads to increasing demand for prescription medications. Another factor driving growth is the expanding role of pharmacy technicians in various health care settings.

Becoming a pharmacy technician is a rewarding career choice for people interested in health care, medicine, and helping others. Adults who possess a high school diploma or GED can begin working as a pharmacy tech in under a year after the successful completion of a pharmacy technician course and certification exam. 

Pharmacy techs have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings with flexible schedules, making a positive impact on the lives of patients and their families. If this sounds like the career you've been looking for, start your journey today.

More Resources

Top 10 Online Pharmacy Technician Programs: A Comprehensive Guide
Explore top online pharmacy technician programs. Discover details on costs, program lengths, eligibility, and requirements to kickstart your career in pharmacy tech.
Program outcomes may vary depending on each institution's specific curriculum and employment opportunities are not guranteed.