How to Become a Pharmacy Technician: A Step-by-Step Guide

By HealthJob Editors | Updated on Jun 26, 2023

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How to Become a Pharmacy Technician: A Step-by-Step Guide
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Pharmacy technicians play a crucial role in health care settings, helping pharmacists and other medical professionals dispense 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 pursuing this opportunity.

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 healthcare providers and patients
  • Preparing medication, including counting, measuring, and mixing medications as needed
  • Labeling and packaging medications for dispensing
  • Maintaining an accurate inventory of medications and supplies
  • Ensuring that medications are stored properly
  • Providing attentive customer service, answering questions, and addressing medication concerns

Steps to Become a Pharmacy Tech

The work of a pharmacy technician is important and specialized, so what qualifications do you need to do the job? To learn the skills and get the qualifications you need to get a job in the field, you will have to complete the following steps.

Step One: Get 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 help 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're ready to enroll in a pharmacy technician certificate or degree program. These programs can be found at community colleges, vocational schools, and online institutions. There are lots of different programs to choose from, so it's important 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: It's probably best to select a program that offers hands-on experience through an externship or clinical rotation. This will give you valuable real-world experience and may introduce you to job opportunities once you have completed the program.


Step Three: Complete a Pharmacy Tech Course

Completing the pharmacy technician course is crucial to building the knowledge and skills required for this career. Additionally, many states and employers require pharmacy technicians to complete an accredited program before they can be licensed or certified.

Step Four: Pass 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, which is recognized nationally and usually required by employers.

Step Five: 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 Six: 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 in which 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 Seven: Find a Job

The first thing you need to do to prepare to apply for jobs as a pharmacy tech is to find out where these jobs are. These vital professionals are needed in several medical 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 they can work in, pharmacy technicians can also specialize in different areas, such as oncology, pediatrics, or nuclear pharmacy. These specializations may require additional training or certifications, but the added effort could be worth it for your career. They can lead to more fulfilling and financially rewarding career opportunities.

Why Become a Pharmacy Technician?

You may be wondering if this is the right job for you. Only you can determine how well it would fit into your life, but the field is a promising option in multiple ways. There are several reasons to consider becoming a pharmacy technician, including:

  • Job Stability: The health care industry continues to grow, and pharmacy technicians play a critical role in ensuring patients have access to the medications they need.
  • Flexibility: Pharmacy technicians can work in a wide range of settings and they have the option to pursue part-time or full-time employment. These possibilities give them the freedom to choose a schedule that fits them, so they can find 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. You can also go on to pursue a degree in pharmacy to become a licensed pharmacist.

Salary & Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $36,740 in May 2021. The highest 10 percent of earners in the field have a wage over $47,580.

The job outlook for pharmacy technicians is also positive, with employment expected to grow by 5 percent from 2021 to 2031. Like much of the health care industry, this growth is primarily due to a large aging population, which leads to increasing demand for prescription medications. Another factor that is 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 who are interested in health care and helping others. If you complete the necessary education, obtain certification and licensure, and explore job opportunities in various settings, you will be well on your way to a fulfilling and in-demand career as a pharmacy technician.

If this sounds like the career you've been looking for, start your journey today. You can find a job you'll enjoy and make a positive impact on the lives of patients and their families.

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