dcsimg

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists fill and dispense both prescription and nonprescription medication, and may even counsel patients in their use. Because mistakes can be costly -- or even fatal -- the proper training is absolutely essential. This is where pharmacy technician training programs come in. Read on to learn more about what it takes to become a pharmacy technician, and what to expect once in the field.

Pharmacy tech program requirements and prerequisites

Future pharmacy techs have a number of training paths to choose from. The one that's right for you will depend on your employer, background and state of residence. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov) reports that though many pharmacy technicians learn on-the-job, most states regulate pharmacy technicians in some way, and some even require formal training through a pharmacy technician program (more on this later). Typical state requirements:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Criminal background check
  • Some postsecondary training
  • Passing score on formal exam
  • Fees
  • Continuing education courses

Requirements can and do vary from one state to the next, and many employers prefer candidates who have gone above and beyond the minimum training requirements. Also keep in mind that pharmacy technician training programs often have their own admission requirements, like a high school diploma, a minimum grade point average, and even minimum scores on standardized tests like the SAT or ACT. It pays to do your research before settling on a particular program.

Pharmacy technician necessary skills and qualifications

As noted above, states and employers establish their own pharmacy technician requirements, which may include completing a formal pharmacy technician training program and certification. According to the BLS, both the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association certify pharmacy technicians. This process typically requires candidates to complete some degree of formal training or have at least one year of work experience under their belts. Candidates must typically renew their certifications every two years or so.

While the more technical aspects of the field can be learned either on the job or through formal training programs, the BLS highlights a number of additional, more innate qualities that serve pharmacy technicians well. Among them:

  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Keen listening skills
  • Math savvy
  • Organizational skills

Future pharmacy techs can contact professional organizations, like the PTCB, shadow a pharmacy technician on the job and contact pharmacy technician training programs to learn more about the field and its requirements.

Working environment

Pharmacy technician jobs can vary significantly from one state or employer to the next, but there are some general trends. The BLS reports that most pharmacy techs work full time, even on weekends and holidays. Those who work in 24-hour pharmacies may be asked to work night shifts, too. While most pharmacy technicians work in independent pharmacies and drug stores, the BLS notes that they can also work in hospitals, general merchandise stores and even grocery stores. They should expect to spend a great deal of time on their feet.

Good news for future pharmacy techs: The BLS projects that demand for pharmacy technicians will grow by 20 percent between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations nationally. A few factors will drive this trend, including a growing elderly population, higher rates of chronic diseases (like diabetes) and advances in pharmaceutical research. Federal health legislation that expands patient access too health insurance -- and prescription benefits -- will play a role, too.

While demand for pharmacy techs is expected to be strong overall, the BLS notes that prospects should be especially strong for candidates with experience working in retail settings. Many employers also prefer to hire formally trained and certified candidates. We recommend contacting prospective pharmacy technician schools to learn more about your options. In most cases, an admissions representative can provide you with additional data, including graduates' career placement rates and average earnings.

Sources:

"Pharmacy Technicians," Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm

Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, http://www.ptcb.org/

National Healthcareer Association, http://www.nhanow.com/home.aspx

Pharmacy Technician Schools