PHARMACY TECHNICIAN EDUCATION
Welcome to PharmTechs.org where we tell you all about how to become a pharmacy technician. There are many different paths, and we will give you the information you need to get the information you need to be successful.
PHARMACY TECHNICIAN RESOURCES
What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?
A pharmacy technician is a professional who works alongside a pharmacist to dispense medications and helpful information to those in need. As a pharmacy tech, you might work in any number of environments, such as retail pharmacies, mail-order pharmacy companies, hospitals, nursing homes and any sort of medical facility that deals in a high volume of prescription and other medications.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
To become a pharmacy technician, you will need a good deal of training and education. You will likely need a special certification: Certified Pharmacy Technician (CphT.) This certification is only available once you pass a rigorous exam, typically called the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), which is dispensed through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board.
HOW TO BECOME A PHARMACY TECHNICIAN
Earn Your Degree or Certificate
The first step to becoming a pharmacy tech is to achieve a postsecondary degree or certificate. You can often satisfy your state’s pharmacy board with a certificate program should take less than a year. You might also consider a two-year associate’s degree to flesh out your education with more in-depth pharmacy courses. A full AA degree will give you the vital liberal arts background that can make a difference in the professional world.
As you study, your coursework will cover many different areas pertaining to your future career in pharmacy. Your course load may include some of the following:
- Pharmacy Law
- Ethics in Pharmacy
- Healthcare Systems
- Medical Terminology
- Pharmaceutical Calculations
When considering which program to pursue, make sure that they are accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). This should be your first step when you research programs. If your education is not from a fully accredited institution, it may not serve you well in the job market. Not only will the instruction be sub-par, but your credentials will not carry the full status you desire or deserve.
TAKE ON GREATER RESPONSIBILITY
As the population ages, pharmacy technicians may be needed to take on a greater role in pharmacy operations because pharmacists are increasingly performing more patient care activities.
– U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Begin an Externship
In the final weeks of your program, you will likely begin work in an externship program with a retail pharmacy or medical facility that has collaborated with your school to create a formal structure for you to follow. If such a structured externship is not available, have your externship approved by the faculty and administrators in your program.
Your state may require that you work with a trainee license initially. State requirements vary, so check with the governing pharmacy board that applies to you. Your school’s advisors and instructors should be able to prepare you for this step in the process.
Get Your Certification
Once you are certified, your career will be set to take off. You can choose to become certified through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Both are national organizations and their examinations are quite similar. However, you will want to take the one that is best for you.
The PTCB test is recognized in most states and will be useful if you decide to leave your state. The NHA test is equally rigorous, but the certification is not as widely recognized. If the NHA exam is available in your state, investigate the other states that recognize it. If you intend to stay where you are, or if both certificates are recognized in places you might relocate to, then take the exam you find easiest to schedule.
The NHA does not release such specific information about its examination, but you should be knowledgeable in the areas of prescription receipt, maintaining patient information and records, insurance claims and inventory management.
TYPES OF PHARMACY TECH PROGRAMS:
ASSOCIATES DEGREE OR CERTIFICATE
There are two basic types of pharmacy technician programs: associate’s programs or certificate programs. If you take the associate’s route, you will matriculate with a full degree that you can use to apply later towards a four-year degree. A certificate program will take approximately half of the time, but will streamline you directly into the job market as a pharmacy technician.
A certificate program will focus on the basics of pharmacy. You will learn about the science involved, hospital practices and ethics. The certification course should lay a firm groundwork on which to begin your career.
An associate’s degree will take more time, but will offer you the opportunity to branch out into areas such as interpersonal communications, law, and management and over the counter drugs. Your education will be more broad-based and comprehensive with a two-year degree.
What to Look for in Online Pharmacy Tech Programs
Online colleges and universities now have Pharmacy Tech programs in their degree and certification offerings. This can be a great option if you have limited time to schedule traditional classroom courses, or if your local area does not offer a satisfactory program. The first thing you will want to assess is whether they offer a certificate or associates program. From there, you will want to check to see how they arrange the experiential portion of the program.
Be sure that the program is associated with retail pharmacies or hospitals because you will need experience for your certification. You can also contact those potential employers to verify the information and to learn more about their training.
When you narrow down a set of online programs, make certain that they are fully accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). This way, you can show future employers that your education is of a caliber they can trust and believe in.
Since you are headed into a career that requires specific credentials, inquire as to how the school will prepare you for certification. It is vital to determine how well they will prepare you for either the PTCB or NHA examination. The NHA exam requires one year of work experience prior to sitting for the test, so assess how well the school will help you find qualifying work opportunities that will satisfy the NHA and your state’s particular pharmacy board.
What Does a Successful Career in Pharmacy Tech Look Like?
Pharmacy technicians are in high demand and your career path may take off in any number of ways. You might work for a national chain of retail pharmacies and find yourself climbing the ladder in that environment, or you might choose a career in a hospital or other medical environment, which offers its own set of advancement opportunities.
There are also wide range of specialized certifications in areas such as the following:
- Sterile products
- Certified pharmaceutical industry professional
- Chemotherapy specialist
- Nuclear pharmacy technician
You might also find that your career moves you into pharmaceutical sales and marketing, or other related fields.
Pharmacy Tech Salary and Job Growth
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for pharmacy techs was $30,410 in 2015. The jobs outlook for the profession was calculated as being nine percent, which is faster than the average for all careers. This is attributed to the rapid rise in demand for prescription products.
There is a range of similar healthcare jobs that don’t require a full bachelor’s degree, yet offer stimulating careers helping people with medical conditions. Other positions and their approximate median annual salaries include:
Mail-order Pharmacy Tech
FIND A SCHOOL TODAY
Tell us a little about yourself and we’ll connect you with schools that offer pharmacy technician degree programs.