Steps to Become a Pharmacy Technician
Earn Your Degree or Certificate
The first step to becoming a pharmacy tech is to earn an associate’s degree or certificate. When thinking about which program to pursue, make sure they are accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). This should be your primary consideration when you research programs.
Prepare for Professional Certification
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.
Take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam
The PTCB exam is recognized in most states and is a three-part test that covers assisting the pharmacist with patients, inventory maintenance and management of pharmacy practice. The NHA test is equally rigorous, and will test your knowledgeable of prescription receipt, maintaining patient information and records, insurance claims, and inventory management.
See if You Need State Licensure
Depending upon where you choose to work, you may be required to be licensed. After all, you’ll be preparing prescriptions, answering dosage and medication allergy questions, and working with the public on a daily basis.
Associate’s Degree or Certificate?
If you decide to earn a two-year associate’s degree, you can use the credits earned in your program toward your bachelor’s degree later. A certificate will take approximately half the time, and should focus on the basics of pharmacy science, hospital practices and ethics without the expanded learning you’ll get in an associate’s program.
An associate’s degree may take more time, but will offer you the opportunity to branch out into areas such as interpersonal communications, pharmacy law, management, and over the counter drugs. Your education itself will be more comprehensive and flexible.
Online Pharmacy Tech Programs
Online colleges and universities now offer accredited pharmacy tech programs. This can be a great option if you have limited time to schedule traditional classroom courses, or if your local area does not have a program. The first thing you’ll want to research is whether they offer a certificate or associate’s program. From there, you’ll want to check to see how they arrange the on-site clinical experience portion of the course.
When you narrow down a set of online programs, make certain 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 quality they can trust.
Salary & Job Growth
Pharmacy technicians may initially earn a moderate wage, but they can receive great benefits and employer tuition reimbursement for further training. They also have opportunities to increase their wages by specializing in areas such as mail order pharmacy or long term care practice. The job outlook for the profession is promising too, with a job growth rate predicted to be faster than average by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“There’s an opportunity for the pharmacist to play a much greater role in health care, especially with what we have going on in this country with the shortage of primary-care physicians.”
– Gregory Wasson, Former Walgreens CEO
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