Becoming a Pharmacy Technician is a great career choice. The ratio of benefits and pay to educational requirements is better than the average career. To gauge future success as a pharmacy technician, a few traits are common: a tendency to like math, interpersonal communication skills, customer service skills, familiarity with Windows-based computer applications, multitasking, and organization. Assuming you already understand what do pharmacy technicians do, here are the steps you will need to take in order to become one:
In high school, taking algebra very seriously is essential. Basic algebra skills are used daily in the technician’s life. During your PhT course, you will have a subject called Pharmacy Math, so it’s better to prepare in advance. A communications course would be very beneficial to those not immediately people-friendly. Working with the public is a requirement for the retail technician, whereas working with a large number of associates is common in hospital settings. This is the skill which interviewers test very carefully.
Step 1: Enrollment & Getting a degree
Some establishments (in states that don’t require the certification) still can hire pharmacy technicians without formal training. However, even though training and therefore, certification is not officially required, the vast majority of employers still want to see it accomplished and usually hire candidates with degrees. Finding these places that offer on-the-job training are becoming further and fewer between. The best locations would be small business owner pharmacies or hospitals in small- to medium-sized cities. Larger cities, larger hospitals, and some chain retail establishments require some previous experience or formal training.
Many technical colleges and universities offer a pharmacy technician program. Associate’s degrees and certificates or technical diplomas are the most commonly available. Usually, the duration of these courses is within 6 months for a diploma and 24 months for an Associate’s Degree.
Most certificates or programs include classes like Medical Terminology, Pharmacy Law, Fundamentals of Prescription Reading, Physiology, Pharmacology, Pharmaceutical Calculations, and Pharmacy Parenteral Admixtures, Software Application (usually, each of large chain retailers uses it’s own software, but you will get a general overview, plus although they are seem different at a first glance, they work in a very similar way).
Getting a degree online is becoming more and more popular among prospective pharmacy techs, since it offers the same curriculum you would get in a ground school, but at more affordable cost, plus it lets you to combine education with part- or even, full-time employment. This is extremely popular since many of the current pharmacy technicians have transferred from other careers, and had to work during their training to support their families. More and more schools are offering hybrid programs where you study online and need to attend a schools for laboratory work.
Additional advantage of online courses is that they are self-paced, so if you dedicate more time, it’s possible to accomplish your training in a short amount of time.
Step 2: Internship
This is an important step towards your dream job which gives you valuable experience and a great advantage over other candidates. In many schools it’s part of training course, which students accomplish at later stages of their degree. Usually, your school will have arrangements with a number of internship sites – large chains (like Walgreens or Target pharmacies) or local hospitals.
Sometimes, schools will not offer internship assistance and placement, so in this case you will have the following option: volunteering at a hospital. Assuming you will already have the knowledge and skills acquired during training, this will not be hard to arrange.
However, we recommend to request information from as many schools as possible to find out whether internship is provided as part of curriculum.
Step 3: Certification
After completing the program, the next logical step is to consider certification. Sixteen states currently require certification to work as a pharmacy technician. Two certifying bodies (Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and National Healthcareer Association (NHA)) offer exams, that upon successfully passing, allow the technician to use the title CPhT (Certified Pharmacy Technician). Four of the sixteen states requiring certification will only accept PTCB’s endorsement, and to take the NHA exam, one year of experience or a completed pharmacy technician program is required. Other states have their own requirements for certification and licensure. Remember to check with your state pharmacy board since requirements can change and we’re not always able to update them immediately.
Most of the training programs cover areas from exam, so you will be ready to take it once you graduate. However we suggest to start your preparation for certificate exam in advance to make sure you fill all the gaps.
Except your core area of knowledge, exam also contains questions about inventory handling and maintenance, administration and pharmacy management, etc.
Employment options for certified pharmacy technicians are much greater than for non-certified.
Finding your first job
As the baby boomer generation ages, the work of pharmacy technicians continues to grow. The employment outlook is much greater than the average career. With education and certification, employment is fairly easy to acquire. The industry prefers business-casual attire, strong interpersonal skills, descent algebra skills, and being fluent with related applications are extremely helpful. Most every pharmacy now uses a computerized system for processing orders and filling prescriptions.
To remain certified, you will to earn additional 20 CE (continuing education) credits. This is because of market demand: new drugs and technologies are being introduced constantly, so you need to remain up to date. Luckily, the credits can be earned through online education. Same process applies when your certification expires. If it’s expired for more than 1 year, you will need to retake your certification exam.
After a few years of experience, receiving a supervisory role – becoming the lead technician or being the head of projects is the next step in the career path. Lead technicians receive more responsibilities, more pay, and are usually considered a management position, in charge of any number of technicians.
Very often pharmacy technicians become pharmacists. This option requires additional training (again, you can find online options), but offers a more challenging and interesting job.
The career path of a pharmacy technician is rewarding with strong employment outlook, job security, and a benefits package. The minimal training and schooling time involved before joining the workforce makes this career choice an excellent one.