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How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies under the supervision of pharmacists. Their tasks include anything that does not require the professional judgment of the pharmacist, such as measuring, packaging, and labeling medication. Pharmacy technicians who work in retail pharmacies take prescriptions and insurance information from customers, accept payment, and arrange for consultations with customers who need guidance from the pharmacist.

Many pharmacy technicians work in hospital pharmacies, and, in addition to the tasks of a retail pharmacy technician, may deliver medications to patients around the hospital and prepare medications that are delivered intravenously.

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What kind of training is required to become a pharmacy technician?

The training required of a pharmacy technician varies by state, but many states require technicians to complete a training program of some sort, whether it is an associate degree program or a certificate program. Pharmacy technician training is typically offered by community and technical colleges.

Students in pharmacy technician certificate programs take courses in topics like pharmacology, chemistry, pharmacy math, pharmacy technician duties, customer service, laboratory skills, and pharmacy computer applications. Students in associate degree programs take many of these courses as well, but they also take more general education courses and study pharmacy topics at a greater depth. They may also learn about antiseptic techniques, pharmacy law and ethics, medical vocabulary, and records management.

Both certificate and associate degree programs typically include an externship where pharmacy technicians can practice their skills in a real pharmacy. Students may be placed in a nursing home, hospital, outpatient clinic, or a retail pharmacy.

Are there any certification or licensure requirements?

Licensure requirements for pharmacy technicians vary widely by state. Some states require pharmacy technicians to complete some college education or pass an examination to obtain a license, while others only require technicians to register with the state. In Georgia, for example, pharmacy technicians can register with the state if they pay a fee, pass a criminal history background check, are at least 17 years old, and have a high diploma or GED or are currently enrolled in high school.

States that set higher standards may require that pharmacy technicians hold a certificate or associate degree in their field. Some states grant licenses only to pharmacy technicians who are certified by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board.

To earn certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, pharmacy technicians must have a high school diploma or GED, disclose past criminal activity, and pass a certification exam. Technicians who earn certification must renew it every two years by completing continuing education.

How long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?

In states that do not require pharmacy technicians to earn a certificate or associate degree, pharmacy technicians can begin working in pharmacies as soon as they meet age requirements. Certificate and associate degree programs can take one to two years to complete.

What does a pharmacy technician earn?

The median yearly pay for pharmacy technicians in the United States was $29,320 in 2012. The top ten percent of technicians earned more than $42,400 and the lowest ten percent of earners made less than $20,580 that year.

Pharmacy technicians who worked in ambulatory care centers and hospitals made the highest median wages at $35,470 and $33,550, respectively.

What are the job prospects?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of pharmacy technicians in the United States will grow by 20 percent between 2012 and 2020. The BLS attributes this fast growth to the need to care for an aging population. As people live longer, they typically require more medication. Increased access to health insurance and health care is expected to increase demand for pharmacy technicians as well.

Job prospects should be best for pharmacy technicians who have education, training, and certification.

What are the long term career prospects for pharmacy technicians?

Pharmacy technicians who gain training and experience can advance into higher-paying jobs in their field. Those who want to return to school and pursue a related career path may decide to become pharmacists, lab technicians, or nurses.

How can I find a job as a pharmacy technician?

Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of settings, so your job search should not be limited solely to retail pharmacies. You can seek openings in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and outpatient care facilities.

If you complete a pharmacy technician training program, you will most likely complete an externship in one or more pharmacy settings, and you may make contacts who can offer you a job after graduation or give you information about opportunities in other locations in the area.

How can I learn more about becoming a pharmacy technician?

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists devotes a portion of its website to information about pharmacy technicians.

You may also find it helpful to talk to a technician who works at a local pharmacy to see what kind of training they’ve completed and to learn what they find challenging and rewarding about their job.

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