If you’re looking to get into the pharmaceutical industry, working as a pharmacy technician is a great place to start. Becoming a pharmacy technician will allow you to work under the supervision of the pharmacist and gain experience handling medications.
The pharmaceutical industry is constantly growing as the research of new medication expands to meet demand from the aging population of baby boomers. Being able to help people by providing them their medication is important and there will always be a need for pharmacy technicians to help pharmacists.
If becoming a pharmacy technician sounds appealing to you, then read on to learn how to become a pharmacy technician.
What Is a Pharmacy Tech?
Pharmacy techs work under the supervision of pharmacists as they dispense medication prescribed by doctors.
What Does a Pharmacy Tech Do?
Pharmacy technicians fill prescriptions, handle customers, collect payment for medication, refill prescriptions, count medication, and package and label medication.
Pharmacy technicians listen closely to the pharmacist on how much medication to package for a patient, what dosage they should put, and then instruct the patient on the medication only from what the label says.
Essential Pharmacy Tech Skills
Pharmacy techs work in a fast-paced work environment. You must have certain skills to keep up and succeed. Some of the essential skills you must have are:
- Since you are dealing with customers medications, you want to stay organized so you have all the medications in order and ready to be given out
- Critical thinking and problem solving
- You must have critical thinking skills to fill medications efficiently and make sure records are up to date. You must be a good problem solver if any issues arise, for example, regarding insurance issues, lack of medication, billing issues, or incorrect customer information
- Communication is everything when you’re behind the counter. Making sure that you communicate effectively with customers so you understand what they need will help you be a better tech. Also, communicating with the pharmacist is important so you understand your duties
- Attention to detail and listening
- Paying attention to detail is important because when dealing with medications, you want to make sure that you do not over or underfill a customer’s prescription, accidentally giving them the wrong dosage
Difference Between a Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacist
A pharmacy technician takes instructions from a pharmacist and packages and labels medication before dispensing it to customers. This position only requires certification and some schooling.
A pharmacist needs a PhD and must obtain a state license from the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. Pharmacists focus on patient care by knowing the different kinds of medications and being able to give advice about prescription medications and any over the counter drugs.
They also know how effective the medication is and what it does for the patient. Pharmacists also communicate with healthcare physicians to receive orders on new prescriptions and understand why the patient will need that medication. They usually do not touch the medication or package them and leave that work for pharmacy techs to do.
Do Pharmacy Technicians Become Pharmacists?
You are able to go on to be a pharmacist if you would like, but it would require actual schooling to obtain a PhD. Becoming a pharmacy technician before you go on to be a pharmacist is a good way to get your foot in the door because you already have experience and knowledge about the field.
Pharmacy Tech Salaries and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary a pharmacy tech makes in the United States is $33,950. It is estimated that by 2028, there will be a seven percent increase in jobs for pharmacy technicians.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician?
If you want to become a pharmacy tech right out of high school, you are able to apply to pharmacy tech jobs as some employers will hire without the need of having a certificate or further schooling.
But, if you are looking to get an education as a pharmacy tech without getting a degree, you are able to get a pharmacy technician certification that takes about 15 weeks. If you are looking to get a degree as a pharmacy technician, you are able to get your associate degree and that takes two years to complete.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician: A Step by Step Guide
If you’re interested in working as a pharmacy tech, then follow this step-by-step process on how to launch your career.
Step 1: Graduate High School
The first step to becoming a pharmacy technician is earning a high school diploma. Most employers do not require a certificate or degree since you get on-site job training in the field. But some employers may want you to be a certified pharmacy technician to work for them.
Step 2: Enroll in a Pharmacy Tech Program (if Needed)
If you decide to enroll in a pharmacy tech training program, you can do so by taking an online pharmacy technician program or finding a school near you with a great program. Look around your area to find the best programs offered and choose one. You will learn a lot about the pharmacy field to get a head start on your career.
During your time in pharmacy tech school, you will be learning medical terminology, pharmacy law, drug classifications, and more. Some classes you will be taking in pharmacy tech school will be:
- Pharmacy Math
- Fundamentals of Chemistry
- Human Biology
- Medication Calculations for Sterile Preparations
- Pharmacology and Therapeutic Practices
All of these classes will prepare you to take your state-licensed exam and give you the knowledge you need to be successful at your job.
Step 3: Take the Exam to be Certified
If you graduated high school and choose not to go to a pharmacy tech school, then it is a good idea to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board exam. More and more employers are asking for people who have this certification. The pharmacy technician certification exam is 90 questions long and covers some of the following areas:
- Pharmacology for Technicians
- Medication Safety
- Pharmacy Law and Regulations
- Pharmacy Inventory Management
Besides the PTCB certification, you can also be certified by the National Healthcareer Association through the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (EXCPT). To get this certification, you must have completed pharmacy tech school. If you did not go to pharmacy tech school, then you must have at least one year of work experience.
The EXCPT exam has 20 pre-test questions and 100 regular questions. Some of the areas that it covers include:
- Overview and Laws
- Dispensing Process and Medication Safety
- Drugs and Drugs Therapy
Getting these certifications will help you understand more about the field and can help advance your career.
Step 4: Start Your Career
After completing your certificate programs and training, you are able to start your career. A pharmacy tech works in a few different places. Some places you can work are:
- Grocery stores with a pharmacy in it
- Drug stores
Working in any of these locations has benefits and will provide you with a great experience that you are looking for.
Should You Become a Pharmacy Technician?
Being a pharmacy tech is a fast-paced, rewarding job that gives you a great experience in the field. Being able to have control in the pharmacy by counting the medications, packaging them, and giving them to customers is a lot of work and will keep you busy throughout the day.
FAQs About Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
You must be 18 years old.
You can work in grocery stores, hospitals, and drug stores.
It is not required, but some employers will want you to have one so you understand the field better.
On average, you can make $33,950 per year in the United States.