How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Before you venture into any career field, it is always very important to get to know all that it entails and so does being a pharmacy technician. Some of the specific aspects to put in mind are things like what pharmacy technicians do, their work environment, their training programs, job outlook, salary scale and so much more. It gives you an idea of what to expect and also what is required of you.

Have you been to a pharmacy? Have you seen the people that handle the pharmacy? Do you want to be a part of that team? Well, keep reading to know more about this great venture!

A pharmacy technician is the person who handles everything related to a pharmacy. They are professionals and their main job is to help the pharmacists out in preparing prescriptions upon the request of the patients and interacting with the customers that are coming.

Aren’t Pharmacy Aides the Same as Pharmacy Techs?

No. They are both completely different roles in the pharmaceutical field. Although they are different, sometimes in a smaller work environment, a pharmacy tech will be needed to perform the duties of a pharmacy aide.

Talking about their roles individually, a pharmacy technician will need to fulfill all the pharmacy related duties and provide the customers support where as a pharmacy aide will be responsible only for clerical work like handling cash, shelving and stocking, maintaining records of patients, answering phones etc.

In addition to these duties, they will also need to educate the customers on the use of prescribed drugs and medical devices. Verification of information on the prescriptions is also necessary to avoid any kind of complications or injuries.

What Pharmacy Technicians Do?

The pharmacy technician field can be quite confusing to many as they never understand what it really is about. With an interest to work as a pharmacy technician you might want to have a clue of what they do behind the counter, either at a drug store or at a hospital. There is need and emphasis on the idea of training because you will be assisting pharmacists with very delicate tasks. These include things like dosages, labeling, formulating medication and dispensing it. Their main job is said to be dispensing medication and providing customers with medication as directed by a licensed pharmacist.

The pharmacy technicians are generally a part of the whole pharmacy team because their duties also play a key role in this field of medicine. They have knowledge on how best to advise customers on a number of things and also how to give medication. You, however, need to know that in a hospital environment the pharmacy technician’s job is more specialized as they manufacture or prepare some complex medicines and this is when ready made preparations are not available.

It may seem as an easy job, the thought of dispensing medicine, but you need to know that it requires immense precision and detail. As a technician it is your job to make sure that all medications are correctly filed and that should be within a specified window of time. It is said that there are so many changes that occur in the pharmacy field, and as a technician you need to be intelligent enough to maintain knowledge on all the occurring changes.

I talked about the fact that pharmacy technician’s main role is dispensing medicine; you should, however, note that they are not the sole dispensers, but are quite effective as they help in mixing, counting, measuring and labeling dosages. Highlighted below are the main tasks of a pharmacy technician:

  • Generating stock lists and labels using a computer
  • Dispensing medication
  • Taking in and handing out prescriptions
  • Ordering specific items
  • Selling items over the counter
  • Receiving, loading and unloading deliveries
  • Medicine preparation
  • Referring customer queries to the pharmacist
  • Medicine pre-packing, labeling and assembling
  • Answering some of the customer’s questions

How do I become a Pharmacy Technician?

There is no specified requirement of training that is needed for this job but surprisingly and increasingly, the employers are now looking for candidates who are trained and certified. So, on the safe side it is always advised to have a post vocational training.

Pharmacy training technician courses are offered at hospitals, community colleges, career schools and other such places. They are affordable and short when compared to a degree in a college. This course can be completed with ease within a few months, while a college degree would take up to 2 years to finish.

Vocational training is also available online for this field. This is a very relaxed and easy option as you can do it at the comfort of your own home at your convenience. Although, if you are considering the option of doing it in a college, here are a few degree you can consider doing:

• Associate of Science in Pharmacy Tech
• Associate of Science in Medical Specialties
• Associate of Science in Allied Health

What Will My Training Include?

Your training will also include topics on pharmacology, pharmaceutical calculations, terminology, medical calculations and terminology, pharmacy regulations and law and institutional and retail pharmacy. If at all you are interested in this field, having a background on math, sciences and health would help along the way.

What About Certification? Is Experience a Must?

No, experience (other than training experience) is not a must-be certified. The requirements of a certificate will change from state to state, although majority of the states do not need the pharmacy technicians to be certified. But, keeping the completion in mind, it is always better to be a certified technician to gain a better hand at the available jobs. Being certified will result in you getting a higher pay and a choice on the duties and responsibilities.

Hands-on experience is a vital role in the training. These training programs also include internships to provide the students with a taste of the real life situations and also teach them how to handle any emergencies. If internships are not in your program, you can always ask one of your known pharmacist to make you their assistant for a while.

So, how do I get certified?

The Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) are the organizations that are responsible for conducting these certification exams.

Work Environment of a Pharmacy Technician

Now that you understand what pharmacy technicians do, we are going to discuss about their working environment. First and foremost, it is important to consider that pharmacy technicians work in several different work environments despite of the fact that they usually perform the same type of duties. These settings include:

  • Pharmaceutical industries that produce or sale medications.
  • Retail or high street pharmacies which are generally referred to as community pharmacies, dispensaries and hospitals. You’ll find that many pharmacy technicians usually work in community pharmacies or hospital pharmacy
  • Primary care organizations, prisons, education and training, the veterinary, military pharmacy as well as pharmacy organizations

Their Work Environment

As a rule, pharmacy technicians have the obligation to work in clean, well–lit, organized, and well-ventilated quarters. The majority of their workday is spent on their feet. In addition, technicians may also be required to pick up weighty boxes or at times use stepladders to retrieve medical supplies from elevated shelves.

Technicians operate the same hours that Pharmacists exert. These may possibly include holidays, weekends, evenings as well as nights. This is particularly factual in amenities that are never closed, such as retail pharmacies and some hospitals. As their precedence at work increases, they regularly attain increased influence over their working hours. There exists many prospects for part-time employment in both hospital and retail settings.

To get the full picture about the working environment of most pharmacy technicians, it would be useful to recognize the industries that employ the most pharmacy technicians.

Drug stores and pharmacies                                           52%

Private medical amenities as well

as surgical hospitals                                                          13%

General retail stores                                                           7%

Grocery stores                                                                     7%

Department stores                                                              4%

From the above information one can easily understand that pharmacy technicians primarily work in pharmacies, counting those found in drug stores as well as groceries. A number of technicians work in hospices or different healthcare amenities.

In conclusion, the working environment of technicians depends on a number of reasons.  One must be able to first ascertain the kind of pharmacy: online, retail, or hospital. Even though they share similar characteristics, all types of pharmacies offer a distinctive working environment. Plus, each one has its own exacting set of opportunities as well as challenges.

Expected Challenges

The prevalent challenge any technician is likely to encounter while working in a retail pharmacy involves consumer contact.

Being an excellent pharmacy technician means maintaining politeness, a cool head and being friendly; being helpful even when the customers are not.

Pharmacy Technician Training Programs

In order to become a certified pharmacy technician, you’ll be required to follow the following steps:

  • Finish a postsecondary education program (This step is optional)

In most countries, the certified body for pharmacy tech program is the Society of Health-System Pharmacists. In the U.S, it is known as ASHP. Various vocational schools and community colleges offer ASHP-certified programs. Many of these certificate programs can be done within a year or even less, whereas the associate degree programs normally can take up to two years to finalize. The coursework usually covers both the practical as well as the technical training in the following areas:

  • Anatomy
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacy ethics
  • Healthcare systems
  • Physiology
  • Medical terminology
  • Pharmacy law
  • Pharmaceutical calculations
  • Accomplish on-the-job training

Majority of the programs enable students to attain clinical experience during their tuition. One may also decide to get on-the-go training exclusive of a postsecondary education program (depends on state laws). Clinical practice may take the outline of a planned training curriculum at a retail pharmacy that is in partnership with the school. An alternative would be to finish a hands-on tuition at an approved medical center or pharmacy.

  • Become certified

In some countries or states, a pharmacy technician has to be certified. Also, the majority of employers will simply hire techs that are licensed by the PTCB (Pharmacy Technician Certification Board) or the NHA (National Healthcareer Association).

These certifications requires candidates to pass an exam, or students to finish a training program or attain at least a year of working experience as a  pharmaceutical technician. An applicant must have a high school diploma in order to pursue this certification.

  • Become specialized

A number of pharmacy technicians prefer to work exclusively for a retail pharmacy chain and usually complete specific training to operate as a general pharmacy tech, central pharmacy operations tech, or a community pharmacy technician, or in a similar role.

  • Maintain certification

Technicians usually do a recertification exam after every two years; they are required to pass this exam. They also need to finish at least twenty hours of ongoing education prior to sitting for the recertification test.

Categories of Pharmacy Technician Programs

  • Diploma and Certificate Programs

A drug store tech certification program or diploma can be finished in one year or less and gives the fundamental instruction and preparing expected to sit for the Certified Pharmacy Technician exam. These projects acquaint understudies with fundamental ideas in pharmaceutical innovation, record keeping, drug store law and morals, and pharmacology. They normally incorporate a mix of classroom lectures as well as lab preparing with the goal that understudies figure out how to apportion drugs, sterilize items, and oversee remedy orders.

Alumni of a one-year project can apply for passage level positions at drugstores, medical centers, and nursing homes, or with online drug store organizations. Drug store tech accreditation programs ordinarily oblige understudies to finish an externship at an affirmed pharmaceutical office, medical facility or retail drug store.

Examples of accessible courses include:

  • Prologue to Pharmacy-This course acquaints understudies with drug store practices and wording.
  • Dosage Forms and Routes of Administration-Students pick up a comprehension of how medicines associate in the body after organization and how to utilize essential mathematical standards for dosing.
  • Science of Pharmacology-This course covers the procedure by which medications are affirmed for general use, and additionally administration of drugs to patients.
  • Hospital Pharmacy Practice-This course discusses fundamental drug store operations in a clinic setting.
  • Pharmacy Ethics-Learners are acquainted with the laws and morals administering pharmacy hone. 
  • Associate Degrees

Understudies intrigued by a more complete instructive experience can enlist in a pharmacy tech associate degree program. In spite of the fact that a degree is not required to apply for section level positions, a few understudies decide to complete an Associate of Applied Science degree so that they can progress in their professions and apply for employments as an exacerbating lab expert, drug store administration professional, drug store execution master or comparable roles. Gaining a partner degree can likewise help an understudy get ready for a Bachelor of Pharmacy or a four year college education in a related field.

The far reaching two-year program covers subjects in pharmacology, drug store operations, and advanced drug administration, and may incorporate an externship part. Understudies take a progression of general courses in arithmetic, science, brain science, humanities, and English, notwithstanding medical-specific courses to satisfy degree prerequisites. Alumni of this project can prepare medicine orders, have broad information about pharmacy law, and exhibit basic understanding of medical phrases.

Examples of courses offered in associate degree program include:

  • Interpersonal Communications for the Workplace: Understudies learn compelling interpersonal relational abilities for working with clients in a medical domain.
  • Pharmacology: The chief principals of medical interactions and the human body are contemplated, alongside the medication types and their impact on the sensory system. This course normally covers essential standards of pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics.
  • Drug store Calculations: This course covers scientific calculations and best practices for overseeing calculations in a drug store.
  • Over-the-Counter Drugs: This is a survey of nonprescription medications for regular issues and best practices for overseeing client questions about self-treatment.
  • Pharmacy Law: Students learn government laws administering pharmacy practices and standards controlling technician’s exercises.

Job Outlook

The Past

In the year 2013, the BLS officially recorded that more than seventy percent of pharmacy techs had been employed. These technicians performed their duties at pharmacies, drugstores, general merchandise stores as well as grocery stores. The BLS also stated that most of the new jobs in the pharmaceutical domain were expected to emerge in related retail environments. It was also noted that about seventeen percent of technicians worked in local, private as well as state medical amenities, and that only a small percentage of them were actually working in the ambulatory health care field.

In the year 2014, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), stated that the employment of pharmacy technicians was expected to increase by nine percent from that same year to around 2024. They also suggested that technicians who had formal training or education, national certification as well as previous work experience, would be specifically sought after in order to meet these demands.

What was the outlook for Pharmacy Technician careers in the United States?

Given that an employment boom was expected for pharmacy technicians in the U.S., the BLS reported that more than seventy thousand new pharmacy technician jobs were expected to enter the workforce between the year 2012 and 2022. They indicated that this positive change was partly due to the fact that insurers had started to shift the role of the pharmacist to handle more patient care whilst also giving the technicians a more expanded role. According to Projections Central, the individual states within the U.S. that had the fastest projected growth for technicians between the year 2010 and 2020, included:

Idaho: 31.5%

Utah: 30.2%

Colorado: 30.0%

Tennessee: 26.3%

Georgia: 24.9%

The Present

Employment of technicians is expected to build up much quicker than what was previously anticipated by the forecasters through 2016, and openings for work are expected to be great.

Employment Change

The employment of technicians is expected to have increased by 32 percent by 2016; this is way faster than the normal expectation for all the other occupations. The increased number of moderately aged and elderly individuals—who utilize more doctors prescribed medications than more youthful individuals—is expected to goad interest for technicians throughout the projection time frame. What’s more, as exploratory advances introduce new medications for an expanding number of medical conditions, more pharmacy professionals will be expected to fill the developing number of solutions.

Given the fact that cost-cognizant insurers are now using drug stores and pharmacies as patient-care centers, drug store technicians will expect obligation regarding a portion of the more normal assignments already performed by Pharmacists. Likewise, they will embrace a portion of the authoritative obligations that were beforehand performed by drug store assistants, for example, answering telephones and stocking medical shelves.

Lessening the requirement for drug store technicians to some degree, nonetheless, will encourage the developing utilization of medication administering machines. These machines build efficiency by finishing a portion of the drug store technician’s obligations, in particular numbering pills and setting them into prescription containers. These machines are utilized for the most well-known drugs, in any case, and their impact on the vocation of pharmacy technicians ought to be negligible.

All States have enacted the maximum number of specialists who can securely work under a drug specialist or pharmacist at any given moment. Modifications in these laws could straightforwardly influence work.

Work prospects

Great job opportunities are expected for part-time and full-time maintenance employees, particularly for professionals with formal documentations or past experience. Employment opportunities for drug store technicians will come about because of business development, and from the need to supplant specialists who defer to different occupations or leave the work force.

Earnings/ Compensation, Salary expectations and other FAQ’s


Back in May 2006, the median earnings per hour of wage-and-salary pharmacy technicians was $12.32. About 50 percent of the technicians earned a salary of about $10 and $15. The lowest ten percent earned an amount that was not less than $8, while the highest ten percent earned an amount that was more than $17. In summary, the median hourly earnings in the sectors that employed the largest numbers of pharmacy technicians were:

  • General medical and surgical hospitals $13
  • Grocery stores             $12
  • Pharmacies and drug stores             $11

Certified technicians are known to be earning more. The difference in shifts for those technicians who worked evenings or weekends also increased their earnings. Several pharmacy technicians belong to different unions that represent hospital or grocery store workers and this also affected their salary in one way or the other.

Related Occupations

The occupation of pharmacy technician is most closely related to that of pharmacy assistants as well as pharmacists. Employees in other medical support occupations include medical transcriptionists, dental assistants, physical therapist assistants and assistants, medical records and health information technicians, and also occupational therapist assistants and their aides.

Salary Expectations

Since technician salaries vary from position to position, those with particularly comprehensive training or more experience have e tendency to earn higher salaries in general. However, other factors can also be considered when determining individual wages.

In May 2013, the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics) cited that the mean salary per year of pharmacy technician in the U.S. was around $30,840; nevertheless, there were individuals in a certain specific industries that earned a significantly higher yearly average salary:

  • Federal executive branch: more than $40,000
  • Outpatient care centers: more than $39,0500
  • Offices of physicians: more than $37,000
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: more than $37,000
  • Specialty hospitals, except psychiatric and substance abuse: more than $37,000

California dominated the list of cities where technicians earned the highest wages; this was especially true for those technicians working around the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2013, the three highest-paying metropolitan employment markets for pharmacy technicians included Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, Napa and San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City with earnings of ($49,950), ($46,400), and ($45,790) respectively.

Despite the comparatively high wages available in these metropolitan locations, the cost of living in these regions is also high. As a matter of fact, in 2014, data recorded FROM MERIC (Missouri Economic Research and Information Center), listed California as the 6th most expensive state to live in the U.S.; San Francisco was also listed among the most expensive cities to in the U.S. Stated below are some of the 2013 BLS mean annual wages for technicians in the MERIC study’s 5 most reasonably priced states:

  • Mississippi: $27,340
  • Tennessee: $29,360
  • Kentucky: $26,950
  • Oklahoma: $27,410
  • Indiana: $28,260

*ranked according to affordability from highest to lowest.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pharmacy Technician Profession

Where can Pharmacy Technician with career training seek employment?

Pharmacy technicians usually work in commercial pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities. Because some of these amenities are open around the clock, technicians may work evenings, holidays, weekends, nights, and even after-hour shifts. It is also important to note that some technicians usually work part time.

Can a technician reciprocate his or her registration from another state?

The general answer is No! For example, the Georgia law and Board rules prohibit pharmacy technicians to reciprocate their registration from other states

How many technicians are allowed for each pharmacist on duty?

The aspect ratio of pharmacy technicians to pharmacists can’t exceed three to one. This refers to the ratio of technicians-in-training count against pharmacists count, with the exception of interns.

Do Pharmaceutical Technicians need CE?

Not really. Instead, it is an obligation for pharmaceutical technicians to have twelve hours of in-service training after every 2 years between renewals. As part of its in-service training, a pharmacy may authorize that a technician’s attendance at a CE will be accepted as hours of in-service training. These records must always be stored on the pharmacy’s premises in order to be reviewed by an inspector of the Board during the yearly inspection of the pharmacy.

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