Pharmacy Technician: Education and Training Requirements
Are you hoping to become a pharmacy technician? Good news: the path may be easier than you think.
Pharmacy technicians, also called pharmaceutical technicians, are generally responsible for processing and filling prescriptions and assisting pharmacy customers. They work under and are directly accountable to a certified pharmacist and may also work alongside pharmacy aides. Though most technicians work in retail pharmacies, some also work in hospitals or ambulatory healthcare environments. The education and training requirements vary by state and employer, but here are some things to consider if you’re interested in becoming a pharmacy technician.
In general, entry-level pharmacy technicians are not required to complete education beyond a high school diploma or GED equivalent. Though it is rarely a requirement, employers often prefer candidates who have completed a postsecondary education program in pharmacy technology or other applicable education in a related field. Most pharmacy technology programs can be completed within a year, though advanced or associate’s degree programs can last for two years or more. Such courses may cover topics including basic pharmacology, administrative skills, pharmacy math, pharmacological terminology, and medical ethics and law. Many courses include hands-on clinical experience training as well.
Pharmacy technicians generally learn their duties and responsibilities through on-the-job training, the length and nature of which varies by employer. This normally includes a period of supervised work under a certified pharmacist. Some employers may also have their own training programs and requirements. Additionally, independent training programs are available in some areas. Employers may pay for new pharmacy technicians to attend training classes before they begin working, particularly if state law requires technicians to attend. Some states mandate that pharmacy technicians receive a certain level of training before they are permitted to work in a pharmacy environment.
In addition to postsecondary education and other training programs, pharmacy technicians may become certified through two organizations. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, or PTCB, offers a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) certification for applicants who meet basic qualifications and pass an initial exam. The National Healthcareer Association, or NHA, also offers certification but requires that applicants have completed prerequisite training or one year of relevant job experience. Technicians must recertify every two years by attaining 20 or more continuing education course credits. Though normally optional, some states do require technicians to complete and maintain certification.