CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a pharmacy technician.

Step 1

Is becoming a pharmacy technician right for me?

The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:

What do pharmacy technicians do?
Career Satisfaction
Are pharmacy technicians happy with their careers?
What are pharmacy technicians like?

Still unsure if becoming a pharmacy technician is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a pharmacy technician or another similar career!

Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.

Step 2

High School

Attain a high school diploma or equivalent, with a strong background in mathematics, chemistry, biology, and physiology.

While in high school, consider volunteering at a hospital or in another healthcare setting to gain exposure to the field.

Step 3

Formal Training

Pharmacy technician training programs are generally offered by vocational and community colleges, typically at the certificate/diploma or associate degree level. Students should seek out programs which incorporate hands-on training via an externship placement.

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board requires certification candidates to have successfully completed an education program accredited by the Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission (PTAC), in collaboration with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

One-year Certificate/Diploma Programs
Certificate/diploma programs provide the basic education and training needed to sit for Certified Pharmacy Technician exam and apply for entry-level positions. The following are examples of courses included in their curricula:

  • Introduction to Pharmacy
    Introduction to pharmacy practices and terminology
    Target Skills
    Pharmacy and medical terms
    Basic pharmacy operations
  • Dosage Forms and Routes of Administration
    How medications interact in the body after administration and how to use basic mathematic principles for dosing
    Target Skills
    Administration of medication
    Basic measurement systems and best practices
    Mathematical techniques and methodologies used in pharmacies
  • Science of Pharmacology
    The process by which drugs are approved for general use; drug administration issues for patients
    Target Skills
    Understanding of the drug approval process
    Understanding of administration processes for individual patients
  • Hospital Pharmacy Practice
    Basic pharmacy operations in a hospital setting
    Target Skills
    Hospital pharmacy operations
    Basic guidelines for working in a hospital setting
    Role of the pharmacy technician in a hospital setting
  • Pharmacy Ethics
    The laws and ethics governing pharmacy practice
    Target Skills
    Modern laws governing pharmacy and pharmacology practices in the United States
    Ethical considerations for different customer situations
    Pharmacy technician codes of conduct

Two-year Associate Degree Programs
Associate degree programs provide a more comprehensive education – one which, in addition to pharmacy- and medical- specific courses, includes general courses in mathematics, science, psychology, humanities, and English. Coursework typically includes the following:

  • Interpersonal Communications for the Workplace
    Effective interpersonal communication skills for working with customers in a medical environment
    Target Skills
    Communication skills to interact with pharmacists and customers
    Customer service skills
    Non-verbal communication
  • Pharmacy Calculations
    Mathematical equations and best practices for managing calculations in a pharmacy
    Target Skills
    Fundamental mathematical concepts
    Applied mathematics
    Best practices for using mathematical formulas to solve problems
  • Pharmacology
    Key principles of drug interactions and the human body; different types of drugs and their effect on the nervous system; basic principles of pharmacokinetics (the branch of pharmacology concerned with the movement of drugs within the body) and pharmacodynamics (the branch of pharmacology concerned with the effects of drugs and the mechanism of their action)
    Target Skills
    Human anatomy and physiology of the nervous system
    Drugs for the treatment of nervous system disorders
  • Over-the-Counter Drugs
    Review of non-prescription drugs for common disorders and best practices for managing customer questions about self-treatment
    Target Skills
    Advanced knowledge of non-prescription drugs and medications
    Customer service skills
    Pharmaceutical ethics
  • Pharmacy Law
    Federal and state laws governing the practice of pharmacies and rules regulating pharmacy technicians’ activities
    Target Skills
    Comprehensive knowledge of relevant state and federal laws related to pharmacies
    Ethical considerations and legal issues pertaining to pharmacy technicians
Step 4


While certification is not required in some states, most employers prefer to hire pharmacy techs who are certified by the:

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) outlines state-specific requirements.

Step 5

Employment & On-the-Job Training

After completing their formal education and gaining hands-on training via an externship, newly hired pharmacy technicians commonly undergo some on-the-job training specific to their place of employment. Under the supervision and guidance of experienced techs, new-hires are trained in the medical software programs used by their employer.

This typically includes the following:

  • Accounting software – for medical billing and reimbursement
  • Database software – to check for drug compatibility
  • Inventory management software
  • Label-making software
  • Medical software – to manage patient records and prescription processing
Step 6

Continuing Education & Recertification

PTCB Certified Pharmacy Technicians (CPhTs) need to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education every two years for PTCB recertification.

Pharmacy techs certified by the NHA must complete a minimum of 10 hours of continuing education every two years for NHA recertification.

In addition to becoming a CPhT, pharmacy technicians can earn other certifications, which may expand their job opportunities.

These include:

  • Sterile Products (IV) Certification
  • Certified Pharmaceutical Industry Professional
  • Chemotherapy Certification
  • Compounding Certification
  • Nuclear Pharmacy Technician (NPT) Training