CareerExplorer’s step-by-step guide on how to become a pharmacy technician.
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:
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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.
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
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
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
Understanding of the drug approval process
Understanding of administration processes for individual patients
- Hospital Pharmacy Practice
Basic pharmacy operations in a hospital setting
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
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
Communication skills to interact with pharmacists and customers
Customer service skills
- Pharmacy Calculations
Mathematical equations and best practices for managing calculations in a pharmacy
Fundamental mathematical concepts
Best practices for using mathematical formulas to solve problems
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)
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
Advanced knowledge of non-prescription drugs and medications
Customer service skills
- Pharmacy Law
Federal and state laws governing the practice of pharmacies and rules regulating pharmacy technicians’ activities
Comprehensive knowledge of relevant state and federal laws related to pharmacies
Ethical considerations and legal issues pertaining to pharmacy technicians
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.
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
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.
- Sterile Products (IV) Certification
- Certified Pharmaceutical Industry Professional
- Chemotherapy Certification
- Compounding Certification
- Nuclear Pharmacy Technician (NPT) Training