Pharmacists are widely considered to be at the heart of pharmacies, dispensing medications prescribed by health practitioners, making sure those medications are suitable for patients, and advising patients on how to take them. Pharmacy technicians support pharmacists and ensure that the pharmacy runs smoothly. Without their help, pharmacies just wouldn’t function.
The demand for pharmacy technicians is set to rise 9% by 2024 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So there are excellent job opportunities for pharmacy techs with all levels of training and credentials.
Typically, a pharmacy tech will answer phones, receive and verify prescriptions, provide medication to patients, stock and price medical inventory, and assist patients and pharmacists with paperwork.
Strong organizational and customer service skills are extremely important for pharmacy techs to be successful members of the pharmacy team.
What Education Do I Need to Become a Pharmacy Tech?
Unless your state has certification requirements, there’s no explicit educational requirement for pharmacy techs to hold anything more than a high school diploma to start their careers. Most pharmacy technicians, however, have completed formal training programs.
Those who know pharmacology backwards and forwards will undoubtedly become invaluable to the pharmacist. The techs who are the most dependable and knowledgeable can also expect a salary that reflects their dedication.
It’s also not unheard of for pharmacists to start off as pharmacy technicians before heading to pharmacy school. After all, these professionals work side by side, and understanding the inner workings of a pharmacy is an excellent way to determine if furthering your career is right for you.
Some of the larger retail pharmacies offer training programs for new pharmacy techs. However, most pharmacy technicians start by attending a traditional training program at a technical school or college. The majority of pharmacy technician graduates look for work in retail pharmacies.
Retail pharmacies are thought to be a great stepping stone for pharmacy technicians to work their way up the ladder of knowledge and responsibilities. Most successful pharmacy techs started at the bottom of the pharmacy food chain, but to rise through the ranks of their industry, they needed the experience that a formal training program offered. Investing in your education shows future employers that you take your career seriously, and improves your odds of finding an ideal job.
Pharmacy Technician Training
A pharmacy tech program can run anywhere from a few months to more than a year, and offers the ability to earn either a pharmacy technician certificate, diploma, or an associate degree. This education can give you a leg-up in the field.
How to Get Your Pharmacy Tech Certification
There are hundreds of programs in the U.S., and if you’re looking to work in an area that requires certification, you’ll first want to find a school that is accredited.
Should I Get My PTCB or NHA Certification?
Two of the better known certification exams for pharmacy technicians are offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). To put yourself in a better position to pass the exam and become certified, it is recommended that you complete a formal pharmacy technician training program first.
Although both NHA and PTCB are reputable organizations, the certification offered by PTCB is generally more recognized in the field. This may change, however, based on the region you live in or the specific employer.
How to Get Your Pharmacy Tech Certificate
Most pharmacy technician certificate programs require a high school diploma. Training will often include both classroom education as well as hands-on training. Many programs also include clinical internships under the direct supervision of a pharmacist. Having hands-on experience is an extremely valuable asset for any allied health professional, and gives future job applicants an edge on the competition.
What You Can Expect From the Course
Not only do students tackle most of the topics covered in the PTCB and NHA certification exams, but they also learn about the human body’s reaction to certain types of drugs, drug uses, and necessary dosages. Students are expected to study the proper way to prepare and dispense medication, as well as the medical laws and ethics in their industry.
Pharmacy Technician License
Licensing and registration requirements vary by state. States that require pharmacy technicians to hold a license typically require proof of education, a clean background check, an application, and an application fee.
Some states, like New Jersey, require prospective pharmacy techs to register with the Board of Pharmacy, so be sure to consult local governing bodies to determine what your state demands.
Where Do Pharmacy Techs Work?
Most people assume that pharmacy techs work solely in retail at places like CVS, Walgreens, Duane Reade, or a locally-owned pharmacy. However, there are a wide range of employers like insurance companies, long-term care facilities, hospitals and more, where pharmacy techs provide much-needed advice, customer service, organization and medical insurance assistance.
Retail Pharmacies Are Usually a Stepping Stone In Your Career
Working in a retail pharmacy is often the first experience that pharmacy techs have before moving towards other higher-ranking positions in hospitals and clinics. Retail pharmacies are typically viewed as short-term careers to build up your skill sets.
Pharmacy technicians who are satisfied in their careers seem to agree on one thing: the only thing that can really hold you back is you.
If you can spot errors, duplication, or possible drug combination issues, your pharmacist will see that you’re an interested and valuable member of the team.
It’s difficult to gauge the average salary of a pharmacy tech working in retail due to state and local wage variations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for pharmacy technicians working in retail was around $28,000.
There aren’t any hard-and-fast rules for retail pharmacy salaries. While they’re not necessarily the highest paying pharmacy jobs, the average pharmacy technician earns a little more than $12 an hour.
Hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes are widely considered to offer some of the best opportunities for pharmacy techs. Before even being hired, many hospitals require a minimum of certification and some work experience before considering a potential pharmacy technician candidate.
Institutional pharmacy techs are an enormously important part of how a hospital or clinic operates. In addition to the skills one learns from on-the-job retail training, they ensure that hospital staff are given the correct information about prescriptions and doses based on the physicians’ recommendations, under the direct supervision of senior pharmacy personnel.
Some pharmacy technicians get trained in specialized areas, like IV-Admixture, where they work with IV infusion pumps, training technicians and more. The job requires a tech who’s interested in furthering their knowledge. Irreplaceable members of the team will typically be rewarded with higher salaries.
The Bureau of Labor states that a median salary for a full-time pharmacy technician hovers around $35,000 per year. Full-time pharmacy techs at hospitals average about $5,000 more than the national average, with the pharmacy technician hourly salary ordinarily around $15. A higher salary may be related to training in sterile compounding or various other skillsets.
Many hospital pharmacy techs have a wide range of working hours. Some hospitals and clinics offer full-time hours for their pharmacy tech staff, while others might receive 4 to 6 hour shifts. Hours may be on the first, second, or third shift.
Most institutional pharmacy techs agree that the flexible scheduling is easily one of the best parts of their job.
Growing Job Market
One of the great things about a growing dependence on pharmacy technicians is that the market is opening up positions in surprising new sectors like pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and even military pharmacies. This is a fantastic career to research and get involved with, and there’s never been a better time to enter the field!
How to Sign Up for a Pharmacy Technician Program
If you’re looking for an exciting new career path, AIMS Education’s Pharmacy Technician program might be the perfect fit! We’d be happy to hear from you and discuss your educational and professional goals!