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Pharmacy Tech Programs

Becoming a pharmacy technician is a great way to enter the medical field. It’s also a great opportunity for anyone looking for a stable job with room for growth, as well as those who want to move up in their careers.

In this article, we’ll talk about what it means to be a pharmacy technician and how to get started on your path toward becoming one.

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How Long Does It Take?

The length of time it takes to finish a pharmacy tech program depends on how much time you want to devote each week to studying and working on assignments. On average, it takes 8 months of full-time study and 20 hours per week outside of class time (or 4 hours per day) to earn your diploma.

Most programs are designed to take between eight months and one year to complete. However, some programs offer a fast-track option, which allows you to complete your studies in less time.

How Much Does it Cost?

The cost of pharmacy tech training depends on the program and school you choose. Online programs are typically less expensive than traditional in-person classes, but they may require more time and effort on your part.

In general, expect to pay anywhere from $500 to $2,000 for an online course, depending on the school and program you choose. In-person programs can cost as much as $10,000 or more at some community colleges and vocational schools.

What Courses Do You Take?

The curriculum for pharmacy tech education varies from state to state and school to school. Some states have their own requirements, while others use the national standard. The National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA) has developed a national Pharmacy Technician Training Curriculum that is used in most states.

The NPTA curriculum includes:

  • Pharmacy technician fundamentals
  • Pharmacy law and ethics
  • Medication safety
  • Pharmaceutical calculations
  • Patient care services
  • Pharmacy calculations
  • Medication administration
  • Medical terminology
  • Electronic medical records (EMR) systems (Epic)
  • Community pharmacy practice operations

Many programs require that students pass a state exam before they can receive their certification. Once certified, those who wish to advance their careers can pursue more advanced certifications through organizations such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

How Much Can You Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that there were about 292,000 jobs for pharmacy technicians in 2021, with an average annual salary of $35,100/yr.

The BLS also estimates that there will be a faster than average growth rate in this field through 2026. This is due to an increased demand for health care services among an aging population.
Depending on location, level of experience, and place of employment, pharmacy techs earn anywhere from $22k to $48k. Those who work in hospitals or other healthcare facilities tend to make more, while individuals employed by drug stores typically earn less.

Full-time and part-time associates may take advantage of some pharmacy technician benefits, including:

  • Health insurance
  • Paid sick time
  • Vacation days
  • 401(k) plan

Career Path

The path to becoming a pharmacy technician is not necessarily a long one, but it does require some training and passing an exam.

High School Diploma

First, you’ll need to get your high school diploma or GED to join a school offering the pharmacy technician training program.

Training Program

Next, you should attend a formal two-year college program or seek out an apprenticeship through your state’s Board of Pharmacy. You can also take online classes from accredited colleges and universities, though these are not required for certification.

Certification

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has created a certification exam that covers all of the information needed for this position. You can find out more about it on their website.

Once you’ve completed your training and passed the certification exam, you’ll be ready to start working as a pharmacy tech.

What Do They Do?

Supervised by a certified pharmacist, pharmacy technicians help to distribute medications to customers and medical professionals. They are the workers who greet people when they’re picking up a prescription at the drug store. Additionally, these team members record personal and insurance provider’s information.

After graduation, students who attend pharmacy technician trade schools can find work at some retail chains, privately-owned pharmacies, and even hospitals. Employers look for hardworking, detail-oriented individuals who possess strong math and communication skills.

Job Duties

Employees complete an assortment of pharmacy technician duties throughout the day. They converse with customers and healthcare professionals to gather vital facts. This includes recording the patient’s name, birth date, insurance, and prescription.

Pharmacy techs must also measure medications before packaging them. Each prescription is unique to the client, so it’s important that these employees check for accuracy. Some other tasks include:

  • Taking inventory of medications and supplies
  • Answering telephone calls from customers
  • Processing payments and insurance claims
  • Properly packaging and labeling prescriptions
  • Recording patient medical history

What Types of Skills Should Pharmacy Technicians Possess?

From conversing with patrons to taking orders from physicians, pharmacy technicians spend most of their time talking to people. Having strong communication and customer service skills is vital in order to succeed in these positions.

Additionally, associates should practice good listening techniques. These employees must carefully take note of what each customer says along with answering questions appropriately. They can then direct any concerns to pharmacists if needed.

Because of the nature of their work, there’s little room for error. Employers prefer to hire detail-oriented and organized candidates. Serious issues can arise from mistakes made by distracted workers. While it’s the pharmacist’s duty to oversee dispensed medications, technicians should always double check any prescriptions and orders.

Work Environment

What Should Workers Expect?

Both full-time and part-time associates should expect to complete an array of pharmacy technician duties. Depending on their place of employment, techs may have to work evenings, weekends, and some holidays. Additionally, they spend much of their time standing and walking around the store.

These associates share a workspace with pharmacists and other technicians. It’s important to maintain a clean, clear area to eliminate distractions and prevent errors during the workday. Packages, bottles, and labels stay out of the way until needed. Additionally, pharmacy techs use standard office supplies such as computers, telephones, and fax machines.

Why Do Pharmacy Technicians Need the Ability To Multitask?

Pharmacies can sometimes experience large crowds of patients and higher demands from medical professionals, especially around the holidays or during inclement weather. One pharmacy technician skill that employers look for is the ability to multitask. Workers who can accurately focus on more than one duty at a time help to make busy workdays run smoothly.

What Are Useful Skills for People in This Field?

  • Willingness to learn new skills
  • A friendly, helpful demeanor
  • Take direction and criticism well
  • Posses strong mathematical skills for ordering, packaging, and distributing medications
  • Follow HIPAA guidelines and company protocols
  • Work well individually or as a team
  • Complete tasks quickly and efficiently
  • Keep a clean, organized workspace

Are There Requirements for Pharmacy Tech Jobs?

Interested candidates must meet a set of pharmacy technician requirements before applying for jobs. Most employers look for individuals who have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, earning a pharmacy technician certificate may increase your chance of hire.

Most companies offer hands-on training as well as basic pharmacy technician classes. Individuals who attend trade or vocational schools often take courses like pharmacy arithmetic, law and ethics, and recordkeeping.

Some pharmacy technician careers may require associates to earn certain certifications or take an exam. At times, employers may pay for team members to take these tests.

One way for team members to promote their work is by attending job fairs at pharmacy technician trade schools. At these seminars, associates discuss what they do, what positions are available for students, and how interested candidates can apply.

Where Can Prospects Find Work?

Techs typically find work in healthcare facilities or wherever pharmacists work. These locations include:

  • Drug stores
  • Grocery stores
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmacies
  • Veterinary pharmacies
  • Primary care facilities

Can You Work Remotely?

A pharmacy technician’s main duty is to assist pharmacists with day-to-day tasks. Because they help distribute and package medications, interact with customers, and gather important information from medical professionals, it’s important that they work on-site.

Do Pharmacy Technicians Have Any Other Options?

Pharmacy technicians possess an array of qualities that can help them in other industries. For example, their willingness to learn and ability to follow HIPAA protocols helps when applying for jobs in the medical field. Some opportunities include dental assistants and medical assistants.

On average, these professions earn about $39K and $33K respectively.

What Are Alternate Careers for Pharmacy Techs?

Candidates with pharmacy technician skills can often find work as medical records technicians. These associates aid doctors and other hospital staff by completing administrative and clinical tasks. Workers should know how to keep patient records, schedule appointments, and perform an array of additional office duties.

What Is the Outlook for Pharmacy Technician Jobs?

As long as people of all ages continue to use prescription medications, the need for pharmacy technicians will remain steady. Additionally, advances in medical research and risks of chronic illnesses ensure that these jobs opportunities grow.

The Bottom Line

You’ve heard the statistics. The need for health practitioners is growing, and it’s never been easier to get started.

The health care industry is booming, and it’s only getting bigger. This means that pharmacy techs will be in even higher demand in the coming years.

Local Resources

Becoming a Pharmacy Technician in CA
Becoming a Pharmacy Technician in GA
Becoming a Pharmacy Technician in FL
Becoming a Pharmacy Technician in PA
Becoming a Pharmacy Technician in NY
Becoming a Pharmacy Technician in TX


Interview with a Pharmacy Tech

A session with Beth M, a pharmacy technician who works for a Walgreens in Dallas, Texas.

Q: How long have you been a pharmacy technician?

A: Let’s see…I guess I have been working here for about 3 years now. Before coming to Walgreens, I worked in a hospital as a pharmacy technician for about 2 years. But, when I moved to Dallas, I took a job with Walgreens. So, altogether, I have been doing this for about 5 years now.

Q: What type of training did you have to become a pharmacy technician?

A: I completed a 2-year program at Everest Institute in Austin. I thought it was pretty cool that I could complete a program in that short amount of time because I always thought that going to school meant spending at least four years in college. Heck, if I wanted to become a pharmacist, I would have to spend 6 years going to school!

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: I like that I get to help people every day. Many people don’t think of this job as being one that is about helping people, but people are always coming in and looking for help with selecting the right over-the-counter medicine. It makes me feel good when I get to help them choose the right medicine or when I know I did something to help my customers improve their health.

Q: Describe your typical day on the job.

A: Well, there really is nothing typical about my day because it is not like we work on a set schedule and we don’t make appointments or anything. So, I really just have to take what comes at me each day. We have a drive-through pharmacy, so I have to listen for people who are coming through the drive-through. If someone shows up, I might have to take a prescription from them or give them the prescription they are picking up. I also have to make sure we have all of the necessary contact information so we can call the customer if we have any questions when filling out the prescription. When I am not helping out customers, I am doing things like counting out pills and helping the pharmacist get the prescriptions ready for the customer.

Q: What traits do you feel are necessary to be successful as a pharmacy technician?

A: You really need to have good communication skills and to be a patient person. Many people who come to the pharmacy are sick or they are frustrated about their insurance. So, customers can sometimes be a bit short-tempered and can take those frustrations out on us. You have to learn not to take things personally. You also need to be able to work under pressure, because we sometimes get slammed with many prescriptions all at once and customers don’t want to have to wait a long time to get the medication they need.

Q: Would you recommend this career to someone else?

A: I definitely would. I really enjoy coming into work every day and I think the pay is pretty good.

Q: What is your next career move, if any?

A: I really don’t have any plans to take my career someone else. A lot of people ask me if I plan to become a pharmacist some day, but I really don’t have an interest in going back to school for four more years. Besides, the pharmacists have a lot of responsibilities that I really don’t want to take on. So, I am pretty happy with where I am at right now.