A pharmacy technician’s job is to assist the pharmacist with certain daily tasks such as entering in data, measuring out and packaging medications, processing payment information, and accurately placing the correct labels on medication. That’s in addition to more basic skills like answering phone calls, taking inventory of the pharmacy’s supplies, and providing high quality customer service. It’s a position that requires a great deal of precision and attention to detail as well as an understanding of basic pharmacology, expertise in dispensing medication, and a deep knowledge of pharmacy law and ethics.
In order to be effective and excel at their jobs, pharmacy technicians need to undergo at least some formal training. Here’s a quick look at some of the training you need in order to become a pharmacy technician and how long it might take you.
You may be asking, “How do I become a pharmacy technician in the first place?” The first step to starting a pharmacy technician career is to earn a high school diploma or GED equivalent. With a basic education, you can qualify for on-the-job training. However, many people find that looking for employment is easier if they have undergone some form of post-secondary training, such as an online pharmacy technician certification program, that helps prepare them for the profession and answers questions about how to be a pharmacy technician and what a pharmacy tech is. Some states require pharmacy technicians to have this formal training or pass a national certification exam.
Formal pharmacy technician training can take you anywhere from a few months to more than a year. On-the-job training relies on the mentorship, guidance, and experience of a skilled pharmacist who will provide you with many opportunities in job growth. As you train, you’ll learn about any of the responsibilities of a pharmacy technician, which includes knowing when the pharmacist should handle certain tasks. Your training is complete once the pharmacist is confident of your ability to do the jobwell without supervision.
Formal training is also often provided at a wide range of places including vocational schools, community colleges, technical institutes, and more. Online pharmacy technician certification courses can also be an excellent fit if you are already working in another job or if you have a busy schedule with little time to fit in traditional classroom training. Many institutions, Career Step included, provide pharmacy technician courses online that can be completed relatively quickly. For instance, Career Step’s online pharmacy technician training can be finished in as little as 4 months of full time study. That means you can become a pharmacy technician in less time than a typical semester would take. These online courses will help prepare you for your role and responsibilities as a pharmacy technician. As you complete the training, you’ll learn all about things that every pharmacy technician should know, such as common drug names, pharmacy laws and regulations, pharmaceutical calculations, and how to enter data and process prescriptions. Some courses, including Career Step’s Pharmacy Technician program, even provide externship opportunities, a valuable way to build a professional network that prepares your for full-time employment.
You should be aware of two main types of certification for pharmacy technicians as you set out to start your new career. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification requires pharmacy technicians to have a high school diploma and pass a certification exam. The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification has a minimum age requirement of 18 years and requires applicants to have a high school diploma, complete a formal training program, and have at least 1 year of work experience before they can sit for the certification exam. These certifications will help you find a job quickly and be successful in your chosen career as a pharmacy technician.
Pharmacy technicians are required to recertify every 2 years to make sure they’re up-to-date with all of the healthcare changes and advances that affect their scope of practice. You can do this by completing 20 hours of continuing education to ensure your skills are current.
Training to become a pharmacy technician can take anywhere from a few months to a year, and taking that little bit of extra time to earn a national certification through the PTCB or NHA is definitely worth it if this is the career you want to pursue. In practically no time you’ll go from wondering, “What is a pharmacy technician?” to being fully qualified to work in a pharmacy. Online courses and certification programs will prove valuable in giving you the right start in a rewarding new job. With the right kind of training and knowledge, you can be well on your way toward a long and successful career as a pharmacy technician!