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How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

pharmacy technician and customer

Pharmacy technicians help patients meet one of their greatest healthcare needs: the safe, effective use of medications. Working under the direction of a licensed pharmacist, technicians prepare and dispense prescriptions and make sure patients have the information they need to use them safely. They also play a key role in preventing dangerous medication errors and spotting potential cases of prescription drug abuse.

When a doctor prescribes medication for a patient, the pharmacy tech swings into action. Common responsibilities include:

  • Receiving prescription information directly from customers, electronically from doctors’ offices, or in some cases by phone
  • Making sure that the prescription information is clear and not problematic
  • Preparing the prescribed medication, which may involve calculating dosage, measuring drugs, and possibly mixing/compounding drugs
  • Preparing packaging and directions for the prescription
  • Helping the patient understand instructions and any safety precautions
  • Handling payments, insurance claims and patient records

Pharmacy techs play an important role in preventing medical error by properly dispensing prescriptions. They’re also on the front lines when it comes to spotting potential drug interactions or suspicious usage patterns that might indicate abuse and referring these to the pharmacist. They follow strict security rules that prevent the theft and trafficking of controlled substances. They also go the extra mile to protect patients’ private medical information both online and offline.

The work of the technicians helps to ensure the safety of patients, including those who are elderly, disabled and living with chronic conditions. Techs often establish relationships with their regular customers, who appreciate their patience, knowledge and compassion.

Workplace Details

It’s probably no surprise that the majority of pharmacy technicians (54 percent) work in drug stores. Hospitals also employ a significant number (18 percent). In addition, pharmacy techs work in grocery stores, department stores, mail-order pharmacies, nursing homes, correctional facilities and just about anywhere else medications are dispensed.

Pharmacy technicians’ job duties vary somewhat by setting. Those in retail stores typically work with more common medications and have extensive contact with the public. In the hospital setting, technicians have opportunities to work with more and more advanced types of medications, including injectable and chemotherapy drugs. Hospital techs are typically more involved with repackaging and mixing drugs. They may also conduct rounds to administer medications to patients.

Because pharmacies are open long hours (sometimes 24-7), technicians typically work some evening, weekend and holiday hours. On a positive note, this allows for flexible scheduling to accommodate school and family commitments. Most pharmacy technicians work full-time, but part-time jobs are also available.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$39760
Texas
$33080
Florida
$30630
Illinois
$32200
New York
$32230

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

Created with Raphaël 2.1.0 AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE DC FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$26,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$20,340$26,020$36,680
Huntsville$20,140$27,240$38,360

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$39,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $52,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$24,170$39,780$50,970
Fairbanks$32,140$40,940$51,220

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$32,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 330

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$21,760$32,000$45,360
Tuscon$22,660$33,010$42,730

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$27,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$20,870$29,330$43,920
Fort Smith$19,540$24,190$34,640

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$38,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $58,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 700

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$24,670$37,060$57,360
San Francisco Bay$30,170$46,800$69,860
San Diego$19,490$35,790$52,230
Sacramento$28,670$40,690$59,050

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$33,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 180

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$25,230$34,410$46,860
Colorado Springs$24,940$33,350$43,520

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$31,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 5%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$20,520$28,980$45,760
Bridgeport$21,600$29,800$45,920
New Haven$27,610$37,480$54,580

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$27,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$20,940$29,210$49,470
Dover$20,550$24,200$37,240

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$33,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $49,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$21,520$31,930$47,130

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$29,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 830

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$22,090$31,150$43,540
Orlando$20,660$27,150$37,490
Tampa$21,120$29,230$38,550
Jacksonville$19,370$27,760$37,920

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$27,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 300

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$18,890$27,000$40,520
Augusta$19,990$28,850$39,580

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$35,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $48,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$24,200$35,740$47,750

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$32,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 520

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$25,270$32,780$42,420
Idaho Falls$21,100$27,730$38,130

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$28,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 350

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$19,320$29,330$44,330
Rockford$19,460$27,630$37,470

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$28,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 200

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$21,010$30,140$40,250
South Bend$20,840$27,410$38,400
Fort Wayne$21,230$27,910$39,050

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$28,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$23,120$29,510$38,300
Cedar Rapids$20,980$29,520$38,200

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$29,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$20,250$26,440$38,730
Kansas City$21,050$29,940$39,640

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$26,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$21,200$29,770$38,910
Lexington$20,680$28,930$39,260

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$29,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$21,400$29,600$39,130
Baton Rouge$20,270$29,760$42,850
Lafayette$21,250$29,230$39,720

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$29,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$23,260$30,620$43,080
Lewiston$20,100$25,680$37,300

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$31,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $44,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 200

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$21,490$30,550$42,250
Frederick$21,600$34,000$49,070

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$30,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$20,870$31,970$48,140
Worcester$21,470$29,110$45,760
Springfield$20,720$29,440$43,470

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$29,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 210

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$20,590$30,490$39,050
Grand Rapids$22,240$30,820$39,290

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$33,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$22,280$33,800$47,630
Rochester$18,270$34,720$47,700

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$27,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$20,430$27,690$39,320
Gulfport$22,490$31,070$43,630

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$28,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 260

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$21,310$28,970$41,300
Kansas City$21,050$29,940$39,640

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$33,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $40,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$25,740$33,320$41,980
Missoula$25,130$32,840$39,610

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$28,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$22,590$30,180$39,670
Lincoln$20,030$25,450$36,770

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$33,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 32%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 120

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$24,830$32,990$45,450
Reno$23,610$33,490$46,080

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$29,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $40,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$22,210$30,300$45,900
Nashua$21,320$28,370$38,220

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$30,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 160

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$23,680$30,900$47,520
Trenton$18,670$25,220$42,960

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$30,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $41,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$22,700$30,950$40,360
Las Cruces$21,500$29,150$39,980

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$30,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 380

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$21,020$31,950$47,730
Buffalo$20,560$27,890$38,940
Rochester$19,460$26,920$37,140
Albany$21,260$30,880$43,850

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$28,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 380

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$20,470$30,980$39,700
Raleigh$19,650$26,970$37,970
Greensboro$20,060$27,430$38,830
Winston - Salem$19,790$30,600$39,920

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$36,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $26,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$21,250$31,780$39,280
Bismarck$27,960$36,890$49,000

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$27,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $38,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 240

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$20,010$28,720$42,020
Columbus$21,240$28,630$38,490
Cincinnati$20,520$28,670$40,340
Dayton$19,660$28,430$38,540

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$28,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$21,330$30,950$42,040
Tulsa$20,130$25,990$36,130

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$36,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $27,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $47,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$28,420$37,640$48,460
Salem$27,300$36,860$47,000

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$28,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $19,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$21,270$31,150$45,930
Pittsburgh$19,020$27,790$39,070
Harrisburg$18,220$29,140$44,740
Allentown$19,580$27,660$39,130

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$30,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $46,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$21,690$29,770$46,350

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$29,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $41,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$20,390$29,040$40,720
Columbia$21,130$31,300$41,860
Charleston$21,550$29,810$44,210

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$29,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $39,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Sioux Falls$25,080$29,470$38,070
Rapid City$25,740$33,140$44,300

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$29,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $21,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $41,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 420

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$22,280$29,310$40,470
Memphis$21,840$34,170$47,090
Knoxville$20,140$27,730$38,140
Chattanooga$20,560$27,440$38,230

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$32,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $22,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $43,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 26%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$22,800$32,490$44,960
Houston$24,410$34,200$44,380
San Antonio$24,810$33,310$44,800
Austin$22,280$31,160$39,580

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$33,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $25,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 30%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 140

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$26,210$34,780$45,460
Ogden$26,110$34,210$44,960

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$33,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $23,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 4%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Burlington$24,470$36,090$47,390

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$28,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $41,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$20,320$27,540$39,180
Richmond$20,910$28,680$42,410

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$41,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $30,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $51,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$32,040$42,370$53,670
Spokane$30,840$40,210$49,600

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$25,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $18,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $37,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$18,850$26,540$39,330
Charleston$19,250$25,510$35,250

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$30,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $20,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $42,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$20,530$31,440$45,420
Madison$23,110$31,940$46,900

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$35,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $24,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $45,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$24,020$35,830$45,000
Casper$25,330$34,410$43,190

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for all pharmacy technicians is $30,920. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than $21,370, and the highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $45,710. Techs working in hospital setting are generally better paid than those who work in retail personal care stores. Salary generally increases with experience, education level and job responsibility.

In a word, the job outlook for pharmacy technicians is strong. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment is expected to grow by 9 percent between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations. So what’s driving this upward trend? For one, the U.S. population is aging rapidly. Older people generally take more medications than younger ones, which will create a surge in medication use in coming decades. In addition, an increase in the use of medication therapy to treat all sorts of conditions is driving a demand for pharmacy services.

Job candidates can gain a competitive edge by furthering their education and obtaining voluntary certifications. Retail experience is also a plus, as this is the fastest growing pharmacy sector.

The NPTA Career Center is filled with resources for job seekers. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists maintains a job board called CareerPharm, as well as personal placement services.

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$31950 Per Year

$15.36 Per Hour

Chicago IL Median Pay

$29330 Per Year

$14.10 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Pharmacy Technician

1

Familiarize yourself with your state's certification requirements for pharmacy technicians.

Paths to becoming a pharmacy technician vary by state. In some, a high school diploma or GED plus on-the-job training is sufficient. High school students who are considering a career in pharmacy should prepare by taking classes in biology, chemistry and computers. A solid math background is also helpful, as techs need these skills to calculate dosages and mixture ratios. A class in medical terminology is useful as well. (If it’s not taught at school, you may be able to take it through a local community college.)

However, the majority of states now require certification. Having a certificate opens up more employment opportunities, even in states that don’t mandate one; regardless of location, most employers prefer to hire those with certification. Here’s a useful link for learning about your state’s requirements through the state board of pharmacy.

So let’s say you’ve decided you should get certified – that’s what we recommend. What’s the next step?

2

Enroll in a pharmacy technician program.

An accredited certificate program lasts about one year and will serve you well; it typically allows you to gain valuable training in the field while educating you in a variety of relevant subjects and preparing you to obtain certification (which, depending on where you live, is either mandatory or highly valuable).

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Many vocational schools and community colleges offer one-year pharmacy technician certificates. Two-year Associate of Science programs are also an option. Training covers basic pharmacology (or medication science), math, record keeping and pharmacy law and ethics. To ensure you’re getting the best possible education, choose a program accredited by the American Society for Health-System Pharmacists.

3

Acquire on-the-job training.

It’s still not uncommon for pharmacy technicians to learn on the job outside of a certificate program, especially in states that don’t require a certificate. Some employers pay for their technicians to pursue certification and take the exam. Certificate and associate degree programs generally require students to complete an internship and/or supervised work experience.

4

Get certified as a pharmacy technician.

Certification as a pharmacy technician is required by a majority of states. Even where it’s not, it’s still a great way to boost your resume and show your professionalism.

Two national certifying bodies award the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) credential: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association. Both require students to hold a high school diploma or GED, pass a background check, achieve a passing score on an exam and pay a fee ($100-$150).

States regulate pharmacy technicians differently. Some require a thorough background check, verification of educational credentials, fees and a licensing exam. In others, registration will suffice. And in a few, there are no regulations at all. Contact your State Board of Pharmacy to find out which rules apply to you.

5

Keep your certification current.

Once certified, techs must meet continuing education requirements to maintain their status. Certified techs are bound by a strict code of conduct and ethics.

6

Advance your career.

Pharmacy technicians who want to advance their skills can pursue advanced certification. And experienced, well-educated pharmacy techs have a world of opportunity open to them.

Those who are clinically minded can pursue advanced certification in IV drugs, chemotherapy and compounding. Working in the pharmacy of a research or academic hospital can provide opportunities to learn new skills and work with new medications.

There are also opportunities for leadership. Senior techs in large pharmacies often manage the work of others. Techs who hold a bachelor’s or master’s degree are eligible to teach in certificate, associate degree and continuing education programs.

Working as a tech is also a great way to find out if you’re interested in a career in pharmacy or another health profession. Flexible scheduling makes this a great job for people who want to gain real-life experience before applying to graduate or professional school. Education can also open up positions in healthcare administration, the pharmaceutical industry and health information technology.

Explore Academic Paths

CERTIFICATE OR DIPLOMA PROGRAMS

1 year

Most aspiring pharmacy technicians enroll in a one-year program that culminates in a non-degree award and features both in-class instruction and hands-on training. Sometimes the duration is shorter than a year. During this program, students acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to earn their certification as pharmacy technicians and enter the workforce at the entry level.

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Programs cover an interesting array of subjects, typically including the following among others:

Intro to medical terminology

This course teaches pharmacy technicians the vocabulary that will surround them in their daily work. Leaning common roots, prefixes and suffixes demystifies the terminology.

Pharmaceutical calculations

Math skills are put to the test as students grow familiar with typical calculations used in pharmacy.

Communication

Pharmacy technicians must be able to communicate with often confused and worried customers who may not fully understand the literature that comes with their prescriptions. These courses aim to fortify students’ communication skills.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE

2 years

Pursuing an associate degree provides a broader and deeper educational experience than the certificate program. Students with an associate degree have acquired a higher education than necessary for entry-level jobs as a pharmacy technician, but they also have a better foundation upon which to advance their careers, should they choose to become pharmacists one day. The degree path requires a longer amount of time – generally two years – and often includes an externship. Common coursework includes the following subjects among others.

Pharmacology

Often the subject of multiple courses, this is the fascinating study of drugs and their effects in the body.

Pharmacy law

Aspiring technicians learn about the state and federal laws that shape the pharmacy environment.

Over-the-counter drugs

Exploring the various classes of OTC drugs available, as well as what they do and how they do it; why and when they’re recommended; and contraindications.

Keys to Success as a Pharmacy Technician

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Detail-oriented mind

A career as a pharmacy technician requires a sharp mind. Attention to detail is an absolute must. You’ll need to be able to spot problematic drug usage patterns and potential medication errors. You’ll also need to discern between medications that look alike or have similar sounding names.

Love of math and science

Pharmacy techs have the opportunity to work with many kinds of equipment, from basic lab scales to sterile compounding equipment to high-tech automated dispensing systems. Almost all techs now use computer systems to update patient records, receive electronic prescriptions and to print labels and patient education materials. Proficiency in math is also important. Techs must be able to convert between measuring systems, measure accurately and calculate individual and daily dosages. Math is also essential during compounding, when you’ll need to calculate things like ratio strength, dilution and concentration.

Multitasking skills

On the practical side, techs need to balance a lot of tasks at once. It takes an organized mind to move efficiently between fulfilling prescriptions, answering phones and working the customer counter. A good tech also keeps the pharmacy running smoothly by staying on top of cleaning, stocking and other everyday duties.

Ability to be on your feet

For active people who dislike being tied down to a desk, you’re in luck: techs spend most of their shifts standing. Stocking shelves and receiving inventory may require some moderate lifting and some climbing on ladders. Physically, techs should be capable of standing and walking for several hours at a time. The ability to lift moderate loads is helpful for receiving orders and working with stock.

Interpersonal skills

Working in a pharmacy involves a lot of human interaction, especially in the retail setting. Technicians work closely with their colleagues and the supervising pharmacist to ensure medications are dispensed in a safe and professional manner. Some also spend a significant amount of time with customers as they accept prescriptions, review medication instructions and process payments. They should be comfortable working with patients of all backgrounds, including the elderly and people with disabilities. When a drug is recalled or unavailable, the technician is generally first to explain the situation to the patient and provide alternatives. Pharmacy technicians also contact doctors’ offices when they need to ask additional questions or clarify prescription information.

Solid ethics

Because pharmacy techs work with sensitive information and controlled substances, the job has very high moral and ethical standards. Certified techs must adhere to a strict code of conduct. Standards cover protecting patient privacy, avoiding conflicts of interest and much more. Techs must also maintain a clean criminal record, especially when it comes to drug-related offenses.

Additional Credentials

You can demonstrate deeper knowledge and advance your career by obtaining one of the following additional certifications from the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA):

  • Chemotherapy certification
  • Compounding certification
  • Sterile products (IV) certification

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