How to Become A Pharmacy Technician
If you’re interested in starting a career in healthcare sooner rather than later, consider becoming a pharmacy technician. While some medical roles require more than a decade of training, a pharmacy technician position requires just a few months to a few years’ preparation. In fact, depending on your particular state’s regulations, you may be qualified to start looking for pharmacy technician positions right away.
What do pharmacy technicians do?
Put simply, pharmacy technicians support the work of licensed pharmacists. Common tasks include receiving and processing patient prescriptions, collecting patient information, answering customer calls, managing insurance claims, organizing medication inventory, preparing intravenous medications, and delivering medicine.
Because the role of pharmacy technicians is determined by individual states’ boards of pharmacy, the exact tasks you’re given will depend on your state and your specific place of work. In some cases, you may be responsible for mixing medications or requesting prescription refill authorizations from other healthcare providers.
Pharmacy technicians work in a number of different settings. Many are employed by pharmacies, including those in grocery or department stores. Others work in nursing homes or larger health systems.
Steps to becoming a pharmacy technician
Here are the recommended steps for becoming a pharmacy technician.
1. Find out what your state and regional requirements are for pharmacy technicians.
The requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician depend on your state. Five states — Delaware, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — don’t have specific regulations for this profession. If you reside in one of these, you don’t have to receive additional training before seeking a job as a pharmacy technician. Instead, once hired, you’ll learn on the job.
So, before enrolling in any training program, learn what the requirements are for pharmacy technicians in your area. Does your state require training — and if so, what kind? Will you also be required to get nationally certified — and if so, what type of certification? Do your homework before getting started so you don’t have surprises come up later. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) offers a handy map of state requirements.
2. Enroll in an accredited pharmacy technician training program.
Even if you live in one of the five states that do not require a training program for pharmacy technicians, having training under your belt will help you stand out among other job applicants. In addition, according to the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), the vast majority of states regulate people in pharmacy technician positions, requiring some level of training.
Broadly speaking, there are two types of pharmacy technician programs: certificate and diploma programs, or associate degree programs. Certificate and diploma programs generally take just four months to a year to complete. Associate degree programs take longer — about two years — but give you credits you can apply toward a bachelor’s degree, should you choose to pursue one in the future. Basically, certificate and diploma programs are shorter in duration, cost less, and get you working faster, while associate degree programs require more extensive time and financial investments and, in return, provide more potential for hire, higher salaries, and advancement opportunities.
Whichever program you pursue, make sure it is a legitimate program accredited either by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) or the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).
3. Get certified or licensed as a pharmacy technician.
If your state requires a certification for pharmacy technicians, make sure you obtain it. Certification is given by a national organization after you pass a related exam.
National certifications are awarded by two different organizations: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). To receive a certification for either, you must take and pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) after either completing a PTCB-recognized training program or showing proof that you have equivalent work experience.
Your state may also require you to have a pharmacy technician license, given by your state’s Board of Pharmacy as proof that you are qualified to perform this role. Make sure to apply for and receive a license if this is the case. The process, fees, and timeline for receiving a pharmacy technician varies by state.
4. Maintain active pharmacy technician certification.
Your pharmacy technician certification lasts two years — after which point you’ll need to renew your certification by completing 10-20 hours of continued education, depending on the type of certification you have.
Pharmacy technicians play an important role in the healthcare system, providing not only medication but also valuable customer service to patients. Because of the delicate nature of this work, many pharmacy technicians obtain insurance to protect their careers. At NOW insurance, we offer very competitive rates for pharmacy technicians, beginning at just a few dollars a month. Pharmacy techs may have lower risk than other medical professionals, but anyone can (and probably will) make a mistake at work. Pharmacy techs are advised to carry their own insurance, separate from their employer’s policy. In the event of a claim, you know your insurance provider will have your best interests in mind, rather than those of your employer.
NOW insurance offers simple, fast, and affordable professional liability insurance trusted by a variety of medical professionals. Find out more about the professional and general liability insurance we offer, and get an instant quote from our online application to get started.