How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Research the requirements to become a pharmacy technician. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in pharmaceutical technology.

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Do I Want to Be a Pharmacy Technician?

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist and are responsible for dispensing medications. Pharmacy technicians' duties include filling prescriptions and interacting with patients. In order to fill a prescription request, pharmacy technicians might count, measure, weigh, pour or mix the medication. After a pharmacist has verified and validated a prescription, technicians choose a container and prepare and affix the label.

Other duties that a pharmacy technician can be responsible for include completing insurance claim forms, stocking inventory, operating a cash register, screening phone calls, training new employees and maintaining patient profiles. Pharmacy techs often spend many work hours standing, and some techs work weekends and nights.

Job Requirements

Pharmacy technicians must always direct patient questions about health or prescription medications to a pharmacist. Although formal training may not always be required, many pharmacy technicians complete training programs after earning a high school diploma. Certification is required in some states. The following table summarizes the main requirements for pharmacy technicians:

Common Requirements
Degree Level No degree is required; some pharmacy technicians choose to complete programs leading to a certificate or associate's degree*
Degree Field Pharmacy technology*
Licensure Many states, though not all, have regulations for pharmacy technicians and require licensure*
Certification Some states and employers require certification; pharmacy technicians can take certification exams through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or National Healthcareer Association (NHA)*
Experience Entry-level; no experience required*
Key Skills Customer service skills, attention to detail, organizational skills*, decision-making skills**
Computer Skills Pharmacy technicians may use pharmaceutical, prescription processing, patient record maintenance, billing and reimbursement, drug compatibility or label-making software**
Technical Skills Skill with pharmacy tools such as filling or sealing auger dose machines and laboratory balances, blenders and mills**
Additional Skills It is necessary for pharmacy technicians to be able to see details close-up, since they work dispensing pills and applying labels with small print**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net OnLine.

Step One: Complete a Pharmacy Technician Program

There are no formal education requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician beyond a high school diploma or equivalent; however, many employers prefer job applicants who have completed a formal training program. Pharmacy technician programs can be found at community colleges and vocational schools. Programs generally award a certificate or associate degree and can last between 1-2 years. In these programs, students become familiar with medications, pharmacy procedures, pharmaceutical terminology and pharmacy law.

Success Tips:

*Participate in an internship. An internship may be part of a pharmacy technician program or available after an individual has completed their educational requirements. Interns are able to work and learn under the supervision of a professional pharmacy technician and gain valuable experience in the field. This is also a chance for individuals to learn about dosage, names and actions of different medications

* Hone related skills. Since pharmacy technicians must interact with patients and health care professionals, good communication and customer service skills are essential. Pharmacy technicians should also be detail-oriented and have good spelling, reading and math abilities. They should be comfortable working with computers and have good typing skills as well.

* Learn state requirements. Requirements for licensure or certification as a pharmacy technician can vary by state. It is important to learn what is necessary to pursue employment, such as level of training, fees or any continuing education requirements.

Step Two: Consider Becoming Certified

Although not all states require pharmacy technicians to be certified, voluntary certification is an option and may be helpful when seeking employment. Two organizations that offer a certification examination are the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Eligibility requirements include a high school diploma and, in the case of the NHA, a pharmacy technician training program or experience in the field.

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