According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals." Working in this field does not require a degree, but it does require specialized knowledge and expertise related to working in a pharmacy.
Pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies, which are typically located in retail stores, hospitals, nursing homes, or mail order drug companies. The work environment can be quite hectic as it's important to provide a fast turnaround time when filling prescriptions for people who need them. Precision is important because there is no room for error when working with prescribed medication. Additionally, most pharmacy technician jobs are customer-facing roles that involve working with the public.
Preparing for a Pharmacy Technician Career
As a minimum, pharmacy technicians need to graduate from high school or hold an equivalency diploma. OOH indicates some pharmacy technicians "learn their duties through on-the-job training," though there are a number of short-term career programs you can complete to help you prepare for this type of career. Employers may prefer hiring pharmacy technicians who have been formally trained or hold a certification credential. Some states have licensure or certification requirements.
According to the OOH, "Most states regulate pharmacy technicians, which is a process that may require passing an exam or completing a formal education or training program." While many states have these requirements, a few have no requirements at all, and some simply require registration with a state board. Visit PharmacyTimes.com for a complete list of state requirements for this profession. The state registration and licensure processes include a background screening.
If your goal is to work in this field, attending a post-secondary career training program specific to the occupation can be a good idea, even if your state does not require it. This is a good way to master the knowledge you need to work in the field and demonstrate to prospective employers that you are serious about your career goals.
Options include short-term certificate programs you can complete in just a few months and associate degree programs that take a year or longer to complete. Regardless of the level of training you seek, you should expect to complete a hands-on internship in a pharmacy environment.
There are in-person and online training options available at many career and community colleges. Contact educational institutions in your area to find out if they offer pharmacy technician training or use an online directory such as PharmacyTechSchools.com, Medical Technology Schools, or All Allied Health Schools.
Before choosing an education program, find out if your state has formal education requirements. If so, verify any program you are considering meets or exceeds the state's criteria.
Even if your state doesn't require certification, passing a nationally recognized certification exam, such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) offered through the Pharmacy Technicians Certification Board (PTCB) is advisable. There isn't an education or experience requirement to sit for the exam although a high school diploma or GED is required.
The PTCB indicates the PTCE is designed to "determine whether individuals have demonstrated the knowledge necessary to practice as pharmacy technicians." Some employers may require this type of certification. Even those that don't require it may prefer to hire candidates who hold the credential.
Once you become certified, you will be required to participate in continuing education regularly in order to maintain your certification. The PTCB requires certified pharmacy technicians to earn 20 hours of continuing education every two years. Topics must be relevant to the field with special requirements for training related to pharmacy law and patient safety.
Compensation and Opportunities
The OOH indicates the median pay for pharmacy technicians was $14.86 per hour as of 2016. This works out to just under $31,000 per year. The occupation is supposed to grow by 12 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is a faster expected growth rate than the average across all occupations. This increase may be attributed to a variety of factors, such as the fact the super-size Baby Boomer population is aging, lifespans are increasing, and new drugs are being developed and brought to market. Whatever the reason, this is an occupation in high demand.