Pharmacy Technician Overview: Education & Job Outlook

The complete guide to pharmacy technician programs, certification, careers and advancement opportunities.
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Pharmacy Technician Career Facts

Overview

The pharmaceutical market in 2017 was $934.8 billion and will reach a $1.2 trillion mark in 2021 growing at 5.8% making it a steady growth market with abundant opportunity.

A Pharmacy Technician assists the Pharmacist with all facets of caring for customers health and dispensing medications with both over the counter and controlled medicines prescribed by Doctors.

The Pharmacy Technician duties include counting, measuring, weighing, or pouring medicine into a container and attaching a proper label. 52% of Pharmacy Technician jobs are working at a store that fills or refills prescriptions for neighborhood customers and work slightly shorter hours than the retail store, but some pharmacies are open 24 hours. The skills required are at a minimum a high school diploma or G.E.D. but most Pharmacists require higher level educated Pharmacy Technicians.

Each state regulates licensure or certifications and you should become familiar with your desired states requirements. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the job market will expand by 31,500 jobs by 2028.

Steps to Becoming a Pharmacy Technician

At this time, no state regulations require a college degree to be a Pharmacy Technician, only a high school diploma. Certain job markets can be competitive, and many pharmacists prefer applicants with formal training. Although a degree is not required, some employers require a certification and higher education.

The recommended path to becoming a pharmacy tech is:

Step 1: Complete High School and receive diploma or your country’s equivalent of U.S. high school diploma.

Step 2: Enroll at a Community college or vocational school that offer degrees and training for Pharmacy Technicians Generally, it will require about 1 – 2 years for a diploma and tuition costs about $3,000 to $11,000 depending on factors such as living in state or out of state and how long it takes you to finish. The curriculums consist of learning about the unique terminology, medications, pharmacy procedures, and laws governing medicine.

Step 3: Consider a certification by a national or regional certification association that are widely governed by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). The two most common associations are the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). These two associations offer a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) designation and costs about $120 to take the exam. Adding a certification will strongly enhance your marketability to obtain a Pharmacy Technician job.

Pharmacy Technician Education: Degrees and Programs

Many community colleges certified by ASHP offer a Pharmacy Technician certification.

A typical school curriculum is 28 credit hours of school and 120 hours of external experience such as an internship.

A sample college curriculum:

Semester I

Medical Terminology – Students will learn word origin and structure through the root words, prefixes, abbreviations, surgical procedures, medical specialties, and diagnostic procedures.

Introduction to Computer Technology – A fundamental computer course that provides explanation of the procedures to utilize hardware and software. Emphasis on terminology, acronyms, and hands on activities.

Introduction to Pharmacy – Focused on qualifications, operations, and job duties of a pharmacy technician and includes definitions of a pharmacy environment, including legal and ethical guidelines, required job skills and duties, safety techniques, and the of supply and inventory management.

Drug Classification – The course will focus on disease processes, pharmaceutical drugs, classifications, dosages, reactions in the body, and how to administer.

Pharmaceutical Mathematics – Students will read, interpret, and solve problems when preparing for the distribution of medicine.   Will learn how to convert of measurements within the apothecary, avoirdupois, with emphasis on the metric system of weight and volume and solve dosage problems.

Semester II

Community Pharmacy Practice – Upon successful completion, students will learn to interpret, prepare, label, and maintain records of physicians’ medication orders and prescriptions in a community pharmacy. Hands on learning of administration, supply, inventory, and data entry.

Intravenous Admixture and Sterile Compounding – Focused on sterilizing products, hand washing techniques, pharmaceutical calculations, safety, aseptic, proper use of equipment, preparing to sterilize products such as intravenous, irrigation, total parenteral nutrition, and chemotherapy drugs and safely handling antineoplastic drugs.

Business and Professional Communication – This course focuses on the application of theories and practice of speech communication as applied to business and professional situations. Students learn the fundamental techniques of business and professional presentations, including organizational and other types of communication used in business settings.

Special Topics in Pharmacy Technician – Focus is on current and behaviors related to Pharmacy Technician and relevant professional development of the student.

Semester III

Internship – typically 120 hours of hands on experience in the field. Many colleges will assist in finding students internships.

State Certification or Registration?

In addition to earning a degree in Pharmacy Technician, each state has different requirements for a practicing Pharmacy Technician. There are two designations that that states typically use:

  • Certification – Certification is earned when completing courses from an accredited college such as a community college or technical school.
  • Registration/License – states use these two designations interchangeably. Many states require you to register in their state by passing a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) exam and paying a fee typically around $45 depending on state. This state fee is in addition to the exam fee.

Some states require only a certification, some require registration, and some require both and Arizona has its own unique requirement. Be sure to check with your state for up to date details as changes occur often and usually become stricter.

The following chart lists each state requirement:

State Certification, Registration State Certification, Registration
Alabama
R
Nebraska
R
Alaska
None
Nevada
R
Arizona
None
New Hampshire
R
Arkansas
None
New Jersey
R, C
California
R
New Mexico
C, R
Colorado
None
New York
None
Connecticut
R
North Carolina
R
Delaware
C
North Dakota
C, R
Florida
R
Ohio
C, R
Georgia
R
Oklahoma
R
Hawaii
R
Oregon
C, R
Idaho
C, R
Pennsylvania
None
Illinois
C, R
Rhode Island
C, R
Indiana
C, R
South Carolina
R
Iowa
C, R
South Dakota
C, R
Kansas
C, R
Tennessee
R
Kentucky
R
Texas
C, R
Louisiana
C, R
Utah
C, R
Maine
R
Vermont
R
Maryland
C, R
Virginia
R
Massachusetts
C, R
Washington
C, R
Michigan
R, C
West Virginia
C, R
Minnesota
R
Wisconsin
None
Mississippi
C, R
Wyoming
C, R
Missouri
R
District of Columbia (D.C.)
C, R
Montana
C, R
State Certification, Registration
Alabama
R
Alaska
None
Arizona
None
Arkansas
None
California
R
Colorado
None
Connecticut
R
Delaware
C
Florida
R
Georgia
R
Hawaii
R
Idaho
C, R
Illinois
C, R
Indiana
C, R
Iowa
C, R
Kansas
C, R
Kentucky
R
Louisiana
C, R
Maine
R
Maryland
C, R
Massachusetts
C, R
Michigan
R, C
Minnesota
R
Mississippi
C, R
Missouri
R
Montana
C, R
Nebraska
R
Nevada
R
New Hampshire
R
New Jersey
R, C
New Mexico
C, R
New York
None
North Carolina
R
North Dakota
C, R
Ohio
C, R
Oklahoma
R
Oregon
C, R
Pennsylvania
None
Rhode Island
C, R
South Carolina
R
South Dakota
C, R
Tennessee
R
Texas
C, R
Utah
C, R
Vermont
R
Virginia
R
Washington
C, R
West Virginia
C, R
Wisconsin
None
Wyoming
C, R
District of Columbia (D.C.)
C, R

Registration and Licensing are the same for definition purposes. Arizona requires registration and training by pharmacist before certification eligibility

Pharmacy Technician Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has detailed statistics on role which vary state by state but the median average salary for Pharmacy Technician is $32,700 per year.

The salary information listed is based on a national average from BLS. Several factors determine the final salary or wage that a Pharmacy Technician will pay including specialization within a field, experience, and geography to name a few. The areas with a higher cost of living tend to pay above average. The top three highest paying Pharmacy Technician states are Alaska, California, and Washington.

For a Pharmacy Technician you can expect:

Quick Facts: Pharmacy Technicians
2018 Median Pay

$32,700 per year

$15.72 per hour

Typical Entry-Level EducationHigh school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related OccupationNone
On-the-job TrainingModerate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2018420,400
Job Outlook, 2018-287% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2018-2831,500

Pharmacy Technician Job Growth

The future is very bright for Pharmacy Technician job growth. According to BLS, they predict employment to grow 7% from now through 2028. This is a much faster than average growth occupation in the Allied Health industry in terms of jobs. In other words, the BLS predicts 31,500 Pharmacy Technician jobs will be added between 2018 and 2028.

Job growth for Pharmacy Technician is growing as pharmaceutical health care regulations evolve. By hiring a Pharmacy Technician who can complete routine tasks, Pharmacist can process more prescriptions from increasing patient demand.

The need for Pharmacy Technician is in every state but some areas have more need and are willing to pay more to start.

Pharmacy Technician Career and Job Duties

Chances are you have visited a pharmacy in your neighborhood and glanced at the layout and see employees operating behind the counter in a white coat. You will typically see a Pharmacist, and several Pharmacy Technicians in a secure area not accessible by customers. As a Pharmacy Technician your main duty will be to provide customer service and process prescriptions including labeling with accuracy. You will also be expected to use automated technology to process insurance claims and monitor inventory. Another important responsibility is ensuring pharmaceutical products are securely and safely stored.

A typical job description for a Pharmacy Technician at a neighborhood pharmacy is:

  • Follow state, federal, and company policy, with supervision by the pharmacist and assist in the practice of pharmacy.
  • Performs duties as assigned by Pharmacy Manager, Staff Pharmacist and Store Manager including entering patient and drug information and ensuring information is entered correctly,
  • Fill prescriptions by retrieving, counting and pouring pharmaceutical drugs, verifying medicine is correct.
  • Assists pharmacists in scheduling.
  • Reports prescription errors to pharmacist on duty.
  • Responsible for registering all related sales on cash register and collects and handles cash as required.
  • Takes customer to product aisles when possible to assist in locating products.
  • Communicates with physicians that do not require personal attention of the pharmacist.
  • Processes third party claims (insurance companies) in a timely and efficient manner and performs other assigned clerical duties.
  • As directed by pharmacist, assists on inventory management activities, such as, ordering, unpacking, and storing pharmaceuticals.
  • May assist pharmacist with clinical services such as the collection and proper labeling of blood/urine samples from patients and other clinical services such as flu shots.

What personality traits are helpful?

Pharmacy Technicians play a critical role in aiding the workflow of a pharmacy. A pharmacist depends deeply on a Pharmacy Technician to efficiently keep their practices running. Here are some traits that can help you succeed.

  • Ability to read and interpret prescriptions
  • Detail oriented
  • Dependable
  • Tech Savvy
  • Strong ethics
  • Business acumen
  • Friendly and patient with customers
  • Empathy for the customer
  • Knowledgeable in Pharmacy industry
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