Pharmacy Tech Certification: How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Learn about pharmacy tech certification and the steps to become a certified pharmacy technician, from pharmacy tech certification to state licensing requirements.
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Pharmacy Technician Career Facts

How to Become a Certified Pharmacy Technician

The pharmaceutical industry moves at an incredible rate, there is a constant pursuit for advancements in technology and medicine.

Due to this fact, the industry is always seeking out certified pharmacy technicians who can keep up with the latest in medical innovations.

If you have considered the medical industry for a career, a pharmacy technician is an incredible place to begin.

This page will explain the exact steps in detail that you need to take to become a certified pharmacy technician.

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

You can find pharmacy technicians working in drug stores, clinics, grocery stores, and hospitals.

Working under the supervision of a pharmacist, your primary role is to handle written prescription medication orders and refill requests. Complex medication questions and clinical advice will all be handled by the pharmacist. The pharmacy technician will answer basic customer questions, help people find items, and answer the phone.

Sometimes there may also be a pharmacy assistant working alongside the technician to help with some of these tasks.

The other primary responsibility you must fill in this role is to properly label and fill bottles with medication and ensure that drugs are secure and properly stored.

In general, the pharmacy technician helps the pharmacy stay organized and properly ran.

If you are wondering how to become a pharmacy technician, below are the two routes you can take.

Option 1

  • Graduate high school earning your diploma, or GED
  • Start work and receive all of your pharmacy tech training on the job

Option 2

  • Get into a pharmacy technician school
  • Complete the required classes and clinical hours for the pharmacy tech program
 

Option 1 isn’t always available, however you can sometimes find work as a pharmacy technician without a certification and receive on the job training.

These opportunities are fewer and harder to find which is why pharmacy technicians need certification and you will likely need to choose option 2 and complete a pharmacy tech program to then become a certified pharmacy technician.

Most pharmacy technician programs take around a year covering a variety of topics such as:

  • Pharmaceutical computations
  • Physiology
  • Anatomy
  • Medical vocabulary/terminology
  • Hospital pharmacy training
  • Insurance processes

The majority of pharmacy technician programs will require you to complete a set amount of clinical experience work. Most programs will match you with a local drug store, clinic, hospital, or other work setting where you can gain important hands on experience for your career.

By shadowing other pharmacy technicians you’ll learn exactly how to do the job and handle different scenarios discussed in your classes. Clinical experience will really prepare you for any challenges and make you feel ready to enter the work force.

As you begin comparing pharmacy technician schools, make sure the programs are accredited. The organization that accredits pharmacy tech programs is the American Society of Health System Pharmacists. The primary requirement is that the program offers a minimum of 600 hours of teaching instruction.

However, the accreditation has a number of important standards that ensure a quality education recognized by state regulators and employers around the country.

Becoming a Certified Pharmacy Technician

Becoming a pharmacy technician through option 2 and completing a pharmacy tech program will be the first step to becoming certified.

This section will explain how to become a certified pharmacy technician.

Why It Is Important To Seek Certification

According to the BLS, throughout the year 2028, the expected growth rate for employment of pharmacy technicians is expected to grow at 9%, this is slightly higher than the national average of 7%.

While this type of job growth is very promising, it is important for jobseekers to find a way to stand out from the rest of the pack. One of the best ways to do this is by becoming a certified pharmacy technician.

It is possible to become a certified pharmacy technician by passing an exam that is given by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). This incredible milestone in your career proves that you have the basic knowledge to work as a pharmacy technician professional.

While not all states will require you to be certified, however, as the demand for pharmacy technician grows this list does as well. In addition, the vast majority of employers are seeking out candidates who have already earned their certification.

So, becoming a certified pharmacy technician will open the door to far more employment opportunities for you.

Certification Requirements

There are some simple prerequisites that need to be fulfilled before you can take the pharmacy technician certification:

  • Have either a high school diploma, foreign equivalent or a GED.
  • Not have a drug-related or felony conviction.
  • Not have any restrictions from a State Board of Pharmacy in any state.

In order to maintain a proper pharmacy technician certification status, 20 hours of continuing education must be completed every two years. And one of those hours must include education in pharmacy law.

The PTCB Certification Test

The pharmacy technician certification test is completed on a computer. It will consist of 90 multiple-choice questions that cover the following aspects.

  • Helping to assist pharmacists by serving patients.
  • Maintaining proper levels of medication and inventory control systems.
  • Participating in the management and administration of the pharmacy practice.

The test is held in your round in multiple locations around the country.

There is a $129 registration fee for the test. If you are unable to pass the test the first time, you are able to take it until you earn the proper passing score.

However, you will be required to pay the exam fee each time you take the test. When you have passed the exam, you will earn the designation of a Certified Pharmacy Technician or CPhT.

The National Healthcareer Association Certification Test

It is also possible to earn a CPhT designation by taking the certification exam through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). However, one must have already completed a pharmacy technician training program or have at least one year work experience prior to taking this exam.

Specialty Certifications for Pharmacy Technicians

If you’re considering advancing your career in pharmacy work, putting in the effort to become a specialized certified pharmacy technician is an excellent idea. There are currently 3 specialization certifications that you can pursue.

These three certification programs are offered through the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA) and covered in more detail below.

Compounding Certification

Compounding is the pharmacist’s oldest and most vital skill. Referred to as both an art and a science, compounding is the union of skill and knowledge required to customize medications to meet the needs of a specific patient.

The compounding certification course covers a range of important subjects. Record-keeping, quality assurance, and professional standards are all covered. The following compounding-specific subjects are also studied:

  • Capsules, tablets, and powders
  • Pastes, ointments, gels, and pastes
  • Nasal, ophthalmic, and otic medication preparation
  • Lozenges, sticks, troches, and suppositories
  • Emulsions, solutions, and suspensions
  • Medication flavoring

The full compounding course combines two home-study modules with two days of hands-on training.

Sterile Products (IV) Certification

The sterile products course involves studying several closely-related topics: aseptic hand-washing, hazardous material handling, vial manipulation, sterile product properties & preparation, quality control, and more. The instruction delivered in the course comes through two days of hands-on training combined with home-study modules and process technique validations. This course is suitable for both student pharmacy technicians and those who are already certified.

Chemotherapy Certification

Both students and practicing technicians can take this course which concentrates on the safe and effective handling of hazardous drugs. This course does have prerequisites. Most importantly, technicians need to complete the IV certification course before enrolling in this one. See the NPTA’s site for other requirements.

The chemotherapy course covers risk assessment, biological safety cabinets, personal protective equipment, controls and medical surveillance, and more. The chemotherapy certification course includes 10 modules for home study, a hands-on training day, and five process technique validations.

Pharmacy Technician Salary

The median annual salary for pharmacy technicians is $32,700 according to the most recent data from the BLS. Salaries vary based on a number of factors such as specialty or work setting.

For example, here are pharmacy tech salaries in specific positions:

  • Working in a hospital: $35,830
  • Working in general medicine: $30,910

Top 5 States: Highest Pharmacy Technician Salaries

  • Washington: $42,170
  • California: $39,760
  • Alaska: $39,600
  • North Dakota: $38,510
  • Oregon: $37,990
Washington - Highest Pharmacy Tech Salary
$42,170
California
$39,760
Alaska
$39,600
North Dakota
$38,510
Oregon
$37,990

Pharmacy Tech Salary Comparison

Let’s compare a pharmacy technician to other related allied healthcare salaries.

Below are how similar health care assistant and technician careers compare to a pharmacy tech salary.

  • Pharmacy Technician: $32,700
  • Certified Medical Assistants: $33,610
  • Certified Dental Assistants: $38,660
  • Medical Records and Health Information Technicians: $40,350
Pharmacy Technician
$32,700
Medical Assistant
$33,610
Dental Assistant
$38,660
Medical Records & Health Information Technicians
$40,350

Pharmacy Technician Careers

After becoming a certified pharmacy technician you will enjoy a variety of career path options if you are interested in pursuing a pharmacy tech specialty career.

A wide variety of pharmacy technician careers await you, a few options are:

Central Pharmacy Operations Technician

As the name would suggest, central pharmacy operation technicians will work in a central location. For this particular role, the individual is responsible for refilling large volumes of prescriptions for a wide variety of pharmacies. Pharmacy operations techs will also respond to calls from insurance carriers, pharmacies and other pharmacy technicians. It is your responsibility to manage the inventory as well as restocking computer automated machinery.

Home Infusion Pharmacy Technician

Working as a home infusion pharmacy tech, you support the pharmacist who provides infusion services, those are and those medications that are administered through a needle to an individual in a nursing facility, home or ambulatory infusion center. The responsibilities include management of various inventory including non-sterile and compound sterile preparations and drugs and contacting individuals about their deliveries. To begin a career working as a home infusion pharmacy tech, you must be certified.

Traveling Pharmacy Technician

A travel pharmacy job is quite similar to that of travel nursing as it allows individuals to work in various settings throughout the country. Typically, an individual partners with an agency that provides short-term assignments that will last between 13 and 20 weeks. This is an excellent opportunity to work in a number of different hospitals and meet individuals in your field as well.

Compound Pharmacy Technician

Although you will have similar traditional pharmacy tech duties, such as looking up refills and answering telephones, your main role is to perform compounding calculations in compound prescriptions. The vast majority of employers are searching for certified pharmacy technicians who already have a few years of compounding experience.

Health insurance laws and a growing aging population will continue an uprise in the amount of prescription medication requests. Pharmacists have begun to take on more customer facing responsibilities leaving them to rely on pharmacy technicians for daily tasks and operations.

These are all factors that will contribute to the need of certified pharmacy technicians.

If you are detail oriented, organized, have strong interpersonal communication skills and enjoy helping people then a career as a pharmacy technician would be great for you. Click the blue button that says “Find Schools” to compare Pharmacy tech programs.

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