How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

This article provides in-depth information into What is a Pharmacy Technician? What Pharmacy Technician do? Degrees for Pharmacy Technician, Steps to become Pharmacy Technician and much more.

Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians work with pharmacists to help prepare and give out prescription medication. Working in pharmacies and hospitals, pharmacy techs do a lot behind the counter. They take prescriptions over the phone and in person, work with health professionals and customers, help mix medicines, count pills, measure medication, label and give instructions for medicine, and help make payments. Pharmacy techs are the liaison between the public and pharmacists, helping set up consultations and recommendations.

What does Pharmacy Technician do ?

Pharmacy technicians are responsible for handling all aspects of the prescription fulfillment process and assisting the pharmacist with day-to-day operations.

  • Helps health care providers and patients by greeting them in person and by phone; answering questions and requests; referring inquiries to the pharmacist.

  • Maintains pharmacy inventory by checking pharmaceutical stock to determine inventory level; anticipating needed medications and supplies; placing and expediting orders; verifying receipt; removing outdated drugs.

  • Maintains a safe and clean pharmacy by complying with procedures, rules, and regulations.

  • Protects patients and employees by adhering to infection-control policies and protocols.

  • Organizes medications for pharmacist to dispense by reading medication orders and prescriptions; preparing labels; calculating quantities; assembling intravenous solutions and other pharmaceutical therapies.

  • Maintains records by recording and filing physicians' orders and prescriptions.

  • Generates revenues by calculating, recording, and issuing charges.

  • Ensures medication availability by delivering medications to patients and departments.

  • Prepares reports by collecting and summarizing information.

  • Contributes to team effort by accomplishing related results as needed.

Steps for becoming Pharmacy Technician

1COMPLETE A POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION PROGRAM

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is the accrediting body for pharmacy technician programs. ASHP-certified programs are available at many community colleges and vocational schools. Most certificate programs can be completed within a year or less, while associate degree programs typically take two years to complete.

2COMPLETE ON-THE-JOB TRAINING

Most programs allow students to gain clinical experience during their training. Depending on state laws, students may also choose to gain on-the-job training without enrolling in a postsecondary education program. Clinical experience may take the form of a structured training program at a retail drugstore that has partnered with the school. Another option is to complete hands-on training at an approved pharmacy or medical center.

3BECOME CERTIFIED

Some states require pharmacy technicians to become certified. Even in states where certification is not required, most employers will only hire pharmacy techs that are certified by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The PTCB requires applicants to pass an exam, while the NHA requires students to complete a training program or have at least one year of experience working as a technician. Both organizations require applicants to have a high school diploma.

4BECOME SPECIALIZED

Some pharmacy technicians choose to work exclusively for a retail drugstore chain and will complete specialized training to serve as a general pharmacy technician, community pharmacy technician or central pharmacy operations technician, or in a similar role.

5MAINTAIN CERTIFICATION

Pharmacy techs need to pass a recertification exam every two years. They need to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education before sitting for the recertification exam.

Pharmacy Technician Degree Levels

Certificate

A pharmacy technician diploma or certificate program can be completed in one year or less and provides the basic education and training needed to sit for the Certified Pharmacy Technician exam. These programs introduce students to basic concepts in pharmaceutical technology, record keeping, pharmacy law and ethics, and pharmacology. They typically include a combination of classroom learning and lab training so that students learn how to dispense medication, prepare sterile products, and manage prescription orders.

Dosage Forms and Routes of Administration

  • Oral Preparations

  • Injectable Preparations

  • Inhalation

Objectives

  • Administration of medication

  • Basic measurement systems and best practices

  • Mathematical techniques and methodologies used in pharmacies

Hospital Pharmacy Practice

  • Quality management

  • Managing medication use

  • Sterile product preparation and administration

Objectives

  • Hospital pharmacy operations

  • Basic guidelines for working in a hospital setting

  • Role of the pharmacy technician in a hospital setting

Pharmacy Ethics

  • Food Drug and Cosmetic Act

  • Master laws regulating dispensing

  • Civil legal precepts relevant to pharmacy practice

Objectives

  • Identify legal and ethical issues in the practice of Pharmacy

  • Ethical considerations for different customer situations

  • Pharmacy technician codes of conduct

Associate

Students interested in a more comprehensive educational experience can enroll in a pharmacy technician associate degree program. Although a degree is not required to apply for entry-level positions, some students choose to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree so they can advance in their careers and apply for jobs as a compounding lab technician, pharmacy service technician, pharmacy implementation specialist or similar roles. Earning an associate degree can also help a student prepare for a Bachelor of Pharmacy or a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

Pharmacy Calculations

  • Concentration, ratio strength, and density/specific gravity calculations

  • The proportion for solving conversion and concentration

  • Powder volumes, concentrations, and rate calculations 

Objectives

  • Fundamental mathematical concepts

  • Applied mathematics

  • Best practices for using mathematical formulas to solve problems

Over-the-Counter Drugs

  • Drugs, drug problems, drug policies

  • Substance use disorder and its treatment

  • Prohibition, regulation, taxation

Objectives

  • Advanced knowledge of nonprescription drugs and medications

  • Customer service skills

  • Pharmaceutical ethics

Pharmacy Law

  • Controlled substance drug list

  • Pharmacy Practice and the Law

  • Federal Regulation of Medications

Objectives

  • Comprehensive knowledge of relevant state and federal laws related to pharmacies

  • Ethical considerations and legal issues pertaining to pharmacy technicians