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Becoming a Pharmacy Technician

By: CareerFactsheet editors- Updated: Aug 24, 2012

The world of a pharmacy technician is directly related to the pharmacy in which they work. Although these pharmacies can be in a variety of different environments, their roles and responsibilities to the community tend to be the same no matter what state someone chooses to practice in. The education requirements can vary somewhat depending on what kind of work the student wants to do as well as what education he/she may have already completed. The world of a pharmacy technician is anything but ordinary. Often their job duties can run the gamut from preparing orders to handling complicated billing questions. This makes it an ideal career for people who enjoy a varied work environment as well as a challenge.

The Roles of the Pharmacy and Its Staff

The pharmacy has always been a place where medications are dispensed by people who are knowledgeable about their make up as well as how they may interact with other drugs or even fluctuations in nutrition. This makes pharmacists and the technicians who assist them an important part of the community's health as a whole. While a pharmacist focuses on dispensing drugs and addressing health issues directly for customers, the pharmacy technician works quietly behind the scenes. The technician is often responsible for maintaining the pharmacy as a work environment, including sterilizing equipment, maintaining inventory and checking orders for accuracy. Technicians also need to be well versed in insurance and billing as they are often made available to help with customer billing concerns. Their work is, in fact, just as varied as the drugs they help to dispense and the customers they serve.

Salary and Advancement for Pharmacy Technicians

How To Be a Pharmacy Technician
According to the 2011 US Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that the median salary for pharmacy technicians hovers right around $30,000 per year or $14.43 hourly. Pharmacy technicians new to the field may find they begin at a lower salary but the opportunity for advancement and pay increases happen regularly, particularly once a new technician begins to develop more advanced skills. By developing better skills as well as looking into continuing education options, pharmacy technicians are able to advance their own career rather easily. This can include simple things such as learning to better understand hospital administration for those who wish to specialize in hospital pharmacies or by carrying on with the education in order to become a fully licensed pharmacist. This opportunity for advancement as well as the positive projections for job growth and stability makes a career as a pharmacy technician one of the most popular choices within the health care field.

Requirements Needed to Become a Pharmacy Technician

The educational requirements to be a pharmacy technician can vary state to state depending on the rules of the Board of Pharmacy for a given state. Most states do require that pharmacy technicians complete a course in pharmacy technology as well as pass a state licensing exam. While not all states require a degree in a pharmacy technicians program, candidates who obtain this higher education report that it is easier to find jobs and that the work they find pays higher than it does for their non-educated counterparts.

How Long Does Training Take?

Most pharmacy technician courses take about two years to complete. Some programs take less time, though they do not cover as much ground. There are three levels of degrees pharmacy technicians can work toward and each one targets a specific group of students. One is aimed at students who wish to receive the most basic and fundamental training in order for them to begin working as soon as possible. The second level is for students who have already earned a health-care degree and wish to change careers. Finally, the third level is the full Associate's degree for a pharmacy technician.

Pharmacy Technology Programs


Pharmacy Technician Certificate

This is the first step in the pharmacy technician education options. This program can be completed in less than a year and gives students the basic foundation for what they will need to do in a real pharmacy setting. This degree will allow people to work within a pharmacy but may limit their opportunities for advancement. Students who complete this level of coursework will still need to sit for and pass state licensing exams. The basic program will include a review of the exam as well as help studying for it. Student who initially earn this certificate and begin working can still choose to carry on with their education on part time basis as they work. This will allow them to eventually earn their full Associate's degree which can increase the chances for advancement they may receive as well as giving them more power when negotiating a salary increase.

Pharmacy Technician Diploma

This degree is often the choice of students who already have an Associate's degree in a related medical field of study. The diploma gives them the knowledge they need to take the pharmacy technician exam and enhances their original degree. Students who receive this diploma may also choose to carry on with earning an Associate's degree as a pharmacy technician if they would like to do so later in their career. However, this course will allow them to take the state test and begin working as quickly as possible. The fact that a student already possesses an Associate's degree in a related field will not exempt them from needing to take the state licensing exam in order to become a pharmacy technician.

Pharmacy Technician Associate’s Degree

This is the standard two year program most pharmacy technicians choose. This program provides the most comprehensive review of all of the roles and responsibilities pharmacy technician may need to take on over the course of their own career. Coursework will include classes in chemistry, biology, pharmacy law and billing procedures. It will arm students with all the information they need in order to pass the state exams and begin their career. This is the most popular degree pursued by students who wish to being a career as a pharmacy technician.

Continuing Education and Specialization

Pharmacy Technician Job Description
Once someone has earned their degree as a pharmacy technician and passed their state exams, they can begin work in this exciting field. However, their journey doesn't have to end with that degree. Many pharmacy technicians spend a few years working in order to decide if they want to carry on with their own education and earn a degree in Pharmacy. Others choose various continuing education classes in order to make them a more attractive job candidate for work all over the country. Some technicians choose continuing education courses which help them to specialize in working within certain environments, such as pharmacies within hospitals. Other pharmacy technicians carry on with continuing education courses in order to give them more leverage when asking for a pay increase or to simply enhance their resume. No matter what the choice, continuing education can enhance a pharmacy technician's understanding of the work as well as making them a more desirable employee.

Pharmacy Technician Job Growth

For many pharmacy technicians their Associate's Degree is only the first step in their career in the health care field. Many technicians enjoy their work so much that they choose to go on to Pharmacy school where they are able to become a fully licensed pharmacist, able to dispense medication anywhere n the country. Others carry that education even further and go into specialized work such as mixing drugs which is often done in Apothecary shops. This niche work allows a greater interaction with their clients and is a rewarding environment for many people to work in.

For Further Information

These additional resources can provide guidance and help for those considering a career as a pharmacy technician.

The National Pharmacy Technicians Association
The National Pharmacy Technicians Association provides technicians with resources on continuing education, new laws and more information directly related to the field of pharmacology. Members can use their website to attend online conferences, look for jobs nationwide and network with other technicians and pharmacy professionals. Members receive their industry magazine as well as notification on upcoming events.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics
This website is maintained by the United States government and includes statistics on wages and job projections for Pharmacy Technicians as well as other professionals. A related page on their website, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm, includes information on where pharmacy technicians are more heavily employed as well as other job related information state by state. It can be a valuable resource for those who want to use their degree as a pharmacy technician to open the door to an interstate relocation.

Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Information
This website is maintained by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. It gives detailed information about specific programs students can choose for pharmacy technician courses as well as other educational resources. It also offers help and information on preparing for state testing and offers a pharmacy technician newsletter.

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