A pharmacy technician performs pharmacy related functions, typically working under the supervision of a pharmacist or lead pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians generally work in a retail, hospital, or mail order pharmacy setting, but can also work for long-term care facilities, third party insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, government, or in a teaching position. The pharmacy technician role is very important in every pharmacy. Pharmacy technicians must have knowledge of pharmacy operations, including procedures, insurance billing, medications, dispensing, and HIPAA regulations. While there are numerous resources that offer pharmacy technician training, an individual can become a pharmacy technician without any training.
Some states have no requirements to become a pharmacy technician or have minimal requirements and only require becoming registered with the state Board of Pharmacy . While the remaining states require completion of one or a combination of the following; on-the-job training, completion of a state Board of Pharmacy approved test and/or program, or become a nationally certified pharmacy technician (CPhT).
3 Different Categories – Depending on the State
- Six (6) states have no requirements (Dist. of Columbia also has no requirements)
- Sixteen (16) states have minimal requirements; only requiring registration, or registration and on-the-job training
- Twenty-eight (28) states have various requirements; requiring training, and/or completion of pharmacy technician test
How Long Does it Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician
The length of time required to become a pharmacy technician depends on your state’s specific requirements and ultimately your goals during your career as a pharmacy technician. The fastest way to become a pharmacy technician would be to apply for a pharmacy technician job in a state with no requirements. On the other hand, you could obtain an Associate Degree (AA) with an emphasis on training for pharmacy technicians. The degree route is a good option, if you want to pursue a Bachelor Degree down the line and potentially change careers.
Although some states have no requirements, most states will require some type of training or completion of a pharmacy technician course, and completion of a pharmacy technician test either provided by the state Board of Pharmacy or a nationally approved certifying agency.
Therefore, if your state has no requirements to become a pharmacy technician, you can begin searching for pharmacy technician jobs immediately. Some states have minimal requirements and only require a pharmacy tech to obtain registration within their state, once they become a pharmacy technician. As for the other states that have additional requirements, as mentioned above, it could take a year or two, depending on the training program and state requirements, prior to starting to work in these states. Typically, most people will complete courses for pharmacy technician training, either through a school or online program, to prepare for the pharmacy technician certification exam and complete the process in under a year. It really depends on the pharmacy technician course you enroll in.
States with No Requirements
While there are numerous resources that offer pharmacy technician training, an individual can become a pharmacy technician without any training. The following states, and District of Columbia, do not require individuals to be a licensed pharmacy technician, in order to work in a pharmacy.
- District of Columbia
- New York
In this situation, you will be trained by a pharmacist, a lead pharmacy technician, or through an in-house pharmacy technician program to train the newly hired tech. The type of employer based training will vary from pharmacy to pharmacy, depending on whether the pharmacy is privately owned or a chain pharmacy, such as CVS Pharmacy or Walgreens. This is often the easiest way to become a pharmacy technician.
In privately owned pharmacies, the newly hired pharmacy tech may begin working in the pharmacy immediately and receive on-the-job training. Generally, the pharmacist or lead pharmacy technician will train the newly hired technician on pharmacy operations.
In large retail chain pharmacies, this type of training may consist of a classroom based training where the newly hired pharmacy tech will receive training on the computer system, processes, insurance billing, medications, various workstations, register, etc. to become familiar with the operations of the pharmacy, prior to working in the pharmacy.
Following the classroom based training, a pharmacist or lead pharmacy technician will assist and observe the newly hired pharmacy tech while they are performing various duties, until they are released to work on their own. The combination of classroom based training and on the job training is common for larger retail chains.
After the training and observation period is done, the new pharmacy technician will start to perform duties under the close supervision of the trainer. After the pharmacy technician becomes more proficient at performing the various pharmacy duties, they will be allowed to work with less supervision. Depending on the employer based training program, this process could last six months.
The goal of these employer-based pharmacy technician programs is often to give the newly hired pharmacy tech the necessary skills to become a certified pharmacy technician (CPhT), upon successful completion of a pharmacy technician certification exam.
Even though the state does not require licensure to become a pharmacy technician, employers will typically pay for the employee to complete the pharmacy technician test to become certified after the employee has completed their in-house training to be a pharmacy technician at their pharmacy. Some employers will provide their employees a pay increase once they become a CPhT as well, while others may require you to be a CPhT, in order to become a Lead Pharmacy Technician.
States with Minimal Requirements
The following states do not require pharmacy technician training prior to employment, but require that a pharmacy tech be registered with the state Board of Pharmacy, or be registered with the state and obtain on-the-job training once hired. Therefore, the pharmacy tech can begin working in the pharmacy without any prior training or certification.
Upon being hired, the pharmacy tech will then need to register with the state. In order to become registered, the pharmacy tech will typically pay between $25 – $150, provide proof of high school or equivalent education, provide proof of identity, and submit to a background check. Typically, the pharmacy tech can begin working in the pharmacy immediately after submitting the application to become registered.
If you want to become a pharmacy technician in one of these states, simply apply to get hired and receive on the job training. Employer-based pharmacy technician training in these states is generally the same as in the states where registration is not required, as described above in states with no requirements.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
States with Various Requirements
The following states will require completion of one or a combination of the following; on-the-job training for pharmacy technicians, completion of a state Board of Pharmacy approved test and/or program, or become a nationally certified pharmacy technician (CPhT).
There are two organizations that offer the pharmacy technician certification exam in order to become a CPhT; the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The main difference between the certification from PTCB and the NHA is that PTCB certification only requires a high school diploma and a passing score on the exam. Once you are certified, your certification is valid for two years.
The PTCB certification requires that an individual successfully pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), whereas the NHA certification requires that an individual successfully pass The Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT).
The PTCE is the more popular of the two exams, due to the minimal requirements needed in order to take the exam. However, both exams are very challenging and typically require on-the-job pharmacy training or completion of a pharmacy technician training program to assist with preparation of the exam. There are many resources available to help with preparing for the exam, such as PTCB study guides.
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Pharmacy Technician Training Program
There are a many resources that offer training to become a pharmacy technician. Completion of a pharmacy technician certification program could take under one year, where as an Associate Degree would take two years. Pharmacy technician programs can be completed on a traditional college campus or online. The goal of any pharmacy technician program is to ultimately prepare an individual to successfully pass the pharmacy technician certification exam and become a CPhT. When choosing a pharmacy technician program, consider who the program is accredited by, whether an externship is offered, and the success rate of graduates passing the pharmacy technician certification exam.
Training Program 1 Year or Less – Certification Program
A certificate program takes approximately a year or less, and will be focused specifically on the pharmacy technician profession. This program will prepare the pharmacy tech to take and successfully pass a pharmacy technician exam, in order to become a CPhT. At the end of the program, there is typically an externship to introduce the individual to a pharmacy and begin gaining hands-on experience, prior to applying to work in a pharmacy. At times, ‘Certificate’ and ‘Diploma’ are used interchangeably by many schools. This is the fastest way to become a pharmacy technician when training is required.
Certificate Program Completion Time: Most pharmacy technician certificate programs take between four months and one year to complete, including an externship.
Certificate Program Cost: The cost of pharmacy technician certificate programs will vary by school. The average cost ranges from $1,500 to $5,000.
Training Program 2 Years – Associate Degree (AA)
A degree program takes approximately two years and results in an Associate Degree (AA). The degree program can be great for those potentially wanting to go on and obtain a four year Bachelor Degree at a later date depending on their career path.
Although there are numerous pharmacy technician programs available, you can prepare and study for the pharmacy technician certification exam on your own, as long as your state does not specifically require an accredited program to be completed. While the programs offer a hands-on approach to teaching, there are many great resources and PTCB study guides available to prepare on your own. These guides will typically have practice tests to help prepare the individual for the pharmacy technician test needed to become a CPhT.
Associate Degree Completion Time: An Associate Degree typically takes about two years of full-time study to complete.
Associate Degree Cost: The cost of an Associate Degree is between $8,000 and $25,000 depending on the school.
Securing Your First Job
For someone who wants to become a pharmacy technician, without any experience or training, securing their job will be the most challenging part. Similar to any job, you will need to convince the hiring manager that you are the best person to be trained as a pharmacy technician.
Managers are looking for candidates with skills and experience, including strong attention to detail, strong organizational skills, excellent written and verbal communication skills, and strong analytical and critical thinking skills.
Most importantly you have to be interested and motivated to learn. Training is time consuming and costly, so pharmacy managers may be looking for a long-term commitment in their prospective candidates. They want to be assured that you will be worth the time and investment for their company.
When submitting your resume, it is a good idea to list any of these skills and highlight your past experiences that incorporated and/or grew these skills.
Interviewing for Your First Job
When interviewing for your new job as a pharmacy technician, pharmacy managers may ask some of the following questions, in addition to reviewing your resume.
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to be a pharmacy technician?
- What prior experiences do you have that can be applied to a pharmacy technician?
- Why do you want to work for XYZ Pharmacy?
- What days and times are you available to work?
- Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- How would you handle an upset customer?
- How do you handle working under pressure?
- How do you work with others in a team setting?
- Why should we hire you as a pharmacy technician?
- Do you have good organizational skills?
- Do you have any questions?
Keep in mind that many employers prefer and many states require their pharmacy techs to obtain certification. National certification indicates that professionals have met a nationally recognized measure of competency which will typically lead to more job opportunities, higher pay, and greater job security.
Enter the exciting growing market for pharmacy technicians today. Earn your certificate and pharmacy technician licensure, so you can start on a life changing career that can take you in many exciting and rewarding directions.