How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians are well respected and enjoy rewarding careers. They work in retail and mail-order pharmacies, hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. They enjoy clean working environments, fast-paced work days, and great responsibility. Pharmacy technicians work closely with pharmacists. They care for patients by filling prescriptions, working with insurance companies, answering questions, and offering consultations.

Currently, there is no nationally recognized standard for pharmacy technician training. Requirements are mandated by each state. The requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician vary greatly from state-to-state. Some states require that pharmacy technicians register with the state and/or become certified by a state or national organization. Some states allow on-the-job training, while others require formal education before working as a pharmacy technician.

State Registration

pharmacy tech careerMost states require pharmacy technicians to be registered with the state board governing pharmacy practice. In most cases, this will require a background check, proof of identification, submission of high school diploma, and an application fee. Application fees range from $35 – $150. Some states require that the registration be renewed periodically. Continuing education is also required by some states. Pharmacy technicians are expected to be of good moral standing, law abiding citizens, and have basic math and reading skills.

A small number of states do not require state registration. These states include Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. In these states, there are few requirements for working as a pharmacy technician. The technician will be trained by the pharmacist. Although there may be no required training or certification, most employers favor pharmacy technicians who have prior training and certification.

Pharmacy Technician Certification

Most states do not require certification in order to work as a pharmacy technician, however, many do require one certified technician to be on duty at all times. Therefore, it is to one’s advantage to become a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT). Certification can be obtained through two national organizations: The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or The Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT). There are also many private organizations which provide pharmacy technician certification. Most states will accept certification through any organization which is state or nationally accredited.

Certification through PTCB and ICPT requires the applicant to pass an exam and submit to a criminal background check. Anyone who has a drug or pharmacy related felony will not be allowed to take the exam. After receiving certification, the pharmacy technician will be required to complete continuing education in order to maintain their certificate.

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As of 2011, there are seventeen states which require certification prior to working as a pharmacy technician. These states include Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Several other states are in the process of making certification a requirement of working as a pharmacy technician. In these states, a perspective pharmacy technician must take formal training and obtain certification before they can work in any pharmacy.

Formal Training

There are many schools, pharmacies, and hospitals that offer pharmacy technician training. These include community colleges, universities, vocational schools, on-line schools, hospitals associated with institutes of higher education, and some national pharmacies. These programs prepare students to pass the ExCPT or the PTCE.

Good pharmacy technician training programs will include topics such as pharmacy terminology, pharmacy law, pharmacy math, pharmacy procedures, pharmacology, and pharmacy ethics. These training programs generally take six to eighteen months for completion. The best training programs also offer externships which give the students invaluable experience.


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