Today’s job market is very competitive. Companies are cutting back and looking for ways to save money. This means that well trained employees are being given more responsibility, while less qualified individuals are being let go. Pharmacy technicians are no exception. Although most states do not require formal training for pharmacy technicians, most pharmacies prefer that their pharmacy technicians be formally trained and certified. Thanks to this trend, pharmacy technician certification programs are popping up across the country.
Pharmacy technician certification programs range from formal associate degree programs to on-the-job training. The goal of each of these programs is to provide the student with the skills needed to become a certified pharmacy technician. Becoming CPT certified gives the pharmacy technician a competitive edge whether they are applying for their first job or seeking a promotion within their current company.
To become a certified pharmacy technician, a person must pass the ExCPT exam. No previous experience or specific training is required to take the ExCPT exam; however, applicants must have a high school diploma or a general education diploma (GED). They will have to submit to a background screening. No individual will be allowed to apply for pharmacy technician certification if they have a prior felony conviction or a drug-related misdemeanor.
Although it is not required that an applicant participate in any specific training program to take the ExCPT exam, it will be very difficult to pass unless an individual has completed a training program or has extensive experience working as a pharmacy technician. There are many pharmacy technician training programs available to prepare a person for taking the ExCPT exam.
Institutes of Higher Education
Universities, community colleges, career colleges and online schools offer pharmacy technician certification training programs. These programs generally take eight months to two years to complete, depending on the type of program being offered. Pharmacy technician certification programs can offer the student a certificate, diploma, or degree.
A pharmacy technician certificate program provides the student with basic pharmacy technician training. These programs are attractive to students because they can be completed in less than a year. Students are prepared for an entry level position as a pharmacy technician and may be able to pass the ExCPT exam. These students will be preferred over individuals with no training or education.
Pharmacy technician diploma programs usually last about one year. These programs are also basic training to prepare a student for an entry level position as a pharmacy technician, but they provide more preparation for taking the ExCPT exam.
Degree programs for pharmacy technician certification offer the student advanced education. Students graduate with an associate degree. These programs usually take 24 months to complete, and they provide the student with an in-depth education in the field of pharmacy technician. These programs have a big advantage in that many offer externships which allow the student to gain job experience as part of their education. These students are considered to be the most qualified and will be offered higher starting salaries than applicants without a
degree. In those states which require pharmacy technicians to be certified, holding an associates degree is a more distinct advantage.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Program Courses
Pharmacy technicians need to possess a firm understanding of the workings of a pharmacy. This includes administration, legal aspects and working knowledge of medications. Pharmacy technician certification programs offer courses such as:
- Pharmacy Ethics
- Pharmacy Mathematics
- Pharmacy Operations
- Administration of Medication
- Pharmacy Law
- Medical Billing
- Pharmaceutical Terminology
Company Sponsored Certification Programs
Many hospitals and large retail pharmacies offer pharmacy technician certification programs to their employees. These programs may include a combination of on-the-job training, computerized training programs, and classroom training. In these situations, the employee usually has to pass a minimum skills test and application process to be selected for the program. They train under a pharmacist and pharmacy technician during working hours. They may be asked to complete coursework at home, or as part of their work day. These types of pharmacy technician certification programs often include six to eight weeks of classroom learning to prepare the trainee for taking the ExCPT exam.
Company sponsored training programs are attractive because they do not cost the student any out-of-pocket expenses. As a matter-of-fact, the individuals will be paid while they learn the skills of a pharmacy technician. Another benefit to these programs is that the testing fees are usually paid for by the company. The pharmacy technician is usually given a pay raise as soon as they receive their certification.
These programs do not offer the student the advantage of earning a diploma or degree. The student earns pharmacy technician certification, which will benefit them compared to non-certified pharmacy technicians; however, they will not have any educational advantages which would allow them to compete with pharmacy technicians who hold a degree or diploma.
Some states require pharmacy technicians to be certified prior to working as a pharmacy technician. In these states, employer training programs can not include on-the-job training until the pharmacy technician has passed the ExCPT exam. These states include: Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Most companies in these states will simply look for currently certified pharmacy technicians rather than offering a training program to employees.
Regardless of the pharmacy technician certification program that a student chooses, he or she will need to thoroughly prepare for the ExCPT exam. The exam consists of 90 multiple choice questions. It covers topics such as pharmacology, pharmacy administration, pharmacy law, and pharmacy calculations. The ExCPT exam is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. They offer valuable information for pharmacy technicians, as well as ExCPT exam preparation materials and practice tests.