The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for pharmacy technicians will grow by 7% from 2018 to 2028, adding roughly 31,500 jobs across the country. To prepare for roles in this growing industry, many technicians complete a postsecondary training program at a community college or vocational school.
These training programs typically consist of about 30 credits and require roughly one year of full-time study. Online pharmacy technician students explore subjects like pharmacology, billing and reimbursement, and regulatory laws. Many also participate in an internship or another field-based learning experience.
This page provides an overview of online pharmacy technician training programs, including information on accreditation, admission requirements, common classes, and the kinds of career paths you can follow after graduation.
What Is a Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists with the work of preparing and dispensing prescriptions to patients. For example, they may mix some medications or call physicians for a prescription refill authorization. Pharmacy technicians also often maintain medical records, process insurance claims, answer customers' phone calls, and perform other administrative duties. The majority of technicians work in pharmacies and drug stores, while roughly 15% work in hospitals and health clinics.
The BLS projects that employment for pharmacy technicians will grow largely due to an aging population, higher rates of chronic disease across all age groups, and the need for technicians to take on work previously done by pharmacists, such as giving flu shots. However, the increased demand for these services has not yet led to higher earnings. In 2018, pharmacy technicians earned a median salary of just $32,700, roughly $6,000 less than the median pay for all other occupations.
With information on accreditation, admission requirements, and financial aid, our ranking of the nation's best online pharmacy technician training programs makes it easy to decide where to continue your education.
What You Can Do With Pharmacy Technician Training
Most graduates of pharmacy technician training programs go on to assist licensed pharmacists in drug stores, hospitals, and other healthcare settings. Roughly 18%, or about 7,200 technicians, work in general merchandise or food and beverage stores.
Many pharmacy technicians advance in their career by earning either an associate or bachelor's degree. For example, a technician who completes an associate program in health informatics may find work as a medical records technician. Additional education and training can open up many entry-level opportunities in healthcare, such as medical transcriptionist or medical assistant.
To become a pharmacist, however, you typically must earn a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree from an accredited graduate program. In addition to advanced coursework in pharmacology and medical ethics, pharmacy students must also complete a supervised internship and pass a licensure exam. Clinical and research positions in pharmacy may further require a one- or two-year residency.
- Certified Pharmacy Technician
Certified pharmacy technicians help pharmacists dispense medication to patients. They provide customer service to patients, maintain inventory, and compound medicines. Pharmacy technicians typically complete a postsecondary education certificate or diploma. Most pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies or drug stores.
Median Annual Salary: $29,141
- Lead Pharmacy Technician
Lead pharmacy technician jobs typically require an associate degree. They do the same work as certified pharmacy technicians while also working in a management capacity, providing guidance, training, and support to other pharmacy technicians in their work environment. They often conduct audits and help identify errors.
Median Annual Salary: $34,237
- Pharmacy Supervisor
Pharmacy supervisors usually hold a bachelor's degree and have extensive previous supervisory experience. Some positions require pharmacy supervisors to hold a doctorate in pharmacy. They manage pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, and other pharmacy staff. They often train workers, set schedules, and ensure the pharmacy complies with regulations and professional standards.
Median Annual Salary: $113,687
Our comprehensive career guide for healthcare majors details the various professional opportunities available in clinical research, dentistry, emergency management, healthcare administration, and other related fields.
Pharmacy Technician Classes
Pharmacy technician classes may differ depending on the school and program you choose. However, most students leave their programs with an understanding of drug terminologies, drug classifications, and how medications affect the body. Programs usually include a mix of classroom and hands-on training. See below for a sample curriculum.
- Pharmacy Calculations
Students learn to make calculations to accurately prepare medication orders. They study the metric, apothecary, and avoirdupois systems of measurement and explore topics like percentage preparations, dosage determinations, and aliquots.
This course teaches students about topics like blood modifiers, diuretics, and gastrointestinal agents. Students learn to correctly categorize drugs and identify side effects, indications, and generic names.
- Pharmacy Clinical
Students earn academic credit while gaining professional work experience under a pharmacist's supervision. They learn how to effectively communicate with personnel, dispense medications, and prepare patient charges. Students also learn how to use a pharmacy computer for general operations.
- Hospital Pharmacy
This course examines how typical hospital pharmacies operate, including the pharmacy technician's role in a hospital pharmacy. Students study drug delivery systems, hospital organizational structure, and inventory control. Students learn how to input patient orders, prepare intravenous admixtures, and fill unit-dose cassettes.
- Pharmaceutical Dosage Forms
Students learn about pharmaceutical dosage forms, including tablets, solutions, suspensions, capsules, transdermals, otics, ophthalmics, elixirs, and other dosage types. They learn to describe the characteristics of major dosage forms and how delivery methods affect how drugs work.
How to Choose a Pharmacy Technician Program
The widespread availability of online pharmacy technician training programs means you can choose to continue your education at any one of hundreds of schools across the country. You can begin to narrow the scope of this decision by considering the three factors listed below.
- First, try to choose a program that holds accreditation from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. This ensures that your program has met certain academic standards, such as providing at least 600 hours of instruction over a period of 15 weeks or more. Attending an unaccredited program may hurt your job prospects.
- Field Experiences
- Many training programs include clinical experience opportunities, such as an internship at a hospital or drugstore. Some states may even require students to complete a supervised field experience before they can become pharmacy technicians. Check with your online program to see if you can fulfill internship requirements in your community.
- Cost and Financial Aid
- Finally, make sure to consider the overall cost of your education. Programs at community colleges tend to cost less than those at private vocational schools, particularly if you qualify for in-state or in-district tuition rates. In addition, students who attend public institutions generally have greater access to state and federal financial aid.
Pharmacy Technician training Program Admissions
Community colleges and vocational schools tend to set very low barriers to entry in order to encourage more students to continue their education. The following section details some of the most common prerequisites for pharmacy technician training programs.
- High School Diploma/Equivalency: Some colleges may require aspiring pharmacy technicians to first earn either a high school diploma or a General Education Development (GED) equivalency. While you typically do not need to maintain a minimum GPA during high school, you must ask your guidance counselor or GED provider to submit copies of your transcripts to your chosen school.
- Placement Exam: Instead of requiring a high school diploma, some programs may allow prospective students to take a placement exam like the ACCUPLACER or COMPASS. These online, multiple-choice tests primarily assess your understanding of English, reading, and mathematics. Students who receive below-average scores on their placement exam may need to take remedial courses in these areas.
- Professional Experience: While it is rare for community colleges or vocational schools to specifically require applicants to have professional experience, a strong resume can improve your chances of earning admission into more selective programs. Prior experience in a healthcare setting can also provide valuable context to your classroom learning.
How to Apply
- Many community colleges have "open-door" admission policies, meaning they try to make it as easy as possible to enroll in classes. As a result, your application may require only basic information, including your name, contact information, and an overview of your previous education and work experience. Community colleges also rarely charge an application fee, though private vocational schools might.
- Demonstration of College Readiness
- Along with your application, you may need to demonstrate your readiness to study at the postsecondary level in one of several ways. For example, you may submit your high school transcripts or an educational equivalency certificate. You can also choose to sit for a placement test or share results from a standardized entrance exam, like the ACT or SAT.
- Proof of Residency
- Finally, if you plan to attend a public community college, you will need to submit proof of residency to qualify for in-state or in-district tuition rates. To do so, simply provide a copy of your driver's license or other state-issued identification. Many colleges exempt active-duty military personnel and their families from residency requirements.
You should plan to complete the application process at least 30 days in advance of when you hope to enroll in your first class. Start by contacting a member of your school's admissions team to learn more about specific requirements for your chosen program.
Next, request copies of your transcripts from your high school guidance counselor or GED provider. This process may take several weeks, so plan accordingly. If you do not plan to submit transcripts, schedule a time to sit for your program's placement exam. Some colleges may allow you to take this test without an appointment during certain periods.
Completing your program's paper or online application should take only a few hours. Beforehand, remember to collect any personal information you might need, like phone numbers of former employers and your Social Security number.
You should also fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify for state and federal grants, work-study opportunities, and low-interest student loans. You can begin working on the FAFSA starting on October 1 of each year.
Resources for Pharmacy Technician Students
The U.S. Department of Education provides grants, fellowships, and other forms of financial aid to students pursuing postsecondary certificates and degrees. This website also offers advice on budgeting for college, choosing a program, and applying for private scholarships. Pharmacy technician students who work at nonprofit hospitals after graduation may also qualify for the federal government's Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
ASHP represents more than 50,000 pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy students. In addition to practice resources, the society hosts an online professional development and career guidance library, organizes virtual career fairs, and advertises internship opportunities across the country. ASHP also maintains a jobs board specifically for recent graduates.
The FDA approves and monitors all prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs. Outside of its regularly work, the agency provides a variety of useful resources for pharmacy professionals and students alike, including drug and medical device profiles, free training and continuing education programs, and industry guidance on topics like medication interactions and generic drug substitutes.
Founded in 1995, PTCB oversees the certification process for pharmacy technicians. To apply for certification, you must hold at least a high school diploma and pass a multiple-choice exam covering topics like pharmacology for technicians, pharmacy laws and regulations, and sterile and nonsterile compounding. The exam costs $129, and biannual renewal of the credential costs $40.
NHA also offers a professional certification for pharmacy technicians. Association members can take advantage of online continuing education opportunities, apply for a career bridge scholarship, or read the latest news and research in areas such as childhood immunization, suicide prevention, and medical billing. NHA also hosts a jobs board.