As medicine develops, more people require prescription medication to manage their chronic health conditions. More pharmacy technicians are required to meet this increased demand, assisting pharmacists in the healthcare industry in many ways. For those who want to work in a fulfilling and patient-oriented job, pharmacy technician school is a great opportunity. Most entry-level positions only require a certificate or diploma, which can be earned in one year or less.
Pharmacy technician careers offer job security and competitive pay: the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 12% growth in this field by 2026. Experience in the healthcare industry can also be a gateway to other healthcare careers, including certified pharmacist jobs.
How to Choose a Pharmacy Technician Program
The first step in choosing a pharmacy technician program is understanding the distinctions between certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees. Determining which certification is appropriate will allow you to prioritize your narrowed list by other factors, like cost, available curriculum, and program length.
For many students, program length is among the most important considerations in choosing a school. Certificates and diplomas typically take one year to complete, while a pharmacy technician associate degree usually requires two years of full-time study. Online pharmacy technician training programs often offer students accelerated coursework, which allows for faster degree completion. However, some students prefer a more traditional, on-campus pharmacy technician training program, and some schools require in-person internship courses.
The most affordable way to complete pharmacy technician training is typically through a public community college where you are an in-state resident. Out-of-state schools, private institutions, and longer programs usually are more expensive.
Pharmacy Technician Certificate Program
Pharmacy technician certificate programs provide basic training that prepares graduates for entry-level pharmacy work. "Certificate" and "diploma" are often used interchangeably by many schools, and do not lead automatically to certification; however, certificate programs typically prepare graduates for certification.
Certificate Program Cost: The cost for pharmacy technician certificate programs varies by school. The average price ranges from $1,500 to $5,000.
Certificate Completion Time: Most pharmacy technician certificate programs take between four months and one year to complete, including required internship hours.
Pharmacy Technician Diploma Program
A pharmacy technician diploma program provides students with a basic, entry-level knowledge of the field. Many schools use the terms "certificate" and "diploma" interchangeably when referring to non-degree students who receive training. Although earning a diploma does not automatically lead to certification, graduates are typically well-prepared for certification.
Diploma Program Cost: The price for a pharmacy technician diploma program varies. The average cost ranges from $1,500 to $5,000.
Diploma Completion Time: Earning a pharmacy technician diploma usually takes between four months and one year. This includes internships and professional experience requirements.
Pharmacy Technician Associate Degree
Earning a pharmacy technician associate degree takes longer and costs more than a certificate or diploma program. However, students' education is broader and deeper, as schools typically require students to complete a few general education courses during their enrollment. Earning an associate degree can lead to more lucrative career opportunities than diplomas or certificates, and are great entry points to further study.
Associate Degree Program Cost: The average cost for completing a pharmacy technician associate is between $8,000 and $25,000. Prices vary by school.
Associate Degree Completion Time: Earning a pharmacy technician associate degree typically takes about two years of full-time study. This usually includes internship requirements.
Becoming a Certified Pharmacy Technician
Some states require pharmacy technicians to hold certification. Even in states where such certification is optional, becoming a certified pharmacy technician can improve your job prospects. To receive your certification, you typically need to complete a pharmacy technician training program, hold a high school diploma or GED, pass a pharmacy technician exam, and complete a criminal background check.
You can apply for your certification online through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. The National Healthcareer Association also certifies pharmacy technicians. Each certification organization requires its own pharmacy technician exam, and both offer study materials to help applicants prepare. To qualify for recertification, you must complete 20 hours of continuing education every two years. The PTCB also offers a sterile compounding certification for PTCB-certified pharmacy technicians.
Pharmacy Technician$26,957 Average Annual Salary
Certified Pharmacy Technician$29,141
Advancing Your Career in Pharmacy Technician
You can advance your career as a pharmacy technician with additional education. Although schools typically do not offer pharmacy technician bachelor's or graduate degrees, many offer programs in related fields. For example, if you want a career in pharmacy management, consider a degree in business or pharmaceutical sciences. If you plan to work as a pharmacist, you will need a doctoral degree.
Additional education can lead to more job opportunities, often with higher salaries. With a bachelor's degree or higher, you're often eligible for management and other supervisory careers. Depending on which field your degree is in, you might transition to other areas of the healthcare industry. See the tables below for more detailed information about average salaries by level of education and industry.
Career and Employment Outlook for Pharmacy Technicians
Completing pharmacy technician training typically leads to employment as a pharmacy technician in a pharmacy or drugstore. With experience or further education, pharmacy technicians can work in supervisory pharmacy roles.
- 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
Education Level Required: Postsecondary Education Program
- 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
Education Level Required: Associate Degree
- 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
Education Level Required: Bachelor's Degree
Pharmacy Technician Salaries by Industry
Hospitals; State, Local, and Private$36,710
General Merchandise Stores$31,320
Food and Beverage Stores$29,860
Pharmacies and Drug Stores$29,500
Programmatic Accreditation for Pharmacy Technician Programs
Accreditation indicates that a school meets standards of competency as agreed upon by the larger educational community. Programmatic accreditation designates that a specific program within an accredited school meets an industry set of standards. Attending a programmatically-accredited pharmacy technician program means your education will satisfy industry standards and, upon completion, you'll be fully trained in all pharmacy technician duties.
The Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission (PTAC) provides accreditation to pharmacy technician training and education programs. The PTAC is a collaborative effort between the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). ASHP and ACPE both approve accreditation standards for pharmacy technician training and education programs. If you do not choose a PTAC-accredited pharmacy technician program, your training and education may not fully prepare you for the position.
Pharmacy Technician Program Admissions
The process for applying to pharmacy technician programs varies. Typically, associate degree applications are lengthier and have more challenging requirements than certificate and diploma programs. Applying for on-campus programs is also typically a lengthier process than applications to online schools.
Make sure you meet all eligibility criteria for the schools you apply to. Most programs require you to submit proof of a high school diploma or GED as a prerequisite for admission. Some programs may ask you to pass an entrance exam that tests for competence in basic skills. Most associate programs also ask you to submit high school or college transcripts. Typically, applying to multiple programs increases your chances of being accepted somewhere.
- Application: For admission to a pharmacy technician program, you must fill out an application. For diploma and certificate programs, these applications are typically short, while associate program applications may be longer.
- Transcripts: Most degree programs ask applicants to submit transcripts from their high school or previously attended colleges (if applicable). Many certificate and diploma programs only ask for a copy of your high school diploma or GED. To order transcripts, contact the office of the registrar. Most schools charge a small fee to send your transcripts.
- Application Fee: Most pharmacy technicians charge an application fee. Costs vary by program, though $45 is the average. Students experiencing financial hardship can typically apply for a fee waiver or reduction.
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.
Professional Organizations in Pharmacy Technician
Joining a professional organization for pharmacy technicians provides many opportunities for current students and recent graduates. Becoming a member of a group devoted to the pharmacy tech profession shows your colleagues and potential employers that you take your career seriously. Also, professional groups offer members benefits like continuing education classes, publications, networking opportunities events, and career resources. Most groups offer substantial discounts on membership fees for current students.