How To Become a Pharmacy Technician
- Pharmacy technicians fill medical prescriptions and dispense medicine.
- Requirements to become a pharmacy technician differ by state.
- Technicians can pursue either an associate degree or certificate/diploma.
- Some states require licensure and/or certification for pharmacy technicians.
Pharmacy technicians hold positions in the healthcare industry, filling medical prescriptions and dispensing medicine for patients in hospitals and retail pharmacies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects 4% job growth for these professionals between 2019 and 2029.
In this guide, readers can explore how to become a pharmacy technician and find information about pharmacy technician training, certification, and other requirements.
What Are the Requirements to Become a Pharmacy Technician?
In some cases, pharmacy technicians only need a high school diploma or GED certificate to begin their careers. However, many enroll in a pharmacy technician training program or a related associate program. Education requirements to become a pharmacy technician vary depending on the state. Readers should research their state's board of pharmacy to learn more about individual requirements.
After completing their education, many pharmacy technicians must pass an exam to receive certification and/or licensure. While some states do not require certification or licensure, aspiring pharmacy technicians may find it easier to secure a job with certification. Certification may also open the door to higher wages and career advancement opportunities.
Pharmacy technicians also receive on-the-job training from their individual employers related to their day-to-day duties. Some states require technicians to pass background checks and complete more formal continuing education courses throughout their careers.
What Does Pharmacy Technician Training Look Like?
Many pharmacy technicians pursue either an associate degree or a postsecondary certificate/diploma. Technicians who wish to advance further in their careers and/or earn a higher salary may also choose to earn a bachelor's degree. However, a bachelor's degree isn't necessary in order to meet most states' minimum education requirement for pharmacy technicians.
An associate degree typically requires 60 credits and takes full-time students about two years to complete. Associate degree programs offer classes in pharmacy calculations, pharmacology, hospital pharmacy, and pharmaceutical dosage. Some associate degree programs also require practicum experiences so that students can gain hands-on experience.
A pharmacy technician program that awards a certificate/diploma typically lasts 9-18 months. Accelerated certificate programs may shorten that timeline to about six months. Typically, certificates and diplomas require 20-30 credits. Students can find in-person and online certificates and diploma programs at community colleges, technical schools, and four-year universities.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician?
Students who pursue an associate degree should prepare to spend about two years completing their program. Certificate/diploma students typically only need a year or less to earn a certificate.
After graduation, the amount of time it takes to begin working as a pharmacy technician depends on each state's requirements. Some states require professionals to complete a certain number of clinical hours. Some also require professionals to pass a test. In many cases, technicians can meet additional requirements in less than a year.
Readers should also note that some pharmacy technician certifications must be renewed after 1-2 years. Technicians must allow time for continuing education courses and recertification exams, if necessary.
What Certification or Licensure Is Required to Practice as a Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy technicians may need certification and/or licensure to practice in their chosen field. Licensure is awarded by the state or a state-appointed organization. Certification typically comes from professional organizations.
Technicians must check individual state requirements to determine if they need licensure and/or certification to practice.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board provides three pharmacy technician certifications: certified pharmacy technician, certified compounded sterile preparation technician, and advanced certified pharmacy technician.
Additionally, the National Healthcare Association (NHA) offers eight certifications. This organization also provides continuing education resources and certification prep materials. Technicians can explore NHA's professional development resources available online.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
States like Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, and New York do not currently maintain official requirements to become a pharmacy technician. New Hampshire and Missouri only require technicians to register with the state's board of pharmacy before practicing. Readers can find more information about their state's requirements by researching their board of pharmacy.
The cost of a pharmacy technician certificate program can vary widely, with most ranging in price from $2,000-$5,000. This cost can change depending on factors like in-state or out-of-state residency status, online or in-person learning, and the number of credits needed to graduate. Students may find scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition at a two-year school during the 2018-19 academic year was about $3,600, which would make the average tuition cost of an associate degree slightly more than $7,000. Students who qualify for in-state tuition may pay less than out-of-state residents. Aspiring technicians interested in an online program should determine if they qualify for a lower tuition rate. Readers should always research financial aid options for college when applying.
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