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What is a Pharmacy Technician?

Are you a problem solver with an eye for detail? Are you interested in supporting people’s health? Then a career as a pharmacy technician might be a rewarding healthcare job for you.

pharmacy technician checking medicine inventory
Home » Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians work closely with pharmacists on all the tasks related to fulfilling prescriptions. Specific responsibilities depend on your role and where you work, but they often include pulling medication from inventory, communicating with providers and payers, authorizing and billing prescriptions, discussing patients’ medical history and medications, and even preparing customized medicines.

The differences between pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are a matter of responsibility. While some tasks may overlap, it is ultimately the pharmacist who answers patient questions, ensures patients are not taking conflicting medications, and verifies dosage and accuracy of medications. Some pharmacy technicians are “lifers,” and others use the job as a stepping stone to become a pharmacist, physician assistant, nurse, or other clinical position.

Either way, the outlook for the field is strong.

Some pharmacy techs use the job as a stepping stone to a career as a pharmacist or other clinical position.

“As baby boomers age, more and more healthcare positions will be needed,” says Glen Gard, CPhT, CSPT, director of sterile compounding compliance at the infusion services company Option Care Health. “Pharmacy technicians are filling valuable roles within pharmacies, and in many places they are taking on duties that traditionally were a pharmacist’s role. There is a lot of growth potential in this field.”

Steps to Getting a Job as a Pharmacy Technician

Want to become a pharmacy technician? Each of these steps will bring you closer to your career goal.

  1. Find and complete a program.

    To learn the necessary skills and knowledge, you will need to earn a certificate/diploma or an associate degree, or train with your employer if they offer this. If you plan to earn a certification, make sure your training program is approved by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

  2. Pass the national certification exam.

    The PTCB and NHA offer exams to become a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT). Some states require this designation; others do not.

  3. Consider advanced certifications or specialty certifications.

    As you gain experience, you can take a PTCB exam for specialties, including expertise in handling hazardous drugs or billing.

  4. Maintain your certification.

    Certifications, including the CPhT, must be renewed every two years. To maintain certification, technicians must complete continuing education courses.

Education

Education and training requirements for pharmacy technicians vary, depending on where you work. Some states require only a high school diploma or GED. Others have a higher bar, for which you’ll need postsecondary education.

Depending on how soon you want to start working, you can choose from several educational options. A certificate/diploma program can be completed in as little as four to five months. An associate degree, which is more comprehensive and includes general education requirements, typically takes two years to complete.

For both these options, you can find partial or full online programs.

Certification

About half the states in the U.S. require certification (CPhT or others). All certifications require completion of a training or education program approved by the PTCB or NHA.

You will need to research your state’s requirements and stay up to date, since they can change.

About half the states require certification for pharmacy technicians.

The introductory certification is designation as CPhT. More experienced pharmacy technicians can earn other certifications as well as complete specialty certificate programs. These demonstrate expertise in specific areas or skills, such as reducing the risk of misused drugs or immunizations.

Pharmacy technician certifications can improve your career outlook both in terms of job opportunities and earnings.

Jobs and Workplaces

There are “boundless opportunities” for work as a pharmacy technician, Gard says. One of the most exciting aspects of the field is the diversity in roles, responsibilities, and workplace settings. You can design your career according to where your passions and skills lie.

Pharmacy technicians are in demand by a variety of employers. As a pharmacy tech, you can work at:

  • Hospitals and clinics
  • Retail pharmacies
  • Infusion companies
  • Compounding pharmacies
  • Mail-order pharmacies
  • Long-term care and skilled nursing facilities

Ultimately, you have a lot of flexibility in finding a pharmacy technician job that’s just right for you.

Salary and Job Outlook

You can jumpstart a career as a pharmacy technician in much less time than many healthcare careers, opening the ability to quickly earn a solid salary. When you are just starting out, your earnings will be less than more experienced technicians.

The job outlook for pharmacy technicians through 2029 is 4%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is about the average of all positions within the U.S.

catherine gregory

Written and reported by:
Catherine Ryan Gregory
Contributing Writer

glen gard

With professional insight from:
Glen Gard, CPhT, CSPT
Director of Sterile Compounding Compliance, Option Care Health