Does a career in healthcare appeal to you? Perhaps you enjoy working with patients but don’t necessarily want to administer hands-on treatment. A career as a pharmacy technician could be exactly what you’re looking for.
Under the direction of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians dispense medication, information, customer service, and support to customers. They work in a variety of settings, including retail pharmacies, compounding pharmacies, hospitals, and care homes.
In this guide, we will take you through the five steps to how to pursue becoming a pharmacy technician.
Step 1: Preparing and Applying
The first step to pursuing a pharmacy tech career is researching and applying for a pharm tech training program. Though some employers may only require a high school diploma, 24 states also regulate this particular role. So, completing a program and/or passing an exam may be required — here’s what you need to know about that.
Key Skills for a Successful Career as a Pharmacy Technician
- Math, spelling, and reading
- Attention to detail as you will be filling prescriptions and working with chemical and drug names
- Basic knowledge of chemistry, biology, or health education
- Familiarity with medical terminology and scientific terms used in pharmacy
- Ability to work under pressure
- Good organizational skills
- Good customer service skills
- Good interpersonal skills and a good team player
- Takes directions well, but can work independently when needed
Finding the Right Program to Pursue Your Pharmacy Technician Education
To become a pharmacy tech — a job in which you’ll play an important role in patients’ health — you’ll often need to pass a certification exam and/or complete an educational program.
There are a variety of programs that prepare you for certification, from on-campus to remote programs that can be completed online, so whatever your circumstances, you can choose the one that is right for you.
Successful completion of your diploma or degree program with certification prep can prepare you for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), which is often a requirement for pharm tech roles.
Step 2: Complete a Pharm Tech Certification
Finding out how to become a certified pharm tech can be one of the most important steps on your journey to becoming a qualified pharmacy technician.
What to Expect During Certification Preparation
Pharmacy technician certification programs generally cover the following subjects:
- Pharmacy law and ethics
- Medical terminology
- Pharmaceutical calculations
- Healthcare systems
As part of your pharmacy technician certification prep, you’ll likely be required to complete an on-site externship. Your instructors or school may help you connect with an appropriate role that will allow you to gain real-world experience.
Step 3: Take the PTCB Certification Test
Acquiring a PTCB certification, if eligible, is a mandatory requirement to become a pharmacy technician in some states. In states where certification is not compulsory, employers might still prefer candidates with this certification.
Preparing for the Exam
Your pharm tech program should have given you the knowledge needed to pass the PTCB Certification exam. Ahead of the exam, you’ll want to spend time reviewing key topics.
Applying for the Exam
You can take the PTCB certification exam, if eligible, either in-person or online by applying via the PTCB portal. It costs $129 to apply to take the exam.
If you pass the exam, you are now a certified pharmacy technician. Congratulations, this is an important milestone on your journey to starting your career.
Step 4: Apply for a Job as a Pharmacy Technician
As a newly certified pharmacy technician, seeking entry-level roles within your field will be well supported by your certification.
Job Outlook for a Career as a Pharmacy Technician
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job market outlook for pharmacy technicians is good. The field has been projected to grow as fast as average — 4 percent (15,200 new jobs) through 2029. As the population ages, employment opportunities in the pharmaceutical industry in general are expected to grow.
Choosing the Right Environment for You
Pharmacy technicians work in a wide range of environments, so it’s important to spend some time thinking about what you want to get from your future workplace.
If you’d like to work in a fast-paced environment, for instance, then you could seek out pharmacy technician jobs in hospitals, while those who want to make a real connection with patients could look for roles in care homes. Meanwhile, pharm techs talented in customer service should examine opportunities in retail pharmacies, while those with a passion for mixing drugs could consider a compounding pharmacy.
Step 5: Continued Education
While certification is an important step in your pharmacy technician career journey, it’s by no means the end of your education.
Keeping Up to Date with New Medications
Pharmacy technicians are tasked with keeping up to date with new medications. It’s essential that graduates maintain knowledge of changes in the industry, with new drugs and brands constantly entering the market.
Renewing Your PCTB Certification
PTCB CPhTs must renew their certification every two years. This ensures that pharmacy technicians stay on top of any changes to the industry through required continued education. Failure to renew your certification means you are no longer PCTB-certified and must immediately stop identifying yourself with this credential.
Long Story Short? The Process Simplified
Broken down, the basic requirements for how to pursue becoming a pharmacy tech are as follows:
The Stages of a Pharmacy Technician
- Completion of a pharm technician educational program, if required by your state
- Completing an on-site externship, if enrolled in a program
- Passing the PTCB certification exam (if required by your state or potential employer)
- Applying for and being hired for a pharmacy technician role
- Completion of continuing education throughout career
- Renewing PCTB certification every two years if applicable
If you’re ready to start your journey to becoming a fully qualified pharmacy tech, you’ll need to decide which pharm tech program works best for you. At Ultimate Medical Academy, you can complete a Health Sciences – Pharmacy Technician associate degree online.
As well as giving you the knowledge and skills for entry-level roles in the field, UMA prepares you to take the PTCB certification exam, and includes an on-site externship that gives you real-world experience. Find out more about the program here.