A Timeline for Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
Pharm techs help licensed pharmacists with the preparation and dispensing of prescription medications. They also assist with inventory control, insurance claims, and – if they work in retail pharmacies or drug stores – often provide some level of customer service. How long does it take to learn the knowledge and skills needed to perform the duties required of a pharm tech? The answer can depend on a number of factors, as there is more than one way to achieve this goal.
Pharmacy Tech Requirements
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that pharm techs don’t always need formal education or training to enter this field and that a high school diploma and employer-provided job training may be enough.1 At the same time, some employers require or prioritize candidates who have completed a training program.
Additionally, many states regulate the pharmacy technician role by requiring that healthcare professionals in these positions be certified. In cases such as these, completing an education or training program is typically required to apply for the certification exam.
For example, formal training or an equivalent amount of work experience, or around 500 hours, is required by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) before you can apply to become a certified pharmacy technician or CPhT. So, the best route for someone who wants to enter this field as soon as possible would be to first complete a pharm tech program, then take the CPhT exam upon meeting eligibility requirements.
How Long Is the Pharmacy Technician Program?
The length of time it takes to complete pharm tech training varies depending on the program pursued. Ultimate Medical Academy (UMA) offers a Health Sciences – Pharmacy Technician Associate Degree program that can be completed in 18 months.2 Other pharmacy technician degree programs may take two years or more. A diploma or certificate program might take less.
How Long Does It Take to Complete CPhT Certification Exams?
Answering this question requires understanding the certification process. To apply for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) through the PTCB, you must first meet this organization’s eligibility criteria. This includes:3
- Being a U.S. resident, or a resident within a U.S. territory
- Completion of a pre-approved pharm tech training program or 500 hours of work experience in this role
- Passing a background check, both regarding criminal actions and any actions taken by the State Board of Pharmacy against a previous registration or license
Once you meet the required qualifications, you can apply to the PTCB for certification. If you are approved, you will receive notice that you can schedule your exam. These exams are administered all year long and offered in more than 1,000 locations nationwide. How quickly you can get in depends on the amount of testing that is available in your area and your scheduling options.
The next step is to take the PTCE on the day you are scheduled. It takes roughly two hours to complete this 90-question multiple-choice exam. While you will receive your unofficial test score immediately upon completion, your official exam results take 2-3 weeks to receive.
The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) also offers CPhT certification. To take the NHA’s ExCPT exam requires a high school diploma and either:4
- The completion of a training or education program within the past five years or
- One year of supervised work experience totaling at least 1,200 hours in the past three years
If you meet the necessary qualifications, and possibly a background check, the same basic steps are followed. You apply to take the exam, set the date, then take the test. The only real difference is, instead of waiting 2-3 weeks for your official results, you’ll get them within two days.
Pharmacy Tech Education Online
Some pharmacy technician programs offer the ability to obtain your education online. One benefit of this approach is that it enables you to learn from the comfort of your own home. No commuting to and from campus, which saves time and wear and tear on your vehicle.
When taking an online pharm tech program, you can also do your studies at a time that is best for you. If you learn best early in the morning, for instance, taking an online program offers this ability. But if you learn best later at night, you can do that, too.
UMA’s Health Sciences – Pharmacy Technician Associate Degree program is available almost entirely online5 and takes approximately 18 months to complete.2 Completing this program helps you meet the education requirements for the applicable certification exams. If all the other requirements are met as well, you can apply to sit for the exam and if passed, receive this credential.
The certification exams that UMA prepares Health Sciences – Pharmacy Technician students to sit for include the Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination (PTCE) as described above and the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) offered through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Perhaps more importantly, completion of this education program prepares you to work as a pharmacy technician. It covers topics important to this role, such as those related to pharmacology, pharmacy law and ethics, and drug dosing and interactions.
Pharmacy Tech Licensure Requirements
License requirements vary by state. Check with your state’s licensing agency to learn what is required to serve in a pharm tech role based on where you intend to work.
If you plan to be a pharmacy technician in Florida, for instance, licensing requirements are dictated by the Florida Board of Pharmacy. Alternatively, if you plan to perform pharmacy technician duties in Washington, the Washington State Department of Health sets these regulations.
Taking the time to learn your state’s license requirements can help you map out exactly what you need to do to begin working as a pharm tech. It also reduces the likelihood that you’ll get ready to enter this field only to learn that you don’t have what you need to obtain the necessary registration or license.
Begin the Path to Pharmacy Technician Training Today
If you’re ready to pursue pharm tech training, UMA is here to help. In addition to gaining the knowledge and skills needed to work in this role, as a UMA student, you also gain the support of others who can help you succeed both as a student and in your career.
Our Student Services can help with everything from enrollment to financial aid, if you qualify. If you have questions about a particular class or are struggling with your coursework, we can help with that, too. We also have a Career Services team to assist with resume development, interview preparation, and can aid in your job search.
If you’re still not sure whether this is the right healthcare path for you, it might help to take a look at a day in the life of a pharm tech. Then, if you decide to pursue this role, you can learn the five steps to becoming a pharmacy technician. At UMA, our goal is to provide our students with all the information they need to choose the right career for them.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Pharmacy Technicians. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-4
2 Completion time varies depending on individual student.
3 PTCB. Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT). https://www.ptcb.org/credentials/certified-pharmacy-technician
4 NHA. Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT). https://www.nhanow.com/certification/nha-certifications/certified-pharmacy-technician-(cpht)
5 Set schedules required for on-site externship course.