Looking for a healthcare-related career path that’s public-facing, but doesn’t take years to train for? You may want to look into becoming a pharmacy technician. If you’ve ever needed to fill a prescription, it’s likely that you’ve interacted with a pharmacy technician at some point in the past. A pharmacy technician is responsible for assisting the pharmacist with dispensing prescription medication to customers.
You can prepare to become a pharmacy technician in less than one year—at Altierus Career College, our diploma program can be completed in as few as eight months. Here are the five steps most people take on their path to becoming a pharmacy technician.
1. Complete High School (or a GED Program)
The minimum education needed to become a pharmacy technician is a high school diploma (or successful completion of a GED program). Some employers will hire high school graduates who don’t have any other formal training to become pharmacy technicians through on-the-job training.
Note that you may have to work for a while to become eligible for industry certification, however. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) requires applicants for their certification program to have either 500 hours of job experience or formal training to become eligible to take the exam.
2. Complete a Post-Secondary Diploma Program
Although you can get started as a pharmacy tech with just a high school education, prospective pharmacy technicians who have post-secondary training may be more likely to stand out in the job market.
The Altierus Career College Pharmacy Technician diploma program equips you for jobs in both retail pharmacies and hospital pharmacies. In our program, students master key healthcare concepts and gain hands-on skills handling and compounding medications in lab classes. They also complete an externship experience to give them an idea of how pharmacy technicians handle their day-to-day duties in the real world.
Topics covered in our pharmacy technician training program include:
- Pharmacy calculations
- Preparing and dispensing medications
- Customer service skills
- Pharmacy laws and ethics
3. Take an Industry Certification Exam
Completing an industry certification program is an optional step on the path to becoming a pharmacy technician—one that can help you stand out even more in the job market. Entering the job market with industry certification as well as a diploma sends another signal to employers that you’re serious about doing well in your job. It also tells them that your knowledge and skills have been vetted and approved by an industry association.
There are two major options for pharmacy technician certification: the Pharmacy Technician Certification exam offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the ExCPT exam offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
Both certification exams charge testing fees. As of January 2022, the fee for the PTCB exam is $129[i], and the fee for the ExCPT exam is $117.[ii] Altierus will cover testing fees for one attempt at the exam of your choice. If you’re not sure which exam is best for you, your program instructors can help you decide based on the local job market.
No matter which exam you choose, you’ll take a multiple-choice, computer-based test. Both cover similar topics, including drugs, drug therapy, regulations and technician duties, and the medication dispensing process.
4. Pass a Criminal Background Check
Some medications are powerful substances subject to legal and regulatory controls. Pharmacy technicians handle these controlled substances on a daily basis. This means that passing a criminal background check is another important step on the path to becoming a pharmacy technician.
When you apply for pharmacy technician jobs, most hiring managers will require you to give permission to have a criminal check conducted. This is usually a simple process on your part—you fill out a release form that gives the employer your consent to the background check. Once you pass, you can be legally cleared to work with regulated medications.
5. Continue Your Education
After you’ve launched your career as a pharmacy technician, you will need to continue investing in your education on an ongoing basis. If you pursue industry certification, you’ll usually need to renew it every two years. The steps for certification renewal vary depending on which certification you choose, but usually involve taking some professional development classes.
Continuing your education will benefit you in the long run, because you’ll be able to stay up to date on new developments in the field. This will make you more marketable to employers—and more helpful to your pharmacy customers.
Get Started Today
The career and industry outlook for pharmacy technicians is fairly strong. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that pharmacy technician jobs will grow by 16,600 nationwide between 2020-2030.[iii] Find out more about how you can receive the proper training and get ready to enjoy working in a field that you’re passionate about.
[iii] https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm, local job markets may vary