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Becoming a Pharmacy Tech: What You Need to Know

Pharmacy tech working on filling a prescription.

A career as a pharmacy technician can be a rewarding way to make a living. Not only can you provide for yourself and your loved ones, you can also make a difference in your community.

In the guide below, you’ll learn what pharmacy technicians do as well as the necessary steps to becoming one.

What Is a Pharmacy Technician?

A pharmacy technician takes care of many duties within a pharmacy, hospital, or healthcare setting and reports to the pharmacist. The position typically requires a credential, such as a certificate or associate’s degree. At Bryant & Stratton College, we offer a pharmacy technician certification program that will prepare students for an associate degree if they choose to pursue it.

The path to becoming a pharmacy technician is much simpler than becoming a pharmacist. A pharmacist is the person in charge of, and ultimately responsible for, the pharmacy, and it’s a position that requires a doctoral-level degree and certification.

While responsibilities can vary, pharmacy technicians typically interact with customers at the pharmacy as the first point of contact. They will refer more complex questions to the pharmacist but resolve many common questions themselves.

There’s much more to being a pharmacy technician than customer service. They track inventory, compound medicines at pharmacies that offer compounding services, and fill prescription medications for patients under the guidance of a pharmacist.

If you’re working in a hospital setting, you’ll be expected to prepare IV medications and do other lab prep, including sterilizing spaces and equipment and keeping machines stocked with medication.

Bottom line: A pharmacy technician takes care of many day-to-day responsibilities in a pharmacy or hospital, including customer service duties in retail settings. Pharmacy technicians report to pharmacists and may work with pharmacy assistants.

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

The path to becoming a pharmacy technician varies from state to state, but generally speaking, you’ll need to follow these steps:

1. Obtain a High School Diploma or Equivalent

The first step to becoming a pharmacy technician is obtaining your high school diploma or high school equivalency (HSE). This step is necessary to pursue a certificate or diploma program.

2. Complete a Certificate Program

Most states require a certificate called the Certified Pharmacy Technician, or CPhT. Even if not required in your state, getting this certificate is immensely helpful toward achieving certification and licensure.

Bryant & Stratton College is proud to offer a Pharmacy Technician certificate program, available online and at select campuses. The online program can be completed in 12 months or less, 100% online. The on-campus pharmacy tech program includes 160 total hours of study. The first 80 hours are classroom lecture and lab hours where you'll learn all you need to know to succeed as a pharmacy tech.

Both programs have classes covering pharmacy practices, proper measuring and calculating prescriptions, and medical terminology and drug information. Once coursework is completed, students will complete a clinical externship at a local pharmacy.

3. Become Certified or Licensed

Once you’ve completed a training program, the next step is to formally pursue your licensing. There are two options for certification offered by separate institutions. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) offers the pharmacy technician certification exam (PTCE), and the National Healthcareer Association offers the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT). If you have a particular employer in mind before you begin pursuing certification, check to see if the employer has a preferred certification type.

Whichever you choose, either credential shows that you have demonstrated an understanding of medication safety and patient care. While not every employer requires pharmacy technicians to be certified by the PTCB or NHA, it can help you stand out from applicants who do not hold the credential.

4. Begin Applying for Jobs

Once you're certified, it’s time to begin applying for jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for pharmacy technicians is expected to grow 4% over the next 10 years, making this a promising career path.

Pharmacy technicians are in demand in a range of settings, so it’s advisable to narrow your focus. There are three pharmacy types based on location:

Retail Pharmacy

The most visible option for pharmacy technicians is the retail pharmacy. From big box stores to local independent pharmacies, every pharmacy needs several techs. Pharmacy techs in retail environments handle a majority of customer-facing duties, such as filling prescriptions and offering advice on medication interactions. Other administrative duties, such as processing claims or dealing with inventory, may also be included.

Hospital Pharmacy

Hospital pharmacy technicians frequently deal with IV medications and may also be called upon to prepare laboratory supplies. Stocking the drug-dispensing machines located throughout the hospital also falls to pharmacy technicians.

Mail Order Pharmacy

Mail order pharmacy technician positions offer more of an office environment, where you’ll work alongside other pharmacy technicians to fill prescriptions from your workstation. You might also take on administrative responsibilities like those common in a retail setting.

5. Advance Your Education

Once you’ve begun work as a pharmacy technician, you may opt to continue your education. Depending on the nature of your role as a pharmacy tech, you might be able to advance in your organization by acquiring additional skills and deeper knowledge.

Why Become a Pharmacy Technician?

There are many reasons to pursue a career as a pharmacy technician, including:

Pay: Compared to the relatively brief education process required, income potential for pharmacy technicians is considerable. High performers may make more than the average - however, pay depends on setting and circumstance, so check individual job listings to get an accurate value.

Meaningful Impact: As a pharmacy technician, you make a real impact on the lives of your patients. By properly filling their prescriptions and offering quality advice, you help patients manage their health conditions effectively and, ultimately, improve quality of life.

Stability: The field is quite stable and projected to continue growing, and there are many opportunities across the country.

Consider the Pharmacy Technician Certificate from Bryant & Stratton

If you’re planning to pursue certification as a pharmacy technician, consider the Bryant & Stratton pharmacy tech certificate program. Our certificate program will prepare you to take the PTCE exam, obtain your license, and start a career as a Pharmacy Technician in this fast-paced and exciting field.

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