A pharmacy technician’s job is to assist the pharmacist with certain daily tasks such as entering data, measuring out and packaging medications, processing payment information, and accurately placing the correct labels on medication. That’s in addition to more basic skills like answering phone calls, taking inventory of the pharmacy’s supplies, and providing high quality customer service. It’s a position that requires a great deal of precision and attention to detail as well as an understanding of basic pharmacology, expertise in dispensing medication, and a deep knowledge of pharmacy law and ethics.
So, how long does it take to become a pharmacy technician? Not as long as most people think! In fact, with Career Step’s flexible, online course, you can complete your training and start applying for jobs in as little as four months.
In this comprehensive guide to becoming a pharmacy technician, we’ll give you all the details you need to decide whether or not this career is right for you.
Why is a Pharmacy Technician a Good Career?
Becoming a pharmacy technician is a wise career choice. Not only do you get the satisfaction of helping others every day at work, but you also get the added benefits of great pay, job security, and advancement opportunities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for this career is bright, boasting an above-average growth rate of 12%. Furthermore, pharmacy technicians have the potential to earn a promising salary, with an average base pay of about $32k a year. There are also plenty of advancement opportunities available in this field, ranging from internal promotions to specialty certifications.
Flexible hours are another perk that go hand in hand with this position. Many pharmacies now operate 24/7, which opens the doors to both traditional and alternative shift schedules. And because there are so many pharmacies all around the world, it’s easy to relocate and take your degree with you if you end up moving elsewhere — a major work benefit for military spouses.
To top it all off, the educational requirements for this career are fairly lax, allowing you to join the workforce in less than a year! Take Michael West, for example, a Career Step learner who completed our online pharmacy technician program in just two months before passing the national Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) with flying colors.
How Long Does Career Step’s Pharmacy Technician Program Take?
In order to be effective and excel at their jobs, pharmacy technicians need to undergo at least some formal training. But just how long is pharmacy technician school? You’ll find that the answer will vary depending on which route works best for you.
A traditional college setting with standardized courses may take up to two years to complete; however, you can pursue an expedited route and complete your pharmacy training through an accredited online program.
CareerStep’s Pharmacy Technician program is designed to be completed in just four short months on a full-time schedule. However, the online program is entirely flexible, allowing you to complete it at your own speed, whether that’s just a few hours a day or more than the average amount.
We created our program to fit into your current schedule filled with other responsibilities and family obligations. Whether you already have a full-time job or you’re a stay-at-home mother, you can fire up the laptop and complete the Career Step program on your own time.
Completing our accredited program is the first step on your way to becoming a pharmacy technician. Once finished, you’ll need to apply for an internship or take advantage of our externship opportunities to fulfill clinical hours and gain valuable on-the-job experience. You’ll also be required to pass the PTCE to earn your certification, which will require some serious study time — but don’t worry; we’ve got all the resources you need to succeed.
So, how long does it take to be a pharmacy technician? That depends entirely on you and which route you choose to take.
What Do I Need to Get Started? What Certification Programs are Available?
You may be asking, “How do I become a pharmacy technician in the first place?” Well, your very first step is to earn your high school diploma or equivalent — if you haven’t already. This minimum level of schooling is required to begin an accredited pharmacy tech program.
The first step to starting a pharmacy technician career is to earn a high school diploma or GED equivalent. With a basic education, you can qualify for on-the-job training. However, many people find that looking for employment is easier if they have undergone some form of post-secondary training, such as an online pharmacy technician certification program, that helps prepare them for the profession and answers questions about how to be a pharmacy technician and what a pharmacy tech is. Some states require pharmacy technicians to have this formal training or pass a national certification exam.
Is There an Age Requirement?
Yes, there is a standard age requirement to become a certified pharmacy technician. The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) Certification has a minimum age requirement of 18 years and requires applicants to have a high school diploma, complete a formal training program, and have at least 1 year of work experience before they can sit for the certification exam.
What are the Pharmacy Technician Certification Requirements?
You should be aware of two main types of certification for pharmacy technicians as you set out to start your new career. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification requires pharmacy technicians to have a high school diploma and pass a certification exam. The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification has a minimum age requirement of 18 years and requires applicants to have a high school diploma, complete a formal training program, and have at least 1 year of work experience before they can sit for the certification exam. These certifications will help you find a job quickly and be successful in your chosen career as a pharmacy technician.
Pharmacy technicians are required to re-certify every 2 years to make sure they’re up-to-date with all of the healthcare changes and advances that affect their scope of practice. You can do this by completing 20 hours of continuing education to ensure your skills are current.
Training to become a pharmacy technician can take anywhere from a few months to a year, and taking that little bit of extra time to earn a national certification through the PTCB or NHA is definitely worth it if this is the career you want to pursue. In practically no time you’ll go from wondering, “What is a pharmacy technician?” to being fully qualified to work in a pharmacy. Online courses and certification programs will prove valuable in giving you the right start in a rewarding new job. With the right kind of training and knowledge, you can be well on your way toward a long and successful career as a pharmacy technician.
Where Do People Work with a Pharmacist Technician Certification?
The grand majority of pharmacy technicians work in the retail setting, which means they take a job at a local pharmacy inside a drug store or a small chain. But this isn’t the only place that pharmacy technicians can work — far from it.
Pharmacy technicians can choose to work in a hospital setting, specialized care centers, mail-order pharmacies, medical clinics, pharmaceutical labs, and beyond. When it comes to variety, there is no shortage in this pharmaceutical industry.
While the basic responsibilities remain the same, additional tasks will vary according to the location, type of work, and any additional certifications.
What Skills Do I Need to Be Successful?
Is this career the right choice for your unique set of skills? To help you make an informed decision, we’ve listed a few essential skills and abilities required to succeed as a pharmacy technician.
- Attention to detail
- Willingness to learn
- Customer service
- Good communication
- Ability to stand for long periods of time
- Basic mathematical skills
- Pharmaceutical knowledge
- Compliance with HIPAA
Many of these essential skills can be learned during your training and on the job. If you feel like you don’t possess every skill on this list, don’t worry; you’ll be working under the supervision of a licenced pharmacist, so they can review your work and help you improve.
With determination and a willingness to learn, anyone can become a pharmacy technician with the right training. All you need is a little help to get started.
The Career Step Pharmacy Technician program is fully kitted with everything you need to develop your skills, enhance your knowledge, prepare for the PTCE, and land your very first job as a pharmacy technician.
We provide all of our learners with an abundance of online resources, assistance, forums, and beyond. We give you everything you need to lay a sturdy foundation on which to build your long-term career. To give you an idea of just how much we support you, we’ve listed a few of our services below.
- Get one-on-one assistance from any of our experienced career advisors. Our professional advisors are standing by to provide you with valuable tips, feedback, and direction in achieving your career goals. They’re even prepared to review your cover letter and resume, and help you spruce it up with some pro tips and tricks.
- Take full advantage of our personalized interview tutorials to prepare for your next face-to-face with a potential employer. We’ll walk you through the process, give you some test questions, and build your confidence in preparation for an upcoming interview.
- Our online community forums are overflowing with tips, insight, and real-life experiences from other Career Step learners who are building a better future for themselves — just like you! Engage in the community forums, post your questions, and get help from real people who are pursuing the same career path.
Experience the Career Step experience for yourself! Learn more about our how Career Step supports its students from day one to employment, about our online Pharmacy Technician Program, reach out to us with any questions you may have, and get started today!