Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists with the tasks and responsibilities of a pharmacy, such as helping patients and customers, counting and measuring medications, and maintain the pharmaceutical inventory.
For someone interested in pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician can be confused as to whether they need a certificate or a license. The state you decide to work in will regulate if you need to be licensed. A licensed pharmacy technician meets the state’s requirement to practice as a professional pharmacy technician. A certified pharmacy technician meets credentialing agencies’ requirements and will pass an exam to achieve a certificate.
To work as a pharmacy technician in most states, individuals at least need a high school diploma. However, some states require more formal training in pharmacy technology, and for individuals to graduate from a program that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. Some educational programs offer associate degrees for a pharmacy technician. You can obtain a pharmacy technician certification from UMA.
Completing a pharmacy technician certification program could take up to a year or less, and an associate degree takes typically two years.
- Certificate Program – a certificate program takes approximately a year or less and focuses on the pharmacy technician profession. The certificate programs help prepare individuals to pass a pharmacy technician exam (PTCE, or ExCPT) to become certified. At the end of the certification, individuals can gain hands-on experience and job training in a pharmacy as a pharmacy technician.
- Associates Degree (AA) – an associate degree takes approximately two years to complete. A degree is an excellent option for someone wanting to complete a four-year bachelor’s degree later. The coursework in an associate degree broadens your knowledge of pharmacy technicians’ jobs that can carry into a pharmacy. The additional education can help with assisting an individual in a management position or other promotional opportunities in your career as a pharmacy technician.
There are two ways to prepare for national certification exams for pharmacy technicians, through either formal education, in-person or online. Having a strong education and extensive knowledge of the pharmacy tech profession helps in passing the exams. To work in a pharmacy, it is suggested that you become licensed or certified. You need to check your state’s Board of Pharmacy requirements to see if you need a license or certification to work as a pharmacy tech.
What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?
Pharmacy technicians act as the intermediate between customers or patients and the pharmacist. Pharmacy technician’s primary responsibilities include providing customer service to patients, and relaying customers needs to the pharmacists. The job of a pharmacy technician also involves maintaining inventory, mixing medicines, and stocking machines.
There are many different environments that pharmacy technicians can work in, such as hospitals, mail-order pharmacies, chain drugstores, big-box retail, wholesale druggist, and independent drugstores.
- Hospital Pharmacy – technicians that work in a hospital setting will work with IV medications and do laboratory preparation to ensure patients are receiving what they need. It might include extensive cleaning to guarantee sterility and a safe pharmaceutical environment.
- Retail Pharmacy – pharmacy technicians that work in a retail setting are in the public eye and deal with customers or patients who need prescriptions or over-the-counter medicine daily. A retail pharmacy technician will need to have strong communication skills, because they will answer questions about the administration of medication, including dosages, and should medication be taken on an empty stomach or with food.
- Mail-Order Pharmacy – pharmacy techs that work in a mail-order pharmacy work mainly in an office environment where their day consists of filling prescriptions from workstations. A regular day for pharmacy techs might include meetings with pharmacists and other techs, preparing medicines, maintaining patient databases, filling vials of medicine, and inventory maintenance.
In many states, employers prefer candidates that have some sort of certification in pharmacy tech. Having a certification or license indicates that you have recognized measures of competency to do your job, which can lead to more job opportunities, higher pay, and job security.