Do you like working in a team? Are you interested in health care? Do you still want to interact with customers and people every day? If you said yes, an exciting career as a pharmacy technician may be right for you. This useful guide explains why become a pharmacy technician, how to do so, and how to choose the right pharmacy technician school for you.
Why Become a Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy technicians hold a unique place in health care in that they can work in a variety of settings. They get to interact with customers as well as doctors, pharmacists and other medical professionals.
Employment in the health care sector overall is one of the strongest growth areas in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of health care occupations is projected to grow 14% from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 1.9 million new jobs.1 Pharmacy technicians specifically are also a growing area of employment. According to the BLS, the national job outlook is a growth of 7%, faster than average for all occupations.2
The BLS states that the demand for health care workers and pharmacy technicians is high because of the aging U.S. population. As the baby boomer generation gets older, there is more demand for preventive medicine. Higher rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, among all age groups will also lead to increased demand for prescription medications. Advances in pharmaceutical research will allow for more prescription medications to be used to fight diseases.2
According to the BLS, pharmacy technicians will also play an important role as the role of pharmacists changes. Pharmacists are more frequently working with patients, administering things like flu shots. As such, technicians will need to perform tasks — such as collecting patient information, preparing more types of medications, and verifying the work of other technicians — that were previously done by pharmacists.2
Pharmacy Technician Salary
The national median salary for pharmacy technicians was $33,950 or $16.32 per hour in May 2019.3 The lowest 10% earned less than $24,120, and the highest 10% earned more than $49,130. In May 2019, the median annual wages for pharmacy technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
- Hospitals; state, local, and private: $38,310
- Pharmacies and drug stores: $31,840
- Food and beverage stores: $31,610
Where Do Pharmacy Technicians Work?
While many have likely interacted with a pharmacy technician at a retail pharmacy like CVS or Walgreens the last time they were sick, there are other places pharmacy techs can work. Some of those options can include:
- Pharmacies, including compounding and specialty pharmacies
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Hospitals and other health care clinics
Compounding pharmacies differ from retail drugstores in that they create medications tailored to individual patients.5 A doctor may refer a patient to a compounding pharmacy for specific medication that is tailored to a patient’s needs. Or, if a patient is allergic to certain ingredients like glutenin a medication their doctor may refer them to a compounding pharmacy.
Meanwhile, pharmacy technicians work in drug-dispensing departments of larger organizations, such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes, assisted living communities, and memory care facilities. At these sorts of facilities, pharmacy technicians may help with medication administered in IV bags or syringes.
Overall, pharmacy technicians in all settings typically work full-time and indoors. Because pharmacy hours are typically longer, pharmacy technicians may need to work nights or weekends.6
Major Pharmacy Technician Employers
If you’re looking for pharmacy technician jobs, there are a number of major retailers nationally. The 15 largest pharmacies in 2018 were:7
- CVS Health
- Walgreens Boots Alliance
- Cigna/Express Scripts, Inc.
- UnitedHealth Group
- Walmart Stores
- The Kroger Company
- Rite Aid Corporation
- Humana Pharmacy Solutions
- Albertsons Companies
- Diplomat Pharmacy
- Costco Wholesale Corporation
- Ahold Delhaize
These chains, which primarily are made up of retail pharmacies and food and beverage stores that may have pharmacies inside them.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
There are different paths to becoming a pharmacy technician depending on the state in which you live and wish to work. Many states require pharmacy technicians to register with a state board. Paths to registration can vary but typically, to become a pharmacy technician there are a few steps.
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent. Most states require a high school education.
- Attend a qualified Pharmacy Technology program. The easiest way to become a pharmacy technician is to attend an accredited program that will prepare you for the Pharmacy Technicians Certification Board (PTCB) exam.
- Receive hands-on training. Many states require some level of on-the-job training before pharmacy technicians can register with the state.
- Become PTCB certified. This step is not required in all states.
How to Get PTCB National Certification
PTCB national certification is a step that may be required by your state, as seen in the table below, it is commonly a path to becoming a registered pharmacy technician. The Pharmacy Technicians Certification Board (PTCB) is a national certifying organization for pharmacy technicians. PTCB-certified technicians are called Certified Pharmacy Technicians or CPhTs.
There are two paths to becoming PTCB certified.9 One is to attend a PTCB-recognized program, of which there are 1,400 recognized programs. The second path is to receive equivalent work experience (minimum 500 hours) under. Following that training, prospective CPhTs need to take and pass the PTCB Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam® (PTCE®).
Other eligibility requirements are:
- Full disclosure of all criminal and State Board of Pharmacy registration or licensure actions
- Compliance with all applicable PTCB Certification policies
What to Look for in a Pharmacy Technology Program
Choosing the right pharmacy technology program for you is a big decision. The right training can open doors for better jobs and possibly salary down the line. While many institutions may offer pharmacy technology classes, it’s important that you look for the one that fits your goals and lifestyle.
A few core things to look for when considering Pharmacy Technology programs include:
- Small class sizes. When learning to be a pharmacy technician you want individual attention from your instructor.
- Hands-on training. When dealing with tasks like measuring dosages and administering medication, it’s important that you have time to practice those skills hands-on.
- Externships or career training. Most programs include an opportunity to learn in the real world before you even graduate! You’ll earn an impressive experience that looks great on your resume. What’s more, many states require some form of supervised training to become a registered pharmacy technician.
- Career support. Programs and schools should be dedicated to your success. Many institutions, like Carrington College, offer career services to help you find job placements after graduation.
- Cost. Education is a major investment, but it’s an investment in your future. At Carrington College and many other institutions, we participate in most financial assistance programs, both federal and state, as well as private financing. Student loans, grants, and scholarships are available to those who qualify. For complete information on current tuition costs, please see the academic catalog.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy Technology programs can take as little as nine months to complete or as many as two years if you are also pursuing an associate’s degree. When looking for the right pharmacy technology school for you, you should look at when you would be able to complete your certificate program. Everyone’s timeline for pursuing a new career is different. Find a school that works best for you.
What Classes Would You Take in the Carrington College Pharmacy Technology Program?
In a pharmacy technology program, you will learn a number of skills related to compounding, dosing and administering medications. It will be important to study human anatomy and physiology as well as the theory of how to work in a lab. Some course examples are:
- PHM 111 L Retail Operations Lab This course provides hands-on lab experience with shelf stocking, ordering systems and retail operations such as pulling and filling medication orders and packaging prescriptions for verification by pharmacists. Students also perform reconstitutions of antibiotics and become proficient in understanding drug labels and equipment used in dosage measurement. Retail pharmacy procedures, calculations and cash register operations are practiced in simulations.
- PHM 112 L Prescription Processing and Pharmacy Calculations Lab This course provides hands-on lab experiences that allow students to work with software used in a pharmacy setting. Students enter mock patient profiles, prescriptions and physician information in addition to printing medication labels and filling prescriptions for verification by the pharmacists. Students will also work in a group setting to research the legalities to open a pharmacy, from the type of building required to startup costs. Students will transcribe handwritten paper prescriptions into pharmacy specific computer software using basic keyboarding techniques and 10-key touch-typing methods.
- PHM 114 T Compounding, Pharmacy Calculations and Body Systems Theory This course introduces students to specialized patient dosage calculations, conversions between measurement systems and utilizing ratio proportion for pharmaceutical calculations in context. Also provided is an overview of the anatomy, physiology and pharmacological effects of medications on the respiratory, digestive and renal systems. Students gain a working knowledge of the medications used to treat common diseases in all three systems, including mechanisms of action, common interactions and dosing considerations.
Launch a Career in Pharmacy Technology With Carrington College
Carrington College offers a top-tier Pharmacy Technology program for students interested in taking their careers in this exciting direction. Carrington’s program focuses on small classes so you can get individualized attention from knowledgeable faculty and staff. Carrington is committed to student success, helping students with externships and job placement.
Carrington College’s Pharmacy Technology Students and Faculty
Carrington hires experienced staff who have working knowledge of their field. Students and faculty work hard to make sure there are excellent student outcomes.
Carrington students range from high-school graduates expanding their educational horizons to more mature students who are making career shifts. They all work together to find new careers.
Our faculty take pride in seeing students succeed, often taking a personal interest in if a student gets a training placement or externship. At Carrington, you aren’t just a nameless face in a classroom; you can build real relationships with educators.