Most pharmacy technicians are trained on-the-job, but employers
favor applicants who have formal training, certification, or previous
experience. Strong customer service skills also are important. Pharmacy
technicians may become supervisors, may move into specialty positions or
into sales, or may become pharmacists.
Employers who have insufficient
resources to give on-the-job training often seek formally educated
pharmacy technicians. Formal education programs and certification
emphasize the technician's interest in and dedication to the work. In
addition to the military, some hospitals, proprietary schools,
vocational or technical colleges, and community colleges offer formal
pharmacy technician programs is managed by the American Society of
Health-System Pharmacists. There are currently
140 accredited programs throughout the United States.
technician education programs require classroom and laboratory work in a
variety of areas, including medical and pharmaceutical terminology,
pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy recordkeeping, pharmaceutical
techniques, and pharmacy law and ethics. Technicians also are required
to learn medication names, actions, uses, and doses. Many training
programs include internships, in which students gain hands-on experience
in actual pharmacies. After completion, students receive a diploma, a
certificate, or an associate's degree, depending on the program.
pharmacy technicians with experience working as an aide in a community
pharmacy or volunteering in a hospital may have an advantage. Employers
also prefer applicants with experience managing inventories, counting
tablets, measuring dosages, and using computers. In addition, a
background in chemistry, English, and health education may be
Two organizations, the
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
and the Institute for the
Certification of Pharmacy Technicians, administer national
certification examinations. Certification is voluntary in most States,
but is required by some States and employers. Some technicians are hired
without formal training, but under the condition that they obtain
certification within a specified period of time. To be eligible for
either exam, candidates must have a high school diploma or GED, no
felony convictions of any kind within 5 years of applying, and no drug
or pharmacy related felony convictions at any point. Employers, often
pharmacists, know that individuals who pass the exam have a standardized
body of knowledge and skills. Many employers also will reimburse the
costs of the exam.
Under both programs,
technicians must be recertified every 2 years. Recertification requires
20 hours of continuing education within the 2-year certification period.
At least 1 hour must be in pharmacy law. Continuing education hours can
be earned from several different sources, including colleges, pharmacy
associations, and pharmacy technician training programs. Up to 10 hours
of continuing education can be earned on the job under the direct
supervision and instruction of a pharmacist.
customer service and teamwork skills are needed because pharmacy
technicians interact with patients, coworkers, and health care
professionals. Mathematics, spelling, and reading skills also are
important. Successful pharmacy technicians are alert, observant,
organized, dedicated, and responsible. They should be willing and able
to take directions, but be able to work independently without constant
instruction. They must be precise; details are sometimes a matter of
life and death. Candidates interested in becoming pharmacy technicians
cannot have prior records of drug or substance abuse.
In large pharmacies
and health-systems, pharmacy technicians with significant training,
experience and certification can be promoted to supervisory positions,
mentoring and training pharmacy technicians with less experience. Some
may advance into specialty positions such as chemo therapy technician
and nuclear pharmacy technician. Others move into sales. With a
substantial amount of formal training, some pharmacy technicians go on
to become Pharmacists.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.