If you’re interested in becoming a pharmacy technician, you might be wondering what kind of degree you need. The answer may surprise you – you don’t necessarily need a degree to become a pharmacy tech!
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The Basics of the Pharmacy Technician Profession
A pharmacy technician is a vital part of the healthcare team. They work closely with pharmacists to dispense medications and provide excellent patient care. Although a high school diploma is the minimum education required to become a pharmacy technician, many employers prefer to hire those with a pharmacy technician degree or certificate.
Duties of a Pharmacy Technician
A pharmacy tech’s job is to help pharmacists dispense prescription medication to patients. They do this by measuring out the proper amount of medication, labeling the prescription bottles, and keeping track of pharmacists’ work. Techs may also be responsible for managing the pharmacy’s inventory and ordering new supplies as needed. They may also be tasked with cleaning the work area and keeping equipment sanitized. Some techs may also provide customer service, such as answering questions about insurance coverage or helping patients understand their medications.
In order to become a pharmacy technician, you will need to complete a formal education program. These programs can be found at community colleges, technical schools, and some universities. Many programs take one or two years to complete and result in a certificate or degree. Some states also require certification from an organization such as the National Healthcare Association or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. Once you have completed your education and training, you will be eligible to take the national Certification Exam for Pharmacy Technicians (CPhT).
Skills Needed to Be a Pharmacy Technician
A successful pharmacy technician must have excellent customer service skills, as much of their job is interacting with the public. They should be able to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing. Detail-oriented multitasking and time-management skills are also necessary, as pharmacy technicians often have to perform many tasks at once. For example, they may need to answer phones while filling prescriptions. Strong organizational skills are also critical in this role, as pharmacy technicians must keep track of a large number of medications. In addition, they often have to work under time pressure and meet deadlines.
The Education Path to Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
Education is critical to becoming a pharmacy technician. Most pharmacy techs have at least a high school diploma or equivalent, and many have completed a postsecondary certificate or even an Associate’s degree program in pharmacy technology. A traditional pharmacy technician program includes coursework in medical terminology, pharmacy law and ethics, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy recordkeeping, and other topics.
Pharmacy Technician Certification
There are two types of certification for pharmacy technicians—national certification and state certification. Although not all states require certification, employers often prefer to hire those with valid certification. Certification is also mutually recognized by all states, so if you’re certified in one state, you can likely work as a pharmacy technician in another.
There are several ways to become a certified pharmacy technician. The most common way is to complete a certificate or diploma program offered by a community college, vocational school, or organization that specializes in healthcare training. These programs generally last between six and twelve months. Some programs may require externship experience in order to complete the program. Another way to become certified is to have on-the-job training and then pass a state-specific exam.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) offers the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) Exam, which is recognized by most states as valid certification. To be eligible for the PTCB exam, candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent, and must complete an accredited pharmacy technician program or have at least one year of relevant work experience. Candidates must also pass a criminal background check and submit to fingerprinting prior to taking the exam. The PTCB exam consists of 80 multiple-choice questions covering topics such as medication safety, pharmacology, pharmacy law and ethics, compounding medications, and more. The exam must be taken within one year of completing an accredited pharmacy technician program or having at least one year of relevant work experience.
Associate’s Degree in Pharmacy Technology
An Associate’s Degree in Pharmacy Technology is the most common type of education required to become a pharmacy technician. This type of degree can be received at many different community colleges and technical schools. The coursework for an Associate’s Degree in Pharmacy Technology will include coursework in chemistry, biology, and anatomy. In addition to coursework, students in this type of program will also complete clinical hours working in a pharmacy setting.
Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy Technology
A bachelor’s degree in pharmacy technology is the most comprehensive educational option for aspiring pharmacy technicians. These programs typically take four years to complete and cover topics like pharmaceutical compounding, drug classification, and medical ethics. Many bachelor’s degree programs also include an internship component, giving students the chance to gain real-world experience in a pharmacy setting. Although a bachelor’s degree is not required to become a pharmacy technician, it can help students qualify for higher-level positions and may lead to better job prospects.
The Future of the Pharmacy Technician Profession
Becoming a pharmacy technician is a great way to start a career in the medical field without having to go through the rigors of becoming a doctor or a nurse. Pharmacy techs play an important role in the day-to-day operations of a pharmacy and are responsible for a variety of tasks. However, before you can start working as a pharmacy technician, you need to obtain the proper education and training.
Job Growth for Pharmacy Technicians
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job growth for pharmacy technicians will be above average through 2024. In fact, employment of pharmacy techs is expected to grow 9% during this time period, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The aging population and the increasing use of prescription medications are two factors that should contribute to this job growth.
Currently, there are about 375,000 pharmacy technicians working in the United States. With 9% job growth projected for pharmacy techs from 2014 to 2024, this occupation is expected to add about 34,000 new jobs during this time period.
Salary Expectations for Pharmacy Technicians
The median annual salary for pharmacy technicians was $32,700 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The top 10 percent of earners made more than $45,360, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $24,180.
Most pharmacy technicians work in retail settings, such as grocery stores, drugstores and mass retailers. However, some find employment in hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities. You can also work for managed care organizations or pharmaceutical companies. Where you work will affect your salary potential. For instance, the BLS reports that pharmacy technicians who worked in general merchandise stores earned a median annual salary of $30,410 in 2016, while those employed by hospitals averaged $33,900 per year.
In addition to geographic location and employer type, your level of experience will affect your earnings as a pharmacy technician. According to Payscale.com, entry-level pharmacy technicians (those with five or fewer years on the job) earn a median salary of $28,000 per year. Those with five to 10 years of experience earn a median salary of $32,000 annually, while those with 10 to 20 years under their belts take home a median salary of $36,000 per year. Experienced pharmacy technicians (with 20 or more years on the job) earn the highest salaries of all — a median wage of $41,000 per year