Are you interested in a career in the medical or healthcare field that will take you less than 3 years to complete? If the answer to that question is yes, then you may want to consider a career as a Certified Pharmacy Technician. Certified Pharmacy Technicians act as the primary assistant to licensed Pharmacists in a variety of clinical and healthcare settings and fill and dispense prescription drug orders. To become a Certified Pharmacy Technician a minimum of a high school diploma is required to be eligible for the national Pharmacy Technician exam in your state of residence. Potential Pharmacy Technician Candidates today are considering going above and beyond the call of duty which normally entails entering or continuing in the field with a high school diploma. As advances in technology are ever increasing and the need for professional Pharmacy Technicians is on the rise, there is an opportunity for new candidates who are interested in the field to become Certified Pharmacy Technicians within just a few years’ time. If you are someone that has compassion for people, a solid moral character and a flair for making customers smile, read more to learn about what it takes to become a Certified Pharmacy Technician and the possible career paths that this certification can lead to for you.
When you think of a Pharmacy Technician, you may think of someone who works in a drugstore packaging your prescription medications and answering basic questions that you may have about maintaining your daily dosages or any possible side effects. You’re right! This is your Pharmacy Technician and here is a look at who they are and what they do. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the duties of a Pharmacy Technicians as: “Preparing Medications Under the Direction of a Pharmacist Measure, Mix, Count Out, Label and Record Amounts and Dosages of Medications According to Prescription Orders.” Pharmacy Technicians are allied medical healthcare professionals that are responsible for portioning and dispensing prescription medication under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Technicians may work side by side with other healthcare professionals or distribute medications privately such as in a privately owned pharmacy.
When people think of Pharmacy Technicians, many aren’t aware of the strict code of ethics that technicians adhere to in order to protect the health and safety of patients and the general public as a whole. Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians continue to rank in the top (5) on the list of the most trusted professionals. Respondents to a specialized survey rated Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians as having high or very high ethical standards. In this case those considering becoming a Pharmacist or Pharmacy Technician potential candidates will not only be embarking on a new career, but also entering a new community of highly respected medical professionals and expected to also maintain that status. The first consideration of a Pharmacy Technician is always the health and well-being of patients. There is a strict code of moral and legal ethics that technicians must adhere to in order to uphold the industry standard for expected code of conduct. The Pharmacy Technician works as an assistant to a licensed or certified pharmacist that also is expected to adhere to a strict code of conduct that will allow for patient health and wellbeing to remain at the forefront of practice. These are all things to consider when deciding whether or not to undertake the task of becoming a certified Pharmacy Technician. In doing so you will be joining the ranks of those employed in one of the most respected positions in the United States. Becoming a certified Pharmacy Technician is sure to be a rewarding experience for those that are inclined to helping others and are comfortable functioning in the healthcare and medical care professions.
Pharmacy Technicians currently outnumber pharmacists by more than 75,000 employees according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and act in a primary support capacity for practicing pharmacists in the clinical environment.
Skills and Abilities
Have you ever been told that you’re a “people person” or have healing hands? If you’re the person that people are referring to when they say things like these, this may be another indication that a career as a Certified Pharmacy Technician is for you. Prior to choosing a career path as a Pharmacy Technician, it is a good idea to assess what skills that you have related to the career already and what skills you may need to learn or acquire in order to have the most success in your new career. In order to establish a successful career as a Pharmacy Technician the candidate should possess the following skills and/or be willing to take the necessary steps to acquire them.
Attention to Detail: This is a critical skill to have when dealing with the day to day activities on the job. Technicians have to be alert and able to read small print, quantities, measure exact doses, and consult with patients regarding their medications and related questions.
Mathematics: There is a heavy reliance on basic, business, and medical mathematics as a pharmacy technician. The technician will deal with measure exact dosages in filling prescriptions daily and also pharmacy related drug audits.
Organizational Skills: The technician will need to be able to multi-task while remaining efficient at filling prescriptions and communicating with customers.
Basic Computer Skills: As more pharmaceutical applications and measurement tools are being stored online, technicians need to have basic computer and data entry skills in order to fill prescriptions and to manage customer data.
Customer Service: Interacting with customers is a daily and ongoing component of a Pharmacy Technician. Successful technicians will be able to empathetically interact with customers while maintaining good rapport and resolving front line issues.
Patience: This can be a fast paced and challenging field. Patience is another critical component for Pharmacy Technicians to have. Technicians need to have patience when filling and dispensing prescriptions, dealing with patients, and all other aspects included in their roles.
Below you will find information on certification and degree programs along with an example of sample coursework excerpts from similar programs that the Pharmacy Technician candidate can expect to encounter during the course of the chosen program. Basic requirements in order to become eligible for state or national certification will include:
- Completion of a high school diploma or equivalency certificate.
- Successful completion of the Pharmacy Technician Exam. (Certification)
- Successful completion of a regional or national background check.
- Continuing Education Courses to Stay Updated On Industry Standards.
All of the minimum standards listed above will vary between states and there may be more or less required of potential candidates depending on where they are located and their state mandates or laws. If you’re interested in becoming a Pharmacy Technician be sure to check with your local authority or one of the organizations for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians listed below for specific requirements in your state or locality. Pharmacy Technician certificate and degree programs prepare the candidate for real life experience and provides technical education with hands on training according to current practice standards, rules, laws, and appropriate regulations in the medical and healthcare fields. When preparing to enter a Pharmacy Technician program, candidates can expect for a time frame of (18) months to (2) years for an Associate’s Degree Online and completion of required state and national certifications. Some institutions have fast-tracked or dual certificate or degree programs for those candidates that are interested in a more intensive program of study.
In order to become a certified Pharmacy Technician a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent is required.
Many Pharmacy Technician Candidates today are opting to go one step further and complete an Associate’s Degree in the field which gives them an edge above candidates who have opted to enter the field with the high school diploma only. As this can be taken as a fast-tracked program, candidates may opt to begin practice immediately after completing their high school diploma or equivalency and then opt to further or continue their education as the opportunity arises depending on their current career goals and financial situation. This is a very flexible career path that allows the potential Pharmacy Technician candidate to have the option to enter the field at their own pace and once practicing in the field to direct the trajectory of their career paths by participating in continuing education courses or additional certification programs that may be offered through Pharmacy Technician organizational support agencies, employers, or private parties.
With the development of new medications and advances in healthcare technology, the Pharmacy Technician candidate will also want to consider the benefits of opting for a degree in the field in order to stay on top of the latest trends and to be able to adapt to the inevitable continuing advances within the allied health and related fields arenas. The Pharmacy Technician career is one of the rapidly growing healthcare occupations that allows for a fast-tracked entry into the field with a maximum time frame of study including on the job training that averages around (2) years for the completion of an Associate’s Degree. With a two-year Associates Degree, candidates are eligible to complete their relevant certification program in their state of residence and to begin official practice as a licensed professional upon successfully passing the certification exam required in their state. While Certificate programs and Associates Degree programs vary in length and depth of Pharmacy Technician topics covered, in both programs, the learner can expect to take coursework in the following areas:
Courses for Pharmacy Technology Training
Introduction to Pharmacology: Here the candidate will learn the fundamental principles of pharmokintecs and pharmacodymanics and how to apply them in the clinical environment. This course prepares the learner to compare and contrast the specific pharmacology of the major classes of drugs along with the risks and benefits in relation to the human body systems that they may effect.
Medical Terminology: This course introduces the learner to medical terms and the principles of medical word building which will allow the student to develop and enhance their vocabulary that will be used daily in the course of clinical practice in healthcare occupations
Pharmaceutical Law & Ethics: The Pharmacy Technician candidate will learn and explore the principles of law that govern the Pharmacology industry. The learner will be introduced to legal and ethical practices related to the field of pharmacology in order to protect the public and to ensure patient safety in the prescription of and used of prescribed and dispensed medications.
Pharmaceutical Calculations: This coursework introduces the learner to basic principles of mathematics, business mathematics and how they apply to the pharmacological world. Here the student will learn and practice dosage calculations, systems of measurement, compounding calculations and preparing injectable and intravenous medications.
Prescriptions: The Pharmacy Technician candidate will learn how to create and review patience profiles, read prescriptions including common abbreviations and terms. The student will also learn processes that include: counting, packaging, and labeling of prescription drugs.
Insurance Procedures & Billing: This coursework presents the students with information on how to properly process insurance payments and medical billing for prescriptions. Students are introduced to billing codes and submitting insurance claims to third-parties for reimbursement. Candidates are introduced to major insurance companies and insurance billing options for private and public insurance billing such as Medicaid and BIN or Billing Identification Numbers. Candidates can expect to find tuition rates and expected Program Costs ranging from 6000.00 – 20, 000.00 annually depending on the selected program and institution.
Related Fields of Study:
- Healthcare Administration
- Medical Technology
Pharmacy Technicians can be found in many healthcare or clinical environments. Entry-level or newly certified technicians’ a are generally found working in Hospitals, Pharmacies, Drugstores, Corporations, Military Installations, and Educational Institutions. The above work environment examples are where Pharmacy Technicians are traditionally found. However, with the advances that are consistently being made in the area of medical technology, technicians are likely to be found in more non-traditional settings in the future.
Average Salary for Pharmacy Technicians
The average salary of an entry-level Pharmacy Technician falls under the guidelines presented below via the Bureau of Labor Statistics and can fall anywhere on the scale based on the technicians’ education, previous experience, physical location and other factors. The top earning tier of Pharmacy Technicians can earn as much as 45,000.00 as pictured below with the bottom 10% of all technicians grossing just above 21, 000.00 annually. Salary, bonuses, and benefits will be commensurate with experience and dependent upon employer and industry standards.
Bottom 10% : 21,370.00
Top 90%: 45,710.00
Employment opportunities in this field are expected to grow at least 9% between 2014 and 2024 which is faster than the average for all occupations. An expected increase in the need for prescriptions will also lead to an increase in the need for Pharmacy Technicians as the population continues to age and medical advancements are able to identify and treat newly discovered illnesses. In order to get started in the field, a minimum of a high school diploma along with successfully completing industry specific certification tests are required. As the career field grows in popularity, many new Pharmacy Technician candidates are opting to go one step further in their education and to enter the field with an Associate’s Degree for an added career boost. Many new Pharmacy Technicians that are entering the field are doing so with an Associate’s Degree that they have earned online from an accredited institution as the concept of distance learning and online learning becomes more customary. As distance learning online is becoming more commonplace, so is the availability of online courses and learning and this includes becoming a certified pharmacy technician partially if not completely online.
There are many accredited programs available online for those who are interested in becoming pharmacy technicians.
When researching and comparing potential programs it is important for the Pharmacy Technician Candidate to assure that the educational institution where they choose to complete their coursework is accredited and meets local, state, and national requirements for the candidate to complete the process and become certified. Upon completion of a certificate or degree program numerous educational institutions including accredited online institutions are now implementing additional on the job training opportunities or externships for recent graduates of the Pharmacy Technician programs. Graduates are presented with the opportunities to participate in gaining hands on experience including practice in the expected role and introduction to the clinical environment or healthcare environment.
Opportunities like these provide the graduate with the opportunity to become acclimated to functioning in their new role in the clinical environment and to also assess how well they have retained and are able to apply the principles that were learned during the course of the selected certificate or degree program. More than 20 million Americans are now receiving healthcare and medical coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This latest change in the healthcare and insurance industries provides a huge opportunity for Pharmacy Technician graduates to take advantage of being a part of one of the biggest changes in healthcare history. As more Americans are receiving healthcare and medical coverage under the ACA, this means that there will be an increase in the number of medical contacts made that will result in patients receiving and filling prescriptions. Along with the newly introduced ACA, the aging baby boomer population will have a huge impact on an increase in the number of medical contacts being sought that will directly or indirectly result in an increase in the number of prescriptions written and filled in the US.
As the field of Pharmacology continues to expand, so do the support systems and organizations that are available to current, future, and former candidates. Here we take a look at some of the organizations that offer support to Pharmacy Technicians, potential candidates and related fields:
American Association of Pharmacy Technicians (AAPT)
The American Association of Pharmacy Technicians was founded in May of 1979. The idea behind the association was to form a coalition or organization that would be able to provide continuing education and additional services that would benefit the Pharmacy Technicians in the Los Angeles area. Stay up to date with the latest news and related trends in the Pharmacy Technician industry.
National Pharmacy Technician Association
The National Pharmacy Technician Association is stated to be the world’s largest professional organization established specifically for Pharmacy Technicians. The association is dedicated to the advancement of practicing Pharmacy Technicians and offers support and resources to practicing professionals in order to assure their success in the field. The National Pharmacy Technician Association also offers continuing education courses and certificate programs. The association is also an excellent resource for new or perspective Pharmacy Technician candidates as they offer information and resources for related industry employment and news.
American Pharmacists Association
The American Pharmacists Association is one of the organizations that was designed to act as an exclusive support resource for licensed pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. The Association offers information, resources, and referrals for Pharmacy Technicians that are already active in the field and for those preparing to enter the field. The American Pharmacists Association alsp offers exam preparation materials for those preparing to enter the field and become certified. The APA also offers practicing Pharmacy Technicians continuing education courses and access to updated industry resources. Some occupational related resources that the APA provides access for include:
- Communication and Management Skills
- Pharmacy Technician Skills Building
- Pharmacy Technicians Pocket Drug Reference
The Pharmacy Technician Pocket Drug Reference Guide contains listings and definitions of the most commonly prescribed and used medications and provides the technician with a continually updated reference tool that help the technicians stay updated with related industry changes. This is a primary tool that practicing Pharmacy Technicians will use daily regardless of their work setting. The standards set here are universally applied across all disciplines and locations. If you’re ready to start your career as a Pharmacy Technician follow the steps in this guide and take the first step towards becoming certified today!