Pharmacy Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

You should take courses in mathematics and science (especially chemistry and biology), because you will be dealing with patient records and drug dosages. Health classes can help you get a basic understanding of the health care industry and various medical treatments. Take English and speech classes to help you develop your writing and communication skills. You will be using a computer a lot to maintain records and prepare labels, so take courses in computer fundamentals.

Postsecondary Training

In the past, pharmacy technicians received most of their training on the job in hospital and community pharmacy-training programs. Since technician functions and duties have changed greatly in recent years, most pharmacy technicians today receive their education through formal training programs offered through community colleges, vocational/technical schools, hospital community pharmacies, and government programs throughout the United States. Program length usually ranges from six months to two years, and leads to a certificate, diploma, or associate's degree in pharmacy technology. A high school diploma usually is required for entry into a training program. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is the national accrediting organization for pharmacy technician training programs. ASHP can provide you with information on approved programs across the country.

In a pharmacy technician training program, you will receive classroom instruction and participate in supervised clinical apprenticeships in health institutions and community pharmacies. Courses include introduction to pharmacy and health care systems, pharmacy laws and ethics, medical terminology, chemistry, and microbiology. Most pharmacy technicians continue their education even after their formal training ends by reading professional journals and attending training or informational seminars, lectures, review sessions, and audiovisual presentations.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Some states license pharmacy technicians and all 50 states have adopted the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination, a written, standardized test for voluntary certification of technicians. Those who pass the test can use the certified pharmacy technician designation, which most employers require. The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) also provides certification. Even though it is not required in every state, certification is recommended to enhance your credentials, demonstrate to employers your commitment to the profession, and possibly qualify you for higher pay. Visit the NHA's Web site, https://www.nhanow.com/certifications/pharmacy-technician, for information about certification.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Externships, which typically last three months, are also available for pharmacy technicians. Tuition fees exist with externships, but a graduate adviser assists with job placement upon completion of the program. CVS and Walgreens both offer externships.

You must be precision-minded, honest, and mature as you are depended on for accuracy and high levels of quality control, especially in hospitals. You need excellent customer service skills because you will interact with people who are often ill and sometimes impatient. Math skills and a working knowledge of medical and pharmaceutical terminologies are also critical. You also need computer and data entry skills to effectively record pharmaceutical data.