Pharmacy technicians are responsible for a variety of duties in a pharmacy setting. They fill and label prescriptions; assist customers and patients when ordering prescriptions; schedule staff; deal with insurance companies; order medications from drug companies; and assist pharmacists with their duties. Technicians are also responsible for knowing the names, doses, and uses of common drugs. Individuals who are interested in pursuing a pharmacy technician career must have good customer service skills because how they interact with patients is an essential part of the job.
There are no national requirements for practicing as a pharmacy technician, but many states have their own educational requirements. Most states require that pharmacy technicians have a high school diploma or equivalent. California, however, requires some form of higher education for individuals to become practicing technicians. Some states require backgrounds checks. Many states require certification at a national level, but some, like Colorado, do not. Pharmacy technicians seeking certification can take a national test through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Colorado is one state that does not certify or license technicians, but it does require nationally recognized certification through the PTCB. Additionally, most states require that technicians continue their education after they’ve been certified in order to continue practicing. For instance, in Alaska, individuals who wish to renew their licenses must complete 10 hours of continuing education.
A variety of degrees are offered in the pharmacy technician field. One can obtain an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in pharmacy science, or they may receive a certificate. Students learn about common drug interactions, common generic and name brand medications, and how to perform calculations typically needed in the field.
Those who are seeking higher education degrees may concentrate on different areas of study, such as pharmacy regulations & policy; applied pharmoeconomics; clinical research regulations & ethics; patient safety & risk management; forensic pharmacy; and drug regulatory affairs. Educational programs can vary in length from six months to four years depending on which path an individual chooses. To obtain certification, individuals must take an exam. In most states, once the educational requirements are met, individuals must register with the appropriate state boards to be eligible to work in a pharmacy.
For those pharmacy technicians who work in states that require continuing education after certification is obtained, many courses can be taken through local community colleges. In Connecticut, where continuing education is required, community colleges offer coursework specifically geared toward pharmacy technicians. These courses are designed to keep pharmacy technicians up to date on new developments in the medical field, as well as refresh their existing knowledge of the field.
Most individuals who are hired into a pharmacy setting will receive hands-on-training and may be closely supervised before they are allowed to perform tasks on their own. Individual pharmacists and pharmacies will have requirements in place regarding how much hands-on-training they require before a newly hired pharmacy technician can work without direct supervision. Most pharmacies have high ethical standards for their employees and will make sure that the individuals they’ve hired are dependable people who will perform the duties of a pharmacy technician carefully and responsibly.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies
California Board of Pharmacy
Alaska Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing
Norwalk Community College
University of Florida
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics