How to Become a Pharmacy Technician:
The Definitive Guide


Prescription medicine is in high demand.

Which means stores and pharmacies, as well as hospitals, need people to fill prescriptions.

A pharmacy technician is a person who makes sure that medications are correctly dosed, labeled, and ready for the people who need them.

Does this sound like the type of job that would interest you?

Read on to learn more.

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What is a Pharmacy Technician?

As a pharmacy technician, you will work with a licensed pharmacist where your main responsibility will be dispensing medications.

You’ll likely be the one speaking with customers, filling orders, and making sure dosing and identification of the medications is correct.

Working in a pharmacy is a very serious job, and you’ll need to make sure you understand how the pharmacy operates, the correct procedures when handling medications, HIPAA laws, and what medications do.

If you can keep all that straight and like to work with the public, then this is a wonderful job for you.

Duties

Being a pharmacy technician isn’t the easiest job, but it is fulfilling.

Some of the things that you’ll be asked to do on a daily basis are:

  • Make sure that prescription orders are accurate and complete
  • Prepare prescriptions- count, pour, weigh, measure and mix medications
  • Perform calculations
  • Keep accurate records and data entry
  • Organize medications
  • Checking pharmacy stock
  • Check customers out and give them prescriptions

Salary

The average salary for a pharmacy technician in the United States is around $34,000.

The range typically falls between $31,000 and $38,500.

People will make more money as a pharmacy technician if they have the experience, certifications, and additional skills.

Education and experience have the most to do with how much you can get paid as a pharmacy technician.

Those that have Associates degrees can typically find themselves making more money than people with high school diplomas in the same field.

If you decide to go for your Associate’s degree, you can see a rise in your salary, as well as many more job opportunities opening up.

This can include pharmacist opportunities, with the correct schooling.

Average National Salary: $34,000

$31K
$32K
$34K
$36K
$38K
10%
25%
50%
75%
90%
*Salary information last updated 2019

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$32,216
Alaska$38,785
Arizona$34,192
Arkansas$31,774
California$38,578
Colorado$34,433
Connecticut$37,542
Delaware$36,264
Florida$33,155
Georgia$33,328
Hawaii$36,367
Idaho$32,597
Illinois$35,583
Indiana$33,743
Iowa$32,983
Kansas$32,337
Kentucky$32,154
Louisiana$32,796
Maine$33,294
Maryland$35,884
Massachusetts$37,576
Michigan$34,882
Minnesota$35,228
Mississippi$29,957
Missouri$32,810
Montana$31,308
Nebraska$31,670
Nevada$35,573
New Hampshire$35,055
New Jersey$38,336
New Mexico$31,411
New York$37,058
North Carolina$32,948
North Dakota$32,119
Ohio$33,673
Oklahoma$32,465
Oregon$34,399
Pennsylvania$34,468
Rhode Island$36,402
South Carolina$32,049
South Dakota$29,460
Tennessee$31,377
Texas$33,846
Utah$32,721
Vermont$33,259
Virginia$33,995
Washington$36,885
West Virginia$30,427
Wisconsin$34,019
Wyoming$30,662

Annual Average Salary: Top 5 States

The top earning state in the field is Alaska, where the average salary is $38,785

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Alaska - $38,785
California - $38,578
New Jersey - $38,336
Massachusetts - $37,576
Connecticut - $37,542

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Step 1Complete a Pharmacy Technician Program

There are a couple of different ways you can start a pharmacy technician program.

First, you can find information in your area through the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Second, you can find information about them at your local community college.

The great thing about these types of programs is that they can be completed in less than a year.

Some of the things that you’ll learn in a pharmacy technician program are:

  • Pharmacy law and ethics
  • Healthcare systems
  • Medical terminology
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pharmaceutical calculations

Although it is not required to have a certificate from a pharmacy technician program in most states, employers will likely require it.

Another thing that you may want to think about doing while you are doing the program is working through an internship.

You can also do an internship after you graduate from the program, but wouldn’t you rather get it done while you’re in school?

Step 2Find Out Your State Requirements

Most states have regulations when it comes to pharmacy technicians.

These regulations can include, but aren’t limited to:

  • The number of hours of training
  • Continued education hours
  • Passed certification exam or
  • Received licensure

If you are unsure what to expect from your state requirements, you can always contact the Board of Pharmacy to determine what you need in order to gain employment.

Since each state, and sometimes even individual pharmacists, have their own requirements, it’s necessary to do that extra step.

This way you can make certain that you are doing what is required by law.

Step 3Train On the Job

As for an internship, you can do this while in school or after you graduate from the program.

You can either do clinical work through your school program or work with the pharmacist of your choosing.

Some of the places that you could work are local drug stores that have partnered with the school, grocery stores that have partnered with the school, and independent pharmacies.

Whether or not you get paid for this training is something that you will be required to work out with your school as well as the employer.

Step 4Become Certified

You may have to get certified in your state, or you may not.

It all depends on the laws of the state, but you should certainly make sure that you know whether you need a certification or not.

Though there are certain states that a certification is not required by law, many employers still may not hire you unless you have one.

Many employers only hire pharmacy technicians that are certified by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the National Healthcare Association.

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board requires that you pass an exam.

The National Healthcare Association requires that people complete a training program or have at least one year of experience as a technician.

Step 5Gain a Specialization

Instead of working as a jack of all trades pharmacy technician, people can choose to become specialized.

This way, you will have a specific field that you are an expert in.

If you plan on staying with a certain retail drug store chain for a long time, this may be a great option for you.

You can receive specializations in general pharmacy, community pharmacy, and central pharmacy operations, to name a few.


Education

The education that is required in order to become a pharmacy technician can vary.

Some people like to do a pharmacy technician program, either through a community college or independent program association.

Other people choose to obtain their Associate’s degree as they work toward becoming a pharmacy technician.

Either way, you will be able to work in a pharmacy.

Those that choose to go through a program can expect it to take around ten months to finish.

This includes an internship or an externship, classroom time, as well as on the job training.

When obtaining an Associates degree, the internships or externships may vary as each college is different.

In both cases, you will spend a lot of time in the classroom.

Some of the subjects that you will take include:

  • Chemistry- where you can learn how chemicals work
  • Anatomy- this class will teach you about the body and the ways medications react
  • Courses on how to assess prescription orders,
  • Managing inventory,
  • Processing insurance,
  • Tracking controlled substances.

The job of a pharmacy technician is very important, as they are the people who measure out and take care of highly sensitive material.

You must take a final exam and pass the exam before you are considered finished with the program.

Or, you will need to earn your Associates degree in order to become a pharmacy technician.

Some of the places that you can work after you graduate include:

  • Big box retailers like Sam’s Club or Costco
  • Chain retailers like Walgreens or Rite Aid
  • Hospitals
  • Long-care health facilities like nursing homes
  • Clinics or urgent cares
  • Independent pharmacies

One thing that you will want to keep in mind is that although you do not need to be certified in order to become a pharmacy technician, it is highly admired by employers if you become certified.

Video About The Career


Certification

When you become certified in a field, it shows the employer that you are dedicated to that career.

Many states do not require certifications for pharmacy technicians, but employers do look for techs who have certifications.

Pharmacy technicians that want to further their career can take the Certified Pharmacy Technician Certification from the National Healthcare Association.

In order to become certified, you’ll need to have taking a pharmacy technician program.

You’ll also need to be 18 years old or older, and have a high school diploma or GED.

Those that would like to become certified can fill out the form online to see if they are qualified.

If this person meets all of the qualifications, they may take the exam or study for the exam through one of the exam websites.

In order to take most of the exams on the internet, you will need to prove that you have passed the pharmacy technician program and that it is accredited.

If you cannot prove this, you will not be able to take the exam.

It may also be possible to take the exam through your school or employer.

There are testing areas in every state as well.

Once you become certified, you will need to continually renew your certification every two years.

If you are confused about the certification process, or if you need to be certified check out the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy to find a list of states that require certification.

With the certification exam, those that are interested are also able to become certified in sterile products, chemotherapy, nuclear pharmacy tech, as well as others.

The more certifications that a person receives, the easier it is for them to find employment.

Employers look for experience, education and certifications when approaching new members of their team.

Certification Example:

pharmacy technician certificate

Average Training Program Duration: 1-2 Years

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Job Outlook

The employment rate for a pharmacy technician is expected to grow around 12 percent by 2026.

This is faster than most occupations within the same field.

The population is getting older, and baby boomers are becoming elderly.

This means that more elderly people will need medications.

Also, there have been several technological advances in the medical field.

Which means that more people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, are able to get medications to help rather than deal with the issue themselves.

Prescription medications are helping more and more people with their illnesses.

Employment Growth Projection: 12%

402,500
2016
450,100
2026

That's a higher than average projected growth of 47,600 jobs.

Pharmacy Technician: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Pharmacy Technician?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

The career of a pharmacy technician ranks number 14 as one of the best jobs without a college degree.

With this career, there are many chances for promotions and raises, which gives pharmacy technicians extreme satisfaction.

Though there are more chances to advance in this career, it is also a very hectic and stressful job.

The flexibility of the hours and workdays is very good.

Most pharmacy technicians love their jobs, but that can also depend on who you work for, and who you work with.

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

Salary for the typical pharmacy technician can be around $34,000 annually.

This is a mid-scale wage for someone who does not have a college degree.

There are ways that pharmacy technicians can make more money.

They can become certified, specialize in a specific area, or gain promotions.

Although it is not required, those that earn an Associates degree make more money than pharmacy technicians who have graduated high school.

Many pharmacy technicians can do internships or paid training to help with experience before stepping into the workforce.

This may allow for promotions and raises as well.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

The job growth outlook for a pharmacy technician is great.

The baby boom generation is growing older, which means they are going to need medications.

Also, diseases like diabetes, AIDS, cancer, and mental illnesses now have medications available.

This means that more and more people are going to need the services of pharmacies and pharmacy technicians.

The fact that pharmacy technicians can work in hospitals, drug stores, grocery stores, and independent pharmacies means that there are many more job opportunities.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 1-2 Years

Since there are a couple of different ways that someone can go about becoming a pharmacy technician, the durations can change.

If you want to join a pharmacy technician program, this can take around 10 months, which will include your instructional hours as well as an externship/internship.

Or, some people choose to get their Associates degree, which can take up to two years if the school is done full time.

If school is done parttime, it takes anywhere from two to four years.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Even though you aren’t working directly to cure patients, being a pharmacy technician is still an important job in the medical field.

Because of that, there are some personal skills that you must have.

These include:

  • Customer service skills- you’ll be handling business with customers on a daily basis, so having some skills in this area is key
  • Attention to detail- you’re dealing with people’s medication that helps them when they are sick, so having absolute certainty that you are giving them the medication they are prescribed is necessary.
  • Organization skills- There are many things to do in the pharmacy, so having the ability to put everything in its place and work in an organized fashion is important.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the average salary for a pharmacy technician?

The average salary for a pharmacy technician is around $34,000.

This is in the middle of salaries for people with no college degree, or minimal college education.

Although, when first starting out in the field, it is possible that you will make around $31,000.

The longer that you stay in the field, you can make almost $40,000.

Those that have specialties and certifications tend to make more money as well.

Q. How long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?

Those that pursue a pharmacy technician program will likely finish in around 10 months.

As long as they also have enough hours working in the field, as well as instructional time.

Those that decide to get an Associates degree can expect to be in school for around two years.

Both paths are perfectly fine to take, but typically those that get an Associates degree go on to other careers, for exam many become medical assistants.

Q. What does a pharmacy technician do?

A pharmacy technician is a very important part of the pharmacy.

They are the ones who locate medications, dispense them for customers, make sure the dosage and medications are correct, and then give them to the customers.

They also have to stay organized and keep up to date with data.

Pharmacy technicians must pay attention to every detail, there are many medications that look the same or have almost the same dosage, but if they pick the wrong one, they could ruin someone’s day.

Q. What is the demand for pharmacy technicians?

There is a high demand for pharmacy technicians.

Due to the fact that pharmacy technicians are the busiest people in the pharmacy, employers are looking for them everywhere.

The baby boomer generation is growing older, which means they need more medications.

Also, technology has made it possible for illnesses like AIDS, diabetes, and cancers to be regulated by medications.

Q. How much does it cost to become a pharmacy technician?

That all depends on which state or school you attend.

Some pharmacy technician programs can cost around $500, while others in different areas can cost up to $500.

Those that decide to go to a community college to gain an Associates degree can typically expect to pay around $10,000.

Also, the exam to become a certified pharmacy technician can cost up to $400.


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