Become a Pharmacy Technician in 2012!

Pharmacy Technician Programs

So you have an interest in medication and enjoy helping others, and you’d like to explore what it would mean to launch a pharmaceutical career. The considerable process required in studying for and taking (and passing) standardized tests like the PCAT, together with the four to six years involved in studying at a pharmacy school – followed in short order by a licensure exam – may be too much all at once for someone with only an interest in pharmacy careers. What to do?

For many, enrolling in a pharmacy technician program supplies an easy, often affordable way to take a peek at pharmacy careers without the aforementioned, curiosity-dampening regimen. This provides interested individuals with an immersion experience in the pharmaceutical industry, considerable pay advances, and even a foot in the door, making the choice to become a pharmacy assistant or technician a valuable eye-opener, education opportunity, career choice.

Pharm Tech Requirements

Serving as a pharmacy tech requires more than simply checking inventory, speaking with members of the community, or assisting a pharmacist; it demands an understanding of pharmacy in general – and, depending on your location and the evaluation process of a potential employer, you may need certification from an accredited program.

Pharmacy Technician Program

Below you’ll find a few easy-to-understand steps required for admission to a pharmacy technician program as well as what to look for in these stepping-stone programs:

  1. Perform an online search or ask around about local pharmacy assistant and technician programs. Many community colleges offer low-cost programs for individuals, who would like to gain a foundational understanding of pharmacy, launch a pharmacy career as well as take and pass certification tests.
  2. If you read the last phrase with a sudden sense of apprehension, don’t worry – not every state or community pharmacy requires certifications. Still, many are beginning to adopt the requirement in their evaluation of would-be pharmacy technicians and assistants. And even if a certification isn’t required by your prospective employer, requesting to take and passing one of the two most widely used certification exams – those offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) – will make you a more competitive job applicant and likely increase your salary.

Even if you can’t immediately begin a pharmacy career, these pharmacy assistant programs offer invaluable insight into career development, quality-of-life experiences, and the basics of pharmacy.

Becoming a Pharmacy Assistant or Technician

Launching a pharmacy career can bring about feelings of excitement, optimism – and some minor and understandable trepidation. After all, one doesn’t become a pharmacist overnight or with a pocket’s worth of change; acquiring that high pay grade and satisfying career means securing an undergraduate degree; passing the PCAT with flying colors; applying to – and paying for – pharmacy school.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see why some, especially future pharmacists with enduring passions for the field, take the first step by becoming a pharmacy technician or assistant. There are numerous ways one might become a pharmacy tech, including paths that lead to certification, diplomas, or degrees. An estimation of costs typically associated with each of these programs looks something like this:

Pharmacy Technician Certification

Levels Certification Type Duration Average Cost
1 Certificate 1-4 months $500-$2,000
2 Diploma 12 months $4,000-$8,000
3 Degree 2-3 years $12,000-$22,00

Note that several states require that pharmacy technicians and assistants obtain certifications prior to their employment with community pharmacies or other organizations.

Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacy Assistant Job Description

With all this in mind, you might ask yourself the following question: What, exactly, does a pharmacy technician or assistant do that separates them from licensed pharmacists? See below for a few tidbits on the nature of a standard tech job:

  • The first benefit one considers about a tech job is the fact that these roles, in which individuals essentially operate as assistants to pharmacists, offer a significant pay raise that is proven to rise as a pharmacy assistant or technician builds her or his career.
  • Benefits aside, it’s important to also understand what the job description for a pharmacy assistant or technician typically entails. These jobs often require standing on one’s feet for hours without rest, so the pay grade comes with the work to be sure.
  • Pharmacy assistants and technicians are usually responsible for making updates to general inventories, replenishing customer profiles and other data, and supplying all the information that individuals need to understand their medications and take them accordingly.
  • Operating cash registers and inputting information come with the job description, so it behooves a prospective pharmacy assistant or technician to learn to type and take instruction quickly. A background in managing cash registers is helpful as well, and makes job applicants more competitive.

Pharmacists rely upon their assistants and technicians for reliable and accurate assessments about medication availability and processing needs. Without these valuable personnel, community pharmacies would take longer to meet the needs of their community members. With this in mind, it’s easy to better appreciate and understand the commensurate benefits that a pharmacy assistant or technician accrues by serving in such an important role.


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