How to become a Pharmacy Technician

The use of prescription medications is on the rise in the United States. With 34 percent of all American adults using at least one prescription medication, and the population of older Americans increasing, demand for adequate pharmacies and those who help to fill and dispense prescriptions is in high demand. It's no wonder many people are looking at how to become a pharmacy technician. The demand extends to registered pharmacy technicians, who help to assist pharmacists in every aspect of their jobs.

A 2010 report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that a 32 percent increase in demand for pharmacy technicians is expected by the year 2020. The median annual salary for a trained pharmacy technician is around $32,400 for those working in a hospital setting. Those working in pharmacies and drug stores can expect to earn roughly $28,000 annually.

If you enjoy working with the public, and have an interest in the healthcare or pharmaceutical industries, then this is a career path which might be of interest.

So how does one become a certified pharmacy technician?

While formal training to work as a pharmacy technician is not required, most pharmacies prefer to have pharmacy technicians who either have prior experience on the job, or who have received training in the field through an accredited program at a technical or trade school, or a community college which offers an associate degree in pharmacy technology.

Some of the best pharmacy technician schools – as ranked by pharmacy technician school graduates – include the U.S. Career Institute, Kaplan College, Everest College, Virginia College, and Brown Mackie College. As with any secondary-learning institution, students seeking to become a pharmacy technician should choose programs which are accredited.

There currently are two kinds of accreditation that pharmacy technician schools can obtain: program accreditation or institutional accreditation. Program accreditation focuses solely on the program itself, rather than the entire institution which is offering it. This kind of accreditation is provided by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Institutional accreditation evaluates the entire institution, and is provided by at least five different agencies (ACCSCT, ABHES, ACICS, ACCET and COE).

Some states require that pharmacy technicians possess certification. So how does one become a certified or registered pharmacy technician?

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board is the agency which administers the certification exam for pharmacy technicians. To qualify to sit for the exam, students are required to first complete some level of formal training through a pharmacy technician program. Quality pharmacy technician training programs offer students coursework in the following areas: administration, pharmaceutical calculations, anatomy and physiology, nutrition, pharmacology, medical terminology, digestive/respiratory/reproductive systems, and healthcare systems.
While working toward certification in pharmacy technology, some students seek employment as pharmacy assistants. Pharmacy assistants have lesser complex duties than pharmacy technicians; however, working as an assistant provides not only valuable work experience, but also the opportunity to observe a certified pharmacy technician on the job.

Pharmacy Technician Employment Statistics

Pharmacy technicians who become certified are qualified to work in a number of settings, including pharmacies and drug stores or hospitals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 54 percent of all pharmacy technicians working in the industry in 2010 were employed by pharmacies and drug stores.

Pharmacy technicians can expect to work a variety of hours, including nights and weekends, depending on the kind of pharmacy in which they work. The average median annual salary for pharmacy technicians is $28,400 as of May 2010.

Article by Shari Berg,