How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Are you interested in becoming a pharmacy technician, but you aren’t sure where to start? Do you have a passion for helping patients meet their healthcare goals and needs?

If you enjoy working with patients but aren’t as comfortable with hands-on treatment, you may do well as a pharmacy technician. Under the supervision of a pharmacist, pharmacy techs help pharmacists dispense medication and provide support to customers.

If you want to learn more about how to become a pharmacy technician and how to pass your state exam on your first try, you came to the right place. This brief pharmacy technician career guide will cover what you need to know about becoming a pharmacy technician and who you can reach out to for test prep.

What Is a Pharmacy Technician?

A pharmacy technician is someone who works closely under a pharmacist in pharmacy settings. This can be at a standalone pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, or a pharmacy attached to a retail store. You most likely see pharmacy technicians when you pick up your medication from places like Walmart, CVS, or Walgreens.

Pharmacy technicians pack and label medications before sending them to a pharmacist to review for accuracy. They can also help with administrative tasks such as tracking inventory and handling customer calls.

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Before we get into how to become a pharmacy technician, you must first decide that you want to become a pharmacy tech. Per the BLS, (Bureau of Labor Statistics) pharmacy technician roles are expected to see exponential growth in the coming years. There are many pharmacy technician programs ready to take students in, but you need to make sure a pharmacy technician career is the right fit for you before you enroll.

Do You Possess Strong Communication Skills?

Pharmacy technicians spend most of their day speaking with customers and insurance companies. When working with these two groups of people, you must be able to convey information correctly and clearly.

Are You Detail-Oriented?

In order to meet insurance company and state requirements, pharmacy techs must be concise with their work. You must also be able to understand what insurance companies will cover and what they won’t pay for.

Are You Comfortable Working With Controlled Substances?

As a pharmacy technician, you will encounter a ton of different medications, such as Xanax or Klonopin. Medicines like these can be subject to strict government regulations. If you don’t properly handle these medications, you and your pharmacy can face severe penalties.

Do You Understand Fundamental Math Concepts?

Pharmacy technicians must calculate dosing and order inventory. In order to accurately do this, you must have at least a basic understanding of [math concepts](/math-basics]. If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might be an excellent candidate to work as a pharmacy tech.

Explore Pharmacy Training Options

There are several different ways to get the education you need to become a pharmacy technician. For example, you can study on-campus or attend an online pharmacy technician school.

Regardless of how you decide to learn, make sure the Accreditation Council accredits the program you choose for Pharmacy Education. Attending an accredited school guarantees the program’s quality, and it is sometimes a requirement based on your state licensure.

Different School Options

Health systems offer a few pharmacy tech programs, but most students attend a community college or a vocational school. If you’re confident you don’t want to advance your career beyond becoming a pharmacy tech, you can go to a vocational school.

Vocational schools specialize in workforce training, and they offer certificates that you can earn within a year. The only downside to vocational institutions is if you wish to go back to school, your credits may not transfer toward a degree, so if you think you may want to become a pharmacist in the future, this might not be the best option for you.

Community Colleges

For those who want to eventually earn a bachelor’s or continue school to become a pharmacist, starting at a community college is great. Many community colleges in your area may offer pharmacy technician programs that only last about two years.

Online Training

Did you know that you can become a pharmacy technician online? Several online pharmacy tech programs are offered online and on-campus, and they both provide the same core information.

On-Campus Programs

If you learn better in group settings and prefer face-to-face access to instructors, an on-campus program may work best for you. It is only ideal to attend an on-campus program if your life schedule is consistent enough to allow you time to attend class.

Some programs offer night and weekend classes if needed. Many on-campus programs last only six months, whereas others may take up to two years to complete.

Hybrid Programs

If you still want face-to-face access to instructors but want to be able to complete the majority of your coursework at home, you should look into hybrid programs. Hybrid programs allow students to complete most of their coursework online and clinical work on-campus.

Online Programs

Pharmacy tech programs that are mainly online allow students the most flexibility of all the available options. If you have work and other obligations, you can schedule your study time around them.

You also can take your coursework wherever you go. So if you have to study at work on your break, you can do so.

Once you complete the majority of your online work, you can complete your externship at a local pharmacy. If you are self-disciplined, motivated, and prefer to study independently, online pharmacy tech programs will work best for you.

Apply to Pharmacy Tech Programs

Once you’ve figured out which program is best for you and your needs, you can start the application process! Keep in mind that every school has its own requirements, deadlines, application fees, and tuition rates.

For most programs, the application process only takes about 30 minutes to complete. You may have to pay an application fee, but usually no more than $50.

If you need help paying for your program, check to see what type of financial aid options they have. Most colleges accept FAFSA, but some others may not. If they don’t, be sure to see if they have any scholarship or payment plan options available for you.

Finish Your Courses

While in pharmacy tech school, you will learn about topics of pharmaceutical calculations and the history of pharmacy. Initial classes will also provide you with an introduction to the laws and ethics of pharmacy and pharmacology.

After completing these courses, you will need to complete your clinical portion. If you attend a mainly online program, your program will have a partnering pharmacy they will send you to.

The main purpose of getting hands-on clinical work is to provide you with real work situations. When in your clinicals, you will learn about compounding and how to operate in a retail pharmacy.

Other real-world practice areas:

  • Healthcare facility pharmacies

  • Dilutions and concentrations

  • Inventory management

You will most likely be placed into an externship at the end of your program. This opportunity will allow you to work under the supervision of a pharmacist, depending on the state you work in. Some states require you to have a pharmacy technician certification recognized by the PTCB or NHA.

Get Your Pharmacy Technician Certification

If you attend a pharmacy technician school, they should have prepared you to take your PTCB exam. To ensure that you are completely ready for the exam, you can visit online test prep websites.

PTCB Certification

The PTCB certification is considered to be the gold standard for pharmacy technicians. To receive full credentials, students must have a high school diploma or a GED and pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification (PTCB) Exam. The exam is a computer-based, two-hour-long test that contains 90 multiple-choice questions.

NHA Certification

Students also have the opportunity to become certified pharmacy technicians by the NHA. You must complete a pharmacy tech program or have one year working in a pharmacy setting to earn this credential.

You must also pass the NHA’s Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. This exam includes 20 pretest questions, 100 test questions, and two hours and ten minutes to complete.

What Is on the PTCB?

The PTCB exam has eighty scored questions and ten unscored questions chosen at random. The exam is from the PTCB, but Pearson Vue administers it. The PTCB exam covers topics in pharmacology for technicians and pharmacy law and regulation.

Other topics on the exam:

  • Medication safety

  • Pharmacy billing and reimbursement

  • Pharmacy quality assurance

  • Pharmacy information systems usage and application

  • Sterile and non-sterile compounding

  • Pharmacy inventory management

The current fee to sit for the PTCB is $129. If you have to change your exam date, you can up to 24 hours before the exam date and time. If you don’t show up for your exam, you forfeit your exam fees.

How to Practice for the PTCB

The PTCB and NHA have their own set of study guides that you can purchase to help study for your exam, but they come at a high cost. For the NHA, you have to buy flashcards, practice exams, and study guides separately, which can quickly add up.

If that isn’t in your budget, or if you’d just like additional study material, you can use an exam prep review course like the ones offered by Union Test Prep. They offer PTCB flashcards, study guides, and practice tests, and lessons for free.

What Happens if I Fail?

Candidates who pass the exam will receive their wallet card and certificate within four to six weeks. Applicants who fail the exam can retake it after sixty days from the exam attempt.

If you fail the exam after your third try, you will have to wait six months before you can try again. If you fail the fourth time, you must prove to the PTCB that you completed acceptable preparation activities before sitting for the exam. Keep in mind that you will have to pay $129 for each exam attempt.

Keep Your Certification Current

To keep your designation as a certified pharmacy technician, you will need to recertify every two years. If you have a certification through the PTCB, you will first need to complete 20 hours of continuing education before your recertification date. Of those 20 hours, you must complete one hour in patient safety and one hour in pharmacy law.

If you are in college, 10 of your credit hours can apply towards your 20-hour requirement. You can submit your application for recertification 60 days before your expiration date, and there is a $40 fee.

NHA Certification

If you have a designation through the NHA, you must also complete 20 continuing education hours. Just like the PTCB, you must have one hour in patient safety and one in pharmacy law. The recertification fee for the designation through the NHA is $55.

Prep Your Resume

With all of your studying and certification behind you, you can start the process of becoming a pharmacy technician at a hospital or your local pharmacy. If you have an externship, you may be able to get a job at that pharmacy. If not, you will want to polish your resume to stand out from other applicants.

When creating your resume, be sure to list your professional certifications and your pharmacy technician registration. If you have any previous working experience, be sure to include that in your resume as well. Most pharmacies prefer only to hire candidates with pharmacy technician designation, so check their hiring requirements before you apply.

Pass Your PTCB With Ease

Now that you know how to become a pharmacy technician, it’s time to prepare for your exam! Some states require you to have a pharmacy tech certificate and a certified pharmacy technician designation before you can start working, and others don’t.

Before you start the path of becoming a pharmacy technician, be sure to know of your state’s requirements and be sure to study for your PTCB. If you need help with preparing for your PTCB exam and you want to be able to pass on your first try, check out Union Test Prep! We have several different resources available for you to use to prepare for your exam.

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