How to Become a Pharmacy Technician - Salary & Certification
The healthcare industry has experienced a significant surge in demand for careers in the past decade, offering medical professionals an opportunity to positively impact peoples' lives. With high potential for stability and growth, the medical field ensures job and career security.
Healthcare is an essential and growing field, with countless new job opportunities due to a projected shortage of healthcare workers in the comng years. The labor shortages provide a significant opportunity for those interested in working in the healthcare industry.
If you're looking for a career in the healthcare industry, you have probably considered working as a pharmacy technician. These individuals work alongside pharmacists, dispensing medication to patients.
A pharmacy technician's job is excellent if you want to work with patients without administering hands-on treatment.
What is a Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy technicians play an essential role in the healthcare system. They assist licensed pharmacists in preparing and dispensing medications, helping ensure patients receive the correct medications promptly and efficiently. Their work helps to improve patient safety, increase access to care, and reduce costs.
They work in various settings, including retain pharmacies, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. Pharmacy technicians are responsible for medication inventory, preparing prescriptions, and communicating with healthcare providers and insurance companies.
Pharmacy technicians also perform other duties, such as verifying prescription information, counting pills, and labeling medication bottles. They may also assist with administrative tasks, such as answering phone calls and managing patient records.
Duties and Responsbilities
Pharmacy technicians are responsible for a variety of tasks related to medication management. Specific ways pharmacy technicians contribute to the healthcare system are:
- Helping to reduce medication errors by accurately preparing and labeling medications
- Providing customer service and answering patient questions about medication use and side effects
- Maintaining accurate records and inventory to ensure that medications are always available when needed
- Operating computer systems and automated dispensing equipment to improve efficiency and reduce the workload of licensed pharmacists
- They are also responsible for the cost-effective use of medication. They can help to reduce medication waste and unnecessary costs
In short, pharmacy technicians play a vital role in the healthcare system by helping to ensure that patients receive the correct medications in a timely and efficient manner.
How Much Do Pharmacy Technicians Make?
The salary of a pharmacy technician varies depending on several factors, including location, experience, and certification. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $36,740 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,740, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $47,580.
Pharmacy technicians who work in hospitals tend to earn more than those who work in retail pharmacies. In 2021, the median annual wage for pharmacy technicians in hospitals was $38,270, while the median annual wage for those in retail pharmacies was $35,940.
Experience also plays a role in determining a pharmacy technician’s salary. Entry-level pharmacy technicians typically earn less than those with several years of experience. Pharmacy technicians who work in specialty areas, such as oncology or nuclear medicine, may also earn higher salaries.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician in 6 Steps
Becoming a pharmacy technician requires a certain level of dedication and hard work. Still, the rewards can be well worth it for those passionate about helping others and making a difference in healthcare.
If you are interested in becoming a pharmacy technician, there are several steps you can take to get started:
1. Enroll in a Training Program
You may wonder whether you need a degree to become a pharmacy technician. The straightforward answer is no. A degree is not typically required to become a pharmacy technician. However, a high school diploma or equivalent is typically required. Some states or employers may require certification or registration, which usually involves completing a pharmacy technician training program and passing a certification exam. Some states may also require on-the-job training and continuing education courses. It's best to check with your state's pharmacy board for specific requirements.
2. Get Certified
While certification isn't always required for pharmacy technicians, it is highly recommended, and most employers perfer hiring certified technicians. Certification is a way for pharmacy technicians to demonstrate that they have the knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to perform their job duties effectively. It also indicates that they have passed a standardized exam and have met specific educational requirements.
While certification is not required in all states, most states have certification or registration requirements for pharmacy technicians. These requirements may include completing a pharmacy technician training program, passing a certification exam, and meeting continuing education requirements.
The two central certifying bodies for pharmacy technicians are the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). PTCB certification is required in some states, while others accept either PTCB or NHA certification. It’s essential to check with your state’s pharmacy board for specific certification or registration requirements. Even if certification is not required in your state, obtaining certification can make you a more competitive job candidate and may lead to better job opportunities and higher pay.
Things to Look for in a Pharmacy Technician Certification Program
When choosing a pharmacy technician certification program, here are some things to look for:
- Accreditation: Look for a program accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
- Curriculum: The program should cover the necessary topics to prepare you for the certification exam, including pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacology, drug interactions, and legal and ethical issues.
- Hands-On Training: Look for a program that includes a clinical component, which will give you hands-on experience working in a pharmacy setting.
- Certification Exam Preparation: The program should prepare you for the certification exam, and the program should have a high pass rate for the certification exam.
- Job Placement Assistance: Some programs offer assistance with job placement after graduation, which can be helpful when looking for a job as a pharmacy technician.
- Internships: Many pharmacy technician training programs include an internship or externship component that allows students to gain hands-on experience in a real-world pharmacy setting. This can be a great way to learn about medication management, customer service, and other aspects of the job.
- Part-time or entry-level positions: Some pharmacies may offer part-time or entry-level positions for pharmacy technician students, which can provide an opportunity to gain practical experience while still in school.
- Volunteer work: Students can volunteer at a hospital or community health clinic to gain experience and exposure to the healthcare industry.
- Job shadowing: Pharmacy technician students can request to shadow a licensed pharmacy technician or pharmacist to observe their daily tasks and responsibilities.
- Networking: Networking with pharmacists and other healthcare professionals can help students learn about job opportunities and gain insight into the field.
- Retail pharmacies: This is the most common place of work for pharmacy technicians. They work in local drugstores, supermarkets, and big-box stores.
- Hospitals: Pharmacy technicians work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. They assist pharmacists in preparing and dispensing medications to patients.
- Clinics: They may also work in clinics, such as ambulatory care clinics, rural health clinics, and veterans’ clinics.
- Mail-order pharmacies: Pharmacy technicians may work in mail-order pharmacies, where they process and fill medication orders shipped directly to patients.
- Pharmaceutical companies: Pharmacy technicians may also work in pharmaceutical companies’ manufacturing or research and development departments.
- Government agencies: Some pharmacy technicians work for government agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Indian Health Service.
- Pharmacy laws and regulations
- Medication safety
- Drug interactions
- Pharmacy ethics
- Patient communication
- Infection control
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Learn More: Tips for Choosing a Pharmacy Technician Certification Program
3. Gain On-the-Job Experience
Gaining on-the-job experience is an important step in becoming a successful pharmacy technician. While you're enrolled in your training program, you can take advantage of internships, externships, part-time or entry-level positions, or volunteer work to develop the skills you need to start your career.
4. Land a Job
The setting in which a pharmacy technician works will depend on their interests, skills, and qualifications. Some pharmacy technicians prefer to work in a retail setting, while others prefer to work in a hospital or long-term care facility.
Pharmacy technicians typically work in retail pharmacies, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. They may also work in long-term care facilities, clinics, and other settings. While they do not have the same level of education and training as licensed pharmacists, they play a vital role in ensuring that patients receive the correct medications promptly and efficiently.
Overall, pharmacy technicians have many options regarding where to work, as they are needed in many different settings.
Continue Reading: Best Places to Work as a Pharmacy Technician
5. Continuous Education
Continuing education (CE) is a critical aspect of the pharmacy technician profession. Most states require pharmacy technicians to complete a certain number of CE hours to maintain their certification or licensure. The requirements for CE can vary depending on the state in which you are licensed, but generally, pharmacy technicians are required to complete continuing education every two years.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) recommends that pharmacy technicians complete at least 20 hours of CE every two years. Some states have adopted this recommendation, while others have set their requirements.
The type of continuing education that is required can vary. But, it is generally focused on topics relevant to pharmacy practice and the safe handling of medications. Examples of CE topics include:
CE can be completed through various ways, including online courses, live seminars, and home study programs. Some states have specific requirements for the types of CE accepted, so it is essential to check with your state board of pharmacy for specific requirements.
It’s important to note that some certifying bodies, such as PTCB, also require continuing education hours to renew the certification.
Take the Next Step
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