There is no national training standard for pharmacy technicians, but
employers favor applicants who have formal training, certification, or previous
experience. There also are no formal training requirements for pharmacy aides,
but a high school diploma may increase an applicant's prospects for employment.
Education and training. There are no
standard training requirements for pharmacy technicians, but some States require
a high school diploma or its equivalent. Although most pharmacy technicians
receive informal on-the-job training, employers favor those who have completed
formal training and certification. On-the-job training generally ranges between
3 and 12 months.
Formal technician education programs are available through a variety of
organizations, including community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals, and
the military. These programs range from 6 months to 2 years and include
classroom and laboratory work. They cover a variety of subject areas, such as
medical and pharmaceutical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy
recordkeeping, pharmaceutical techniques, and pharmacy law and ethics.
Technicians also are required to learn the names, actions, uses, and doses of
the medications they work with. Many training programs include internships, in
which students gain hands-on experience in actual pharmacies. After completion,
students receive a diploma, a certificate, or an associate's degree, depending
on the program.
There are no formal education requirements for pharmacy aides, but employers
may favor applicants with a high school diploma or its equivalent. Experience
operating a cash register, interacting with customers, managing inventory, and
using computers may be helpful. Pharmacy aides also receive informal on-the-job
training that generally lasts less than 3 months.
Certification and other qualifications. In
most States, pharmacy technicians must be registered with the State board of
pharmacy. Eligibility requirements vary, but in some States applicants must
possess a high school diploma or its equivalent and pay an application fee.
Most States do not require technicians to be certified, but voluntary
certification is available through several private organizations. The Pharmacy
Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Institute for the Certification of
Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) administer national certification examinations.
Certification through such programs may enhance an applicant's prospects for
employment and is required by some States and employers. To be eligible for
either exam, candidates must have a high school diploma or its equivalent and no
felony convictions of any kind. In addition, applicants for the PTCB exam must
not have had any drug-related or pharmacy-related convictions, including
misdemeanors. Many employers will reimburse the cost of the exams.
Under these programs, technicians must be recertified every 2 years.
Recertification requires 20 hours of continuing education within the 2-year
certification period. Continuing education hours can be earned from several
different sources, including colleges, pharmacy associations, and pharmacy
technician training programs. Up to 10 hours of continuing education also can be
earned on the job under the direct supervision and instruction of a pharmacist.
Good customer service and communication skills are needed because pharmacy
technicians and aides interact with patients, coworkers, and healthcare
professionals. Basic mathematics, spelling, and reading skills also are
important, as technicians must interpret prescription orders and verify drug
doses. Technicians also must be precise: details are sometimes a matter of life
Advancement. Advancement opportunities
generally are limited, but in large pharmacies and health systems pharmacy
technicians and aides with significant training or experience can be promoted to
supervisory positions. Some may advance into specialty positions such as
chemotherapy technician or nuclear pharmacy technician. Others may move into
sales. With a substantial amount of formal training, some technicians and aides
go on to become pharmacists.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
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