How Long Does It Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician? Length of School & Training

If you want to work in healthcare, earn a decent living, and jump into a career quickly, you may consider becoming a pharmacy technician. 

But how long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?

The answer depends on the state you live in and their pharmacy technician certification and license requirements. In some states, you can get a pharmacy technician job right out of high school and train on the job. For most states, you must complete at least a certification course.

Pharmacy technician certification courses and diploma programs take anywhere from 4 months to 1 year to complete. You can also choose an associate degree program, which will take 2 years to complete. 

For example, here at Stepful, we have an online pharmacy technician course that only takes 4 months to complete.

This guide will go over how long each of the steps required to become a pharmacy technician takes, the length of school and training programs, and more.

Overview – How Long Pharmacy Technician School & Training Take

Once you have your high school diploma or GED, you will need some training to become a pharmacy technician.

Some states allow you to complete just a few weeks of on-the-job training, but most require a certification that takes between 4 months and 2 years to complete. 

An online program is usually the least expensive option. An associate degree is much more expensive in addition to taking the longest.

School Type Length Leads To Cost
On-the-job training 2 to 8 weeks Eligible for certification after 1 year Free
Online program 4 months to 1 year Certificate $500 to $1,500
Certification from community college 1 year Certificate & diploma $2,000 to $10,000
Associate’s degree from community college 2 years Certificate & associate degree $8,000 to $25,000    

How Long Online Pharmacy Technician Training Programs Take

Length of time: 4 to 12 months

Online pharmacy technician programs are a great choice for people who are self-motivated and need a lot of flexibility. Online programs allow you to complete coursework at your own pace and at times that work well for your schedule. 

Online programs generally cover medical terminology and managing patient records in the first few weeks, pharmacology and anatomy over the next weeks, and pharmacology ethics and law towards the end of the program. 

Many online programs help you find externship opportunities to help you get some hands-on experience during the last few weeks of the course. 

Most online pharmacy technician training programs cost around $1,000. When you complete the program, you will be eligible to take your certification exam to become a certified pharmacy technician

There are many different options for online certification programs. Make sure you choose a program that has been accredited and has good exam passing rates. 

For example, while 12-week pharmacy technician programs exist, these may not give you enough time to learn all the necessary material and be prepared to start working. Programs that are at least 4 months, such as Stepful's Online Pharmacy Tech Program, are typically a better bet.

How Long a Pharmacy Technician Certificate from a Community College Takes

Length of time: 1 year

Many community colleges offer certificate programs for technical jobs like medical assisting or pharmacy technician. These programs offer specific training for pharmacy technician certification without requiring general education courses like humanities or fine arts. 

Because these programs are more specific than degree programs, they can be completed faster and are less expensive. When you complete your program, you will be eligible to sit for a pharmacy technician certification exam. 

The first semester of a community college program will usually cover the basics of medical terminology and orientation to healthcare operations. The second semester covers drug classifications and dosage calculations. The final semester often covers advanced pharmaceuticals and mixing sterile solutions. 

A diploma or certificate from a community college usually costs between $2,000 and $10,000 dollars.

How Long a Pharmacy Technician Associate’s Degree from a Community College Takes

Length of time: 2 years

A pharmacy technician associate degree program will cover all of the information taught in certificate programs, with the addition of required general education courses. People may choose to get an associate degree if they plan to continue on to more advanced healthcare jobs later on. 

The first year of an associate degree program usually includes classes in writing, basic math, sociology, and fine arts. Once those courses are completed, you will spend your second year focusing on pharmacology and pharmacy technician skills

An associate degree from a community college can cost up to $20,000. When you complete the program, you will graduate with an associate degree and be eligible to take your pharmacy technician certification exam. 

How Long Each Step of Becoming a Pharmacy Technician Takes

  1. Earn your high school diploma or GED (4 years). Pharmacy training programs and all pharmacy technician jobs require you to have your high school diploma or GED. If you need a GED, it is possible to study for and take your exam in as little as 4 weeks. 
  2. Complete a training program (4 months to 2 years). An accelerated online program can be completed in just 4 months, while a degree program takes about 2 years. Most states require that all pharmacy technicians complete some kind of training and certification course.  
  3. Study for your certification exam (1 to 4 weeks). Many students need to spend a few weeks studying for their certification exam after they complete their program. It is a good idea to use a test prep book and take a few practice exams before you sit for the real thing.  
  4. Take your exam and wait for your results (2 to 3 weeks). You may be able to see your exam results on the computer screen immediately after you finish your test depending on which certification you choose. Official exam results typically take a few days to a few weeks to arrive after taking your test, depending on which certification exam you take.
  5. Apply for a license (30 to 45 days). If you live in a state that requires licensure for pharmacy technicians, you should expect to wait at least 30 days for your license application to process. You can start looking for jobs while you wait, but employers will expect you to have your official license when you start working.   
  6. Find a job (1 to 6 weeks). While there are no guarantees about how long it will take to find a job, most recent college graduates can expect a hiring process to last about 40 days

All in, the total time required to become a pharmacy technician is about 5 months to 2 years depending on which program you choose, how much you study for the certification exam, and how long it takes you to find a job. 

If you live in a state that doesn’t require a certification or license, you can become a pharmacy technician without experience as soon as you secure a job that offers on-the-job training. You can learn more about on-the-job training for pharmacy technicians here.

>> Read More: Pharmacy Technician License vs Certification

Do I Have to Complete a Pharmacy Technician Training Program or School to Work?

Most states do require pharmacy technicians to complete a training program, pass a certification exam, and apply for a license before they will be allowed to work. This is because pharmacy technicians often deal with potentially dangerous medications and must be properly educated in order to keep their patients and customers safe. 

State requirements fall into three different categories: 

States that do not require any special training or certification include: 

  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania

States that require registration with a state board include: 

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

States that require training and registration with a state board include: 

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia

Is Pharmacy Technician School Worth It?

Pharmacy technician school can lead you to a fulfilling career as a pharmacy technician. While getting an associate degree as a pharmacy technician takes a lot of time and is expensive, completing an online certification program is well worth the investment of time and energy. 

Even if your state does not require certification, spending $1,000 (or less!) and 4 months learning will have a great return on investment as the average pharmacy technician salary is $36,740.

Earning your certification will make it easier to find a job, help you become eligible for promotions, and may get you a higher starting salary. 

>> Read More: Cheapest Pharmacy Technician Training Programs

Is Pharmacy Technician School Hard?

Pharmacy technician school is not particularly difficult. While you will have to put in some time learning and studying, most people can complete pharmacy technician school while working another job and maintaining a family and social life. 

How Long the Pharmacy Technician Certification Process Takes

The most time-consuming part of the pharmacy technician certification process is completing the coursework. After that is done, you still have to finish the certification process, which includes the following for the National Healthcareer’s ExCPT exam

  • Meeting the eligibility requirements. An online pharmacy technician certification program is the fastest way to meet exam eligibility requirements. You can also become eligible for the ExCPT exam by having 1 year of work experience including 1,200 hours of supervised practice in a pharmacy. 
  • Scheduling the exam. To schedule your exam, you must first make an NHA account. Then, fill out the application along with the required proof of eligibility. Your exam application should be approved in a few business days. 
  • Study for the exam. Depending on how confident you feel after completing your certification program or your work experience, you may need to spend 1 to 4 weeks taking practice exams and reviewing course material before you take your test. 
  • Take the exam. The NHA ExCPT exam is a 100-question, multiple-choice exam that takes most people about 2 hours to complete. 
  • Wait for your results. You’ll get the results from the ExCPT exam within 48 hours of completing it. 
  • Maintaining your certification. Once you earn your certification, you want to make sure you keep it up to date. Most types of pharmacy technician certifications require 20 hours of continuing education credits every 2 years.  

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