A pharmacy technician helps people get the correct dose, type, and brand of medication they’re prescribed. They help pharmacists keep things organized, safe, and running smoothly in drugstores, hospitals, and other locations.
But how do you become a pharmacy technician?
To become a pharmacy technician, you might need special training, certification, and/or a license depending on where you live.
This guide breaks down the steps required to become a pharmacy technician, including certification options, resume building, and more.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
If you are looking to get a job in healthcare and want to start working and earning money relatively quickly, becoming a pharmacy technician might be perfect for you.
Each state has slightly different pharmacy technician requirements, but even in the strictest states, you can become one in just a few months.
Here are the steps required to become a pharmacy technician:
1. Obtain Your High School Diploma or GED
Before you can start a training program or start working as a pharmacy technician, you will need a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. If you need to get your GED, you can prepare for your exam online and be ready to test right away.
If you are ambitious and got your high school diploma early, you might still have to wait until you are 18 to start working as a pharmacy technician. Many states require pharmacy technicians to be at least 18 years old to get their certification or start working.
2. Decide if You Need a Training Program & Certification
Training and certification requirements vary by state. Some states require you to complete a training program, get certified, and register with the state. Others do not require any type of training or certification.
Even if your state does not require certification, you might want to take a certification course. Certified pharmacy technicians are more likely to get hired right away, be more prepared for their job, and earn a higher salary.
States that do not require any special training or certification include:
- District of Columbia
- New York
States that require registration with a state board include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- South Carolina
States that require training and registration with a state board include:
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
>> Learn More: How to Become a Pharmacy Technician Without Certification, Experience, or Going to School
3. Research Pharmacy Technician Training Programs
There are many pharmacy technician training programs to choose from. Options range from self-paced online courses to associate degree programs at a community college.
You want to choose a program that has a good reputation, you can afford, and that will help you reach your ultimate goals. We go over what to look for in a training program later on in this article.
4. Apply & Enroll in a Pharmacy Technician Training Program
After choosing the right pharmacy technician training program for you, you will need to apply and enroll.
Enrolling in an online program can be as simple as providing a name and payment information or as complicated as applying for a college and awaiting admission.
Some schools require a background check and will not accept students who have felony or gross misdemeanor charges. Occasionally, a drug screen is also required before starting a pharmacy technician training program.
5. Complete Your Training
Pharmacy technician training programs include coursework covering basic anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. Training programs also cover medication safety, pharmaceutical ethics, and pharmacy law.
Most pharmacy technician programs last between four months to a year.
6. Take Your Certification Exam
There are many different pharmacy technician certification exams. Each exam is administered by a different certification agency, and most are accepted in states that require certification.
Double-check with your state to ensure that the exam you choose is recognized by the state you want to work in.
We go over pharmacy technician certification options later in this article.
7. Apply for a License (varies by state)
Most states require pharmacy technicians to apply for a license. These include:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
States that do not require licensure include:
- New York
To apply for a license, you will have to contact your state board of pharmacy. Most states require:
- An application fee of about $150 to $200
- Completed application paperwork
- Passport-style photo
- Social Security number for a background check
- High school transcripts or GED
- Proof of certification
8. Build Your Resume
Once you have applied for your license, you can start building your resume. Having your certification and application for licensure completed is a great addition to your pharmacy technician resume.
A strong resume should be well organized, easy to read, and free of spelling and formatting errors. Even if you have very little work experience, it is possible to create a great resume.
A good resume might include:
- Job experience
- Any awards or formal recognition
- Service work
- Extracurricular activities
- Special skills and talents
Employers want to hire pharmacy technicians who are trustworthy, hard-working, and reliable. Try to highlight those types of traits in yourself while crafting your resume.
A great cover letter, a completed certification course, and a letter of recommendation can make up for a lack of work experience.
9. Apply for Jobs
When you apply for jobs, think about what type of pharmacy you would like to work in.
Retail stores like CVS and Walgreens usually need pharmacy technicians to work regular business hours while interacting directly with customers. Pharmacy technicians in retail stores will also deal with billing and may have to help with some non-pharmacy sales.
Hospital pharmacy technicians are more likely to mix and deliver medications to nurses. They may have to calculate and count individual doses and are more likely to work with dangerous medications.
You can apply for jobs through facility websites or on job search engines like Monster or Indeed.
10. Maintain Your Certification
Just because you have passed your certification exam, doesn't mean your education has come to an end. Pharmacy technicians typically have to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education every two years and pay a renewal fee to maintain their certification.
Choosing the Right Pharmacy Technician Training Program
Before you enroll and spend time in a pharmacy technician training program, you want to make sure you choose one that fits your specific needs. There are several things you should look for in a good pharmacy technician training program, including:
One of the most important things to look for in a pharmacy technician training program is whether or not they are accredited. Accredited programs have been found to provide a high-quality education that covers important topics.
Attending an accredited program increases your chances that you will be successful on your examination and in your future career.
Type of Certification
Since there are so many different pharmacy technician certification exams, it is important to find out which exam a program will prepare you to take. Some states only accept very specific certification exam results, so it is important to double-check.
You must consider cost when choosing a pharmacy technician training program. While completing an associate degree program may help you reach your future goals, associate degree programs can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Online certification programs are almost always more affordable than in-person programs and still deliver high-quality training.
The length of certification programs can vary considerably, depending on the type of program you choose. Some programs can be completed in just a few months, while others may take up to two years to complete.
Online vs. In Person
While online programs are often less expensive and can be completed faster than in-person programs, many people struggle to learn in an online format. Make sure you choose a program that fits your learning style.
Exam Pass Rates
If you can, find out about a program’s examination passing rates. In 2020, the pass rate for the PTCB exam was about 70%. If a program has a lower passing rate than average, you may want to explore different options.
Job Placement Support
Some pharmacy technician training programs offer job placement support. If they do, the staff will help you search for jobs, create your resume, and practice interview questions. Some even have a job placement guarantee.
Different Pharmacy Technician Certification Options
There are many different organizations that can provide you with a pharmacy technician certification. The PTCB is the most widely recognized, but most states do not require you to go through a specific certifying agency.
Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) – Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board offers a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) course that is accepted in all states. Their exam consists of 90 multiple-choice questions and usually takes 2 hours to complete.
To maintain your CPhT, you must complete 20 hours of CE every two years, including 1 hour in pharmacy law and 1 hour in patient safety.
Certified Pharmacy Technician (ExCPT) – National Healthcareer Association (NHA)
To take the NHA’s ExCPT exam, you must first complete a pharmacy technician training program or have 1,200 supervised hours of pharmacy-related work in the last 3 years. The NHA exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions.
You must recertify for your ExCPT every two years by completing 20 hours of continuing education and paying the $55 recertification fee.
The NHA’s pharmacy technician certification is accepted in all 50 states.
Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) – American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists offers a certification exam consisting of 90 multiple-choice questions. Members of ASHP can take their exam for a discounted rate of $129. Nonmembers pay $189 for their certification.
Recertification requires 20 hours of continuing education every two years.
Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) – National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA)
The NPTA requires exam candidates to complete 400 hours of on-the-job training in order to be eligible for certification. The NPTA also offers several other advanced certifications for pharmacy technicians including hazardous medication handling and immunization administration.
Recertification requires 20 hours of continuing education every two years.
Other Pharmacy Technician Certification Options
- Certified Compounding Technician – International Society of Pharmaceutical Compounding (ISPCP). This certification shows that you have the knowledge to compound medications including using sterile technique and accurately measuring medications.
- Certified Pharmacy Technician – National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies (NICET). Recertification through NICET requires 40 hours of continuing education every two years.
- Registered Pharmacy Technician – American Medical Technologists (AMT). The registered Pharmacy Technician exam is a 175-question exam and exam eligibility requires either one year of experience or the completion of a certification program.
- National Certified Pharmacy Technician – The National Center for Competency Testing (NCCT). This exam is available through the National Healthcareer Association and requires knowledge about medication safety, medication administration, pharmacology, and patient care.
- Certified Pharmacy Technician – Canadian Society of Hospital Pharmacists’ Certification Board of Canada. Pharmacy technicians in Canada can earn this certification after completing 2000 hours of supervised practice and passing both an oral and online exam.
Paying for Pharmacy Technician Schooling or Training
Everyone knows that getting an education can be expensive. Luckily, there are resources available to help you pay for pharmacy technician training:
If you attend a certificate program through a college or university, you can apply for a scholarship. Scholarships are available based on need, academic performance, athletic skill, service, and diversity.
Whether you choose a certificate or associate degree program, you may be able to receive a grant that does not have to be paid back. Programs like CalGrant are available for non-traditional and certificate-seeking students.
It is a common misconception that student loans are only available for degree programs. You can get a private or federal student loan to help you pay for a pharmacy technician certificate program.
You should always max out federal student loans before turning to private student loans, which often have higher interest rates and less favorable repayment terms.
Often, healthcare organizations will pay for their employees to earn their certifications or advance their education. Many companies offer tuition reimbursement in exchange for a commitment to the company for a specified amount of time.
Is it Possible to Get a Pharmacy Technician Job With No Experience or Certification?
It is possible to get a pharmacy technician job with no experience or certification, but only if you work in a state that does not have strict requirements for pharmacy technicians. Most places across the United States and Canada require certification and licensure for pharmacy technicians.
While it is possible, working without certification may mean you are paid a lower salary or get passed up for advancement opportunities. Becoming certified as a pharmacy technician is well worth the upfront investment of time and money.
Pharmacy Technician Salary & Job Outlook
The average pharmacy technician salary in the United States is about $37,640 per year or $17.66 per hour. While this is lower than the national average salary for all occupations, it is higher than many other entry-level healthcare careers.
Pharmacy technicians' salaries can vary based on where they live, their years of experience, and whether or not they have earned their certification. For example, pharmacy technicians in California earn over $50,000 per year, while those in Alabama earn less than $35,000 per year.
Job opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to increase by 5% from 2022 to 2032.
Benefits of Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
Working as a pharmacy technician is a great opportunity to work in healthcare. Some of the benefits of becoming a pharmacy technician include:
- Decent salary. Pharmacy technicians can earn a decent salary compared to other jobs that require the same level of education.
- Ability to help others. Pharmacy technicians have the opportunity to help their customers or patients remain healthy.
- Always more to learn. Working in healthcare means there is always something to learn. There are always new medications to research and try to understand.
- Job security. Pharmacy technicians have good job security and are in need all over the country. You can find work as a pharmacy technician in almost any city, giving you freedom and flexibility.
- Experience for higher education. If you plan on pursuing an advanced healthcare degree, working as a pharmacy technician is a great place to start. Understanding pharmaceuticals is something that many healthcare providers struggle with, and working with medicines all day will give you a huge advantage if you choose to continue your healthcare education.
Skills Required to Become a Pharmacy Technician
Not just anyone can be a pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians have to be able to manage potentially harmful drugs, keep track of hundreds of medications, and stay calm in a fast-paced environment.
Pharmacy technicians must have the following skills in order to have a successful career:
- Great organization
- Attention to detail
- Good customer service skills
- Good memory
- Math skills
- Eagerness to learn
FAQs of Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
How long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?
If you choose an online certificate program, you can become a pharmacy technician in just a few months. Associate degree programs typically take around a year. You can learn more about how long becoming a pharmacy technician takes here.
How much do pharmacy technician training programs cost?
Pharmacy technician training certificate programs can cost as little as $500, while associate degree programs can cost up to $20,000.
Is it hard to become a pharmacy technician?
While becoming a pharmacy technician is not especially challenging, it does take some work and you will have to study hard. With a national exam pass rate of only 70%, it is clear that you cannot become a pharmacy technician without preparation.
What is the best pharmacy technician certification program?
The best pharmacy technician certification program is one that can be completed in a timely manner, is affordable, is accredited, and will help you earn your certification.
What is the average pharmacy technician's salary?
The average pharmacy technician's salary is $37,640 per year.
What is the job outlook for pharmacy technicians?
The job outlook for pharmacy technicians is average, with an expected increase of 5% between 2022 to 2032.
What are the continuing education requirements for pharmacy technicians?
Pharmacy technicians must complete at least 20 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their certification, depending on their certification. Some certifications require more.
Is it worth it to become a pharmacy technician?
If you want to work in healthcare, enjoy helping people, and like to learn, it is worth it to become a pharmacy technician. You can become a pharmacy technician relatively quickly and start earning a decent wage while working in a rewarding career.