Pharmacy Technician Career Path & Advancement Opportunities

Being a pharmacy technician is a great career choice for those who want to start working quickly, earn a decent salary, and have a meaningful job. In addition, being a pharmacy technician gives you a lot of experience and knowledge that can start you on the pathway to many more advanced healthcare careers

If you’re thinking of becoming a pharmacy technician or are already one, you may be wondering what kind of career advancement opportunities there are and what a typical pharmacy technician career path looks like. 

This guide goes over the pharmacy technician career path, opportunities available to pharmacy technicians, potential salaries for advanced pharmacy jobs, and more. 

Pharmacy Technician Career Path

It typically takes between 12 weeks and 2 years to become a pharmacy tech

Most states require pharmacy technicians to complete a training program and earn their certification before they can start working with patients and medications. The PTCB’s CPhT certification is the most widely accepted for pharmacy technicians in the nation.

Our Online Pharmacy Tech Program here at Stepful, for example, takes 4 months to complete and prepares you for the CPhT exam. We also help you find an in-person externship and find a job after graduation.

Here are the steps to becoming a pharmacy technician

  1.  Earn your high school diploma or GED – 4 years
  2. Complete a training course – 12 weeks to 2 years
  3. Take your certification exam – 2 weeks
  4. Apply for jobs – 4 weeks
  5. Maintain your certification – every 2 years
  6. Consider how you can advance your career – 12 weeks to several years

How Pharmacy Technicians Can Advance Their Careers

After you become a pharmacy technician, you may want to spend a few months or years gaining experience and getting a better understanding of medications and patient care. 

After that, you may consider using your knowledge and experience to move into a more advanced career. 

Here are some ways you can advance your career as a pharmacy technician:

Get Certified

If you are not already certified, earning a pharmacy technician certification is the easiest way to increase your salary, earn the trust of your employer, and get more opportunities at work. 

The PTCB’s CPhT is the most widely recognized pharmacy technician certification available in the United States. 

Earning this certification shows your employer that you have the practical knowledge, skills, and commitment required to become a phenomenal pharmacy technician. 

If you’re interested in getting certified, check out our 4-Month Online Pharmacy Technician Program that prepares you to take the CPhT exam.

Earn Advanced Certifications

After you earn your CPhT, you can start looking at more advanced certifications. Almost every employer recognizes the value of advanced training, and you can earn these more advanced certifications while still working full-time as a certified pharmacy technician. 

Advanced pharmacy technician certifications from the PTCB include:

  • Certified Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician (CSPT)
  • Advanced Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT-Adv)
  • Billing and Reimbursement Certificate
  • Controlled Substances Diversion Prevention Certificate
  • Hazardous Drug Management Certificate
  • Immunization Administration Certificate
  • Medication History Certificate
  • Medication Therapy Management Certificate
  • Nonsterile Compounding Certificate
  • Point-of-Care Testing Certificate
  • Regulatory Compliance Certificate
  • Supply Chain and Inventory Management Certificate
  • Technician Product Verification Certificate

Specialize

Besides earning an advanced certification, you can specialize in a specific pharmacy job that requires more experience and expertise. Some more advanced types of pharmacy technicians include nuclear or chemotherapy medicine, home health, or informatics. 

Many specialty pharmacy technician jobs require additional education, training, or certification. However, they also typically pay better than regular pharmacy technician jobs. 

Train Other Pharmacy Technicians

After you gain some experience working as a pharmacy technician, you can be promoted to a pharmacy technician trainer. 

This might mean you do on-the-job training for new hires or pharmacy technician trainees, or you might be hired by a training program to offer instruction to their students.

Either way, training new pharmacy technicians is a great way to use your current skill set while helping others and making more money. 

Pursue Further Education

Working as a pharmacy technician can also be a stepping stone on the way to more advanced careers that require further education. 

Working as a pharmacy technician can look good on an application to pharmacy school, physician assistant school, nursing school, and other advanced healthcare careers.

>> Read More: Pharmacy School Requirements & Prerequisites

Pharmacy Technician Specializations to Advance Your Career

Specializing is one of the best ways to advance your career as a pharmacy technician. Specialization often leads to pay raises, better learning opportunities, and bigger responsibilities. 

There are many different options available for pharmacy technicians who would like to earn advanced certifications or specializations, such as:

  • Hospital Pharmacy Technician. Hospital pharmacy technicians deliver medications to different units in the hospital. They may also bring medications to the bedside of patients having an emergency and may get to compound and prepare many different sterile medications.   
  • Compounding Pharmacy Technician. Compounding pharmacy technicians mix medications to make them either more effective or more convenient for patients. This requires special training, and may even require a special certification. Compounding pharmacy technicians can work in pharmacies, hospitals, or research centers. 
  • Nuclear Pharmacy Technician. Nuclear pharmacy technicians are highly specialized and work with radioactive medications and other substances. Because these medications can be harmful when mishandled, these technicians often need several years of pharmacy technician experience and weeks of special training before they can work independently. 
  • Chemotherapy Pharmacy Technician. Similarly to nuclear pharmacy technicians, chemotherapy pharmacy technicians deal with highly toxic chemicals and medications that can be dangerous when handled or dispensed incorrectly. Chemotherapy pharmacy technicians must be vigilant with double-checking patient information and weight before dispensing medication and usually need a hazardous drug management certification.  
  • Mail-Order Pharmacy Technician. Mail-order pharmacy technicians check prescriptions and prepare orders to be shipped directly to patients in their homes. They work closely with doctors and insurance companies to help patients get what they need. There are typically no special certifications required to become a mail-order pharmacy technician. 
  • Pharmacy Technician Supervisor or Manager. After getting some experience as a pharmacy technician, you may be able to become a supervisor or manager. While a pharmacy technician must only handle medications under the supervision of a pharmacist, a supervisor or manager guides pharmacy technicians to reach their potential as good employees by tracking schedules, hiring new talent, training new employees, and monitoring the status of pharmacy technicians’ certifications. 
  • Pharmacy Benefit Manager. A pharmacy benefits manager is a technician who works as a third party between drug companies and insurance companies to negotiate costs and coverage for certain prescriptions and over-the-counter medications. They can also help patients find discounts or rebates, and work to ensure that all parties work together fairly. Most pharmacy benefits managers have special certifications to qualify for their jobs. 
  • Pharmacy Informatics Technician. Pharmacy informatics technicians are responsible for managing and troubleshooting medication dispensing machines, software used to track prescription medications, and compounding equipment used in hospitals. These technicians often train other healthcare providers on best practices for using electronic health records and pharmacy machinery.  
  • Home Health Pharmacy Technician. Home health pharmacy technicians are responsible for packaging, labeling, and dispensing medications for patients cared for by home health agencies. They may also be involved in shipping or delivery of medications to people who are homebound and cannot get themselves into the pharmacy to pick up their medications. 
  • Pharmacy Purchasing Technician. Pharmacy purchasing technicians must be certified pharmacy technicians and usually have 1-2 years working in a retail pharmacy as a regular technician. Pharmacy purchasing technicians are responsible for maintaining inventory, managing pharmacy overhead, and monitoring industry trends. 
  • Pharmacy Technician Educator or Trainer. Pharmacy technician educators are responsible for training new pharmacy technicians entering the workforce. They can work for colleges, trade schools, online training programs, or in pharmacies as new employee coaches and trainers. These educators typically have advanced pharmacy technician certifications as well as several years of experience. 
  • Quality Assurance Pharmacy Technician. Quality assurance pharmacy technicians have an eye for detail and play a huge role in keeping patients safe. They are responsible for independently reviewing pharmacies and making sure that medications are stored and labeled correctly, all safety standards are being followed, and that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are following correct protocols. 

Pharmacy Technician Career Advancement Opportunities

Working as a pharmacy technician is a great way to start your career in healthcare. Learning about different medications, customer service, and working with insurance companies is a great way to learn and practice for more advanced and higher-paying pharmacy jobs. 

Retail Pharmacist

Retail pharmacists work in pharmacies and oversee medication dispensing and delivery to patients. They have an advanced understanding of different medications and work with physicians to prescribe appropriate medications, ensure correct dosing, and avoid dangerous medication interactions. 

Retail pharmacists usually spend at least 6 years in school earning their bachelor’s degree and Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) degree. 

  • Additional Education Required. Bachelor’s degree + Doctorate of Pharmacy. 
  • Salary. $132,750 per year (compared to $37,790 for pharmacy techs)
  • Job Outlook for Retail Pharmacists. 3% growth through 2032. 

>> Read More: Pharmacist vs. Pharmacy Technician

Clinical Pharmacist

Clinical pharmacists typically work in hospitals, double-checking physician orders for medications, adjusting doses, and responding to emergencies. Clinical pharmacists can further specialize in hospitals to work in specific units such as intensive care, labor and delivery, pediatric units, and emergency departments.

Clinical pharmacists must earn their Doctor of Pharmacy degrees and complete a residency in a hospital or other patient care setting. 

  • Additional Education Required. Bachelor’s degree + Doctorate of Pharmacy. 
  • Salary. $131,248 per year (compared to $37,790 for pharmacy techs)
  • Job Outlook for Clinical Pharmacists. 3% expected growth through 2032.

Pharmacy Manager

Pharmacy managers oversee all pharmacy operations and ensure that all employees of the pharmacies are fulfilling their responsibilities, maintaining their licenses and certifications, and following all safety standards set by the State Board of Pharmacy.

Pharmacy managers may also track inventory, coordinate employee training and schedules, and work with pharmacy owners to manage overhead and decrease expenses. Pharmacy managers may start out as pharmacists and progress to managers. 

  • Additional Education Required. Bachelor’s degree required; Doctorate in Pharmacy is preferred
  • Salary. $134,125 per year (compared to $37,790 for pharmacy techs)
  • Job Outlook for Pharmacy Managers. 28% growth expected through 2028. 

Pharmacy Informatics Specialist

A pharmacy informatics specialist works to improve technology and software related to medication dispensation, prescription management, and compounding or creating new medications. 

They also work to improve electronic health record management and safety and help physicians, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians keep patient health and information safe.

  • Additional Education Required. Doctorate in Pharmacy and Informatics Certificate.
  • Salary Difference. $126,880 per year (compared to $37,790 for pharmacy techs)
  • Job Outlook for Pharmacy Informatics Specialist. 8% expected growth through 2032. 

Pharmaceutical Sales Representative

Pharmaceutical sales representatives are hired by pharmaceutical companies to educate physicians and pharmacists about new medications. 

They must have a thorough understanding of not only the medication they represent, but of other treatment options available, their side effects, and drug interactions. 

Pharmaceutical sales representatives must be able to answer physicians’ and pharmacists’ questions about new drugs and should have a deep understanding of physiology and pharmacology. 

  • Additional Education Required. Bachelor’s Degree or higher.
  • Salary. $72,525 per year (compared to $37,790 for pharmacy techs)
  • Job Outlook for Pharmaceutical Sales Representative. 9% growth through 2031

Healthcare Administrator

Healthcare administrators can be responsible for everything from managing patient care plans to overseeing entire healthcare systems. 

Typically, healthcare administrators focus on the business side of healthcare, managing expenses, creating budgets, and making plans to improve productivity. 

They may work with local governments to influence policies and laws that affect patient care and the function of healthcare systems.

Healthcare administrators can work in hospitals, long-term care centers, health clinics, pharmacies, and surgical centers.

  • Additional Education Required. Bachelor’s Degree or higher
  • Salary. $104,830 per year (compared to $37,790 for pharmacy techs)
  • Job Outlook for Healthcare Administrator. 28% growth expected through 2032.

Regulatory Affairs Specialist

Regulatory affairs specialists are also known as compliance officers and are responsible for ensuring that healthcare organizations follow all laws, rules, regulations, and protocols. 

They often work for government agencies to assess healthcare facilities for compliance. They may also work for certifying agencies like the Joint Commission on Hospital Accreditation.

  • Additional Education Required. Bachelor’s Degree or higher.
  • Salary. $71,690 per year (compared to $37,790 for pharmacy techs)
  • Job Outlook for Regulatory Affairs Specialist. 6% growth through 2032.

Medical Laboratory Technician

Medical laboratory technicians work in hospitals, care centers, and diagnostic laboratories. They perform tests on patient blood and body fluid samples that help physicians diagnose and treat a variety of illnesses and diseases. 

Medical laboratory technicians must be specially trained on how to collect, store, and test different samples to look for things as simple as electrolyte imbalances and as serious as cancer. 

  • Additional Education Required. Bachelor’s Degree and Certification
  • Salary. $57,380 per year (compared to $37,790 for pharmacy techs)
  • Job Outlook for Medical Laboratory Technician. 5% expected growth through 2032.

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