Pharmacy Technician Externship: What They Are & How to Find One

A pharmacy technician externship is a great way to get some one-on-one time with a working pharmacy technician. During an externship, you will get to experience what it’s like to be a pharmacy technician and practice the skills you learned in your pharmacy technician program. 

Pharmacy technician externships are extremely helpful for anyone hoping to find a job as a pharmacy technician. By completing an externship, you’ll be more ready to work than other applicants without experience.

When you start looking for a training program, make sure you find out whether or not they include an externship opportunity. 

Stepful’s Online Pharmacy Technician Program, for example, includes in-person pharmacy technician externships for students in convenient locations that can help them gain experience and be better prepared to enter the workforce. 

What is a Pharmacy Technician Externship?

An externship usually happens at the end of a pharmacy technician training program and is great for students who want to get some in-person experience to solidify their learning and get some hands–on practice with their pharmacy technician skills. 

For a student to participate in an externship, the pharmacy owner, pharmacist, and pharmacy technician must all agree to allow a student on the premises to shadow the pharmacy technician. 

If a student is accepted, they will spend their externship time learning from the working pharmacy technician and practicing skills like working with customers and organizing medications. 

How Many Hours & Long Is a Pharmacy Technician Externship?

Each training program may have different requirements for how many hours must be spent working in an externship. Most programs require students to complete most or all of their classroom hours before being allowed to participate in an externship.

Once students have completed their lecture hours and classroom assignments, they will typically spend about 100 to 150 hours working in an externship. These externship hours can sometimes be completed in as little as one month, but some schools spread them out over an entire semester or three-month time period. 

Responsibilities During a Pharmacy Technician Externship

During the first few hours or shifts of a pharmacy technician externship, you will probably watch more than you participate in handling and distributing medications. 

As your externship moves along and you earn the trust of the staff, you will take on more responsibilities, possibly including:

  • Help pharmacy technicians with daily tasks. During an externship, the student will start by observing what the pharmacy technician does and asking questions about daily operations, much like a pharmacy technician trainee. Eventually, the student will be able to be more hands-on, and start helping and even taking the lead on the daily tasks required of the working pharmacy technician. 
  • Learn about medication handling. Some medications cannot be touched without special gloves, may need to be mixed using a sterile technique, or kept at very specific temperatures. An externship will help pharmacy technician students become familiar with all of these medication handling techniques and requirements. 
  • Practice dosing calculations. Pharmacy technicians need to understand basic math and dosage calculations to help keep their customers safe from accidental overdosing or underdosing of medications. Students will have plenty of opportunities to practice calculating medication doses during their externship. 
  • Become confident in customer interactions. Whether in person or over the phone, pharmacy technicians need to become confident in helping customers get their questions answered, having difficult conversations about billing and insurance, and helping patients feel confident in their ability to use their medication safely at home. 
  • Get to know the pharmacy technician's scope of practice. Pharmacy technicians need to understand the local laws and regulations regarding what the pharmacy technician is and is not allowed to do within the pharmacy. An externship is a great place to solidify this knowledge. 

Expectations During a Pharmacy Technician Externship

When a pharmacy technician agrees to let a student shadow them, they are taking on some extra work. 

While most pharmacies and technicians are happy to invite students into their workspace, students must meet certain expectations to be allowed to return and to keep externship programs going at that specific location. 

Pharmacy technician students will be expected to: 

  • Pass a background check and drug screening test. 
  • Arrive on time.
  • Be courteous to patients and other staff members. 
  • Remain attentive. 
  • Put your phone away. 
  • Respect the rules of the pharmacy or hospital.
  • Ask questions. 
  • Understand the basics of being a pharmacy technician. 

Are Pharmacy Technician Externships Required?

Most employers do not require an externship as part of the application process. However, candidates who have completed an externship are more competitive job applicants and are more likely to be hired than those who have not. 

In addition to being a more competitive job candidate, externships can also help you feel more confident at your new job and may help you negotiate a higher starting pay, since you already have some experience. 

Are Pharmacy Technician Externships Paid?

Most pharmacy technician externships are not paid. Externships are often considered student learning opportunities, and they benefit the student more than the employer. 

However, some places, like Walgreens, offer paid externships through apprentice programs. These apprenticeship programs offer to pay pharmacy technicians in training, with the expectation that they will continue working for the company after they have earned their certification. 

How to Find a Pharmacy Technician Externship Near You

The best way to find a pharmacy technician externship is to enroll in a training program that includes externship hours. It can be difficult to find an externship if you are not working with an educational institution or training company that has established relationships with pharmacies or hospitals that will allow students. 

Programs like Stepful include externships as part of their training programs. An externship through Stepful includes 130 clinical hours at a location that is convenient for the student. In addition, Stepful offers career coaching services at the end of the externship hours and includes a 100% job placement guarantee for their students. 

If you choose a training program that requires you to find your own externship, you can look at job boards, externship search sites, school career boards, or even visit different pharmacies to ask about opportunities. Students may find that finding an externship is difficult when they choose a program that does not include one as part of the curriculum. 

Benefits of a Pharmacy Technician Externship

While it does require a little bit of extra time and effort, the benefits of participating in an externship are well worth it. Pharmacy technicians who gain experience through an externship enjoy the following benefits: 

  • Helps you learn the necessary skills to succeed. While classroom learning is an important part of the training process, practicing skills in an externship helps students solidify their learning and pick up on some of the nuances of the job.
  • Helps you decide what kind of pharmacy technician job you would like. Besides helping you learn the skills you need, externships allow students to see what parts of being a pharmacy technician they enjoy the most. Getting a feel for interacting with customers, compounding medications, or participating in research can help a student decide on the type of permanent job they would like to apply for. 
  • Gives you confidence for when you start your first pharmacy technician job. Starting a new job can be a little bit scary. Getting some practice with a working pharmacy technician helps build confidence when it is time for a new technician to start working on their own. 
  • Improves your resume and chances of getting hired. It is no secret that employers prefer to hire job candidates with some experience. Participating in an externship will make you a much more competitive job applicant. 
  • Helps you build relationships with other pharmacy technicians. An externship is a great opportunity to meet and network with other pharmacy technicians and pharmacists, which can be a great resource as you look for a permanent job or have questions throughout your career. 

Pharmacy Technician Externship FAQs

How many hours are required for a pharmacy technician externship?

Pharmacy technician externships can be as short as 80 hours and as long as 240 hours. Most externships fall between 100 and 150 hours long. 

How long does a pharmacy technician externship take?

Externships completed through online programs typically take a few weeks to complete. An externship completed through an associate degree program may take an entire semester or about three months. 

Is a pharmacy technician externship paid?

Most pharmacy technician externships are unpaid. A few schools allow students who are already working as pharmacy technicians to count their hours worked towards externship hours required for graduation from their certificate or associate degree program.

Is a pharmacy technician externship required?

Pharmacy technician externships are not required. However, they do improve the confidence and knowledge base of new pharmacy technicians. Externships also make job applicants more competitive.

Are pharmacy technician externships hard to find?

If you choose a program that does not include an externship, it can be very difficult to find a pharmacy that is willing to let you join its staff for an externship experience. 

Do you have to be certified to do a pharmacy technician externship?

You do not have to be certified to participate in a pharmacy technician externship. Most externships are included in part of a training program for students on their way to earning a certification. 

What is the dress code for a pharmacy technician externship?

Dress codes for externships depend on the training program and externship facility. Some training programs require their students to wear a school uniform or pharmacy shirt to the externship. However, most facilities require only clean, business casual clothing or scrubs, and closed-toe shoes. 

Will a pharmacy technician externship help me get hired?

An externship can help you get hired. Including an externship on your entry-level pharmacy technician resume will make you a more competitive applicant, and you may even be able to get a job at the location of your externship if you work hard and make a good impression. 

Does a pharmacy technician externship lead to a job at that pharmacy or hospital?

Pharmacy technician externships can be completed at many different locations including retail pharmacies and hospitals. An externship can help you get a job at any kind of location where pharmacy technicians work

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