How to Pursue Becoming a Lucrative Pharmacy Technician in 5 Steps

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Are you interested in a career where you can help others and work in a steady, growing field? Becoming a pharmacy technician might be the perfect choice for you! Pharmacy technicians play a vital role in healthcare by assisting pharmacists with dispensing prescription medication to customers or health professionals. This role not only requires attention to detail but also a solid foundation of knowledge and training. In this guide, we will explore the educational paths, necessary certifications, and additional skills needed to embark on this rewarding career. Whether you’re just starting out or considering a career change, the journey to becoming a pharmacy technician is within your reach.

Education and Training Requirements

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Pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician requires a foundational education coupled with specific training. These educational prerequisites not only prepare candidates for the field technically and practically but also fulfill essential criteria needed for certification.

High School Diploma or GED

The first essential step towards becoming a pharmacy technician is obtaining a high school diploma or GED. This basic educational requirement is pivotal as it demonstrates a fundamental level of education and comprehension needed in the pharmacy field. Subjects such as math, science, and English taught in high school are particularly relevant, providing the necessary skills for tasks like calculating dosages and managing prescriptions, which are everyday responsibilities in a pharmacy setting.

Formal Education and Training Programs

Following high school, aspiring pharmacy technicians typically enroll in formal education and training programs. These can be found at vocational schools, community colleges, and sometimes, technical institutions. Programs usually range from six months to two years and often culminate in a diploma, certificate, or associate degree. A standard pharmacy technician program covers a variety of topics such as:

– Pharmaceutical calculations

– Pharmacy law and ethics

– Medication names, uses, and doses

– Inventory management

– Compounding of medications

– Customer service skills

Beyond classroom instruction, these programs frequently include hands-on learning experiences like internships or externships. These practical experiences are critical as they provide real-world insights and firsthand training under the supervision of experienced pharmacy professionals.

Certification Exams

After completing the necessary education and training, pharmacy technicians must often pass a certification exam to officially begin their careers. Certification not only bolsters a technician’s credentials but also increases job prospects and potential earnings. There are two primary exams recognized across various states: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) and the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT).

PTCE (Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam)

The PTCE is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and is one of the most recognized certification exams for pharmacy technicians in the United States. To take the PTCE, candidates must have completed a high school diploma or GED and have graduated from an approved pharmacy technician training program, or have equivalent work experience.

The exam consists of multiple-choice questions and covers areas such as:

– Medication Order Entry and Fill Process

– Pharmacy Inventory Management

– Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement

– Pharmacy Information Systems Usage and Application

– Pharmacology for Technicians

Passing the PTCE grants the individual the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) title, signifying a high standard of competence in the field, which can greatly enhance employment opportunities.

ExCPT (Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians)

Another reputable certification is the ExCPT, offered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Similar to the PTCE, the ExCPT exam is designed to certify that a candidate has the knowledge and skills necessary to work effectively as a pharmacy technician.

The ExCPT exam is also based on multiple-choice questions and examines topics such as:

– Regulations and Technician Duties

– Drugs and Drug Therapy

– Dispensing Process

– Medication Safety

Candidates eligible for this exam need to meet requirements similar to those of the PTCE, including educational prerequisites. Certified individuals from the ExCPT are bestowed the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) title.

Each certification has its own re-certification requirements, typically involving the completion of continuing education courses every two years to ensure that pharmacy technicians stay current in their knowledge and skills in the rapidly evolving healthcare environment.

Job Outlook

Pharmacy Technician

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The job outlook for pharmacy technicians is generally positive, with varying opportunities depending on geographic location, experience, and level of education and certification. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a steady growth in this field, driven by the aging population and increased demand for prescription medications.

Employment Opportunities

Pharmacy technicians can find employment in various settings, which broadens their job prospects. Most commonly, they work in retail pharmacies, hospitals, and clinics. There is also potential for positions in long-term care facilities, mail-order pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies. Many of these environments offer different experiences and challenges, catering to a broad range of interests within the pharmacy field. For those interested in technology, recent advancements have also introduced roles that involve managing pharmacy automation systems and telepharmacy services. Each of these pathways not only offers its own unique environment but also varying shifts and flexibility, catering to different lifestyle needs.

Salary Expectations

The salary of a pharmacy technician can vary based on several factors including geographic location, years of experience, educational background, and specific industry of employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2021, the median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was approximately $36,740. Those working in general medical and surgical hospitals tend to earn higher wages, with a median annual wage of about $39,290, compared to those in pharmacies and drug stores who earned around $33,280.

– Entry-level pharmacy technicians often start at a lower salary range but see increases as they gain experience and additional certifications.

– Technicians in metropolitan areas or regions with higher costs of living typically earn more than those in rural settings.

Career Growth Prospects

A career as a pharmacy technician offers multiple pathways for advancement, especially for those who continually seek further education and certifications. Some technicians go on to specialize in areas such as chemotherapy or nuclear pharmacy, which often offer higher compensation and more responsibility. Pursuing further certification in these specialized fields typically results in career advancement and increased earnings.

Another avenue for growth is through leadership positions, such as becoming a lead pharmacy technician, supervising others, or managing inventory. These roles require both technical knowledge and skills in areas like communication and management.

Furthermore, some pharmacy technicians progress into other healthcare roles. For instance, with additional education, some move into careers as pharmacists, nursing professionals, or other healthcare administrators. Each of these career moves includes its own set of requirements but generally leads to higher pay and broader job responsibilities.

All in all, a career as a pharmacy technician holds promising prospects for growth and development, making it an appealing choice for those interested in the healthcare sector. With a backdrop of increasing demand for medical services and technological advancements in pharmacy practices, the role of pharmacy technicians is set to become even more vital.


Embarking on a career as a pharmacy technician presents a fantastic opportunity to join a fast-growing field that plays a crucial role in healthcare. With a mix of the right education, certifications, and personal dedication, you can enter this profession and make a significant impact in your community. By staying informed about the latest developments and continuously enhancing your skills, you can look forward to a fulfilling and stable career path. Remember, your journey towards becoming a pharmacy technician is not just about fulfilling job requirements—it’s about contributing to a healthier society.

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