Your toddler has an ear infection, your kindergartner is hacking up a lung and you’re battling the itchy eyes and congestion of allergy season. After your family trip to the doctor, your next stop is likely your local pharmacy.
As the smiling pharmacy technician (pharm tech) hands you your family’s prescriptions, you want to hug her for saving the day for you and your under-the-weather kids.
You admire that pharm techs come to the rescue for families like yours with every shift they work. You’re even starting to wonder how to join their ranks behind the counter. A job as a pharm tech offers a stable, rewarding career that seems like the perfect fit for you.
But the thought of working in a pharmacy is intimidating. How much training do pharmacy technicians need to get the best jobs? What are the pharmacy technician requirements, and how long does it take to meet them?
Pharm tech jobs are expected to increase by 20 percent through 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). With the right training, one of those jobs could be yours. We’ve scoured job postings and spoken to industry experts to bring you the trifecta of skills, education and certification you need to be a marketable pharmacy technician.
Pharmacy technician requirements: Skills needed
A pharm tech’s job can vary greatly depending on the type of pharmacy in which they work. You may find yourself behind the counter at a hospital or grocery store, doing everything from packaging prescriptions to processing payments and insurance claims. The variety of job duties means employers are looking for specific skills in their pharm tech professionals.
We used real-time job analysis software from Burning-Glass.com to examine more than 46,000 pharmacy technician job postings. This data helped us identify the top 10 skills employers are seeking in pharm tech candidates.* Here’s what we found:
- Data entry
- Prescription filling
- Pharmacy Technician Certification
- Cash register operation
- Familiarity with HIPAA
- Inventory management
- Order entry
- Record keeping
Pharmacy technician requirements: Experience & education
The road to becoming a pharm tech isn’t exactly traditional. Certification requirements vary depending on which state and which employer for which you hope to work. Here are the types of training that will come in handy in your search for a pharm tech job.
A pharm tech’s job is hands-on, so new hires are often given on-the-job training by their employers. The upside to this is that you’ll be earning an income while completing your training. The downside is that many employers are moving away from this model in favor of hiring pharm techs who are already trained.
FACT: Pharmacy technician jobs are expected to increase by 20% through 2020.
Job candidates who already hold a pharmacy technician certification have an advantage over those who still need training, according to Heidi Fischler, managing director of Jackson Pharmacy Professionals, a national pharmacy staffing company.
Not only are on-the-job training options becoming less appealing to employers, they may actually hinder your career if you ultimately decide to transition to a different pharmacy or relocate to another state. You may need to redo your training if your original training doesn’t meet your new employer’s requirements.
Postsecondary education & internships
Earning a degree or certificate is another option for aspiring pharm techs. A certificate—usually one year or less for pharm techs—allows you to learn pharmacy fundamentals and build your skills to prepare you for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam.
Becoming a certified pharmacy technician means your credentials will be recognized by pharmacies across the nation. Having a degree or certificate on your resume also instantly indicates to employers that you’re a trained professional who is committed to your career.
A degree or certificate program is a great way to acquire all of the in-demand skills listed above before you start applying for pharm tech jobs. Some programs may also teach skills like mixing compounds or IVs, which Fischler says will make you more marketable as a pharmacy technician.
Earning a degree doesn’t mean missing out on real-world experience. Many programs offer (or require) the opportunity to intern at a pharmacy, where you’ll gain plenty of clinical experience. Prospective employers will be happy to see a robust education accompanied by real-world training.
Is certification worth it?
In a word: yes!
The same analysis mentioned earlier revealed that more than 15,000 job postings (33 percent of all pharm tech job postings) in the past year required a pharmacy technician certificate. “A lot of facilities are moving toward making the national certification a requirement for employment,” adds Fischler.
"A lot of facilities are moving toward making the national certification a requirement for employment."
Not only will certification help you land a job, it will also give you more opportunities for career advancement. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) reports that pharm techs certified through their organization enjoy higher earnings and more promotion opportunities than their uncertified counter parts.
Certification could be the key to making you a more trusted and satisfied employee as well. Lead pharmacists view pharmacy technician certification as “an essential component reducing medication errors, ensuring patient safety, and increasing positive health outcomes,” as stated in a PTCB-sponsored study. Certified pharm techs have reported increased job satisfaction, self-worth and ability to make a positive difference in others’ medical care.
It’s time to stand behind the counter
With the right training, you could be the one behind the counter saving the day for families in your community. Now that you know all about pharmacy technician requirements, you’re in the perfect position to make your next move.
Pharmacy technician is a growing career in the booming healthcare field. Give yourself an advantage in claiming one of these rewarding jobs as your own by learning more about our pharmacy technician program.
*Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 46,465 pharmacy technician job postings, Apr. 1, 2014 – Mar. 31, 2015)