For most people, pharmacies may not seem like exciting places. If you find yourself waiting in line to pick up a prescription, you are usually sick and tired and want to go home. However, for the people who work in pharmacies, it is an exciting, fast-paced environment filled with patient interaction and a flurry of orders to fill. As a pharmacy technician, you will rarely be bored.
While the route to becoming a pharmacy technician can be fairly easy—you only need a high school diploma and on-site experience—the road to becoming a certified pharmacy technician is worth the travel. So if you are only beginning your healthcare career, or you’re a seasoned pharmacy technician who’s looking for more, now’s the time to consider earning a Pharmacy Technician Certification.
5 Ways you will benefit from a pharmacy technician certification
If you’ve had your pharm tech job for a few years, you may think you know everything you need in order to do the job successfully. While there’s no doubt about that, you need to look to the future, too, and think about how a promotion could help in the long run. If you are just beginning your journey to becoming a pharmacy technician, a certification will prepare you with the knowledge and skills you need to find a job and succeed. No matter your position, a certification can help. Here’s how:
1. You learn from professionals in the field
If you are new to pharmacy tech and are considering taking a certification program, this is a huge benefit for you. Going through a program allows you to learn from real professionals and experts in the field. You will learn tips and tricks of the trade in a supportive environment while also building a network of mentors and colleagues.
2. You develop mathematical skills used within pharmacy practices
While pharmacists do the brunt of the math and pharmacology, pharmacy technicians are called upon to convert measurements and calculate dosages for compounds and injectable medications. Having a Pharmacy Technician Certification will assist you in accumulating and practicing these math skills. If you opt to participate in a Certificate program, you will take a pharmacy calculation class, which teaches you the calculations you need to know in order to work successfully in a pharmacy.
3. You learn to use software programs utilized to manage and process medications
“A large majority of prescription medications are electronic prescriptions, and pharmacy technicians need to be able to locate, retrieve, get prior authorizations and record data on these prescription medications,” says Jeremy Barthels, School of Health Sciences Department Chair at Rasmussen College. With technology becoming more advanced, it’s important to have a solid understanding of how to work with these electronic systems.
4. You build a knowledge base of pharmaceuticals
One of the main competency areas you will learn more about during your certification are pharmaceuticals.
“Students learn pharmaceuticals for all of the organ systems of the body. [This includes] actions, side effects and interactions between them,” Barthels says. Having a concrete working knowledge of the different types of medications will make working in a pharmacy that much easier.
5. You may have more advancement opportunities
For those who already have experience as pharmacy technicians, a Certificate could be what you need to advance in your career. According to the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, certified pharmacy technicians may have higher earnings and better opportunities for promotions.
Let your boss know what you learned by earning your certification and what you’ll be bringing to the organization in terms of new skills. Have you learned new scheduling tricks or patient care ideas? Be sure to talk yourself up.
How to earn a Pharmacy Technician Certification
Certification can generally be completed through on-the-job-training or by earning a Certificate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On-the-job-training means you’ll be earning a living while learning what you need to be a successful pharm tech. It may sound like a dream, but be aware that different organizations have different policies and procedures, so if you want to move to a new job in the future, it could be more difficult.
Earning a Certificate is an excellent option for those looking to begin their pharmacy tech careers. They typically take only nine months and will equip you with the knowledge and experience needed to pass your pharmacy tech certification exam.*
Each state has its own pharm tech regulations, but two organizations offer certification, says the BLS—the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Each organization has different requirements for becoming certified so make sure you’re familiar with both.
The bottom line
No matter which route you choose, earning your pharm tech certification won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it. It can help you stay up-to-date on the most cutting-edge trends and technologies in the field. A pharm tech certification is also extremely valuable if you decide to switch jobs or if you simply need a bit more confidence to ask your boss about that big promotion you deserve.
Check out Rasmussen College’s Pharmacy Technician program page to learn more about how they can help you on your path to becoming a certified pharmacy technician.
*Completion time is dependent on the number of transfer credits accepted and courses completed each term.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in March 2014. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2017.