GUIDE
January 15, 2021
Man and woman working in pharmacy

Looking for an essential health care career you can start right away? Becoming a pharmacy technician may be the choice for you!

As a pharmacy tech you’ll work with licensed pharmacists to accurately and safely process patient prescriptions.

You won’t just count pills and label bottles: Pharmacy technicians’ responsibilities can include everything from processing and tracking insurance claims to preparing intravenous medications to managing the supply chain.

If you’re a stickler for details, enjoy helping people, and have strong critical thinking skills, you might have just found your calling. Read on to learn more and find out how to get started as a pharmacy technician.

Part One What is a Pharmacy Technician? 

If you’ve ever picked up a prescription from your local pharmacy, chances are you interacted with a pharmacy technician. Working under the supervision of a pharmacist, a pharmacy technician helps both the pharmacist and the customer, often serving as a link between the two. 

Depending upon the particular setting in which they work, pharmacy techs may be responsible for measuring, mixing and compounding medications, contacting doctors’ offices to confirm dosing instructions or to confirm their approval of prescription renewals.  

Pharmacy techs work in all sorts of pharmacies, including those you see in grocery stores and department stores. Local and national drug stores offer a lot of pharmacy technician jobs. 

Health systems with inpatient and outpatient pharmacies also hire these medical professionals to help process prescription requests. 

We Found The Following Schools with Online Pharmacy Technician Programs

Part Two What Do Pharmacy Technicians Do? 

The role of a pharmacy technician goes far beyond helping process prescription requests and taking care of packaging and labeling. Their work makes an enormous difference in the efficiency and safety of pharmacy operations.  

Their job responsibilities include:

  • Counting or measuring the accurate amount of medications
  • Mixing compounds of medications
  • Contacting physicians for authorization to refill prescriptions
  • Packaging and labeling prescriptions. 
  • Collecting patient information and payments
  • Recording patient medical records
  • Updating medication inventory information
  • Processing insurance paperwork

Though a pharmacy tech’s training program imparts specific technical knowledge, many times they are also expected to serve in a customer service role, running cash registers, answering phones, helping patients to locate over-the-counter medications on store shelves and connecting patients with pharmacists when they have questions.

What You Do Depends on Where You Work

A pharmacy technician’s job responsibilities will change depending upon their work environment:

  1. Retail: If they work in a retail setting such as a grocery store or drugstore, pharmacy techs work directly with customers who are likely patients. They may be given responsibility for monitoring inventory levels and responding to supply shortages.
  2. Healthcare: Pharmacy techs who work in hospitals or similar healthcare settings are more likely to deliver the drugs directly to other health professionals. They may also be tasked with preparing intravenous medication.

Part Three Pharmacy Technician Salary 

A pharmacy technician’s work is invaluable. It helps the pharmacist work more effectively which helps keep patients safe. 

As a result, pharm techs receive a solid compensation, with a national median annual salary of $33,950 in 2019 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

How much pharmacy technicians make varies depending upon a number of factors:

  • Do they work full time or part-time?
  • Do they work in a retail setting, a healthcare setting or elsewhere?
  • What geographic region are they working in?

>> Related: The Complete Guide to Pharmacy Technician Salaries

Pharmacy Technician Salary by State

High salaries may often be accompanied by high costs of living. Below is a comprehensive listing of average pharmacy technician salaries by state along with the cost of living percentage for each one.

Pharmacy Technician Salaries by State And Cost Of Living

State Avg Annual Avg Hourly Cost of Living
Alabama $30,830 $14.82 -8.80%
Alaska $44,280 $21.29 +31.60%
Arizona $36,170 $17.39 -1.95%
Arkansas $30,930 $14.87 -11.50%
California $45,200 $21.73 +34.80%
Colorado $38,000 $18.27 +2.10%
Connecticut $35,400 $17.02 +30.70%
Delaware $33,650 $16.18 +10.80%
District of Columbia $42,240 $20.31 +49.20%
Florida $33,330 $16.02 -1.00%
Georgia $31,360 $15.08 -8.60%
Hawaii $41,880 $20.14 +67.40%
Idaho $36,600 $17.60 -10.40%
Illinois $33,590 $16.15 -4.50%
Indiana $32,410 $15.58 -12.10%
Iowa $33,430 $16.07 -8.30%
Kansas $34,390 $16.54 -9.60%
Kentucky $30,040 $14.44 -9.60%
Louisiana $34,070 $16.38 -5.60%
Maine $32,960 $15.84 +12.00%
Maryland $35,350 $17.00 +25.00%
Massachusetts $37,570 $18.06 +34.7%
Michigan $33,850 $16.27 -11.80%
Minnesota $38,330 $18.43 +34.70%
Mississippi $32,700 $15.72 -14.00%
Missouri $32,790 $15.76 -9.20%
Montana $36,390 $17.50 +0.80%
Nebraska $34,260 $16.47 -8.70%
Nevada $38,150 $18.34 +4.50%
New Hampshire $33,380 $16.05 +0.80%
New Jersey $34,550 $16.61 +21.00%
New Mexico $34,650 $16.66 -4.30%
New York $35,790 $17.21 +35.20%
North Carolina $32,600 $15.67 -5.80%
North Dakota $39,770 $19.12 -98.90%
Ohio $31,360 $15.08 -7.00%
Oklahoma $31,940 $15.36 -11.40%
Oregon $42,160 $20.27 +15.40%
Pennsylvania $31,130 $14.97 +2.80%
Puerto Rico $23,150 $11.13 +22.10%
South Carolina $32,660 $15.70 +0.50%
South Dakota $34,380 $16.53 +2.80%
Tennessee $34,510 $16.59 -10.20%
Texas $35,620 $17.13 -9.30%
Utah $37,470 $18.01 -7.20%
Virginia $34,190 $16.44 +0.20%
Vermont $35,810 $17.22 +12.00%
Washington $43,910 $21.11 +7.10%
West Virginia $30,380 $14.61 +4.30%
Wisconsin $34,050 $16.37 -3.10%
Wyoming $37,980 $18.26 -8.30%

Salary Source: BLS mean wages. Cost of Living reflects a percentage above or below the national average cost of living.

Part Four How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

There was once a time when almost all pharmacy technicians got their training on the job. First, they would apply to work at a local pharmacy. After learning the cash register and how to stock shelves, the pharmacist would teach them how to type up labels, count out pills, and record all of the necessary patient and insurance information. 

Though that route is still available, today most pharmacy techs enroll in formalized training programs that provide them with the specific knowledge and skills that they need to ensure a high quality of customer care and patient safety. 

There are two distinct paths to becoming a pharmacy technician:

  1. Certificate or Diploma Program
  2. Associate’s Degree Program

1. Pharmacy Technician Certificate or Diploma Program

The fastest route to becoming a pharmacy technician is through a certificate or diploma program. 

How Long Does it Take?

These take around two semesters, or one year to complete. Some states will require you to pass a certification exam after your program.

What are the Prerequisites?

Before entering into a pharmacy technician training program you may need:

  1. High school diploma or GED
  2. Placement test scores
  3. Transcripts
  4. Background check
  5. Application

Are Pharmacy Technician Certificate Programs Available Online?

Yes! You can find Pharmacy Technician Certificate programs available both in-person at your local community college, or through online-only programs.

What Do You Learn?

The curriculum in one of these job training programs is likely to include courses such as:

  1. Pharmacy Law
  2. Drug Classifications
  3. Community Pharmacy Practice
  4. Institutional Pharmacy Practice
  5. Introduction to Health Professions
  6. Pharmaceutical Math
  7. Compounding Sterile Preparations

We Found The Following Schools with Online Pharmacy Technician Programs

2. Pharmacy Technician Associate’s Degree Program

Pharmacy technician associate’s degree programs provide a greater depth of study in the pharmaceutical sciences and in management and customer service, as well as gen ed classes. 

How Long Does it Take?

Associate’s degree programs take approximately two years to complete.

What are the Prerequisites?

Before entering into the program you may need:

  1. High school diploma or GED
  2. Placement test scores
  3. Transcripts
  4. Background check
  5. Application

Are Pharmacy Technician Associate's Degree Programs Available Online?

Yes! Just like certificate programs, you can also find associates pharmacy technician programs available online. 

What Do You Learn?

The courses offered in an associate's program are more rigorous than those offered through certificate and diploma programs. Some programs also include in-person clinical training and a pharmacy practice internship. 

Which Pharmacy Technician Program is Right for You?

Prospective pharmacy technicians who are considering an undergraduate degree in the future may want to go with an associates’ degree, as many of their credits can be applied to a future degree. 

Those who graduate from an associate’s degree program may find themselves in greater demand or eligible for more generous compensation. Often, degree holders are better positioned for advancement. 

The choice between these two paths will depend on your goals and the amount of money you have available to invest in your education, but it is important to select a program that is accredited.

The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) accredit pharm tech training programs.

An accreditation seal from one or both of these organizations tells your future employers that your degree program aligns with pharmacy standards and best practices.

Part Five Pharmacy Technician Certification & Licensing

After completing your training program, you will likely need to become certified or licensed. This will depend on the state you work in. Licenses from your state’s Board of Pharmacy grant you the ability to work at the state level, while certification is national. 

Pharmacy Technician License

Some states will require you to have a pharmacy technician license in order to work. This will be given to you by a government agency and it proves you're competent to perform the duties of the job. 

Pharmacy Technician Certification

Certification is another way to prove you've completed the required education and gained the necessary skills to work in this career. Unlike a license, a certificate comes through a third-party agency and not your state’s government.

These two associations issue pharmacy technician certificates: 

  1. Pharmacy Technician Board (PTCB)
  2. National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

Both will require you to pass a Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) to be certified. Your certification will last two years.

Even if you don't work in a state that requires you to get a license, you'll likely want to attain your national certification. 

Pharmacy Technician License & Certification Requirements by State

States Where Pharmacy Technicians Must be Registered or Licensed

  1. California
  2. Nebraska
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Minnesota
  5. Missouri
  6. Arkansas
  7. Michigan
  8. Indiana
  9. Ohio
  10. Kentucky
  11. West Virginia
  12. Tennessee
  13. Alabama
  14. Georgia
  15. South Carolina
  16. Florida
  17. Maryland
  18. Washington D.C.
  19. New Jersey
  20. Connecticut
  21. Rhode Island
  22. Massachusetts
  23. New Hampshire
  24. Maine
  25. Alaska

States Where Pharmacy Technicians Must be Nationally Certified and Registered or Licensed

  1. Washington
  2. Oregon
  3. Idaho
  4. Montana
  5. Nevada
  6. Wyoming
  7. Utah
  8. Arizona
  9. New Mexico
  10. Colorado
  11. North Dakota
  12. South Dakota
  13. Kansas
  14. Texas
  15. Iowa
  16. Illinois
  17. Louisiana
  18. Mississippi
  19. Virginia
  20. North Carolina
  21. Vermont
  22. Puerto Rico

States Where There Are No Requirements for Pharmacy Technician Licensing

  1. Hawaii
  2. Wisconsin
  3. New York
  4. Pennsylvania
  5. Delaware

Source: PTCB

Part Six What is the Career Outlook for Pharmacy Technicians? 

As a pharmacy technician, you’ll likely never have to worry about job security. As the U.S. population continues to age, the demand for prescription medications will only increase, and there will be a continuing need for professionals who are able to ensure that they are filled safely, efficiently, and in keeping with all regulations. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the demand for pharmacy technicians is expected to continue to grow at a rate of approximately 4% by the end of the decade. 

Part Seven What are the Continuing Education Requirements for Pharmacy Technicians? 

Pharmacy techs who pursue credentialing from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) are required to pursue continuing education credits in order to maintain their status. The same is not true for those who limit their credentials to having graduated from certificate programs. 

There are a number of certification programs available through the PTCB, including: 

  • Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) - Must be renewed every two years by completing a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education
  • Certified Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician (CSPT) - demonstrates expertise in compounded sterile preparation practice
  • Advanced Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT-Adv) – demonstrates advanced experience as a pharmacy technician
  • Medication History Certificate – demonstrates the knowledge needed to collect in-depth and accurate medical histories, to review prescriptions to confirm dosing accuracy, and more.
  • Technician Product Verification Certificate – demonstrates ability to protect patients from dispensing errors
  • Hazardous Drug Management Certificate – demonstrates commitment to minimizing risk from hazardous drugs
  • Billing and Reimbursement Certificate – demonstrates knowledge of third-party payers and reimbursements systems
  • Controlled Substances Diversion Prevention Certificate – demonstrates knowledge of controlled substance diversion protection strategies and DEA requirements
  • Immunization Certificate – demonstrates knowledge and skills needed to safely administer vaccinations to patients. 

Those who have completed a minimum of four programs, including TPV and/or Medication History or three programs and the CSPT certification and who have at least three years of work experience will be eligible to earn the CPhT-Adv credential. 

Part Eight Where Can I Learn More About Becoming a Pharmacy Technician? 

Many community colleges offer pharmacy technician programs. Once again, be sure your program has accreditation from the ACPE or the ASHP.

For more information on programs and what the career involves, you can visit the ASHP website, the website for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), or the website for the National Pharmacy Tech Association (NPTA).  

You can also learn more about pharmacy techs by talking to some on LinkedIn or other social media platforms. Or, if you happen to be visiting a pharmacy during a slow time, why not ask the tech on duty about life in this profession?

Part Nine Pharmacy Technician FAQs

  • What does a pharmacy technician do?

    • Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of a pharmacist to accurately prepare and distribute patient medications. Duties may include collecting and recording accurate patient records, using technology to maintain inventory and place orders, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. 
  • What do pharmacy technicians make per hour?

    • The average hourly wage for pharmacy technicians is $16.95 according to the BLS
  • How do you become a certified pharmacy technician?

    • Those interested in becoming a pharmacy tech can pursue a variety of paths, but those who complete a two-year Associate’s Degree program generally earn high salaries and are able to find a job more easily. Certificate and diploma programs that are completed in two semesters are also available.

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