How to Become a Pharmacy Technician and Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
Pharmacy technicians assist registered pharmacists in their professional roles. This includes prescription processing, inventory, delivery of medications and customer service. The pharmacy technician role differs slightly across the various states. The different state boards of pharmacy have vast differences in their regulatory influence on the technician license. It ranges from no control at all such as Colorado, minimal control in Pennsylvania, to full control in California.
On the Job Training
For the states that offer no control over the pharmacy technician profession, on the job training may be a valid option for future technicians. Candidates are hired without any pharmacy experience and are trained by their fellow experienced technicians. There is no license or certification requirement. However, certification may be needed for advanced roles such as Lead Technician.
Pharmacy Technician School
For states like California, attending a pharmacy technician school is one of the pathways to get licensed. The pharmacy technician program ranges from 6 months to 2 years. The schools are very flexible with their schedules. There are some online schools, weekend, evening classes and morning classes as well. The cost of tuition ranges from $500 to $10,000. The schools with higher tuition fees offer an associate degree. Associate degree pharmacy technician programs include humanities classes such as English, ethics and public speaking along with the pharmacy technician classes. Some schools also charge higher tuition because they offer career services to their students.
Attending a pharmacy technician program may be challenging for students who have other commitments. The good news is that, most of the classes are hands-on and there is little didactic studying. Some classes that are offered in the pharmacy technology program include
Introduction to Pharmacy – This is the first pharmacy technician course for the pharmacy technician program. This course introduces the pharmacy department, the duties of a pharmacy technician, and the pharmacist. This is a very crucial class because it may or may not build student’s interest in the profession of pharmacy. Students, who do not find pharmacy as a fit, may move on to other careers such as medical assistant or dental assistant.
Drug Classification – In this course, students are taught the different classifications of drugs. Students begin to appreciate the world of drug classes.
Aseptic Techniques – This class emphasizes USP 797, which is the aseptic techniques standard for any parenteral preparation. Students receive hands on training on making intravenous preparations and using the laminar airflow hood.
Pharmacology for Pharmacy Technician – This class is probably the most difficult class in the pharmacy technology program. It appears to be difficult because there is plenty of information for the student to digest and no hands on participation. The following tips may help for students pass the pharmacology course.
- Students should change their learning strategy for this class.
- Students should study in blocks of time to be efficient at studying pharmacology.
- Students should focus on the basics
- Learn the top 100 drugs in pharmacological groups
- Ask questions in class
- Get a tutor if possible
Community Pharmacy – This course is one of the advance courses in the program. Students get hands on training on almost all the duties of the pharmacy technician in the community pharmacy setting. This includes accurate reading of prescription, typing up a prescription, printing labels, and working the cash register.
Institutional Pharmacy – This course is also an advance course in the pharmacy technician program. Students receive training on duties of the pharmacy technician in an inpatient setting such as hospital and long term care facilities.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)
The PTCB certification is the widely accepted system for credentialing pharmacy technicians. After a candidate passes the PTCB Exam or Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), he or she becomes a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT). Most employers sponsor their technicians to become PTCB certified. The cost of the PTCE is $129. To be eligible to take the test and gain certification, candidates must:
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent educational diploma
- Provide a full disclosure of all criminal background and State Board of Pharmacy registration or licensure actions.
- Comply with all applicable PTCB Certification policies.
- Obtain a passing score of 650 out of 900 in the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE).
The PTCE is a 90 question multiple-choice exam. Beginning in the latter half of 2013, the PTCE will contain the following sections:
- Medication Safety 12.50%
- Sterile and Non-sterile Compounding 8.75%
- Pharmacy Law and Regulations 12.50%
- Pharmacology for Technicians 13.75%
- Pharmacy Quality Assurance 7.50%
- Medication Order Entry and Fill Process 17.50%
- Pharmacy Inventory Management 8.75%
- Pharmacy Billing Reimbursement 8.75%
- Pharmacy Information Systems Usage and Applications 10.00%
Tips for Passing the PTCB Exam
Most pharmacy technology programs prepare the students to take and pass the PTCB exam. Some schools have classes just for the preparation of the PTCB exam. There are some courses that are organized to help pass the exam as well. The Arizona Pharmacy Association for instance has a PTCB prep class. Candidates can increase their chance of passing the exam by:
- Setting time aside for studying
- Reading the prep books
- Volunteering at a pharmacy to learn about medications and gain hands on experience.
The CPhT license remains active for 2 years thus recertification is required. Refusal will result in expiration of the certificate.
Applicants must complete a minimum of 20 hours of continuing education in pharmacy related subject matter during each 2-year recertification cycle.
Once a candidate gets the PTCB certification, they can expect
- A higher salary
- Career growth
- Understanding of pharmacy law
- Respected credentials
- Improved employment opportunities
Pharmacy Technician Pay and Job Outlook
The wages of pharmacy technician ranges from $10 to $20 per hour. Institutional settings usually pay higher than community pharmacies but experience and qualifications may also play a role. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) is projecting a 32% increase in technician jobs from 2010 to 2020.
Tips For Finding a Pharmacy Technician Job
- Create a resume
- Be professional
- Volunteer to get some experience
- Create a good job history even if it is non pharmacy related
- Have a positive attitude
Reference and Resources
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