Pharmacy Technician Career Information

A pharmacy technician is a worker in the health care industry that completes pharmacy-related job duties while working directly under a licensed pharmacist.

People who are looking to become a pharmacy technician can follow a number of different paths on their way to a job as a pharmacy tech. The guide below provides extended information on pharmacy technician schools, jobs, and other helpful career tips & information.

Getting Started : How to Become a Pharmacy Technicianpharmacy technician jobs

One of the first steps in the process to become a pharmacy technician is to research the companies you someday hope to work for and find out their hiring process.

For example, depending on the state you live in you may be able to work as a pharmacy clerk before getting your certification. Some companies that hire pharmacy technicians may want to see a formal education program while other companies may not care, so long as you have the proper credentials & certifications.

It is important to know this information because the process of becoming a pharmacy technician has many different paths depending on the employer & your ultimate career goals.

The following guide covers these main topics:


Pharmacy Technician Certification

Before you begin hunting for a pharmacy technician school you will first want to research your state’s State Board of Pharmacy and see what certification they accept to become a licensed pharmacy technician.

There are two organizations that provide pharmacy technician certification in the United States:

 

Comparing Pharmacy Technician Certifications

Both organizations are certified by the NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) and can give the credential of a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).

Here is some quick information on the differences between the two certifying organizations:

PTCB Information
  • Accredited by NCCA (National Comission for Certifying Agencies)
  • Exam Name: PTCE
  • Exam Cost:  $129
  • Must re-certify every 2 years ($40 fee)
NHA Information
  • Accredited by NCCA (National Comission for Certifying Agencies)
  • Exam Name: ExCPT
  • Exam Cost:  $115
  • Must re-certify every 2 years ($40 fee)

Again, it’s important to note that some states will only accept one or the other so please check with your State Board of Pharmacy to see which certification is  right for you.

 

Certification Eligibility

To be eligible to take the exam for either organization, you must first meet a few criteria:

PTCB Requirements
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Must disclose all criminal & State Board of Pharmacy registration or licensure actions.
NHA Requirements
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Complete a training program through an accredited school; or
  • Complete 1200 hours of supervised pharmacy related work; or
  • Complete a formal pharmacy technician training program offered by any U.S. Military branch;

The main difference between the two is that the NHA requires some type of professional training before you are able to take the exam. With the PTCB, you could theoretically study the material and pass the exam without having worked a day as a pharmacy technician.

Regardless, you will almost certainly need some type of education and/or supervised experience to be hired on formally as a technician.

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Pharmacy Technician Exam Content

Each organization has a different certification exam but both tests cover a lot of the same knowledge. Below is an in-depth look at the materials covered in each of the pharmacy technician certification exams.

 

PTCE Exam Content

Here are the general topics covered in the PTCE exam:

  • Pharmacology for Technicians
  • Pharmacy Law and Regulations
  • Sterile and Non-sterile Compounding
  • Medication Safety
  • Pharmacy Quality Assurance
  • Medication Order Entry and Fill Process
  • Pharmacy Inventory Management
  • Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement
  • Pharmacy Information System Usage and Application

The PTCE is 90 questions and 2 hours long. Of the 90 questions, 80 are graded and your score is calculated. The PTCB’s method creates a scaled score system, with all scores falling between 1000 and 1600. 1400 and higher is a passing score.

 

PTCE Exam Study Materials

Here is a collection of study materials for the PTCE exam:

 PTCB Provided Study Material

 

Third-Party Publishers


Ready to apply for the PTCB Pharmacy Technician Exam? Apply Here

 

ExCPT Exam Content

Here are the general topics covered in the NHA’s ExCPT exam:

  • Regulations & Pharmacy Duties
  • Drugs & Drug Therapy
  • Dispensing Process

The ExCPT exam has fewer general topics but each of those topics goes into much more detail.

Here is just a small look at the topics covered under the first heading, Regulations & Pharmacy Duties

1.0 | Regulations & Pharmacy Duties  –  34%~ of ExCPT

A. Overview of technician duties and general information

  • 1. Ensure all work performed by the technician is checked by the pharmacist.
  • 2. Identify medication prescribing and/or use patterns requiring pharmacist intervention.
  • 3. Differentiate between tasks that may be performed by a pharmacy technician and those that must be performed by a pharmacist.
  • 4. Comply with rules and regulations when filling prescriptions.
  • 5. Follow policies and procedures with regard to pharmacy workflow.
  • 6. Maintain a clean work environment in the pharmacy and patient care areas.
  • 7. Maintain pharmacy security by following proper procedures (e.g., alarms, personnel admitted, restricted areas).

All three sections are broken down in detail on our ExCPT exam overview page here.

View All 3 Sections of the ExCPT exam overview

 

ExCPT Exam Study Materials

Here is a collection of study materials for the ExCPT exam given by the NHA:

 ExCPT Provided Study Materials

 

Third-Party Publishers


Ready to apply for the ExCPT Pharmacy Technician Exam? Apply Here

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Schools, Internships, & Other Training Opportunities

Pharmacy Technician Schools

As you begin your search for a pharmacy technician school to attend, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.

  • The exam and licensing requirements for your particular state.
  • The school’s curriculum and how well it matches and prepares you for the specific exam you will be taking.
  • Accreditation for the school, including accreditation by  PTAC, The Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission.

State Certification & License Requirements

Your particular state’s State Board of Pharmacy can tell you which certification they accept and if they require a license to practice as a pharmacy technician.

You will need this information, whether you take the ExCPT or the PTCE, to compare it to the curriculum that will be taught by your school. Most school websites or admission representatives can provide a course outline so that you can compare and contrast schools.

Pharmacy Technician Accreditation

PTAC, The Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission provides a comprehensive nationwide database of the pharmacy technician training programs that are accredited through their organization.

Check out their list of schools here.

Internships

Pharmacy technician internships are opportunities for you to learn through on-the-job training. Some schools offer internships or externships as part of their curriculum program.

CVS is one national chain pharmacy that works with various pharmacy technician programs to offer internships.

For more information about a pharmacy tech internship at CVS, click here.

Walgreens is another pharmacy that offers internship programs across the country. Walgreens also offers a PTCB sponsorship program in which they will pay for certification, provided you meet their criteria.

For more information on the Walgreens PTCB sponsorship program, click here.

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Pharmacy Technician Job Outlook & Pay (Hourly & Salary)

pharmacy technician job outlookThe current outlook for the pharmacy technician job market is very steady. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to rise 9 percent between the years of 2014 to 2024.

This expected rise in employment is 2 percent above the national average of 7 percent. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics says that we should expect 34,700 new jobs in the pharmacy technician field to be added between 2014 and 2024.

Pharmacy Technician Pay (Hourly & Salary)

The pay you make as a pharmacy tech will vary depending on a number of factors. Take the following into account when thinking about an offer of pay:

  • Type of pharmacy setting (For example, hospital pharmacies tend to pay their technicians more than retail pharmacies.)
  • Years of experience
  • Education level
  • Location

In May 2015, the median annual salary for pharmacy technicians across the entire industry was $30,410 per year. That works out to a median hourly wage of $14.62.

As mentioned above, different types of pharmacies can have vastly different pay structures.

Take a look at the following table for a breakdown of annual pharmacy technician salary based on the type of pharmacy:


Pharmacy Technician Industry by Location Type Yearly Pay
General medical and surgical hospitals; private $35,830
Department Stores $29,860
Grocery Stores $29,140
Pharmacies & Drug Stores $28,700

Location of the pharmacy tech job also plays a crucial role in how much you will be paid.

Pharmacy Technician Salary By State

Washington (state) and California lead the way with average salaries of just over $40,000 per year. That’s an over $19.00 per hour wage.

West Virginia and Alabama round out the state’s with the lowest salaries. In West Virginia, the annual pharmacy technician salary is $26,840 while in Alabama it’s $27,520 per year.

When looking at the data, remember that the cost of living can play a heavy role in some states having a significantly higher annual salary.

Even with a higher cost of living state like California, there will be a broad range of what it costs to live in a city. This will of course mean that the range of what you can expect to be paid will be broad as well.

Make sure you do research about the salary expectations of your local area so that you’re prepared for the job search!

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Pharmacy Technicians, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm

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