The pharmacy tech’s career path is popular in part because it involves a relatively short route to certification and gainful employment. Pharmacy technicians can get the training necessary to enter the profession in less than a year. Many vocational programs are 9 to 12 months long.
However, more students are opting to pursue an Associate of Science degree, studying for a full 2 years to become more competitive as job applicants. So how long does it take to become a pharmacy tech? For most students, it takes a total of 1 to 3 years to train and become a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).
Becoming a Pharmacy Tech
Pharmacy Tech School
Pharmacy technicians need postsecondary training or education to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to function effectively in the workplace. In general, either a vocational tech certificate or an associate degree in Pharmacy Technology is acceptable as long as it is accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), or another approved entity.
Accreditation standards are not yet universal, but the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) expects that beginning in 2017, states will require all CPhTs to complete an accredited training program. To get into a pharmacy technician school, most candidates need to be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or the GED equivalent. Because of the nature of the profession, aspiring pharmacy techs will need to undergo a criminal background check. They may also need to submit their fingerprints for the state’s records.
Pharmacy technician programs focus on basic pharmaceutical techniques and technology, and also cover significant legal and ethical issues. Moreover, in good pharmacy tech schools, an internship in a retail or clinical pharmacy setting supplements the classroom coursework. Note that some interns will have to register with the state or obtain a temporary license before they can work directly with patients.
Certification and Licensure
The precise requirements for becoming a practicing pharmacy technician vary by state. Most require technicians to at least register with the state’s Board of Pharmacy. Those that license usually require a minimum number of hours of practical training supervised by a licensed pharmacist. At least some of these hours can be accrued during the training period.
Some states also require professional certification with the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), the primary credentialing organization for pharmacy technicians in the U.S. To get certified, graduates must pass its National Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination. After receiving certification, CPhTs are responsible for renewing their professional status on a periodic basis. The interval, however, is determined by the state. About 1 in 3 pharmacy techs need continuing education credits to keep their certifications valid and up to date.
For most graduates, PTCB certification is voluntary, but even these techs may benefit from the prestige of national professional recognition. Moreover, pharmacy technician training is becoming more standardized over time; the remaining non-regulatory states are moving to regulate pharmacy technicians, so certification could soon become more widespread.
Becoming a pharmacy tech is not an impossible career path to follow. Overall, there are numerous resources for you out there that will offer the necessary training and the Board of Pharmacy is a state institution that will give your career legitimacy. Hopefully, our infographic cleared out any misunderstandings you might have had and that the information provided was enough for you to start pursuing your dream job.
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