A Few Tips on How to Start a Career As a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy Technician is a solid career choice. Health-care jobs are predicted to steadily grow over the next decade. In fact, labor and industry forecasters all seem to agree that most health-care job numbers will keep increasing over the next decade. The aging baby-boom population reaching their golden years is a major indicator of health-care’s upcoming growth. And, pharmacy is tied into health-care at nearly every level, which means that being a pharmacy technician should prove the be a stable career path over both the short and long term. This article talks about some tips and ideas about how to become a pharmacy tech. First, lets talk about what pharmacy technicians do day-to-day?

What Do Pharmacy Techs do?

Pharmacy Technicians have a wide range of duties since they work in a variety of venues. The majority of techs work in retail stores. Other environments include Hospitals, Long-Term Care facilities, Mail-Order pharmacies and Military bases. Insurance companies also hire experienced pharmacy techs to audit paperwork and adjust claims. Most pharmacy technicians work directly with customers / patients under the direction of a pharmacist. They may perform many of the same duties as a Pharmacist and must have a good working knowledge of the pharmacy operations. Besides counting out tablets and ringing up orders, pharmacy technicians also decode prescriptions, enter data into computers, create labels, make and receive phone calls, rotate stock as well as countless other duties.

Pharmacy Technicians do much of the work in a pharmacy, but they can’t do everything. They may not answer questions about medications or give any advice whatsoever. They can tell a customer where to find “over-the-counter” products and even read the words from the packaging. However, they can never personally advise anyone to use any type of drug product. Overall, a pharmacy technician’s main goal is to assist the pharmacist in helping patients and customers. They are expected to be attentive and accurate, but also friendly and knowledgeable.

Do I have to get certified to become a pharmacy tech?

Most employers and states require National Certification. Someday, the regulations may be the same everywhere, but for now it’s different in every state. The first step is to find out what is required in your state and/or any prospective employers. At the minimum, Pharmacy Technicians are required to register and keep an updated license with the Board of Pharmacy in their respective state. Most U.S. states require national certification from either the PTCB or ICPT (ExCPT). However, even if the state doesn’t require national certification, most companies who employ pharmacy technicians do. In addition, even if neither the state or your employer require certification, it’s recommended that anyone planning on a career as a pharmacy tech should become nationally certified in order to be more qualified when applying for a tech position or promotion.

What is the pharmacy tech test like?

Taking the PTCB Exam:

Most states recognize the PTCB since it’s been around longer and has a solid reputation. The pharmacy technician test given by the PTCB is a 90 question multiple choice test. There are four answers to choose from, with one being the correct answer. You get 120 minutes to complete the exam. The exam is in random format, which means that the subject matter switches around nearly every question. The exam is constructed as:

66% – Assisting the pharmacist / serving22% – Maintaining Medication and Inventory Control Systems12% – Administration and management of pharmacy business practices

To pass the PTCB Exam:

You’ll need to score at least 650 out of 900. Whatever you do, don’t read online message boards (Yahoo groups, etc.) where people who have passed try to tell you what’s on the exam. There are several test batteries that change frequently. In fact, they’ve currently updated all of the exams in mid 2010. The best way to ensure you pass the PTCB exam is to study until you confidently know all of the subjects on the exam.

What do Pharmacy Technicians earn?

The Salary paid to pharmacy technicians really varies by geographical location. So, in an attempt to collect the best available data, an ongoing wage survey has been running on my website for several months and the results are listed individually by city and state. To see those results, go to the wage survey page.

Pharmacy Tech School vs. Online vs. Self Study

The best route to get trained and certified really depends on each person and their own situation. Each type of program offers different types of structure and flexibility. The biggest factors to consider are job placement assistance, program accreditation and your budget.

Community College – pharmacy technology programs

Many Community Colleges offer a 1-2 year pharmacy technician program designed to prepare students to jump right into a pharmacy technician position. These programs usually qualify for financial aid and other assistance / re-training programs. One of the big questions you’ll want to ask when considering this type of program is about placement assistance after program completion.

Trade School / Pharmacy Tech Colleges

The trade schools are all a little different from each other, so you’ll want to research all of them to find one that’s best for you. If they are accredited, you may also qualify for financial aid grants and loans. If you are serious about attending one of the pharmacy technician schools, make an appointment and take a tour of the school. Ask specific questions about the program and the career placement. When you go for a tour at a pharmacy tech school, be prepared for the big sales pitch and some pressure. Remember, these schools are businesses and the folks who give the tours are salespeople and often work for commissions.

Online pharmacy Technician Programs / Online Colleges

An increasing number of schools are offering online programs which can be completed at home. An online pharmacy technician program can be a great choice for a highly disciplined person. If you’re prone to getting side-tracked by other projects (or TV shows) while you are at home, Online study programs may not work for you. On the other hand, if you can focus and stay on a schedule online programs are flexible enough to work around any schedule. When considering an online pharmacy technician program, shop around and look at the benefits of each. Some of the online programs may have affiliations with community colleges or chain drug stores, which may provide assistance in finding an internship or externship.

Self Study / Pharmacy Tech Review Books

Similar to online programs, self study can be challenging for the focus deficient types. However, one really good strategy for succeeding with a self-study pharmacy tech program is to form a small group and meet on a schedule. Even just having one partner to study with on a consistent basis helps immensely. Self study is also a very good option for experienced technicians who are in need of getting certified because of a new law or employers policy.

What subjects do pharmacy technician students study?

The breakdown of the test doesn’t really give a clear picture of what subjects pharmacy tech students need to study. In pharmacy technician programs, some of the subjects are: Pharmacy Math, The Top 200 Drugs, DEA Controlled Substance Schedules, Pharmacy Laws and ethics, Prescription decoding and abbreviations, parenteral Nutrition, Pharmacology and several more.

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