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How to Become a Pharmacy Technician in California

Pharmacy Technicians provide a valuable service in promoting the health of the nation. They complete the necessary tasks in a pharmacy that enable it to run smoothly and free up the pharmacist to focus on vital medical formulations.

Pharmacy Technician Requirements

The first step to becoming a Pharmacy Technician is earning a high school diploma or its equivalent. Post-secondary education is available for those interested in the career; however, some pharmacies may offer on-the-job training for potential pharmacy technicians. The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHSP) has accredited over 40 technical colleges, community colleges and vocational/tech schools offering pharmacy technician programs in California. Programs generally take 6 months to one year to complete. Typical courses include typing, customer service, medical terminology, anatomy & physiology, general, community and institutional pharmacy and general education requirements, such as arithmetic and communications. Extensive lab experiences round out the course with experience gained in pharmacy computer software operation, filling prescriptions, inventory control and preparing medications.

Obtaining Certification

Additional benefits of post-secondary educational institutions are the help they offer in passing the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam for certification and career placement. The exam, known as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) is the only exam recognized by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). One of the missions of the PTCB is advocating for national pharmacy technician education, training, certification, and regulations standards adhered to by all states in the nation.

Pharmacy Technician Certification Requirements

California is one of the 43 states that require regulates their pharmacy technicians and requires certification. Pharmacy technicians must pass the PTCE and pass a background check to earn PTCB certification. The website for PTCB contains many resources, including career resources and exam guides and practice tests. Additional links provide information pertinent to the pharmacy field and the state of California.

Continuing Education

Once certified, pharmacy technicians must reapply every two years. At least 20 hours of continuing education must be completed. In-service projects and college course can account for the required 20 hours. At least one hour of credit must be earned in pharmacy law. In-service hours cannot total more than 10 hours. For college courses, a minimum C grade must be earned. The California Pharmacy Technician Association offers several options for completing the requirements for recertification.

Expected California Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2012 data for Pharmacy Technicians, California happens to be the state with the highest employment level and 4th highest state salary at $39,150. In contrast, the nationwide median salary is $29,320. Of the top 10 paying metropolitan areas 8 of them are located in California. From tenth place Stockton, in 10th place reports in at a median salary of $41,210 with top spot San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara reporting an impressive $48,100. Health field occupations continue to grow. The BLS supports the trend by reporting an estimated 20% increase in the need for Pharmacy Technicians will occur by the year 2022. The top 5 industries that hire in this job category are Health and Personal Care Stores,
Hospitals, General Merchandise Stores, Grocery Stores and Department Stores.

Pharmacy Technician Job Duties

Pharmacy technicians work under the close supervision of licensed pharmacists. Some of their general duties include answering phones, receiving patient prescriptions, counting tablets and labeling prescription bottles, submitting insurance claims and maintaining files, including those for patients. Despite pharmacy technicians filling and mixing certain medications, they are not legally allowed to prescribe medications or offer adice on proper medication or dosages.