A certified pharmacy technician is an individual who has completed training for pharmacy technician and passed the certification test administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. As a pharmacy technician, you will work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist or similarly qualified health professional and be asked to perform a variety of duties related to the dispensation of prescription medications and medical devices and their use.
Certified pharmacy technicians can work in a wide variety of environments, including retail or hospital pharmacies, long-term care facilities, pharmaceutical companies, computer software firms, insurance companies, or government agencies. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately three-quarters of the pharmacy technicians in the states are employed in retail pharmacy settings, such as a drugstore, online pharmacy, mail order pharmacy, or a mass retail chain store that has a pharmacy. The remaining pharmacy technicians work in hospital settings, nursing homes, or for wholesale pharmaceutical concerns, while a small percentage work for the US government.
Training to be a certified pharmacy technician
To qualify for pharmacy technician training, you first must have a high school diploma or equivalency. You also must have no felony, drug or pharmacy-related convictions, including misdemeanors, or have received any restrictions by the State Board of Pharmacy. The training to be a certified pharmacy technician can be on-the-job or through a community college or other educational facility that offers a certificate or degree program in pharmacy technician.
Each pharmacy technician course differs somewhat, but generally you can expect to take courses that include pharmacology, pharmacology lab skills, pharmacology computer applications, fundamental chemistry, inventory management pharmacy math, pharmacy law and ethics, medical and pharmacy terminology, anatomy and physiology and training in CPR and first aid. In any case, once you have learned what you need to know to function as a pharmacy technician, you can take the certification examination.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Once you pass the ExCPT pharmacy exam (which consists of 90 multiple choice questions), you will have the title of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT). If you do not pass the examination, you can retake it until you do. To keep your certification status, you must take 20 hours of continuing education every two years, including at least one hour of pharmacy law.
Each state has its own regulations regarding the certification of pharmacy technicians. Be sure to check with your state’s requirements.
Duties of a certified pharmacy technician
Your training will allow you to perform the following duties as you work side-by-side with a professional pharmacist and other pharmacy staff members. Both part-time and full-time positions are available.
• Measure and dispense prescription medications (including the mixing of intravenous solutions, compounding medications, and labeling bottles) and medical devices
• Input and manage computer order entry of prescriptions
• Instruct patients on the use of prescription drugs and medical devices
• Act as a liaison between a doctor’s office and insurance companies to make sure the right drugs have been provided and billed
• Develop and maintain patient files
• Assist with health insurance issues concerning prescription medications
• Manage prescription drug and medical device inventory
• Operate the cash register
• Deliver prescription medications and medical devices to nursing stations or other locations
• Maintain over-the-counter drug supplies and related medical products
One thing certified pharmacy technicians cannot do is answer patients’ questions that require clinical knowledge regarding health or prescription medications. Such questions must be referred to a licensed pharmacist.
As the US population ages and older adults continue to be the greatest users of prescription medications, the need for certified pharmacy technicians will continue to increase as well. Through the year 2020, the need for certified pharmacy technicians will keep on growing, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The National Pharmacy Technician Association reports that the salary range for a pharmacy technician (not certified) is $24,262 to $36,676 (median, $30,429). However, the national salary range for certified pharmacy technicians is $28,168 to $43,002 (median, $35,454).
If being a pharmacy technician is of interest to you, it is recommended you become certified. As the need for technicians to assist pharmacists continues to grow, more and more employers want certified pharmacy technicians.