If you want to work as a pharmacy technician and get into the field quickly, you'll be glad to know that you don't need formal training to begin the job. Some employers will hire you without certification or training and teach you the job skills as you work. However, you will have a better chance at finding that first job if you do have some training or certification.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, states have varying regulations about the tasks that pharmacy techs may perform. In general, they help pharmacists with duties such as counting pills and labeling bottles. You don't need medical training or in-depth knowledge of drugs to perform the job, but you need to be detail-oriented, as you'll be verifying information on prescriptions and measuring, counting and weighing medicines. You must also have good customer service skills, especially in a retail setting, where you'll accept prescriptions from customers and record their information.
Pharmacy technicians work in retail pharmacies, mail-order pharmacies, hospitals, assisted living homes and nursing homes. Your duties might be different in an assisted-living facility, hospital or nursing home, where you could prepare a full day's supply of medications for each patient, packaging and labeling each dose under the supervision of a pharmacist.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are no federal regulations governing pharmacy technicians and few state requirements for the job. Some employers offer on-the-job training for pharmacy technicians, but they prefer candidates who have had some experience or training, or who are certified. Some employers will hire candidates who have no formal training with the provision that they become certified.
You can earn certification by taking an exam offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT). Both of these organizations require that you be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or GED, with no felony or drug-related convictions. Neither the PTCB nor the ICPT recognizes any formal training program; they provide lists of the exams' contents and advise test takers to study pharmacy technician training manuals or have a pharmacist suggest study materials. The ICPT also offers online practice exams. Once certified, you'll have to be recertified every two years, which requires that you earn 20 continuing-education credits.
Finding A Job
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that employment for pharmacy technicians will increase by 32 percent in the 10-year period beginning in 2006. If you've received training or certification, or have experience in the job, you can expect to find full- or part-time employment in the field.
Since most pharmacy technicians are trained by their employers, the quickest route to this job is to find an opening, learn the job and then study pharmacy-technician training manuals and take a certification exam.