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While it is not necessary to have a pharmacy technician certificate to get a job in most places, if you do have one, you may be more likely to get a job. Many pharmacy techs learn through on-the-job training. However, some employers do not have the resources to provide on-the-job training and prefer hiring someone who is already educated.
About the Certificate
You can get a certificate through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You must have a high school diploma or GED to take the certification exam. You also must have no felony conviction within five years of taking the exam. However, if you have any felony drug convictions, you will never be allowed to take the exam.
The certificate proves that you have some knowledge of medical and pharmaceutical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy recordkeeping, pharmaceutical techniques and pharmacy law and ethics. You will also have learned the names of medications and proper dosages.
In order to keep your certification, you must get recertified every two years in the form of continuing education. The requirement is 20 hours, 10 of which can be under the instruction of the pharmacist for which you work. The other 10 can be through colleges or pharmacy training programs.
Pharmacy technicians mostly work in independently owned pharmacies or in a pharmacy inside a drugstore chain or grocery store. Some pharmacy techs work in hospitals or mail order and online pharmacies.
Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
Once you get a job as a pharmacy technician, you will aid the pharmacist in counting tablets and labeling bottles. You also could answer phones, stock shelves and operate the cash register. Depending on where you work, as a pharmacy tech, you also could retrieve, count, pour, weigh, measure and mix the medication, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You would then prepare the labels, select which container to use, put the label on the container and price and fill the prescription. The pharmacist will check it before you give it to the patient.
As a pharmacy tech, you can work any shift since many pharmacies are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This job offers full- and part-time employment. Job prospects are good, and pharmacy techs can expect to earn, according to 2006 figures, between $8.56 and $17.65 an hour. The middle 50 percent earned between $10.10 and $14.92 an hour. If you have your certificate, you may be able to earn more.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.