All of us, at some or the other point in our lives, have visited a pharmacy. It could be for buying over the counter medicine for something as innocuous as a headache or getting doctor prescribed drugs for a slightly more serious illness.
Have you ever wondered about the people working at these pharmacies, running around on the orders of the usually bespectacled and somber-looking pharmacists?
These professionals are called pharmacy technicians and their core job is to assist the pharmacists in a bunch of pharmacy-related tasks including helping them prepare prescription medication upon receiving patient or physician requests; interacting with customers; and performing routine administrative tasks. Sounds like something you would like to do? Then read on further to know how to become a pharmacy technician.
Pharmacy techs vs. aides
Although pharmacy tech and pharmacy aides are two separate roles within a pharmaceutical environment, some technicians may be required to perform the duties of an aide as well especially in smaller settings.
Technically, while pharmacy techs provide customer support and fulfill pharmacy-related duties, pharmacy aides are responsible for clerical tasks like answering phones, handling cash registers, stocking shelves, preparing and processing insurance forms, and maintaining patient records.
In addition to the tasks already discussed, pharmacy technicians may be required to instruct and educate patients on the use of prescription drugs and medical devices. They also verify the information on prescription for accuracy and completeness.
How to become a pharmacy tech?
Although there are no specific educational requirements for this job, increasingly, there has been a shift towards hiring trained and certified pharmacy techs. If you are keen on breaking into this field, it’s best to be armed with some kind of post-secondary vocational training.
Pharmacy technician training courses are available at career schools, hospitals and community colleges and offer a shorter, more affordable alternative to a college degree. While a college degree would take a minimum of two years, a pharmacy technician training program can be completed within a few months.
Vocational training in this field is also available online. However, if you would rather go to college for your pharmacy tech training, then some degree programs you can consider are:
• Associate of Science in Pharmacy Tech
• Associate of Science in Allied Health
• Associate of Science in Medical Specialties
As part of your training, you will be required to take courses related to pharmacology, medical and pharmaceutical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy law and regulations, institutional and retail pharmacy, etc.
Aspirants of this job may find it worthwhile to prepare the ground for their post-secondary training in the field by taking courses in math, health and life sciences in high school.
Certification and experience
Certification requirements may vary from state to state, but most of them do not require pharmacy techs to be certified. However, considering the competitive landscape of the current job market, certification may help your cause of finding work.
Certification may also mean higher paychecks and greater choice in terms of roles and responsibilities for pharmacy techs.
Certification examinations are conducted by organizations like the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians.
Hands-on experience is an important part of pharmacy technician training. Many training programs may include internships or practicums to provide students a taste of real world situations. If these are not formally incorporated in your training program, then all you need to do is approach your friendly neighborhood pharmacists and ask for their permission to let you assist them.