Did you know that pharmacy technicians are particularly in demand right now? In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects fast job growth for certified pharmacy technicians through 2028. This means you have a great chance of starting your career at a local pharmacy, hospital, or store.

If you’re wondering how to become a certified pharmacy technician, you’re making a good decision. But you may be concerned that you’ll need to complete a lot of expensive training before you can get started.

The good news is that pharmacy technician training can take less than a year. Even better, you can even get some hands-on experience before you start your first official job.

Read on to learn how you can start the journey of becoming a certified pharmacy technician.

1. Make Sure You’re Ready

Before making the leap to become a pharmacy technician, you should check first that you have the right preparation to begin the career path. This includes meeting some basic requirements and having key skills to succeed in your training.

First, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old and have your high school diploma. If you don’t have your high school diploma, don’t give up. You can obtain an equivalency diploma to qualify certified pharmacy technician training.

Next, you should have basic math skills. After all, the career will require that you can carefully measure medications.

Organizational, customer service and communication skills are also prerequisites. You’ll need these for following directions, assisting customers, and handling multiple tasks.

2. Find a Pharmacy Technician Education Program

Once you know becoming a certified pharmacy technician is a good fit for you, you can begin your pharmacy technician education. Your state’s pharmacy board usually has a list of schools and programs that meet state requirements.

You’ll find that most pharmacy technician programs take less than a year and lead to a diploma or certificate. On the other hand, this pharmacy program leads to an associate degree and takes a little over a year. You can find these programs at trade schools, community colleges, career centers, or even at entirely online schools.

The number of courses you take will depend on the type of pharmacy technician program and its length. Common topics you can expect to see include basic anatomy and physiology, drug interaction, and pharmacy law and ethics. You’ll also learn to do pharmaceutical calculations and use computer applications.

If you’re earning a pharmacy technician associate degree, plan to take some general education courses. This might include English, college math, and biology.

Near the end of your program, you may take a brief course that prepares you for a pharmacy technician certification exam. This might include taking practice tests and reviewing test-specific concepts from a study guide.

3. Complete an Externship for Experience

After you finish your coursework, your school will usually have you complete an externship at a local pharmacy. This allows you to get several hours of supervised work experience. Not only will this help prepare you for the career, but the hands-on knowledge can make your certification exam easier to pass.

You can expect to work out a schedule with the supervising pharmacy. You usually also need to take a drug test, fill out paperwork, and do a background check.

Once you begin your externship, you’ll get practice as an actual pharmacy technician. You might be measuring medications, sorting the pharmacy’s inventory, or helping customers. You might also use the pharmacy’s computer system and take calls.

4. Pass Your Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam

You can pursue certification right after you finish your training program. You may find it helpful, though, to do it during or after your externship since you’ll have more experience.

You have two certification options to consider, and your training program may have prepared you for a specific one.

One option is to take the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) from the National Healthcareer Association. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board is another option.

Before signing up for either certification exam, check with your state requirements. Some states only accept certification from a specific organization. Others accept either option.

Both exams last about two hours and use the multiple-choice format. They cover similar content about pharmacy laws and regulations, drug classifications, calculations, and prescription preparation and dispensation. You’ll also answer questions about basic job duties, medication safety, and dosing.

You can find sample questions and recommended study guides on the certification’s website. You’ll also find a link to schedule your exam at a local PSI or Pearson VUE testing center. The test requires a proctor who will watch you.

Once you pass either pharmacy technician certification exam, you’re not done studying. You’ll need to stay on top of continuing education requirements to maintain your status. This means completing additional coursework every two years.

5. Complete Any Other State Requirements

At this point, you’ve completed the most basic education and certification requirements. However, your state may also require registration or licensure. This might mean filling out an application and getting added to your pharmacy board’s registry.

You can also expect to complete a criminal background check and pay any fees to register with your state’s pharmacy board. You’ll also need to keep up with continuing education that your state and certification program require.

Now You Know How to Become a Certified Pharmacy Technician

So, you’ve learned how to become a certified pharmacy technician. You’re now ready to get started by checking your state requirements. This will help you choose the best school and program that fits your budget and learning style.

Once you meet all your state’s requirements, you can begin your job hunt. Having an externship experience and your certification puts you in a good place to find a pharmacy technician position. You’ll also stand out against other applicants.

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