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There are more than 400,000 pharmacy technicians currently working in the United States.
The field is growing a rapid rate (faster than average), too, so this is a great career to consider if you want to work in the healthcare industry but don’t necessarily want to go to medical school or nursing school.
Are you interested in becoming a pharmacy technician? Before you make a decision, it’s important to make sure you fully understand what pharmacy technicians do and what it takes to become one.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to be a pharmacy technician, from education to acing job interviews.
What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?
A pharmacy technician works under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist and performs the following duties:
- Supplies patients with medicine and helps them fill their prescriptions
- Assembles medicine for patient prescriptions
- Manage areas in which medicine is supplied
- Supervise other members of the pharmacy staff
Pharmacy technicians are not allowed to give patients advice regarding their medications. All medication-related questions must be directed to a licensed pharmacist.
Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of settings. Many of them work in community pharmacies that are part of grocery stores or drug stores. They may also work in hospitals.
Some pharmacy technicians work in more unique locations, such as prisons, military bases, or even in veterinary offices. Basically, anywhere in which medication needs to be dispensed, a pharmacy technician might be part of the staff.
How to be a Pharmacy Technician
If the responsibilities of a pharmacy technician appeal to you, you’re probably wondering what it takes to become one. The good news is that it’s relatively easy to become a pharmacy technician. The process can be broken down into the following steps:
Most states require individuals who want to become pharmacy technicians to complete a post-secondary education course like this program.
These courses usually take less than one year to complete. During the course, you’ll study the following subjects:
- Pharmacy law
- Pharmacy ethics
- Medical terminology
- Healthcare systems
- Pharmaceutical calculations
Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Delaware, and Colorado do not have any education requirements for pharmacy technicians.
Even if you live in one of these states, though, it may be beneficial for you to study through a post-secondary course before applying for jobs. Many pharmacies will consider your application more strongly if you have taken a class first.
Not all states require classroom education prior to becoming a pharmacy technician. They all require some on-the-job training, though.
On-the-job training allows you to get your feet wet and learn more about what it’s really like to be a pharmacy technician.
It can also make it easier for you to get a job as a pharmacy technician when the time comes. The pharmacy where you do your on-the-job training might be willing to take you on as a full-time employee after they’ve put the time in to show you the ropes.
Once you’ve completed your certification course and on-the-job training, your final step is to take and pass a certification exam.
The exam covers the following subjects:
- Pharmacy-specific law and regulations
- Medication safety
- Quality assurance
- Sterile and non-sterile medication compounding
- Medication order entry and filling process
- Billing and reimbursement
- Inventory management
- Information system usage and application
When you pass this exam, your license will be valid for two years.
Every two years after that, you’ll need to pass a recertification exam and complete at least 20 hours of continuing education. This ensures that your skills stay sharp and you remain updated on the latest changes to the industry.
Acing the Interview and Getting Hired
After you’ve passed your exam and become a pharmacy technician, the next step is to get a job.
Sometimes, the pharmacy where you did your on-the-job training will hire you. In other cases, though, you’ll need to send out resumes and nail your job interviews in order to get hired.
In order to find job openings, you’ll need to be diligent in your search. Scour online job portals to look for postings in your area.
Sites like this get updated several times a day, so make sure you’re checking at least once per day to learn about new jobs as soon as they become available.
Make sure you’re also taking advantage of your network. Reach out the pharmacists and other technicians that you met during your training and ask them if they know of any pharmacies that are hiring.
When you meet someone new who could potentially help you find a job, be sure to introduce yourself and get their name and contact information. Follow up with them later via email or LinkedIn.
Job Interview Tips
If you make searching for a job a priority, you’ll soon have some interview opportunities arise.
If you’re the type who tends to get nervous during job interviews (who doesn’t?), these tips can help you ensure you make a great first impression:
- Think about answers to commonly asked questions like “why do you want to work at our pharmacy?” and “how do you handle difficult customers?”
- Maintain eye contact
- Smile and be upbeat and positive
- Dress to impress
- Bring a copy of your resume and a copy of your license
Be sure to arrive early, too. Ideally, you’ll show up at 10-15 minutes before you’re scheduled to be there. This will show that you take the interview seriously, and it will give you time to collect yourself and calm your nerves before going in.
Get More Career Advice Today
Now that you know how to be a pharmacy technician and how to make it through job interviews, do you think this is the right career for you?
If so, be sure to keep these tips in mind — you’ll have no trouble getting hired if you do.
If you’re not fully sold on the idea of being a pharmacy technician, that’s okay. Maybe you need to do a little more searching to find the right career path for you.
This article will teach you more about how to assess yourself and your unique interests to find the right career path. Check it out today!