how to become a pharmacy technician

What does a Pharmacy Technician do?

A pharmacy technician assists a licensed pharmacist in filling prescription medication to individuals and health care professionals by measuring the quantity of the prescription and providing the packaging and labeling of the medication.

Watch a video to learn what a pharmacy technician does.

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

pharmacy tech

Most pharmacy techs complete a postsecondary education in pharmacy technology. Programs last about one year and you get a certificate. Some students attend a longer program that leads to an associate’s degree. This training usually is offered at a community college or vocational school. Course content usually includes mathematical calculations used in the pharmaceutical industry, recording keeping, medication dispensing, and health care laws, policies, and regulations regarding medication.

In addition, most programs offer clinical experience in a pharmacy setting prior to completing your training. There are currently over 200 programs accredited through The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). The majority of states regulate pharmacy technicians and may require you to become certified prior to employment, though it is possible to work without a state exam, however it is becoming rarer.

This certification is offered by two organizations: Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The PTCB consists of 90 multiple choice questions, and is two hours long. The certification content includes: pharmacology, law and regulations, sterile and non-sterile compounding, medication safety, quality assurance, medication order entry and fill process, pharmacy inventory management, billing and reimbursement, information system usage and application. The NHA is also a multiple-choice exam, with similar content, for more information on these certifications go to their websites. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) pharmacy technicians that are certified have a higher probability in employment opportunities. In addition, there are advanced certificates that one can earn as well for example for nuclear medication or equipment maintenance.

Job Description of a Pharmacy Technician

A pharmacy technician would fall under the direct supervision of a pharmacist and assist them in dispensing prescription medication to customers or health professionals. They would measure the accurate amount of medication and mix or compound some medicines, depending on each state’s regulations. They may call doctors for authorization to refill a customers prescription. Depending on where the pharmacy technician is employed (such as a hospital) they may prepare other types of prescriptions like intravenous medication. He or she would package and label prescriptions, collect patient information and payment and process insurance claims.

Pharmacy techs often take the inventory and note any shortages of supplies or medications. In addition to these duties they may be running registers, providing customer service, fielding customer calls, and locating over-the-counter medication within the store. They can be found working in a variety of places like clinics, hospitals, or other health care facilities. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 52% of most work in pharmacies or drug stores, which are often in retail or grocery stores. This occupation requires one to stand on their feet for long periods of time and normally works full-time hours, some work weekends and holidays as well.

Pharmacy Technician Job Posting

Let’s look at a job description posted by the Department of Veterans Affairs. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:

  • May work in any of the following areas: Automated dispensing, labeling, manifesting, packing and receiving. With additional advanced training, may be authorized to work in manual fill.
  • Assembles drugs and supplies. Assembles and packages drugs and supplies for mailing to patients. Knowledge of special packing techniques for various medications, e.g., narcotics, refrigerated items, bulk supplies and nutritional products are required. May also be required to manifest packages for appropriate delivery services.
  • Transports stock from receiving to storage and dispensing areas.
  • Assists in daily cleaning, to include emptying and/or relining the trash receptacles and breaking down cardboard boxes and preparing for disposal and/or recycling.
  • Recommends changes for the improvement of workflow, work methods and priorities involved.
  • Reports downtime problems, actions and resolutions for all interruptions in production that exceed 10 minutes.
  • Accurately interprets, fills and readies prescriptions with appropriate medications and/or medical supplies for pharmacist verification.
  • Assists with basic inventorying activities and checks for outdated pharmaceuticals.
  • Alerts appropriate personnel when automated dispensing equipment is compromised.
  • Receives all pharmaceuticals including restricted pharmaceuticals e.g. controlled substances, into the inventory database, storing, and ordering pharmaceutical supplies.
  • Receives supplies and checks receipts against requisitions. Checks for shortages, tampering, breakages, deterioration, and date of expiration.
  • Selects and transports to proper storage and dispensing areas for pharmaceuticals, e.g., poisons, flammables, perishables, controlled substances, etc.
  • Cleans workstation and replenishes all materials needed i.e. labels, papers, bottles, etc, to perform daily duties.
  • Identifies, remedies, and/or reports tote traffic back-ups.
  • Complies with Safety, Occupational and Health Standards and Policy.

This position was posted to run 01/10/2019 until 02/01/2019 with a salary range of $37,110 to $48,245 per year on (link opens in a new tab). is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

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Pharmacy Aide Career Video Transcript

When a pharmacy technician or aide says they’ll give you a taste of your own medicine, you have nothing to worry about. Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals. They receive written prescriptions and confirm their accuracy, and can measure and package medications, and label prescriptions. Technicians answer customers’ basic questions and will track orders of medications they receive. They may also process medical insurance forms. Pharmacy aides record and store deliveries of supplies and medications, and may accept prescriptions to be filled. They greet customers and provide basic information about their medications. They usually run the cash register in the pharmacy and also prepare labels and keep the pharmacy area tidy.

Many pharmacy technicians and aides work full time, and may work irregular shifts at 24-hour pharmacies. Technicians may enter the field by earning an associate’s degree, taking a short-term pharmacy technician program, or gaining work experience to develop the needed skills. Most, but not all, states require licensure and certification for pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy aides generally need a high school education and train on-the-job. As the face of the pharmacy, pharmacy technicians and aides need customer service skills and a strong eye for detail. Ensuring customers receive the correct medication in a timely fashion is essential to our health care system.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Pharmacy Technicians.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-2052.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.