How to become a Pharmacy Technician:
1st, determine what your state requires (every state is different) – Pharmacy Tech State Info page (this page details each state’s requirements to become a pharmacy technician and provides a list of schools for each state)
2nd, regardless of your state requirements, obtain national certification – Pharmacy Technician National Certification Information page
3rd, read “Become a Pharmacy Technician and Land a Job” – You can obtain a free copy by signing up for the newsletter and eBook via the Sign-Up form to the right.
4th, as you go through the process of becoming a pharmacy technician, you need to determine the pharmacy setting you want to work in – Description of what a pharmacy technician does by practice site
5th, JUST DO IT! If you need a school, request information on schools and start checking them out. Go visit them (unless it is online of course). If you need national certification, then get a book and start studying. The sooner you take action, the sooner you can get going on a career.
I (Rob) was a pharmacy technician for 8 years prior to going to pharmacy school. When I specialized (through pharmacy residency) in pharmacy management, I spent a lot of time working on a pharmacy technician development program for the health-system I work in. In my current role as a pharmacy director, I have had the opportunity to lead and coach numerous pharmacy technicians, including the hiring of technicians.
My goal is to help as many people as I can become pharmacy technicians and actually land a job after you are done. In many areas of the US, pharmacy technician positions are very competitive, I will explain how to maximize your chances for obtaining a job by sharing how I determine who to hire in my inpatient pharmacy.
I am also compiling useful resources for you on the Resources/Links page.
-Rob Nahoopii, PharmD, MS, BCPS (and previous CPhT pharmacy technician for 8 years)
Pharmacy Technician Work Advice
Be that person. I want to tell you about something that took me years to learn. You can be anyone you want! Have you ever met someone that just had it all together? They are confident and smart and the ones that impress me the most are kind as well. They know what they need to know or they ask questions until they do. Everyone is happy to work with them. I have met them everywhere and for years I figured they were just born that way, or had some sort of mysterious advantage that just didn’t apply to me. Over the years, working with a lot of technicians, I know now that isn’t true. Anyone can be that person! Are you interested? If so, I think these are things that make that difference.
Work hard. No one likes the person that shows up to work and gets the bare minimum done, including your employer. This seems quite obvious but I have been amazed at how hard people will work at not working! When you go to work, remember you are paid to be there, and not just to be there, to accomplish something. Work hard, people will notice, time passes more quickly, and everyone wins. If you finish your work, and the job site allows it, help someone else. There is no faster way to build friendships, and future favors.
Keep it professional. Of course there is conversation at work; it would be pretty unbearable without some personal interaction. But always remember, people judge you on what you say, it is a natural response. Keep your language clean, whether or not you are required to. Word gets around and even if you are careful to keep it clean with your boss, they hear more than you might think. People may laugh and respond to crude or edgy language but again, they are forming an opinion of you. Make sure it is an opinion that will help you if it is ever needed. Potential employers almost always check with previous jobs to see what they are getting if they hire you. Try hard to make sure they like what they hear.
Be optimistic. How many times have you had your mood changed by a coworker? Is there someone you know that always cheers you up or always gets you feeling irritated? One person can make a huge difference in a workplace. Try and see the positive, even if the only positive you can think of is that you have a job at all. Fake it until you really mean it. Although everyone likes to share difficult moments, be careful that every situation you are in doesn’t become something you complain about endlessly. I have worked with more than one person who was civil enough on the phone but the second it was hung up would talk for some time about how terrible the person on the other end was. It is hard to trust this sort of person – what is said about you as soon as you leave? Be the person that cheers everyone up as soon as they get to work. You will enjoy work so much more, your boss will notice, everyone wins.
Of course there are more, but try these! You may be amazed at what a difference it makes for you personally and for those you work with. With any luck, it may even become contagious.
-Annie, PharmD (Annie is a pharmacist that has been working in the pharmacy field for over 15 years)
Pharmacy Technician, it’s just a good job!
There are a lot of jobs out there I just wouldn’t want to have. I think something like a fast food job could be fun for a little while but sooner than later, I bet it would get a little pointless. What about a general retail, mall type job? Same thing, I bet there are perks to working in a store you like to shop at but eventually isn’t it just stocking, folding or straightening? So, what is different about being a pharmacy tech?
First of all, you can learn as much or as little as you like, in a couple of different ways. You will likely be required to complete a relatively short training program (see your state requirements! **HERE**) and after that you are put in a situation where you are surrounded by learning opportunities. You may have been taught a few basics about the medications you will be helping to dispense but once you are on site you will be surrounded by hundreds of different drugs, and will be working with a pharmacist who has trained for years to learn all about them. Use this opportunity! It will make you a better tech and it may also inspire you to continue your education.
Speaking of education, a second reason for choosing pharmacy technician as a career is that in most cases, it will allow you to continue your formal education if you want. Many pharmacy technicians work part time while they continue with college. Many techs work full time and love it but there are maybe just as many that choose part time. Employers know this and because many pharmacies are open for so many hours, it is usually possible to fit in both work and school. Imagine if you choose to work as a pharmacy tech while you train to become a pharmacist, nurse or physician – you study at school and then come to work and learn about the same things, hands on! It can be a huge advantage. I have seen techs get into pharmacy school and then stay one step ahead the whole time because they are already so familiar with the medications.
Perhaps the best part of a pharmacy technician job is the huge variety of options you have. Technicians can work in a hospital, a retail site such as a grocery store chain, a long term care pharmacy, or home health to name a few. In addition to that, most sites offer options for advancement within the system. Pick a site that interests you, get to work, learn everything you can and chances are you can move upward in position, responsibilities, and hopefully pay! The job outlook is good, pharmacy technician jobs are increasing and are projected to keep doing so. As the baby boomer generation continues to age, they are requiring more health care and more medications. This equals increasing jobs for years! Even if jobs are tight where you live, employers are always looking for motivated, dedicated, hardworking people. Get yourself in the door (see article **HERE**) and then prove that you fit that description.
Finally, just give it a try – find a training program and try it, find a job opening and apply, go somewhere you would like to work and ask how to get started there! The only way you can fail for sure is to do nothing. If you have been thinking about it, take action today and follow through, who knows where it could take you.
(Annie is a pharmacist that has been working in the pharmacy field for over 15 years)
Some of the most common questions we get at Pharmacy Technician HQ are related to landing a job. In many cases, even after successfully completing the PTCB exam and becoming a pharmacy technician for their state, pharmacy technicians are having a hard time landing that first job. In this article we will cover key components (and things that should be left out) of your resume, which is the proverbial “foot in the door.”
Experience: Not a lot you can do here, and we have addressed it in the eBook and in other articles. The one thing you can do to add experience is to do everything you can to get an externship while in training or after it. If you have to volunteer at an independent pharmacy (easier to get into then a large chain pharmacy with too many rules) in exchange for experience, then do it!
-All training and related experience (especially jobs that have customer service). You want to show you have held jobs for long periods of time (if you have).
-Professional affiliations to pharmacy organizations (if you do not have any, then get at least one). For pharmacy technicians, these are often a lower cost to entry as compared to pharmacist. If you can, go for ASHP for hospital work or APhA for retail/community work.
-Certifications and training. Even if they are not pharmacy related, for instance, computer training certifications are great.
-A letter of intent – this is separate from the actual resume, but can be a nice touch. This should not be long or it will not be read (i.e., less than one page). You need to research the company you are applying for and concisely explain why you are applying to their company and how you will be a good fit.
-Contact information that is professional. Address, phone number, and an email that is your name and not some youthful play name like “firstname.lastname@example.org.” (I have seen some very interesting emails, and the person applying loses credibility pretty quickly). Open up a new account if you have to, it’s free!
-Visually appealing – Search the internet for good examples of resumes. Look for resumes that are appealing and get feedback from others. Sometimes there are so many resumes to filter through, ones that standout can help (but don’t go crazy).
-Print – Use a laser printer, in color (if you have color), and nice paper. If you need to, pay the $1.50 to print it at Kinkos. It looks bad when you use an ink jet printer that smears all over the place, the laser printing looks neat and professional.
Do NOT Include:
-Personal information, this should be limited to the letter of intent and only to explain why you are a good fit or why you like their company. No hobbies and that type of stuff, it is interesting, but irrelevant. Leave off family information (e.g., marriage status, kids). You can include some volunteer activities as this speaks to your socially responsibly grownupness (I may have just made that word up).
-Anything religious. I am a religious person, but this is not the time or place to get religious.
-Grammatical and spelling errors – have someone or multiple people review your letter of intent and resume for both grammar and spelling issues. Don’t make up words like I did above (if you are writing on your own website, feel free to make up words).
This should provide you with items to check against your resume. If you haven’t signed up for our free eBook on landing a job, I recommend doing that as well for more tips on the landing a job as a pharmacy technician.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” -Mohandas Gandhi
I have been thinking (I know, dangerous right?), what is the fundamental issue we see in our pharmacy workforce? I think at least in part, it is the lack of a higher standard. This starts with pharmacy leadership (and to a certain degree, corporate or hospital leadership – depending on your situation).
I once again, sit at the foothills of the Teton Mountain range. It is my place to recharge and slow down. It gives me time to think about what I want out of life. Maybe it is the fresh air or beautiful view around me (the picture was taken just now as I write this article), but the concept of a higher standard came to me as I read some passages from a book that references Gandhi, and no I will not be changing my clothes to hand spun cloth in the near future, but I love the idea of living a single standard in life.
One saying I have heard and teach my kids is to be the person in the dark as you are in the light. As related to the working world, if you wouldn’t do it when your boss is looking, then don’t do it when he or she is not looking. This is critical, because I have seen many times (is caught a better word?) a staff member saying or doing something they shouldn’t because they did not think I was watching. My concern is what do they do when they know for sure no one is watching? The heart of this issue and the person most affected by this is our patient. They are the ones that suffer when we do not do what we are supposed to be doing or perhaps what we could have done to prevent an error or other problem.
I have always found that being honest in my dealings has been something that not only I can be proud of, but also something that inherently as human beings we see and know in others when they are the same way. Even if you are not caught, somehow others feel or know things are not right. I don’t mean to be philosophical, but I think you have felt it before, you may not know exactly what it is, but you know something is wrong.
As you embark on your journey in pharmacy or other profession of your choosing. Decide to live a single and higher standard. It will serve you well in your life and career.
As a side note, I have been very busy with Turnkey Pharmacy Solutions, my 340B consulting company. One of my partners has joined me full time, and I have just completed a crazy stint of travel. One of my pharmacist colleagues and I are going to devote more time to this blog and getting back on track to helping aspiring pharmacy technicians and hopefully pharmacists in their pharmacy journey.
Aloha – Rob
Yes and no! I typically frown upon that answer, so let me explain. There is a demand for trained and specialized pharmacy technicians. I know, I know, chances are you are either just starting out or trying to gain experience. Well, here is the good news . . . As experienced technicians specialize and move into more advanced roles, they are vacating positions that now create opportunity for newer pharmacy technicians to enter the work force.
We discuss this to some degree in the eBook, but I wanted to dive a little deeper into this one area as I still receive questions about it. I continue to see the need for pharmacy and healthcare as a whole to work smarter and “do more with less.” I am sure this is common to many industries, but I know healthcare is definitely feeling the financial pressures as well. Healthcare is a hot topic in the news media, especially as Obamacare continues to advance. The awareness of healthcare cost due to the public transparency of Medicare and Medicaid, and the rate that healthcare costs are increasing, is also a common theme in the news. Because of this, healthcare organizations are being targeted by the government and insurance companies to provide care at a lower cost. Well, this is a big impact on pharmacy, and here is why.
Pharmacy has an interesting dynamic where pharmacists income has risen so rapidly over the last 15 years that they are pricing them out of jobs. Many jobs such as pharmacy IT manager, pharmacy buyer, pharmacy database manager, etc. are all being viewed as positions in which a pharmacist would not be “practicing at the top of their pay scale,” and therefore an inefficient use of healthcare resources. If this is the case, then who is to do these jobs? Specialized pharmacy technicians, because pharmacy technicians know the drugs, know how the pharmacy systems operate and are the perfect candidates for these positions.
In some cases, a bachelor’s degree with pharmacy technician experience can land you a nice paying position in between a pharmacy technician and a pharmacist. I am seeing this in many areas in healthcare systems and pharmacy/healthcare IT related companies. Pharmacy is being increasingly more automated and the need for pharmacy technicians to maintain and operate these systems will increase.
As automation increases, we are seeing a decrease in pharmacists in the work force, but pharmacy technicians as a whole are not being impacted as much. One reason is ROI or return on investment. Pharmacy automation and IT is expensive. If efficiency is the benefit to the new technology, then the cost needs to be removed from somewhere. Well, is it easier to justify cost savings with a $35-$40K.year pharmacy technician or a $105K pharmacist? As someone that has had to justify technology expense, I can tell you that reducing a pharmacist gets you a lot of dollars saved.
Take home message: Health-systems like hospitals and larger chain retails are great places to get your foot in the door. Once you do, search out IT related projects when you have time. Once you can build that niche of experience into your resume, doors will be opened to you, and you will only need to walk through!
Do you possess good Attention to Detail? If so, Pharmacy Technician may be right for you!
One thing I look for in my pharmacy technicians is the ability to focus on the details. When we are dealing with drugs and doses, there is always the possibility that one small error could lead to harm or even death in a patient. I can tell you [click to continue…]
Pharmacy Technician Future 2020
We are covering discounts, PTCB Proposed Changes (CREST), and how to make the most out of our role as a pharmacy technician.
First, subscribers of the blog should have received an email on discounts for Pharmacy Technician’s Letter and Pharmacy Technician University. If yo missed it, then sign up for the newsletter or you can go to the [click to continue…]
Making the Most of Your Pharmacy Technician Role
I have recently had a couple of experiences that have impacted my work life that I want to share with you.
1st: While recently on vacation at Disneyland, my family stayed at a Marriott TownPlace Suites hotel in Anaheim. I was very impressed by one of the front desk staff at the hotel. He always greeted you when you came in with a smile and asked how are day has been or how Disneyland was. He also paused to wait for a response that made you feel like he actually wanted to know. This is a skill. The other staff [click to continue…]
Happy New Year! -Pharmacy Technician HQ
Happy New Year everyone. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year. If Christmas is not your thing, then I hope you have enjoyed your December. Wow, I cannot believe how fast 2012 went by. I like to look back at the previous year and see what we accomplished. We were able to write 15 articles, update our state requirements pages, start our PTCB practice exam (it does need more questions, but we have it started), loaded a more helpful [click to continue…]
Michael’s update with pharmacy technician training
Michael sent this part in an email to me, and I asked for his permission to share (I thought it was good humor considering he could have been flattened). “Erin and I got rear-ended in my Miata by a Ford F-150, [click to continue…]