Pharmacy Technician Externship

How to get a Pharmacy Technician Externship

In this article I will explain the steps you need to take to get an externship (or sometimes referred to as an internship). Your state may be different, but I will try to share general principles that will work in any state.

While you are in a program, online or a campus based program, think about where you might want to work. I always recommend hospital first ( I am a hospital pharmacy manager after all). Your training program may already assist you in obtaining an externship (you are lucky, and probably paid a little more for the effort). Even if your program didn’t, you should set one up yourself. It is totally worth it for many reasons. 1) great experience, 2) gets your foot in the door at a pharmacy, 3) great way to show case your abilities so that you can land a job or so that they will recommend you to another pharmacy for a job.

How to set one up if your school doesn’t do it or you are not in a school. Find out who to talk to. Every hospital pharmacy or most other pharmacies has a person who supervises students. Call the pharmacy up and ask the person who answers the phone who the person is that oversees pharmacy technician student externships (some people might call it an internship or something else, so just explain that you are in the process of becoming a technician and want to obtain some experience – basically volunteering in a pharmacy). Pick the largest hospital in your area to start off, because your chances will be better. Once you have a name and a phone number, give the person a call or ask if you can stop by and discuss it with them and that it will only be 5 or 10 minutes tops (everyone is busy, so letting them know you do not want an hour of the time they do not have is critical for them to accept your appointment).

If you go in person, make sure you are dressed professionally. The rule of thumb is to dress one level up from working attire. I recommend going in a collard shirt and consider a tie for men, a semi business or business outfit for women. Let the person know you would like to extern at their facility and are willing to do whatever they needed them to do during the training. Let them know your goal is to learn as much as you can and obtain as much experience as you can. Ask them if they have a set amount of time they like their externs to train, if they do not, then offer 80 hours or more. You want to make sure you are there long enough to learn the basics and then start performing them. You also want to get to know the staff and leadership, you want them to know you and see you working hard.

You see, this isn’t just about training, it is a trial period that is noncommittal. I hire most of my technicians from the externs that have come through my pharmacy. I get to see them work for many hours and I know up front who will work hard and who will not. I know who will text friends all day, come in late, take long lunches, and I know who will be professional and put in an honest day’s effort. I also know who will get along with my staff and who might cause problems. We do not need high maintenance staff.

I hope you paid attention to the last paragraph, that is the meat of this article. You are on trial and it is sad because most do not even realize it. Since they aren’t getting paid, they are just there to say they did it and get it on their resume, only if they knew. Do not let this be you. In fact, if this might be you, then change. In today’s work environment, we can’t afford to have non contributors to our staff. We need people who come to work on time, ready to work, and do not bring drama. We need people who focus on their job (because any distraction will increase the risk of a medication error and harm a patient), so do not text or surf the internet at work. If you can do these things (or not do these things), you will be a valuable employee and you will be there first thought when they need to hire a technician. I still have techs I have helped train that I would love to have come work for me.

In summary, externships are a great way to increase your experience and to audition for a job. So take full advantage of this time.

Leave a Reply

    • Hi Sylvia, it depends on your state. Some states allow you to extern while in training, and some do not have provisions for this and therefore you will likely need to have your license first.

    • Hi Annie,
      Thank you for the question. No, not typically. Some states (only a few) require a specific amount of hours (externship)be completed prior to registration or licensure. It is a great way to add some experience to your resume and to get your foot in the door at a pharmacy though. -Rob

  1. Hi, I have passed the national exam PTCE but I live in a deserted area where there's no pharmacy I can obtain an externship program from. I started volunteering at a hospital pharmacy but maybe because it's a volunteer I don't get much training done like I would in an internship/externship program. I love that I got closer to my goal and I like the job itself but when I'm left alone for the most part with no mentor or anyone to guide me, it's pretty difficult. I went with an impression that it would be like an externship but I guess they see it as I am just volunteering and they don't get paid extra to train me or anything so they just let me stay there and do the odd jobs and whoever happened to be there helps. When you have students there at your hospital to do externship, do they have a mentor or a trainer by her/his side at all times to supervise and to guide them so the student knows where to go? Isn't it basically shadowing for the most part?

    • Great question. First, great job on obtaining your PTCB and getting set-up to volunteer. Any experience you can get will help you land your first job. For our externs, my pharmacy technician team lead is their mentor and she sets them up with different learning experiences. At some point though, they are just gaining experience and functioning as a regular pharmacy technician. The ones that work hard and have a postive attitude are the ones we look to hire when we have an opening. Here is my recommendation, talk to the pharmacy technicians and pharmacists and let them know you are hoping to get some experience to help you obtain a job. See if you can master one task at a time that someone is willing to show you. Don't be afraid to ask for stuff. If they have a tube station, learn that well. If you are allowed to deliver medications, then deliver everything you can and don't be afraid to work hard. You want to make sure that when they have an opening, they think of you as their first choice. Best of luck, let me know how it goes. -Rob

  2. Hi, I was wondering if you know if a person can apply and receive a Pharmacy Tech. License in the state of California with only "Coursework Completed Credits"? I have about 540 hours of Pharmacy and some for GE. I am going for my A.S. Degree but I have recently had a baby (She is 3 months) and is sick. At this time I need to be able to take care of her and the school does not want to give me a break. I have not yet done extern and they will not allow me to if I have not completed my full course. Other than that, I have a business class and one more anatomy class left for Pharmacy and the rest are for GE. I have read the law on it and it does not state (that I can find) that externship is needed but the school is telling me different… needed

    • Hi Cristina, only if you obtain your national certification through the PTCB. I would recommend you complete that and call it good. -Rob

  3. Hi I was wondering if it is necessary to get a pharmacy technician trainee license, before you apply for externships. I just got my bachelors degree in chemistry and I am trying to get into pharmacy school. I am also signed up to take my pharmacy technician test at the end of April. I don't have any experience, just shadowing other pharmacist, and I really want to be a pharmacy technician so I can get a lot of experience. I really need help a lot of places do not want to hire me since I have no experience and I am not sure what to do.

    • Hi Amanda,

      It really depends on your state. Check out our state page for your state and see what it takes to become a pharmacy technician in your state. It may be worth calling a pharmacy or two to see what they require as well.


  4. Is there some sort of liability insurance that a student can obtain to offset potential liability of their errors or omissions during their externship?

    • Hi Bill, the answer is yes, but to be honest, I have not seen any technician going through an externship obtain liability insurance. In an externship setting, you will not be practicing independently (or even as a fully registered pharmacy technician). Everything you do is checked by a pharmacist that may or may not have additional liability insurance. All pharmacies will carry some liability insurance and/or self insure. It is highly unlikely that you will be in a situation that places you in enough risk to warrant liability insurance as a pharmacy tech extern. In my health-system, pharmacists are discouraged from obtaining additional liability coverage as it creates a situation where an attorney has additional pockets to go after and adds additional insurance companies to the mix. This makes it more difficult to deal with and settle out of court. In any case, if you have a significant amount of assets and are worried, then sure, having sometime of umbrella plan to protect your assets is important regardless of what you do (driving on the road and significantly injuring a family could max out your auto insurance and place you at personal financial risk). My recommendation is that you do not need it.

  5. Should we bring a resume and cover letter with us when we go to ask for an externship?

    • Hi Layla,

      I would bring some copies just in case. At the end of your externship, update your resume and leave them a copy and let them know if they ever have a position available, you would love to work for them.

      Best of luck, -Rob

  6. Where is your hospital, so I can come to apply for the externship? I just passed the Pharmacy Technician exam today.

    • Hi Daisy, I live in a state that requires formal training and so my company has worked with local pharmacy technician programs to take their students. Many states do not require formal training, so make sure your is one of those and follow the externship article on the website to find a pharmacy to volunteer or extern with. Best of luck,

  7. What are the requirements in order to do your externship in a hospital? The program that I am currently in demands that I have an IV class before being to externship in a hospital. I need to know if i can do my externship without that class. Please Let me know. Thank you.

    • Hi Elizabeth, It is nice if the extern has completed their IV training, but not a requirement. There are many things to learn in a hospital, and at larger hospitals only about 1/4 of the techs make IVs. If your program requires it, you may need to go ahead and get that done first (I am not sure how you are going to get around that). I do think it is helpful, and you will get the full experience of your practice site if you can do some time in a IV clean room.