Pharmacy Technician Training Program Info

A pharmacy technician training program should prepare you to offer the best skills as a pharmacy tech to an employer. Learn more about the training options before you commit to one particular program.

By Lynda Johnston, CPhT

pharmacy technician training program

There are several options available for a pharmacy technician training program.

There are 2-year associate degree programs at community colleges and 10-month certificate programs at occupational and vocational centers.

Pharmacies may also provide their own on-the-job training. Whether you are seeking an associate degree or an occupational certificate, the program will include classroom and lab instruction and, depending on your State Board of Pharmacy requirements, a specific number of hours working as an extern in a community setting.

The classroom instruction in a pharmacy tech training program will include:

  • Introduction to medication and pharmacy law, which includes filling and labeling common prescriptions
  • How to read a prescription, identifying terminology, symbols and abbreviations, and performing basic computer operations in prescription labeling and third-party billing
  • Pharmaceutical calculations in metric, apothecary, and household measurement systems
  • Pharmacology: identifying the generic and trade names of commonly used drugs and proper handling, storage and disposal of common drugs
  • Pharmacy practices and safety involving aseptic technique and proper handling of needles, syringes, and glass vials/ampules; proper cleaning methods for medication preparation equipment; and methods used to prevent product contamination when performing aseptic techniques

Laboratory instruction in a training program may include:

  • Locating and selecting medications on the shelves
  • Using a computer to print prescription labels and access patient information
  • Counting pills using a tray and spatula and selecting and labeling the appropriate medication container
  • Measuring and compounding ingredients for creams and ointments
  • Preparing medications, syringes, and needles for sterile injections using aseptic technique

Some pharmacy technician training programs will provide placement in an externship. Others will require you to find an extern program. The externship is usually done toward the end of your program and you may complete it in any pharmacy that has been approved by your school. Most externships are served in retail or chain pharmacies.

After your program and externship have been completed, you must apply to your State Board of Pharmacy to become registered in that state. You will be required to be fingerprinted and this will be sent to the FBI and the Department of Justice in order to run a background check. This information will then be sent to the State Board of Pharmacy to complete your application.

Be aware that not all states require you to complete formal training or to be registered to work in a pharmacy; however many states are moving toward more rigid requirements as technicians begin taking on more responsibility in the pharmacy. This will allow pharmacists to provide better quality interaction with the patient. Training also ensures better technicians who will make fewer errors that could endanger the patient.

National certification is usually optional but can increase your value as a pharmacy technician. A certification exam is administered and you must become re-certified every 2 years by completing 20 units of continuing education.

About Lynda Johnston: After a successful 35-year career in customer service, Lynda decided it was time for a change. With her desire to help people and her passion to constantly learn and be challenged, and after much research, she made the decision to become a pharmacy technician.

Lynda took a course at an occupational center where she was an active participant and an avid learner. After being registered and certified, she began researching some of the many opportunities for certified pharmacy technicians. In the meantime, she volunteers her time in the inpatient pharmacy of a local hospital. She never stops learning and growing.

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