Become a Pharmacy Technician and Join the Booming Health Care Industry

The health care industry has been one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. for almost two decades, and there is no sign of a slowdown. When you consider demographic factors such as the baby boomer generation continuing to age, and the Affordable Care Act is projected to give nearly 20 million Americans access to the health care system, together with the fact that pharmaceutical industry is constantly developing new and more effective medications, continued growth in the health care industry is a given.

Positions for pharmacy technicians are expected to increase by 32 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that around 100,000 new jobs will be added by 2020 to the 350,000 already employed as pharmacy techs in 2012.

Pharmacy Technician Training

A high school diploma is generally required to become a pharmacy technician, and employers typically prefer candidates with some post-secondary education, ideally a pharmacy technician certificate. A few employers will hire inexperienced persons and train on the job, but most pharmacists prefer to hire pharmacy techs who have already been through a formal training program.

The training programs can be found at vocational schools and community colleges, many with online education options. These programs typically take six to 12 months and include classes in the math used in pharmacies, recordkeeping and bookkeeping, dispensing medications, sanitation and safety, as well as pharmacy law. The technicians are required to learn the names, actions, uses and doses of common medications.

Certification and Licensing

Certification is attestation to your skills and knowledge in pharmacy technology by an independent third party organization. Two national organizations offer pharmacy tech certification: The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association. Both certifications require graduating from an accredited training program and passing a comprehensive exam covering all aspects of pharmacy technology.

Nearly all states require some form of licensing or registration for pharmacy technicians. A few states just require a high school diploma and a background check for registration; other states require graduation from a formal training program, a background check and passing a comprehensive exam to become licensed as a pharmacy tech.

Pharmacy Tech Pay and Prospects

The BLS reports that pharmacy technicians earned a median salary of $29,320 in 2012. Those employed at outpatient care centers earned the most, taking home an average salary of $38,750 in 2012. Those, who work in doctor’s offices and at college and university health centers are also on the high end of the pay scale, both averaging around $37,000. Techs working for department stores are at the lower end of the salary scale, only averaging $27,750 in 2012.

The sky is the limit in terms of career advancement for pharmacy techs. Given the great demand for pharmacy techs, pharmacists are going to be looking out for up-and-comers to promote to more responsible position. Some technicians enjoy working in the industry so much they decide to go back to school to become a pharmacist. Earning your Pharm.D.would likely requires at least an additional five to six years of education, but your reward is a tripling of your earning power (pharmacist median salary of $116,670 in 2012).