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How to Become a Pharmacy Tech & 3 Best Online Schools

Become a pharmacy tech

If you are interested in helping people living healthier, happier, active lives, working as a pharmacy technician may be the perfect career for you. This profession, which can often be achieved in less than a year, is perfect for motivated people who honestly care about the health and wellbeing of others. But first, you have to understand how to become a pharmacy tech…

How to Become a Pharmacy Tech

Working in the medical industry, including pharmacies, is often seen as a major challenge, something only for the highest-ranking students and top-achieving individuals. If you were not at the top of your class, and didn’t usually get the best grades in school, can you still work in this exciting, important industry?


First of all, past performance is not at all a guarantee of how you will perform in future classes. And even if you don’t consider yourself a natural student, and can’t imagine going through four, six, or eight years of studies, there are programs that allow you to quickly get an education and swiftly transition to a healthcare-related career.

Pharmacy technician jobs are the perfect example. With this career, you can go through as little as nine months of schooling and, once you have passed all the required tests and certifications, you can jump right into a rewarding career.

There are 3 steps to becoming a pharmacy tech:

  1. Earn a certificate in pharmacy (typical time to complete is 12 months)
  2. Pass certification exam, depending on your state, to gain licensing (if your state requires)
  3. Find a great job as a pharmacy tech!


Pharmacy Technician School

To become a pharmacy technician, you first need a high school diploma or complete the equivalent learning program. College experience is required in many cases, as states often regulate pharmacy technicians to ensure consistent safety and proper handling of medications. However, in the past pharmacy techs didn’t receive specialized education—they were trained on the job. If an employer doesn’t have time or other resources for this training, those techs with certification are more likely to be hired, as is the case today.

In most cases, all that is required is a small amount of post-secondary education, usually a certificate program, which takes about a year. Pharmacy tech online programs are most often offered at community colleges. Typically, these programs involve classroom and laboratory courses that teach medical and pharmaceutical terminology; medication names and information about the medications; how pharmacies make calculations and keep records; pharmaceutical techniques; and pharmacy law and ethics. Many pharmacy tech schools online also require a student to gain hands-on experience through an internship. (For further details on education, see “Pharmacy Tech Education” below.)


Pharmacy Technician License

The next step in your education process is to get certified. Some states require certification, but for most, it is voluntary. Two organizations offer national certification exams in the United States: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).

Under both programs, technicians must be re-certified every two years. Re-certification requires 20 hours of continuing education within the two-year period, including at least one hour in pharmacy law. You can also add credentials in various topics, such as sterilization, chemotherapy, and nuclear pharmacy. Throughout your career, you will also want to maintain certification. Both organizations require renewal every two years, and you’ll need to go through about 10 to 20 hours of continued education every two years.

Certified Pharmacy Technician Career Path

What Does a Pharmacy Tech Do?

Proper organization of pharmacies, including proper labeling, storage, and delivery of medication is important, but pharmacists rarely have the time to perform many of these small but essential tasks. There is patient information to collect, medications to be measured, labels to be applied, phone calls to answer, and insurance claims to be processed, among countless other administrative and organizational tasks.

These duties often fall on the shoulders of pharmacy technicians, who serve an essential supporting role for pharmacists. Working under the supervision of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians work to make a pharmacy more efficient, effective, and organized. In some cases, they could be working in hospitals and clinics, and they could make rounds at healthcare centers, delivering medications to patients.

They may not serve the most glamorous role in all of healthcare, but they are without a doubt an essential component of our overall health. Without their service, pharmacies would be disorganized, inefficient, and ineffective. Thanks to pharmacy technicians, people have greater reassurance that they are getting the right medicine when and how they need it!

Pharmacist vs. Pharmacy Tech: Two Very Different Jobs

It’s important to also understand the differences between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician. To understand the differences, of course, you need to know the role and responsibilities of a pharmacist. A pharmacist is a highly-trained doctor that thoroughly understands the uses, applications, dangers, and interactions of medication. Through years of school culminating in a doctorate degree, pharmacists are able to fill prescriptions, provide advice, avoid complications, and, in some cases, even administer treatments, such as flu shots and vaccinations.

As we described above, a pharmacy technician is essentially an assistant to a pharmacist, helping them stay organized and performing many of the essential but time-consuming tasks of a pharmacy.

Pharmacy technicians work with licensed pharmacists to provide medication and other health care products to patients. Tasks they typically do include counting pills, verifying prescription information, mixing medication when needed and labeling bottles. The prescription is checked by a pharmacist before being released to a patient.

Other duties of a pharmacy tech include answering phones, preparing insurance claims for patients, stocking shelves, taking inventory and running cash registers. If the tech is working in a hospital or nursing home, he or she also must read patients’ charts and prepared the ordered medication (with a pharmacist checking the prescription for accuracy).

Most pharmacy technicians (about 71 percent) work in retail pharmacies, such as in drug stores or grocery stores. About 18 percent work in hospitals. The rest work in doctors’ offices or for wholesalers, the government, or online pharmacies.

A pharmacy technician job requires far less training (a year compared to as much as eight years), but also comes with lower pay overall. A great starting point is to work as a pharmacy aide, who can work their way into becoming pharmacy techs, either by formal training or on-the-job training. Volunteering in a hospital also may give you enough experience to be hired. Employers also value experience managing an inventory, computer skills, knowledge of chemistry, English skills and experience in health education.

Working as a pharmacy tech can be an excellent lead-in to further education and eventual licensing as a pharmacist, but this requires a great deal of training and education. Other options for pharmacy techs who wish to advance include supervisory and management positions or specialty positions such as chemotherapy technician or nuclear pharmacy technician.

Step 1: Pharmacy Technician Training

What Can You Expect from Pharmacy Tech Programs?

At pharmacy tech school, you can expect to learn a variety of both soft and hard skills that will apply to pharmacy technician jobs. By “soft skills,” we mean skills that are universal and applicable to many different careers. They can include writing, organization, communication, customer relations, and professionalism.

The “hard skills,” however, are skills that apply specifically to the medical industry and pharmacy technician jobs. They will include topics that encompass the business of a pharmacy, such as pharmacy-management software, medical billing, and legal issues impacting pharmacies. They will also include health and science topics, such as human anatomy, basic chemistry, pharmacology, and sterilization.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician?

One of the top benefits for working in this career is the pace of education. In as little as nine months, you can go from enrolling in a pharmacy tech program to working as a pharmacy technician. (This, of course, assumes you are hired immediately after graduation.)

At the very most, it takes two years to become a pharmacy technician, but this assumes that you are pursuing an associate’s degree, the maximum amount of education that is required to work in this career. The truth is, in as little a nine months, you can go from absolutely zero medical or healthcare training and land a job as a pharmacy technician.

Is a Fully Online Pharmacy Tech Program Possible?

Online learning is becoming an important tool for students all across the country, and it has now become entirely possible to earn a diploma, certificate, or associate’s degree in pharmacy tech without setting foot in a formal classroom setting. There are numerous online pharmacy tech schools that provide the training and education you need in a 100%-online format. This makes studying easier than ever, and creates new educational opportunities for busy professionals, parents, and all types of non-traditional students.

Best of all, these degrees are accredited by the major institutions, so you will have a highly respected education that is recognized by top employers across the country.

Diploma, Certificate, or Associate’s Degree: Which is Best?

If you decide to become a pharmacy technician, your first major decision is which educational path is right for you. In general, you will find three different levels of education. The main difference between the three is time. Some are quick and more affordable, but only provide a basic-level of knowledge, while others are longer (only two years, but still longer) but provide a more detailed education. View the top online pharmacy tech programs.


The fastest route to becoming a pharmacy technician is a certificate program. These are short, highly focused educational programs that train individuals in a specific skillset. While other educational programs (especially degrees) will encompass various topics and elective courses, certificates are focused almost exclusively on the topic at hand. They can often be completed in less than a year, usually about one school year (nine months total) from beginning to completion.

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Another route to becoming a pharmacy tech is through a diploma. These programs focus on specific career skills (in this case pharmacy skills) and often take a little more time to complete than a certificate. Diplomas are common in the healthcare field, as well as technical careers like welding, diesel repair, and electrical installation.


Associate’s Degree

The third option for aspiring pharmacy technicians is an associate’s degree, which takes about two years to complete and, because the increased time, usually costs more in tuition and other fees. However, you graduate with a deeper understanding of the pharmacy industry and overall health. Also, some employers may require an associate’s degree from their pharmacy technician, so this degree opens the door for more opportunities and potentially higher pay.


Bachelor’s and Beyond?

After an associate’s degree, the next level or education is a bachelor’s, which is the classic four-year degree held by many people across the country. These degrees are certainly possible for anyone who wants to work as a pharmacy technician, but, to be honest, they may not be needed. If working in a pharmacy tech job is your immediate goal, then the cost-effectiveness and speed of an associate’s in plenty of education.

Top 3 Pharmacy Tech Online Schools

Rasmussen College

With a pharmacy technician certificate from Rasmussen College, you will be fully prepared to add your passion and abilities to the expanding healthcare sector. Once you complete the certificate, you will be prepared for testing with the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam, one of the most important exams for this career.

To make your education easier, Rasmussen offers this certificate completely online, allowing you to obtain the high-quality education you deserve while studying from the comfort of your own home, or whichever setting you prefer. For added convenience, the PTCE testing fee is built into your tuition, and the program allows you to roll credits into further education, such as the Health and Sciences of Healthcare Associate’s degrees.

State Fair Community College

The professional certificate in pharmacy tech from State Fair Community College is a great way to launch a career in the pharmacy industry. It includes 30 credit hours of study, focusing on skills like medical terminology, pharmacology, and algebra. Available completely online, this program allows you to study in a format that best fits your schedule.

One of the main advantages for this certificate is that is can easily transition into the associate’s degree in pharmacy tech from State Fair Community College, creating a seamless transfer into more advanced studies.

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This online certificate program combines a world-class education with the convenience of online learning, giving students access to a convenient learning experience that allows them to further their careers. It is offered completely online, and covers many of the important topics that will be essential for pharmacy technician jobs.

Students with Hutchinson Community College will learn from expert professionals who understand the pharmacy industry as well as the latest practices in remote learning. By adding a certificate from this school, you become a highly desirable job candidate for pharmacies all across the country.

Which Degree is Best for Advancement?

Generally speaking, if advancement is your goal, the more schooling you have the more likely you will be for advancement in a career. This goes for the pharmacy and healthcare industries just like any other sector. Therefore, an associate’s degree will be best for career advancement, especially if that associate’s degree includes some form of management, leadership, and organizational education.


No matter what level of education you are seeking, from a 30-credit-hour certificate to an eight-year doctorate degree, proper accreditation is essential. This goes for online pharmacy schools just as much as any major university.

Accreditation starts with the institution as a whole, which is usually administered through regional organizations. Accreditation specifically for pharmacy programs comes through organizations like the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) and other institutions.

All programs mentioned in this article and in the GetEducated degree database have been screened for proper accreditation before inclusion.

Step 2: Pharmacy Technician Certification

Licensing is crucial for all pharmacy technician jobs. Most of these careers are regulated by the state governments, which set the standard for licensing and certification. However, there is (in most cases) very little difference between the requirements of one state vs another. Usually requirements include completion of pharmacy technicians schools, passing specific exams, paying fees, and a criminal background check. There will also likely be continuing education requirements and recertifications.

Continued Pharmacy Tech Training?

For many pharmacy technician jobs, continued education is an important part of the career. The pharmacy industry is constantly changing, with new medications, new information, and new guidelines occurring at a rapid pace. While it may not be required, continual training and education in the pharmaceutical industry is always recommended. Nothing is guaranteed, but reading, taking courses, and staying up-to-date on the latest advancements could make you a more desirable job candidate.

Step 3: Find a Pharmacy Tech Job!

Rising demand for pharmacy techs is due to several factors: the aging population, who use more prescription drugs; new drug discoveries meaning more drugs in use; and budget-cutting by pharmacies, which use techs to perform routine tasks otherwise done by pharmacists and aides.

Is Pharmacy Tech a Good Career?

Like all careers, there are positives and negatives to working as a pharmacy technician. Working as pharmacy tech can bring stress and often involves repetitive work, which makes focusing on the important tasks more difficult. People working in this profession are expected to perform many of the same tasks, such as logging patient information or labeling prescriptions, multiple times a day. The job also involves a lot of customer interaction, so you may become the first-line of contact for an upset patient who is unable to have their prescription filled or simply needs to vent frustrations.

But there are clear positives as well. Most importantly, you can work in one of the many pharmacy technician jobs with very little education while still earning a quality income. As we mentioned above, there are programs that allow you to certify as a pharmacy technician with as little as nine months of education. This can be a tremendous benefit for someone who wants to quickly move into a stable, reliable career.

Working as a pharmacy technician, while sometimes tedious, can also be exciting and interesting. You get to learn about the latest advancements in medication, and you can have the pride that comes from helping people feel better and live healthier.

How Much Does a Pharmacy Tech Make?

While a pharmacy technician salary is not at the top of the list, when you consider the short time that it takes to complete your education, the pay is actually quite impressive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for pharmacy technicians as of May 2019 was $33,950. This allows you to earn a decent income with a very small amount of college training, and if you earn a bachelor’s degree you can likely expect this total to rise.

If you are able to rise to the 10% of this profession, you can expect a salary over $49,130. Also, pharmacy techs who work in hospitals tend to make more than their colleagues in stores. Pharmacy technicians working in state, local, and private hospitals have a median salary of $38,310.

Growth for Pharmacy Technician Jobs

The job outlook for this career is strong as well. While the numbers for this profession will not skyrocket, the expected rise is about 7% between 2018 and 2028, outpacing the expected rise for all professions by 2%. This rise is, however, slightly below the expected average for all health technicians, which is expected to be 10%.

Why will pharmacy technician jobs see a rise? The biggest factor in an aging population, which will use more pharmaceutical medications than younger individuals. Higher disease rates among older patients, including heart disease and diabetes, will increase the need for medications, which in turn will mean a greater demand for qualified pharmacy technicians.

It’s also likely that high-quality pharmacy technicians will be needed to assist with more duties in the workplace because pharmacists will likely take on more patient-care activities, limiting their time for other tasks. As pharmacists spend time giving flu shots and providing other services, pharmacy technicians will be needed to collect patient information, prepare medications, and even verify the work of other technicians. In the past, many of these tasks were done by the pharmacist, who may not have time in the future.

Best Places to Work as a Pharmacy Tech

While overall pay needs to be considered against the cost of living (a $33,000 salary in South Dakota is different than $33,000 in Massachusetts), there are certain areas where pharmacy technicians make more money, and also areas where there are more available jobs.

With so many variables, it can be hard to say precisely which state is best for a pharmacy technician. The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides information on both wages and amount of current positions, and their data shows that California has the highest-paid pharmacy technicians, with a median salary of $45,200. Alaska, Washington, the District of Columbia, and Oregon are all in the top five.

But it’s also important to look for areas with available jobs. In this case, Kentucky, with an average of 4.66 pharmacy technician jobs per 1,000 workers, seems to value pharmacy technicians more than any other state. West Virginia, Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Maine round out the top five.

Find the Perfect Pharmacy Tech Training To Advance in Your Career

You deserve a career that makes you happy and brings the potential for ongoing fulfillment and advancement. If you want to learn more about the best pharmacy technician schools in the country, has the resources and information you need. Browse our site to discover the prefect pharmacy tech school for your future!

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