Behind the Counter: How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians play a vital role in the healthcare industry by assisting pharmacists in dispensing medication and providing patient care. They work in various settings, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, and long-term care facilities. If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician, this article will guide you through the steps to become one.

What are the Roles of a Pharmacy Technician?

Pharmacy technicians are responsible for preparing and labeling medications, verifying patient information, and ensuring that prescriptions are accurate and complete. Pharmacy technicians also answer patient questions, handle insurance claims and maintain patient records. They work closely with pharmacists to ensure that medications are stored and dispensed properly and that patient safety is always maintained. Pharmacy technicians are essential to the healthcare team and help ensure that patients receive the medications they need to stay healthy.

How Can You Become One?

1. Educational Requirements

You need a high school diploma or equivalent to become a pharmacy technician. However, many employers prefer candidates with postsecondary education, such as a certificate or associate degree in pharmacy technology. These programs cover pharmacology, pharmacy law, and medication safety topics. Students also receive hands-on training in compounding medications, preparing IV solutions, and using pharmacy software.

2. Certification for Pharmacy Technicians

Certification is not a requirement to become a pharmacy technician, but it can increase your job prospects and earning potential. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) offers the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) exam, which tests knowledge in medication safety, pharmacy law, and drug interactions. To be eligible for the exam, candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent, complete a PTCB-approved education program or have equivalent work experience, and pass a criminal background check. Once certified, pharmacy technicians must renew their certification every two years by completing continuing education courses.

3. Skills and Qualities of a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians must have strong attention to detail, responsible for accurately preparing medication orders and verifying prescription information. They must also have excellent customer service skills as they interact with patients and healthcare professionals daily. Other important qualities include:

  • strong communication skills,
  • the ability to work in a fast-paced environment, and
  • a willingness to learn and adapt to new technologies.

4. How to Gain Experience as a Pharmacy Technician

Many pharmacy technician programs include a clinical externship, which provides hands-on experience in a real-world setting. This is an excellent opportunity to apply classroom knowledge to practical situations and gain valuable skills. Additionally, some employers offer on-the-job training for new pharmacy technicians. This training may include shadowing experienced technicians, learning pharmacy software, and practicing compounding and dispensing medications under supervision. Volunteering at a hospital or pharmacy can also provide valuable experience and networking opportunities.


Becoming a pharmacy technician requires a high school diploma or equivalent, although postsecondary education and certification can increase job prospects and earning potential. Pharmacy technicians must have strong attention to detail, excellent customer service skills, and the ability to work in a fast-paced environment. Gaining experience through clinical externships, on-the-job training, and volunteering can help prepare aspiring pharmacy technicians for their careers. 

With a growing demand for prescription medications, pharmacy technicians play an essential role in the healthcare industry and offer a rewarding career path for those interested in patient care and medication management.

Are you ready to start your journey toward a rewarding healthcare career? Enroll in our pharmacy technician training program at Northwest Suburban College today! Our comprehensive program covers the essential knowledge and hands-on training you need to succeed as a pharmacy technician. Apply now!

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