Pharmacy technicians work under the direct supervision of a pharmacist. Technicians are trained to complete tasks such as preparing and dispensing prescribed medications for patients, tracking medications, performing supply orders inventory, making field patient phone calls, following up on insurance payments and completing administrative tasks. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the basic education required for this position is a high school diploma with “additional training needed postemployment to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation,” most states require formal courses along with successful completion of state and national competency tests.

Pharmacy Technician Certification

Established in 1995, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board is the primary organization responsible for administering the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. A new version of the PTCB exam is scheduled to be released November 1, 2013 and reflects nine domains of knowledge that an actual technician needs to perform on the job. As of 2002, candidates who wish to take an electronic certification test can take the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians, ExCPT, administered by the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. Currently, each state has its own requirements for certification so individuals must check with the State Board of Pharmacy for licensing in a specific state. However, the PTCB, working with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and State Boards of Pharmacy, is actively seeking to establish national standards for pharmacy technicians.

Types of Certificates

Two recognized types of certificates exist for pharmacy technicians: the Certified Pharmacy Technician Certificate and the Sterile Products Certification for Pharmacy Technicians. Most states require a pharmacy technician to have at least one of the certifications. The simple certification is, as explained earlier, all that is needed to assist a pharmacist. However, anyone who plans to work directly with patients who need medication delivered intravenously must be trained in sterile product preparation and aseptic technique.

Courses for Pharmacy Technicians

While there are too many correspondence programs to list individually, pharmacy technicians need to complete specific classes prior to taking a certification exam. Courses are required in dosage calculations, pharmacy practice, anatomy and physiology, pharmacy technology for compounding, medication safety, pharmacy inventory practice, pharmacy information systems, and pharmacy law and ethics. Usually, an externship where actual experience is garnered is also required.

Accredited Online Distance Learning Programs

In today’s world, correspondence courses are online and readily available to anyone seeking career training. Before final selection of a school or program, be sure to check the website for the school’s accreditation. Five highly acclaimed pharmacy technician distance learning programs are provided by the National Pharmacy Technician Association, Penn Foster Career School, the United States Career Institute, Ashworth College and Brighton College. Each of these schools offers pharmacy technician programs that can lead to certification and degrees.