Pharmacy Technician Education Requirements

Pharmacy Times, July 2016 Digestive Health, Volume 82, Issue 7

Many pharmacy technicians have experienced an increase in their education and training requirements as their profession continues its expansion.

Many pharmacy technicians have experienced an increase in their education and training requirements as their profession continues its expansion. For a number of technicians, education and training have been an “on the job” experience, especially for those in retail or community pharmacies. Today, with increasing standards and requirements, on-the-job training occurs in addition to education and certification requirements within states and for employers.

Pharmacy technicians who participated in Our Voice, a journaling initiative powered by the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians (AAPT) under the leadership of AAPT President Judy Neville, recently completed a survey on their educational background. Of the respondents, 33% received a certificate from a pharmacy technician training program, 26% held an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and 7% have earned a master’s degree. An additional 7% have exclusively received on-the-job training with no formal education. Forty percent of participants plan to continue their formal education in the immediate future.

Although state laws dictate specific pharmacy technician requirements, the trend toward more stringent regulations and increases in standards is apparent.1 Because of this shift, many pharmacy technicians have been required to complete additional training courses, certifications, and continuing education. Among Our Voice participants, 19% have received additional education or training as a result of new requirements, and 55% were not required to obtain additional training due to grandfathering or already possessing the additional training requirements. Twenty-six percent of those who have seen no additional training requirements either reside in states which don’t regulate technicians (Colorado, Hawaii, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin) or began practicing after current regulations were implemented.2

Whereas most states have been increasingly regulating the technician profession, an increase in salary has not followed these additional requirements.3 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, the median annual pay of pharmacy technicians in all practice settings was $30,410.4 With additional training or education required for technicians, it may become difficult to complete requirements without assistance from employers. However, only 7% of Our Voice participants had both continuing education and certification renewal costs covered by their employers; 76% of study respondents had no assistance, and 17% had either continuing education or certification renewal, but not both, covered by their employers.

Among Our Voice participants, 45% have been able to expand their work responsibilities and duties with an increase in education and training, taking on tasks such as medication reconciliation, pharmacy informatics, clinical duties expansion, and management roles. Although most of this expansion has occurred in the health-system setting, some retail pharmacy technicians are experiencing expanded roles through their involvement in medication therapy management (MTM) or wellness programs.5

These new positions often require on-the-job training or additional education through continuing education (CE) programs. Our Voice participants most often obtained CE credit by completing online programs (90%), while 10% generally received their CE through live speakers, meetings, or conventions. Respondents expressed particular interest in CE activities related to pharmacy law and medication safety, topics required for technicians in many states. Other topics of interest among technicians include opioid abuse, pharmacy informatics, biosimilars, new drug discovery, and inventory management.

Additionally, CE providers have been increasingly offering certificates in specialty fields, such as MTM, to technicians interested in specializing in a particular area or expanding their knowledge and skill set.6 These certificates are valuable in enhancing the role of technicians and increasing their responsibilities in a variety of practice settings.

Kristy Malacos, MS, CPhT, is the pharmacy administrator at Magruder Hospital in Port Clinton, Ohio, through Pharmacy Systems, Inc.

References

  • About Pharmacy Technicians. (2016). Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://www.ashp.org/menu/PracticePolicy/ResourceCenters/Pharmacy-Technicians/About-Technicians
  • PTCB Certified Pharmacy Technicians By State. (2015, December 31). Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://ptcb.org/who-we-serve/pharmacy-technicians/by-state
  • Pharmacy Technician: Salary Details. (2016). Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/pharmacy-technician/salary
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Pharmacy Technicians. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm (visited June 15, 2016).
  • Powers MF, Bright DR. Pharmacy Technicians and Medication Therapy Management. J Pharm Technol. 2008;24(6);336-339. doi: 10.1177/875512250802400604.
  • MTM Certificate Program for Pharmacy Technicians. (2016). Retrieved June 15, 2016, from http://www.powerpak.com/mtmpht10/