Registered, licensed, or certified pharmacy tech must complete continuing education courses. The courses are a requirement to renew tech registration, license, or certification. Continuing education allows pharmacy technicians to remain current with developments and research in the pharmacy profession.
Pharmacy Tech Continuing Education by State
Requirements for registration, license, and certification vary by state. Hawaii and Pennsylvania currently have no continuing education requirements for pharmacy technicians.
Here are some of the states that require pharmacy technicians to complete continuing education:
- Alabama: Pharmacy technicians need 3 hours of continuing education every year. One of those hours must come from live exposure. License renewal occurs every 2 years, that means pharmacy technicians must complete 6 hours total of continuing education within that two year period. Two of those hours must come from live exposure.
- Alaska: Pharmacy technicians are required to have 10 hours of continuing education every two years. Online courses are allowed for all 10 hours.
- Arizona: Pharmacy technicians need 20 total hours of continuing education.
- Florida: Pharmacy technicians are required to have 12 contact hours of continuing education. Two of the hours must take place in a live setting, 2 hours must focus on preventing medication errors, and 1 hour must focus on HIV/Aids education. The remaining 12 hours can consist of elective courses.
- Illinois: Pharmacy technicians must complete 20 hours of continuing education every year.
- Iowa: Pharmacy technicians must complete 20 hours of continuing education during the 2 year recertification period. One hour out of the 20 hours must focus on pharmacy law. And an additional hour out of the 20 hours must focus on patient safety.
- Kansas: Pharmacy technicians in Kansas, need 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years.
- Louisiana: Louisiana pharmacy technicians need 10 hours of continuing education every year. At-home study is allowed.
- Maryland: Pharmacy technicians in Maryland need 10 hours of continuing education.
- Minnesota: Minnesota requires pharmacy technicians to complete 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years.
The above list isn’t extensive. Several additional states require continuing education. Check with your state to learn its requirements.
Why Do Pharmacy Technicians Need Continuing Education?
Pharmacy technicians are responsible for handling the prescription fulfillment process. They also assist pharmacists with daily operations within the pharmacy.
A licensed pharmacist supervises technicians in a pharmacy to provide information to customers and dispense medication. You’ll find these technicians working in drugstores, grocery store pharmacies, nursing homes, hospitals, and other medical facilities.
Although pharmacy technicians aren’t pharmacists, they still need to understand how drugs work and affect the body.
Online Courses for Pharmacy Technicians
Some states allow pharmacy technicians to take online continuing education courses. Not all states allow this, so check with your state before enrolling in an online course.
The courses available to you depend on your state. But the process for enrolling in online courses is basically the same across the board.
Typical Steps for Enrollment
- Discover if your state requires continuing education for pharmacy technicians. For example, technicians in Alabama can check with the Alabama State Board of Pharmacy. And in Texas, technicians can check with the Texas State Board of Pharmacy.
- If you need the courses, the next step is to discover how many hours are required. And learn if you need to take specific courses. For example, Alabama technicians only need 3 hours of continuing education. But in Texas, technicians need at least 20 hours of continuing education. Of those 20 hours, it’s mandatory to take one course on Texas pharmacy laws and rules and one course on human trafficking prevention.
- The course provider must have the approval of your state’s governing board. Most states will supply you with a list of approved course providers.
- When choosing an online provider, you’ll register online and complete all courses online. Each course will have a description, the price, and the number of hours you’ll receive for the course.
- When you’ve completed the necessary hours, either you or the course provider will submit proof of completion to your state. If your course provider is approved by Educational Review Systems, it also has the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education’s approval. In that case, the course provider will likely electronically report your hours to your state.
Texas Online Courses – For Example Purposes
For example purposes, here are the types of online continuing education courses pharmacy technicians can expect. These example courses are taken from Elite Healthcare’s Texas pharmacy technician continuing education program.
1) A Dose of Professionalism for the Pharmacy Technician
Three hours of continuing education. The course teaches how to:
- List the insurance information, demographic, and profile information to complete a patient’s profile.
- Understand the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA). Includes learning what’s considered protected health information, which disclosures are possible, and the patient’s rights.
- Focus on preventing medication errors, learning which errors are most common, and specific strategies for error prevention.
- Report medication errors to the proper authority.
- Understand the pharmacy technician’s role in customer service and internal audits.
2) A Review of Immunizations for Pharmacy Technicians
Six hours of continuing education. In this course, technicians learn:
- All about the basic principles of immunology. There’s also a focus on passive immunity, active immunity, and the differences between inactivated vaccines and live vaccines.
- The 10 diseases with the most common immunizations and the symptoms most often presented.
- The 10 most common immunizations and the disease complications they prevent.
- The 10 most common immunizations and the basic treatments for the diseases they prevent.
- How age affects the products available for vaccination and immunization.
- The correct ages for adults and children to receive certain vaccinations.
- The most common side effects associated with the most common immunizations.
- The components in the most common vaccines.
3) A Review of Measles, Mumps, and Rubella for Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians
Four hours of continuing education. After finishing this course, technicians will know how to:
- Discuss the epidemiology and history of rubella, measles, and mumps.
- Recognize complications and symptoms most often caused by rubella, measles, and mumps.
- List the most common methods used to diagnose rubella, measles, and mumps.
The courses listed above give you an idea of what to expect as a pharmacy technician.
The Pros and Cons of Online Courses
Online courses are more popular than ever before. And due to the Covid-19 pandemic, online courses have made it possible for students to continue their studies.
Some states require pharmacy technicians to take at least a few continuing education courses in-person. But more often, it’s possible to take all of the courses from an online course provider.
Here are some pros and cons associated with taking these courses online:
Pro – You Can Work at Your Own Pace
Perhaps the biggest advantage of online courses is that you’re not rushed to complete your study. You can study where you want to when you want to, and how you want to. If you want to study at 3 am, that’s fine. If you want to study in your pajamas on a Sunday night, that’s fine, too.
The flexibility doesn’t mean the courses are easier than if you were in class. It’s just that you have more control over where, how, and when you study. This is one reason why online continuing education courses are possible. Most pharmacy technicians work full-time and don’t have the time for traditional in-class learning.
Con – You May Worry You’re Not Getting a Good Education
Some people believe that online courses aren’t as good as traditional courses in a classroom. They believe classroom learning is simply more in-depth and educational than courses offered online. If you hold this belief, you might doubt that your online course is sufficient.
Pro – You Can Study from Anywhere
An online course requires a computer with an internet connection. And your study materials are either sent via email or available on the course provider’s website. You don’t have to worry about how you’ll get to class, buying hundreds of dollars worth of textbooks, or missing a class because of some other obligation. Video calls and emails are used to handle correspondence with your instructors.
Con – No In-Person Interactions
Some students like the camaraderie of learning in a classroom. For those students, online learning is sometimes less enjoyable.
Pro – Courses are More Affordable than in the Classroom
Online continuing education courses are often much less than what you’d pay for classroom learning. A course can cost up to $100 less than you’d pay if you were going to class. Also, transportation costs aren’t an issue either.
Consider these pros and cons when choosing your course provider. Most states give students a choice between online courses and traditional classroom courses. But no matter what, make sure your course provider is approved by your state.
Pharmacy Technician or Pharmacist: Know the Difference
When choosing your continuing education courses, it’s important to choose the correct courses. Courses for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are often listed together. But as a technician, you must take care only to choose courses that are for technicians.
Read the course description carefully to avoid making this mistake. But also, it helps to know the difference between pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Both work closely together, but they don’t have the same responsibilities. And as such, the courses they take often differ as well.
Pharmacists rely on technicians to perform certain tasks in the pharmacy. But technicians also look to pharmacists for guidance on what to do. They each have their own jobs but work together as a team.
The level of education required is perhaps the biggest difference between pharmacists and pharmacy technicians.
In some states, technicians aren’t required to have any formal training or credentials. A high school diploma or GED is all that’s required. Other states require certification or some other form of training before technicians can work in a pharmacy.
Although there is not a national education standard, some technicians have to pass the PTCE. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) administers the test. PTCB is a national organization that provides pharmacy education, develops pharmacy protocols, and certifies pharmacy technicians. All 50 states recognize PTCB certification – even if the state doesn’t officially require certification.
Pharmacy technicians have a choice between several programs that will prepare them to pass the PTCE. Programs are available from online providers, private organizations, and schools and universities. Some pharmacies even offer training programs to their technicians.
Not all states require formal training for pharmacy technicians. But when formal training is required, programs normally last between 8 weeks to 2 years – depending on the state.
Training programs offered by a pharmacy for its technicians usually have 8 weeks of traditional classroom learning. Then there are up to 6 months of on the job training. Pharmacy technicians have several additional options when it comes to education.
Training received from an educational institution will result in earning an associate degree, certificate, or diploma. Earning a certificate usually takes less than a year. And to earn a diploma usually takes 12 to 18 months. But an associate degree usually takes exactly 2 years.
Continuing education topics that pharmacy technicians focus on include:
- Pharmacy law
- Pharmacy administration
- Medication dosages
All of these courses teach technicians how to perform daily operations in the pharmacy best. It’s important to input the correct dosage information, correctly process insurance claims, and correctly track pharmacy records. It’s also important for technicians to perform well because pharmacists count on them for assistance.
On the other hand, pharmacists are required to have a pharmacology doctorate degree. It takes around 6 years to earn a doctorate. Pharmacists need a degree from a 4-year college or university, followed by 2 years of pre-pharmacy education. Pharmacists are then required to perform a year internship with a licensed pharmacist.
All states require pharmacists to become licensed before they can start working. They must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination test and then register with the pharmacy’s local state board.
Pharmacists learn everything that pharmacy technicians learn. But pharmacists must also study chemistry, biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and more.
The Importance of Pharmacy Technicians
Technicians are on the front line in the pharmacy. Technicians accept prescriptions and are the first point of contact for patients. Once a prescription is approved, technicians find and dispense the correct medication.
In short, pharmacists wouldn’t get anything done without technicians there to help. Technicians deal with patients, perform clerical tasks, process insurance claims, and more. However, technicians don’t have the authority to give medical advice.
Pharmacy Technicians and Certification
Some states don’t require pharmacy technicians to have certification. But that doesn’t mean certification isn’t an option. And some pharmacists rely on certification to judge whether or not a technician is knowledgeable enough to work in a pharmacy. That means even if your state doesn’t require certification, you can benefit from becoming certified.
Pharmacists look at certification as a demonstration of knowledge. And a technician with certification will likely have the edge over a technician without certification. Also, pharmacy technicians with national certification are certified everywhere. Their credentials travel with them.
It’s estimated that around 280,000 pharmacy technicians are currently certified by PTCB. The steps for certification are:
1) Determine if You’re Eligible
Pharmacy technicians must first determine if they can become PTCB certified. There is no age minimum. And pharmacy experience isn’t required. But pharmacy technicians must have a high school diploma or GED. A college degree isn’t required.
Applicants for certification must also disclose their criminal background – if any. It’s also mandatory for applicants to report if any state pharmacy board has taken action against them. A criminal history, especially one including drug-related crimes, can hurt an applicant’s chance at certification.
Applicants aren’t automatically disqualified if they have a criminal history. The PTCB will review all applications fairly. Applicants are still encouraged to apply, even if they have a criminal history.
2) Pass the Certification Exam
To become PTCB certified, applicants must pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam.
Applicants preparing for this test are encouraged to enroll in a training course for pharmacy technicians. It’s best if the course is accredited, preferably by a pharmacist organization. For example, courses by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists are nationally accredited. Courses by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education are nationally accredited, as well.
Applicants preparing for the exam can also make use of additional study tools. There are books, smartphone apps, and flashcards that can help technicians study for the exam. Most notably, the PTCB has a practice exam easily accessible online. However, passing the practice exam doesn’t guarantee a passing score on the actual exam.
3) Apply for the Exam Online
Pharmacy technicians who want to take the exam must register with the PTCB online. The application for certification and the test currently cost $129. Technicians currently employed by a pharmacy may be able to get the pharmacy to cover the fee.
Any applicants who need special assistance, such as those with hearing or sight issues, can request assistance on the application.
After the application is approved, candidates for certification have 90 days to schedule and take the exam. The exam is administered through Pearson VUE, a computer-based testing company. It’s possible to reschedule or cancel an exam up to 24 hours before the event. It’s also possible to withdraw an application completely within the 90 day period. A portion of the exam fee is generally refunded.
4) Complete the Exam and Receive Results
Arriving at least 30 minutes before the exam is recommended. A valid government-issued photo ID is also required. No other personal items are allowed in the testing room. But lockers are provided to store personal items.
The official exam results become available online 2 to 3 weeks after the exam. Pharmacy technicians who pass the exam will receive their certification 4 to 6 weeks after passing the exam.
The pass rate for the certification exam is currently 57 percent. Anyone who fails can take the exam 3 additional times, but a 60 day waiting period is required. After the third fail, the applicant must wait at least 6 months before retaking the exam.
Note that it’s necessary to reapply and pay the fee again for each exam attempt.
5) Remaining Certified
Certified pharmacy technicians must complete 20 hours of continuing education every 2 years to remain PTCB certified. And all course credits must come from courses that are specifically for pharmacy technicians.
Failure to earn continuing education hours means the certification will expire. After that point, there is a 1 year reinstatement period in which to renew certification. If certification isn’t renewed within that year, it’s necessary to start over and retake the exam.