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The Guide to Pharmacy Technician Jobs and Programs in California

Are you interested in math, anatomy, physiology and health care? Would you like to find a career that combines these interests? Then pharmacy technology may interest you.

Pharmacy Technology programs can prepare you to be a pharmacy technician, who works under the supervision of a pharmacist to help distribute prescription medications to customers and health professionals. Pharmacy technicians are detail-oriented individuals with excellent people and organizational skills. They work in pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies and more.

This guide walks you through everything you need to know about pharmacy technology and pharmacy technicians in California, including:

  • Job growth
  • Salary data
  • Required skills
  • Licensure requirements
  • Certification information
  • Education programs and coursework

Why Become a Pharmacy Technician in California?

From 2018 to 2028, employment of pharmacy technicians is expected to increase 7%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)1. This is faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also reports that California has the second-highest employment level of pharmacy technicians in May 20192.

Growing demand isn’t the only thing in pharmacy technicians’ favor; they’re also paid well. The May 2019 national median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $33,950, according to the BLS3. The median wage is the wage amount at which half the workers earned less and half earned more. A mean annual wage, on the other hand, is simply the average wage of workers in an occupation.

The May 2019 mean annual wage for pharmacy technicians in the U.S. was $35,250, the BLS reports4. Pharmacy technicians in California made considerable more; their annual mean wage was $45,200 in May 2019. In fact, California pharmacy technicians made more than pharmacy technicians in any other state in May 2019. Other top-paying states for pharmacy technicians include Alaska, Washington, the District of Columbia and Oregon.

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Pharmacy Technicians

The BLS also reports the top-paying metropolitan areas for pharmacy technicians, based on 2019 wage data. California metro areas dominate this list, making up nine of the ten top-paying areas. Here are the top-paying metro areas and their May 2019 annual mean wages5:

  1. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA – $51,090
  2. Santa Rosa, CA – $50,790
  3. Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA – $50,070
  4. Vallejo-Fairfield, CA – $49,280
  5. Salinas, CA – $49,060
  6. Napa, CA – $49,040
  7. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA – $48,550
  8. Madera, CA – $47,380
  9. Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA – $47,090
  10. Olympia-Tumwater, WA – $45,620

The annual mean wages in all of these metro areas were significantly greater than $35,250, which was the 2019 national mean annual wage for pharmacy technicians.

What Is Driving the Growth of Pharmacy Technician Careers?

What’s causing the projected 7% employment growth of pharmacy technicians? The BLS notes the following6:

  • Aging population: These individuals need more prescription medicines than younger people.
  • Growth of chronic diseases: As the rate of chronic diseases increases, more prescription medications will be needed. Examples of chronic diseases include diabetes, arthritis, cancer and asthma.
  • Pharmaceutical research advances: Progress in pharmaceutical research will lead to more opportunities for medications to combat diseases.
  • Expanding role of pharmacists: Pharmacists roles are expanding, requiring them to perform more patient care activities, like administering flu shots. Pharmacy technicians will be needed to take on activities that were generally performed by pharmacists. Such activities include gathering patient information, preparing a broader range of medications and confirming other technicians’ work.

pharmacy technician with box

Where do Pharmacy Technicians Work?

Pharmacy technicians primarily work in pharmacies and hospitals. The pharmacy setting could be in a drug, general merchandise or grocery store. Per the BLS, the biggest employers of pharmacy technicians include7:

  • Pharmacies and drugstores – 52%
  • Hospitals – 17%
  • Food and beverage stores – 8%

While pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens are common employers of pharmacy technicians, these aren’t the only settings that you can work in as a pharmacy technician. Other options include working at a pharmaceutical company, health clinic, nursing home or assisted living facility, compounding pharmacy, or mail-order pharmacy.

Wondering what the difference is between a compounding pharmacy and a pharmacy within a retail drug store? To learn about these and additional pharm tech work environments, check out our article, “Where can you work as a pharmacy technician?

Find Your Path as a Pharmacy Technician

pharmacy technician and woman

SJVC is committed to hands-on training in the skills you need as a pharmacy technician. Learn more about our program and exciting opportunities.

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What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

A pharmacy technician works under the supervision of a pharmacist to help dispense prescription medications to patients or health professionals. Their job duties range from measuring medications to organizing pharmacy inventories.

While a pharmacy technician’s responsibilities can vary based on work setting—retail pharmacy, hospital, compounding pharmacy, etc.—they typically include:

  • Gather information needed to fill prescriptions
  • Measure medication amounts needed for prescriptions
  • Prepare, package and label prescriptions
  • Keep inventory organized and notify pharmacists of shortages
  • Answer and make customer phone calls
  • Field customers’ medication questions and coordinate a time for them to speak with pharmacists if needed
  • Process customer information in a computer system
  • Take prescription payment and help process insurance claims
  • Help operate automated medication dispensing equipment

No matter where they work, pharmacy technicians are essential parts of their pharmacy teams.

Skills for Pharm Techs

Pharmacy technicians need a combination of technical and soft skills, which can be learned through classroom knowledge and developed through hands-on training. Typical technical skills required of pharmacy technicians relate to:

  • Pharmacy terminology
  • Prescription processing
  • Lab equipment and materials
  • Math and computation

Important pharmacy technician soft skills or qualities, as noted by the BLS, include8:

  • Customer-service skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Listening skills
  • Organizational skills

How to Work as a Pharmacy Technician in California

To become a pharmacy technician in California, you must be licensed by the California State Board of Pharmacy. Becoming licensed involves education, training and completing a detailed application.

Education requirements begin with having a high school diploma or general education development equivalent certificate. The California State Board of Pharmacy also requires that you complete pharmacy education, showing proof of one of the following9:

  • Associate degree in pharmacy technology
  • Completed coursework that provided at least 240 hours of required instruction as specified in Title 16 California Code of Regulation section 1793.6(c)
  • Training course accredited by the American Society of health-System Pharmacists (ASHP)
  • Graduation from a school of pharmacy accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)
  • Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification
  • National Healthcare Association Pharmacy Technician Certification Program (ExCPT) certification
  • Completed pharmacy technician program provided by a branch of the federal military

California Pharmacy Technician License Requirements

Once you’ve completed the required education, you can apply for a pharmacy technician license through the California State Board of Pharmacy. Here’s what the application requires:

  • Completed application: Read the application instructions thoroughly, and complete the application in its entirety.
  • Application fee: Submit the required $195 application fee.
  • U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN): You must disclose your SSN or ITIN to apply for licensure.
  • Photo: Include a 2×2” passport-style, color photograph of yourself with your application.
  • Proof of basic education: Include proof of required high school graduation or equivalent certificate.
  • Proof of pharmacy technician education: Include proof of your required pharmacy education. Refer to the list above to see what pharmacy technician documents are accepted.
  • Self-query report: Include an original, sealed Self-Query Report from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).
  • Fingerprints: Submit fingerprint cards through Live Scan.

For more information about California pharmacy technician licensure and application requirements, visit the California State Board of Pharmacy’s website10.

Kickstart Your Career as a Pharmacy Technician

pharmacy technician with box

Small class sizes, individual attention, and hands-on training in the skills you need. Learn more about how to become a pharmacy technician with SJVC.

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Do You Need to Be Certified as a Pharmacy Technician?

You don’t need to be certified as a pharmacy technician, but certification can make it easier to find a job. Some employers will even pay for you to become certified. The California State Board of Pharmacy also accepts a PTCB certification as adequate proof of pharmacy education.

PTCB certification

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board offers a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) credential. To earn your PTCB CPhT certification, you must meet a few different requirements—one of which is to complete a PTCB-recognized education/training program or equivalent work experience.

Once you’ve met the requirements, you can take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) to earn your PTCB CPhT certification. Many pharmacy technology programs incorporate material to prepare you for the PTCE.

ExCPT exam and CPhT certification

Taking the ExCPT exam and earning a CPhT certification through the National Healthcareer Association is another path to certification11. This is another test that can prove what you’ve learned in a pharmacy technology program.

Pharmacy Technician License vs Certification

A licensed pharmacy technician meets requirements set by the state’s pharmacy board, while a certified pharmacy technician meets requirements set by an outside agency and passes an exam. States have varying license and certification requirements. For example, some require licensure and national certification, while others don’t. California pharmacy technicians are required to be licensed, but do not need certification.

What to Look for in a Pharmacy Technology Program

Choosing the right Pharmacy Technology program for you requires a lot of research. What factors should you consider? We created the below list of factors to help guide your search for Pharmacy Technology programs. Consider that the best programs usually offer a combination of classroom knowledge and hands-on experience.

  • Reputation: It’s important to make sure the program has a good reputation. Also check that the program directly prepares you for state licensure and certifications.
  • Coursework: Examine the courses offered by the program and make sure it aligns with the pharmacy technician skills you want to learn.
  • Hands-on experience: Consider looking into schools that offer hands-on training. This will help prepare you for pharmacy technician jobs.
  • Location: Location is an important factor to consider. How far are you willing to commute to your school? Explore Pharmacy Technology/Technician programs in your area.
  • Duration: How quickly do you want to become a pharmacy technician? Pursuing an associate degree or certificate will impact the amount of time it takes. Generally, associate degrees take longer to complete.
  • Cost and financial aid: Education is an important investment. As you research pharmacy technician programs, ask about financial aid, flexible payment plans and available scholarships.

Should I Get an Associate Degree or Certificate in Pharmacy Technology?

Pursuing an associate degree or certificate when studying pharmacy technology depends on your career goals. Both can help you become a pharmacy technician, but at different costs and within different timeframes.

Certificate programs tend to be more cost-effective and enable you to start working sooner, for example. Most associate degree programs take two years to complete, while certificates can usually be earned within a year. However, associate degrees can provide a more comprehensive education and higher earning potential, leading to more career opportunities over time. These are some of the factors to weigh as you consider an associate degree or certificate.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician?

Program length varies by school and program of study. It can take anywhere from nine months to two years to complete the training to become a pharmacy technician, depending on your career path. Certificate programs can generally be completed in a year or less, while associate degree programs take closer to two years to complete. Pursuing on-the-job training or internships could also impact the amount of training it takes to become a pharmacy technician.

What Classes Would You Take in a Pharm Tech Program?

Pharmacy tech classes equip you with the knowledge necessary to help pharmacists dispense medications and keep pharmacy practices running smoothly. Pharmacy tech classes may cover topics like:

  • Pharmacy law and ethics
  • Pharmacy and medical terminology
  • Computer data entry
  • Pharmacology
  • Prescription processing
  • Math and arithmetic
  • Recordkeeping
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Pharmacy clinical applications

What Will I Learn in a Pharmacy Technology Program?

As you complete your pharmacy technology program, you can expect to learn how to:

  • Determine and dispense medication dosages
  • Interpret prescriptions
  • Fill, refill and label prescriptions
  • Organize and manage prescription orders
  • Handle pharmacy lab materials
  • Use pharmacy databases
  • Process payment and insurance

pharmacy technician and woman

Launch a Career in Pharmacy Technology With SJVC

Are you intrigued by the role of a pharmacy technician? SJVC’s Pharmacy Technology and Pharmacy Technician programs can help prepare you for this exciting career. Earning a certificate of completion can be done in as few as nine months. Graduates are eligible to apply for licensure with the California State Board of Pharmacy providing they meet the requirements as specified by the Board, including a Department of Justice criminal background check and data bank query to determine if an act has been committed that constitutes grounds for denial of licensure. This license is required in the State of California for employment as a Pharmacy Technician. Students qualify to take the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) upon successful completion of practice exams administered during their course of study and with the approval of the Pharmacy Liaison. Students also earn their HIPAA Certification.

SJVC prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the program.

Explore our Pharmacy Technology/Technician program and request more information today.

SJVC’s Pharmacy Technology/Technician Students and Staff

SJVC is committed to the growth of its students, both personally and professionally. Our experienced faculty are passionate about sharing their knowledge and supporting your career goals. Whether you’re continuing your education to work toward your first job or prepare for a career switch, we want to help. In fact, our students come from diverse backgrounds and have a broad age range—from recent high school graduates to experienced professionals ready to make a change. We want to know your story and help you succeed.

Find a Pharmacy Technology Program Near Me

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Sources and Disclaimer

  1. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-1
  2. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm#(1)
  3. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-5
  4. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm#(1)
  5. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm#(1)
  6. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-6
  7. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-3
  8. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-4
  9. https://www.pharmacy.ca.gov/forms/tch_app_pkt.pdf
  10. https://www.pharmacy.ca.gov/applicants/tch.shtml
  11. https://www.ptcb.org/credentials/certified-pharmacy-technician