Step Up Your Career: How Pharmacy Technicians Can Advance in the Pharmacy Profession

Pharmacy technicians are essential to the growth of the pharmacy profession and the vitality of the healthcare landscape. As the pharmacy profession adapts to healthcare changes, pharmacy technicians need to advance in their roles to serve the needs of their patients and the organization they work for. Read on to discover what pharmacy technicians can do to distinguish themselves in the pharmacy profession and build rewarding healthcare careers.

Certifications and Certificate Programs

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) offers certifications and certificate programs to technicians who want to specialize in certain areas. Their credential program allows technicians to work more effectively to offer safe and effective patient care.

Per PTCB's website, they indicate that the certifications assess a technician's mastery of job knowledge, require Continuing Education (CE), and award an acronym after one's name. Certificate programs evaluate learning outcomes from a PTCB-Recognized Education/Training Program. They do not expire or require maintenance, and do not award an acronym after the name upon completion. There are six certificate programs, which include controlled substances diversion prevention, medication history, technician product verification, hazardous drug management, billing and reimbursement, and immunization administration (in collaboration with the American Pharmacists Association).

The Advanced Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT-Adv) credential is bestowed upon active technicians who have completed at least four certificate programs including Technician Product Verification and/or Medication History, or three certificate programs and PTCB's Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician® (CSPT®) Certification and 3 years of work experience.

Advanced Technician Roles

The American Health System Pharmacists (ASHP) organization has nearly 58,000 members including pharmacists, student pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians. They have a dedicated resource page to feature advanced technician roles via case studies submitted by various health systems. These highlight some of the most common pharmacy technician roles in the hospital, which include informatics technicians, medication history technicians, and pharmacy purchasers.

  • Informatics Technicians work with frontline staff to resolve IT issues and advance various pharmacy-related IT products (EHR, automated dispensing cabinets, smart pumps, etc.).
  • Medication History Technicians are responsible for obtaining the most accurate medication history from patients to ensure that they receive the best, most effective care without medication errors.
  • The Pharmacy Purchaser's role is to manage drug inventory to meet the needs of day-to-day operations including managing drug shortages, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, and optimizing inventory management.

Other advanced technician roles and their descriptions can be found here.

Tips to Advance

There are huge demands for pharmacy technicians in various settings. Many employers want to retain their current technicians to maximize efficiency, reduce turnover rates and staffing costs, and keep overall team morale high. Hence, it is in the employer's best interest to create a wider career ladder for pharmacy technicians who want to advance. In addition, it's wise to have in-house training programs to groom current technicians to assume such roles and even financially sponsor technicians to obtain external certifications. It is also prudent for pharmacy technicians to advocate for advanced roles by talking to managers to express interests, volunteering for more projects, and coming up with solutions to workflow problems. When advanced roles are created, it is a win-win situation.

Phuoc Anne Nguyen, PharmD, MS, BCPS