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How Long Does it Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician?

Becoming a pharmacy technician might be your ideal path if you want a rewarding healthcare career with the potential for rapid advancement.

But how long will it take me to become a pharmacy technician?

Answering that question depends entirely upon your state and their pharmacy technician certification/license requirements. Some states allow young adults directly out of high school to become pharmacy technicians by training; in others, you must complete at least a certification course before being accepted as an entry-level technician.

Pharmacy technician certification courses and diploma programs typically last four months to one year, while an associate degree will require two years.

Stepful offers a pharmacy technician course online, which takes only four months to finish.

This guide will outline how long each step to become a pharmacy technician takes, the duration of school and training programs and more.

Overview – How Long Pharmacy Technician School & Training Take

After earning your high school diploma or GED, additional training may be necessary to become a pharmacy technician.

Some states allow you to complete on-the-job training within weeks; however, most require certification that takes between 4 months and 2 years.

An online course typically provides the least expensive option; an associate degree program tends to be more costly and time-consuming.

School Type Length Leads To Cost
On-the-job training 2 to 8 weeks Eligible for certification after 1 year Free
Online program 4 months to 1 year Certificate $500 to $1,500
Certification from community college 1 year Certificate & diploma $2,000 to $10,000
Associate’s degree from community college 2 years Certificate & associate degree $8,000 to $25,000    

How Long Online Pharmacy Technician Training Programs Take

Online pharmacy technician programs can be ideal for self-motivated learners looking for maximum flexibility. Online programs allow you to complete coursework at your own pace and when it best fits into your schedule.

Online programs typically cover medical terminology and managing patient records in the first few weeks, then pharmacology, anatomy and ethics/law towards the end.

Many online programs can assist in helping pharmacy technicians locate externship opportunities to gain practical experience during the final weeks of a course.

Most online pharmacy technician training programs cost around $1,000. Once you complete this training program, you will be eligible to sit the certification exam to become a certified pharmacy technician.

Make sure that the program you select has been accredited and has high exam passing rates for certification exams.

Six and twelve-week pharmacy technician programs may not allow enough time for you to master all the material needed before beginning work as an actual technician. Programs lasting four months, such as Stepful’s Online Pharmacy Tech Program, may provide more benefits.

How Long a Pharmacy Technician Certificate from a Community College Takes

Many community colleges provide certificate programs for technical jobs like medical assisting or pharmacy technician certification without requiring general education courses in humanities or fine arts.

As these programs are more focused than degree programs, they can often be completed faster and at lower costs. Once complete, you will become eligible to sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam.

Community college programs typically cover the basics of medical terminology and healthcare operations during their initial semester, then cover drug classifications and dosage calculations in their second semester, followed by advanced pharmaceuticals and mixing sterile solutions during their third and final semesters.

Community colleges typically cost between $2,000 and $10,000 to earn their diploma or certificate.

How Long a Pharmacy Technician Associate’s Degree from a Community College Takes

An associate degree program in pharmacy technician studies will include the same material taught in certificate programs, with additional general education courses added as necessary. People aspiring to more advanced healthcare positions might choose an associate degree instead.

As part of an associate degree program, you’ll take writing, basic math, sociology and fine arts classes during your first year. After this has been accomplished, your second year should focus on pharmacology and pharmacy technician skills.

An associate degree from a community college may cost as much as $20,000. Once completed, graduates will graduate with their associate degree and are eligible to take the pharmacy technician certification exam.

How Long Each Step of Becoming a Pharmacy Technician Takes

  1. Earn Your High School Diploma (or GED). Pharmacy training programs and all pharmacy technician jobs require either a high school diploma or a GED for admission. Studying for and taking the exam in as little as 4 weeks could be enough time to fulfil this requirement.
  2. Complete a training program (4 months to 2 years). An accelerated online program can often be completed within 4 months, while degree programs usually last 2 years. Most states mandate that pharmacy technicians complete training or certification courses before working independently in pharmacy environments.
  3. Study for Your Certification Exam (1 to 4 Weeks). Once students complete their programs, many must devote one or four weeks of studying to pass their certification exam. A test preparation book and taking practice exams before sitting the real one are also highly beneficial in preparation.
  4. Take your exam and wait 2 to 3 weeks for its results (depending on which certification exam you choose). In some instances, results may appear instantly on a computer screen following completion; official exam results usually take days to several weeks after taking your test, depending on which certification exam it is.
  5. Apply for a License (30 to 45 Days). If your state requires licensure for pharmacy technicians, expect at least 30 days for your application to process. In the meantime, start searching for jobs while waiting. However, employers will expect you to present official documentation upon starting work.
  6. They are finding Work (1 to 6 Weeks). Although no exact timeline can be given for finding employment, most recent college graduates can anticipate that the hiring process for pharmacy technician jobs takes approximately 40 days. You can review sample interview questions and answers here to be better prepared.

Becoming a pharmacy technician typically takes 5 months and two years, depending on which program is selected, how thoroughly one studies for the certification exam, and when one finds employment.

Do I Have to Complete a Pharmacy Technician Training Program or School to Work?

Most states mandate that pharmacy technicians complete a training program, pass a certification exam, and apply for a license before being allowed to work as pharmacy technicians. This requirement exists because pharmacy technicians handle potentially harmful medication that must be handled responsibly to protect their patients and customers from potential dangers.

State requirements fall into three different categories: 

States that do not require any special training or certification include: 

  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Kentucky
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania

States that require registration with a state board include: 

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont
  • Wisconsin

States that require training and registration with a state board include: 

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Indiana
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • North Carolina
  • Rhode Island
  • Virginia

Is Pharmacy Technician School Worth It?

Pharmacy technician school can open doors to an exciting career as a pharmacy technician. While earning an associate degree takes longer and costs more, an online certification program could prove more worthwhile in terms of time and energy invested.

Even if certification isn’t mandatory in your state, investing $1,000 and four months to learn pharmacy technician will bring significant returns, with the average pharmacy technician salary reaching an impressive $36,740!

Certification can simplify finding employment, qualify you for promotions more quickly, and result in higher starting salaries.

Is Pharmacy Technician School Hard?

Pharmacy technician school is not particularly difficult. While you will spend time learning and studying, most people can complete pharmacy technician school while continuing with other jobs, managing family life, and maintaining social ties.

How Long Does the Pharmacy Technician Certification Process Take

Completing coursework for pharmacy technician certification can take the longest. After that is complete, however, the certification process must still be completed for the National Healthcareer’s ExCPT Exam:

  • I am attaining Eligibility Requirements. A pharmacy technician certification program online is an efficient and fast way to meet eligibility requirements for exams such as ExCPT. In addition, one year of work experience, including 1,200 hours of supervised practice within a pharmacy, will qualify you to sit the exam.
  • Scheduling an Exam. To schedule your exam, create an NHA account and complete an application with proof of eligibility requirements. Your application should be approved within several business days.
  • Study for an Exam. Depending on how comfortable and confident you feel after completing a certification program or work experience, taking practice exams and reviewing course material could take one to four weeks before sitting for your actual test.
  • We are undergoing the NHA ExCPT Exam. The National Healthcareer Association ExCPT examination consists of 100 multiple-choice questions and typically takes most people between 2 hours and 2.5 hours to complete.
  • Wait for Your Results. Your results from the ExCPT exam should arrive approximately 48 hours after completion.
  • Maintain Your Certification. After earning your pharmacy technician certification, it is important to keep it current. Most types of certification require 20 hours of continuing education credits every two years for renewal purposes.


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