Can Pharmacy Technicians Become Pharmacists?


by Christine A. Cline-Dahlman, BFA, CPhT   

Just as Pharmacy Technicians are seeing their professional roles greatly expand, some technicians still have that tugging thought, “I would like to be a pharmacist.” 

What is the one major reason to be a pharmacist? – Provider Status! This is the future for the pharmacist. 

Provider Status is not just a cliche to join an advocacy effort.  Provider status will allow pharmacists to diagnose selected disease states and prescribe the appropriate medication.  It opens the door for pharmacists to be placed in medical practices as key members of the Team. Several states have established Provider Status to Pharmacists, and more are set to do so.

If your desire is still to be a pharmacist, here are a couple of First Steps you can take to explore your options –

  1. Do you have your national certification? If not, make plans to achieve this – it shows your professional commitment.
  1. Take a hard look at your CPE Transcript
    • Have you taken only the “Free CE” courses, or does your transcript show a pattern of learning that matches your professional performance?
    • Have you ever taken a Pharmacist CE for specific medications? What was your passing grade?  Pharmacology is the key element of being a pharmacist.
  1. Does your current employer have a program to support your continued education financially?
  1. Have you explored Schools of Pharmacy?
    • Today, several programs are virtual, particularly since COVID.
    • Several Schools of Pharmacy have established Transitional Programs for non-traditional students. Some programs recognize your work experience and then choose selected courses for you to complete rather than start from scratch. 

The metaphor that comes to mind for this life-changing decision – Why would an RN choose to get their BSN . . . their MSN . . . their Nurse Practitioner’s . . . Their Nurse Anesthetist status?  Reason – Expansion of patient care engagement. 

I see pharmacy growing over the next ten years to better delineate the job descriptions and licensing options. Becoming a pharmacist is not the destination, and it is the start. If you notice the letters behind a pharmacist’s name, recognize that they represent additional ways they serve as pharmacists. 

In 2009, I was in Mississippi, just starting my technician career. National certification was not recognized in that state, nor were there academic requirements. Yet, I actively participated in an academic Tech Training program and prepared for the national certification exam. In Spring Semester 2010, I served a rotation at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.  I was the first person to have a technician rotation at this facility. Every tech in that facility asked me why I was paying (tuition) to work there? Why would I want national certification when it didn’t bring more money?  Go to school???  I could learn everything I needed on the job. 

Yet, I believed in the future – and I knew that change would come.  I wanted to be prepared for opportunities.  By 2011, the state passed the requirement for national certification, and in 1 short year, the professional view changed.

Another Ah-Hah moment – In October 2014, I worked full-time for Walgreens in an afternoon shift then had a part-time pharmacy job in the mornings. One morning, Walgreens needed me to fill in, and I could not be at my morning job. My boss, a PharmD for 25 years, asked me how I could let him down and not work the next morning.  I let him speak. Then I asked him why he chose a PharmD when everyone said you didn’t need that extra effort.  There was silence. I then stated that I am committed to Walgreens because they have an ASHP accredited Tech Training program that I desire to complete.  He got my reason. I saw the future. 

Could it be that you see a future that you cannot quite describe, but you want to participate? If you do, then take some First Steps to explore your desire. 

The exploration will lead you to where you are destined to be.

Enjoy Your Journey!