How to Become an Oncology Pharmacy Technician

In this article...

Cancer isn’t something that many people want to think about. 

But, since 39.5% of Americans receive a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime, most people don’t get that choice. And that’s why oncology is one of the most worthwhile medical fields out there.

Now, if you’re considering a career as an oncology pharmacy tech, you probably have some questions, right?

You’re probably wondering what the job involves, how much you’ll get paid, and what qualifications you’ll need to get started. 

So, let’s take a deep dive into the world of chemotherapy pharmacy technicians to find out everything you need to know to embark on this interesting and rewarding career.

Starting with looking at what types of drugs are used to treat cancer:

What is chemotherapy?

OK, so most people have probably heard of chemotherapy, right? 

We know that it can cause patients to lose their hair, can make them feel quite sick, and in many cases, can save their lives.

But what exactly is chemotherapy?

Well, put simply chemotherapy is the use of drugs to destroy cancer cells

It usually does this by keeping the cancer cells from growing, dividing, and making more cells. And it can be administered:

  • Orally– this can be in pill, liquid, or capsule form
  • Intravenously– this means that it is injected directly into the patient’s vein
  • Intra-arterially– by injecting directly into the patient’s artery
  • Topically– via a cream that is applied to the skin
  • Chemotherapy into the abdomen– this means that the drugs are placed directly into the patient’s abdomen
  • Chemotherapy via injection– this is where cancer drugs are given as a shot

Now, chemotherapy drugs are the most common medications an oncology pharmacy tech will deal with. 

But there are a few other types of treatment used to treat cancer, like:

  • Hormone therapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Radiation therapy

It’s worth noting that some of the patients you help prepare chemo drugs for may also undergo one, or more, of these other treatments.

OK, so oncology pharmacy techs deal mainly with chemotherapy. But what do they do each day?

Let’s take a look:

Oncology pharmacy technician job description

The job description of an oncology pharmacy tech has many similarities with that of a regular technician. 

And this means that, although specific duties vary between employers, you will normally be expected to:

  • Sort, store, and mix drugs
  • Update patient records
  • Manage inventory
  • Dispense medications

However, as an Oncology tech, you’ll work solely on caring for patients with cancer. As you might expect, this requires more in-depth knowledge of cancer drugs than is expected from a generalist.

OK, so what certificate will you need?

Let’s find out:

What certification does an oncology pharmacy technician need?

In order to work as a pharmacy technician in most states, you’ll need certification. And this applies to oncology pharmacy techs too.

Now, the oldest and most trusted certificating body for pharmacy technicians is the PTCB. 

This means that the first step on your journey towards a career in oncology is taking your PTCB exam. But don’t worry if the idea of sitting a test fills you with dread. Our PTCB Hero study guide is here to help!

Once you have passed your PTCB exam, you can make your application stand out to employers by enrolling in an oncology pharmacy technician program. However, this is not currently required in many areas.

Then it’s time to build some relevant experience pharmacy tech role while you wait to land your dream oncology job. 

But don’t worry, many employers only ask for one year’s experience, so you won’t have to hang around too long before starting your job search!

Now, how much do oncology pharmacy techs make? Let’s take a look:

How much does a chemotherapy pharmacy technician make?

Helping people to fight cancer is its own reward. And we know that lots of people become interested in this field because of their own, or their family members’ experience with the disease.

But that doesn’t mean that you don’t need to eat. And hey, having money for the odd treat would be nice too, right?

So, how much can you expect to earn as an oncology pharmacy tech?

Well, chemotherapy pharmacy techs make an average of $46,988 per year. Though your exact salary will vary depending on your area and experience level.

How do you become a certified pharmacy technician for chemotherapy?

OK, so you’re ready to embark on your new career? Fantastic!

Let’s do a quick recap on what you need to do to become a certified pharmacy technician for chemotherapy and secure that first job:

Step 1: 

Pass your PTCB exam. Don’t forget to take our free PTCB practice test to find out how prepared you are!

Step 2:

Check your local laws and regulations. The pharmacy world is always advancing and you never know when new requirements will come into play.

Step 3:

Decide whether you want to join an oncology pharmacy technician program and research options in your area.

Step 4: 

Get some experience as a regular pharmacy tech. Retail is fine but working in a hospital setting may give you an edge when it comes to applying for jobs.

Step 5:

Apply for oncology pharmacy technician jobs. 

Good luck!