When you hear the term “med tech” or medication aide, it usually refers to the certified medication technician who typically works in nursing homes and intermediate or long-term care facilities, assisting nurses by handing out medications. It’s a low-level, but important job. A med tech is a solid entry-level position that could help you earn a little cash while you continue your education in nursing or if you’re going on to medical school. At the same time, certifications like the med tech credential give you hands-on experience you often need to get into med school and to land the better certified nursing aide, or CNA, jobs.
Finish high school or get your G.E.D., or general education diploma. Then, complete a course to become a certified nursing assistant, more commonly called a CNA. It’s usually a six-week course that you can take through your local community college or other medical training facility. After passing the CNA state exam, then you need to get your name on the unlicensed health-care workers registry in your state.
Work in a nursing home, for a home health care agency, hospital or doctor’s office as a CNA for six months and then enroll in the med tech class at your local college. In some states, it’s a 60 hour course followed by another state exam; it may only take 16 hours in other states. Check with your local nursing board to learn about your state's exact med tech training requirements. In some states, like Maryland, you don’t even have to be a CNA to become a med tech.
Skip the entire CMT, or certified med tech, course work and take the exam if you’ve been working in the health-care field for some time as a registered nurse or LPN. In many states, you can even skip the classwork and go straight to the exam if you’re enrolled in nursing school because you’ve pretty much covered all the information you’ll learn in the med tech class.
Renew your credentials every two years with your state’s registry and do all the necessary hours they require. In some states, you might have to work as a CNA for only eight hours in the two-year period to stay current on the registry, while other states may require you to work up to 100 hours in that same time period. To renew, you just need a signed form from a supervisor stating you worked the necessary number of hours.
- You might be able to skip the CMT coursework if you’ve actually been doing the work of a med tech in a mental health facility or other place that isn’t as highly regulated as nursing homes. Get a letter from your supervisor and take it to the state testing board and ask to take the test. You’ll need to know basics about medications and their effects on patients, basic medical terminology and infection control.
- Expect to shell out a few bucks for all these courses and state exams. In some states, you even have to pay to be listed on the health-care registry, while in other places, they are free. Courses for CMT can be as high as $200, and then you have to pay for books and the state exam. You might want to talk to your nursing supervisor to find out how much extra you can earn with the credntial to make sure it's worth the time and money.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."