A pharmacy technician works under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist to provide medication, health care products, as well as performing retail related duties.
If you are interested in health, enjoy working with people, and would like to work in a retail or hospital setting, then you might be interested in becoming pharmacy technician.
To become a pharmacy technician you will need to have a good understanding of biology and chemistry.
As you will often be working a cash register and balancing accounts, so math skills are important too.
You will spend a good amount of time communicating with customers, and interpersonal skills will be essential.
A pharmacy technician is also known as a pharmacy assistant in some places.
Education Requirements to Become a Pharmacy Technician
If you’re still in high school, taking subjects including math, sciences, health, and English are a good start to become a pharmacy technician.
If you can, a part-time job in a pharmacy will be helpful later on.
You will need to complete your high school diploma to work as a pharmacy technician.
After high school, you will need to complete a pharmacy technician certificate course, and this generally takes one to two years to complete.
You will learn a wide range of skills and knowledge concerning drugs, anatomy, health, and medical terminology.
These courses can be found at many local community colleges or vocational school.
You can also become a pharmacy technician by learning on the job.
Many pharmacists run apprenticeship like programs where you can get the skills you need just by working.
This pathway isn’t always the best however, because it will not allow you to gain certification, may not be possible in some states.
In most states you will need to pass an exam to become a certified pharmacy technician.
This qualification will be held in high regard by employers.
To keep it current, you will need to complete ten hours of professional development over each two year period.
You can find more information about gaining your pharmacy technician certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, or PTCB.
Pharmacy Technician Job Description
A pharmacy technician will fill patient’s prescriptions, this involves counting and measuring medications, mixing medications, and printing labels for drugs.
They will also spend time speaking with their customers, and providing instructions and advice on taking medications.
A pharmacy technician may also help with retail duties such as operating a register, keeping stock inventory, or helping customers on the shop floor.
Often they will assist with administrative tasks, such as filing insurance claims, keeping customer records, and maintaining databases.
They will always work under the supervision of a certified pharmacist.
Here are some of the duties of a pharmacy technician:
- Taking inquiries from customers
- Preparing medications
- Printing Labels
- Giving instructions on taking medications
- Answering phones
- Maintaining customer records
- Maintaining stock inventory
- Filing insurance claim forms
Pharmacy Technician Salary and Career Path
Most pharmacy technicians work in retail pharmacies, hospitals, medical stores, health care stores, mail order pharmacies, or nursing homes.
Many of these outlets are open 24 hours a day, so pharmacy technicians may have to work evenings, weekends, and even holidays.
Some pharmacy technicians begin their career by getting a job in a retail sector of a pharmacy, and then working their way up.
Others complete the pharmacy technician certification, and begin in this position.
As you gain experience as a pharmacy technician you can expect to earn a higher salary and take on more responsibility.
Certified pharmacy technicians earn a higher salary than non-certified technicians.
The median wage for a pharmacy assistant is $27,000 a year.
Those just starting out may earn around $24,000 a year, while those with a good amount of experience could earn closer to $38,000 a year.
Many pharmacy technicians move on to other positions in the health field later on in their career.
Related jobs that a pharmacy assistant might move onto include:
- Medical Researcher
- Pharmaceutical Researcher
- Dental Hygienist
- Medical Assistant
- Medical Records and Health Information Technician
- Medical Biller
If you’re looking to start your career in health, you might like to become a pharmacy technician.
Employment prospects in this sector are very strong, with plenty of work available across the country.
Working as a pharmacy technician also opens the door to many other careers in the health field.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a pharmacy technician do?
Pharmacy technicians are health care professionals who work with pharmacists and perform a variety of pharmacy-related functions.
As a pharmacy technician, you will have direct contact with your patients so you need to enjoy interacting with lots of different people; good interpersonal skills are important.
No matter if you work in a hospital, drugstore, retail pharmacy your duties as a pharmacy technician are usually the same: you will use the computer for receiving and confirming prescriptions, you will verify insurance coverage, fill out the prescriptions and inform your patients on how to take the medication.
Pharmacy technicians need good organizational skills because they are in charge of the inventory, they fill prescriptions, contact insurance agencies, prepare a variety of medications, and communicate with physicians’ offices.
If you work in a hospital you may be involved in the making of various intravenous products, creams, and ointments.
How much does a pharmacy technician make?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that in 2018, the median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $32,700.
Salaries in this field usually vary between less than $23,000 and more than $48,000 a year.
How much does it cost to become a pharmacy technician?
Exact education requirements vary by state but if you want to become a pharmacy technician you may have to complete a post-secondary program in pharmacy technology.
You can choose between a certificate program or an associate’s degree.
Most pharmacy technician certification programs cost between $500 to $5,000 but if you opt for an associate’s degree program, the cost will be between $3,000-$4,000 a year.
What is the demand for pharmacy technicians?
According to the BLS, employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations.
This growth is explained in part by the fact that pharmacy technicians are starting to take a greater role in pharmacy operations while pharmacists are moving towards more patient care activities.
How long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?
Depending on your state you can start working with only your high school diploma with most of your training being done on-the-job.
Nonetheless, taking science courses like chemistry and biology will help you in your job and also in your future training if you choose to enroll in a post-secondary program.
Technology and computer classes will prove useful because many of the forms a pharmacy technician has to complete are now digitized.
Also, there are certification programs for pharmacy technologists at many community colleges; such programs can be completed within a year or less.
An associate degree program can give you better job prospects and usually takes two years to complete.
To be eligible for enrollment at an associate’s degree program, you will need a high school diploma or a GED and you may have to pass an entrance test.
Associate’s degree programs teach students about healthcare systems, physiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, microbiology, anatomy, pharmacy management, and pharmaceutical calculations.
No matter what your choice is, keep in mind that the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is the accrediting body for pharmacy technician programs.
The final step is to get certified.
There are two organizations issuing certifications for pharmacy technicians: the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).