Pharmacy Technician Career Overview
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Review the responsibilities of a pharmacy technician, the steps needed to fill the role, and the job outlook for those who pursue this career choice.
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How Long to Become
4% increase from 2020-2030
Average Annual Salary
Working in healthcare continues to be a lucrative career choice. While many positions require lengthy education and training, there are a variety of career options available for those looking to break into healthcare sooner rather than later. One such career is a pharmacy technician.
Training to become a pharmacy technician can take as little as one year. This page details the responsibilities, training, and job outlook for pharmacy technicians.
What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?
Pharmacy technicians work alongside pharmacists, dispensing medications to customers or other health professionals. They are responsible for the overall efficiency of the pharmacy, playing a key role in providing customer/patient service.
While some find employment at hospitals or other medical facilities, most pharmacy technicians work in actual pharmacies or retail locations containing pharmacies.
Whether retail-based, hospital-based, or mail-order, pharmacy technicians ensure everything operates smoothly by overseeing technical operations, customer care, and communication between workers.
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Some of the key responsibilities of pharmacy technicians include:
- Interact with customers by helping them purchase their prescriptions, locate over-the-counter medications, or answer basic questions
- Manage inventory by placing orders for supplies, organizing incoming deliveries, and removing outdated medication
- Maintain patient records; document physicians' orders; process claims through insurance providers
- Prepare medications for pharmacists by making labels, calculating quantities, mixing solutions, and packaging medications
Successful pharmacy technicians are:
- Adept at customer service
- Detail oriented
- Able to multitask
- Effective communicators
- Proficient in technology
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Where Do Pharmacy Technicians Work?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of pharmacy technicians (21.6%) work in health and personal care stores such as CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.
The next four highest concentrations of pharmacy technicians work in electronic shopping and mail-order houses (3.4%), medical and surgical hospitals (2.8%), food and beverage stores (1.4%), and merchandise stores (1.3%).
States with the highest pharmacy technician employment numbers include California, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.
Regardless of the location and practice setting, pharmacy tech working conditions are similar. Pharmacy technicians spend the majority of their shifts filling and packaging prescriptions and communicating with customers, healthcare providers, and insurance companies.
Schedules can differ depending upon the setting. Pharmacy technicians may need to work nights, weekends, and holidays for certain employers.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician Nurse
After earning a high school diploma, those interested in becoming a pharmacy technician must complete an accredited program. Certificate programs offered at community colleges and vocational schools take about one year to complete, while associate programs take two.
Training programs often include courses on pharmacy law, drug classifications, community and institutional pharmacy practice, and pharmaceutical math. Technicians seeking certification through the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists need to graduate from a training program accredited by the Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission.
While not required by all states, many employers prefer to hire certified pharmacy technicians. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) both offer certifications. Both require the candidate to pass a certification exam and have a high school diploma.
Pharmacy technicians who earned a certification must renew it every two years. The PTCB requires certified technicians to complete 20 continuing education hours within those two years, while the NHA requires 10 continuing education units.
How Much Do Pharmacy Technicians Make?
The BLS reports that pharmacy technicians earn an average annual salary of $37,970, which is approximately $18.25 per hour.
Compensation can vary depending upon training, certification, experience, and practice setting. Pharmacy technicians' pay can range from $28,740 (bottom 10%) to $47,580 (top 10%).
Pharmacy technician employment is expected to grow 4% by 2030, which is lower than the 8% average for all other occupations.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to pharmacy tech shortages in some states, which means employment opportunities are still available. The BLS anticipates approximately 31,700 job openings annually through 2030.
Many of these openings are due to pharmacists taking on more roles in patient care (i.e., giving patients vaccinations). Therefore, pharmacy technicians are needed to perform some tasks formerly completed by pharmacists, such as collecting patient information and preparing more types of prescriptions.
Frequently Asked Questions about Pharmacy Technicians
How long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?
Depending upon their training and educational program choice, it takes one to two years to become a pharmacy technician. Techs working in states that do not require formal training for licensure can qualify for the profession through on-the-job training. The length of this training depends on the employer.
Pharmacy technicians in states that require formal training must either complete a certification program, which takes around one year to complete, or an associate program, which can be finished in two years.
What's the difference between a pharmacy technician and a pharmacist?
Pharmacy technicians essentially assist the pharmacist. They can prepare, package, and label prescriptions while organizing medication and supplies. In certain states, pharmacy technicians can administer vaccines following completion of authorized training.
Pharmacists are trained medical professionals who have an understanding of the way medications work. They are responsible for preparing and customizing medications, advising patients on proper drug use, and administering vaccinations.
Recently, some states have allowed pharmacy technicians to administer vaccinations after training.
Can pharmacy technicians prescribe medicine?
No, pharmacy technicians cannot prescribe medications. They have not completed the necessary education and/or training to become licensed. This includes advising customers on prescribed or over-the-counter medications. But pharmacy technicians can help customers locate over-the-counter medications.
What are three things that pharmacy technicians do?
In working with a pharmacist, pharmacy technicians are mainly responsible for:
- Reviewing the accuracy and completeness of prescriptions
- Preparing prescriptions by retrieving, counting, measuring, and mixing medications
- Helping maintain accurate patient records
Page Last Reviewed: August 1, 2022
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