What is a pharmacy technician?

The principal goal of a pharmacy technician is to assist licensed Pharmacists in their daily duties. Pharmacy technicians primarily execute routine tasks in the preparation of prescribed medications including, labeling prescription bottles and counting capsules and tablets. Technicians may also assist in administrative duties such as, cash register operation, answering phones, and shelf stocking. Any questions or concerns that a technician has regarding drug or health information will be referred to the licensed Pharmacist on duty.

What routine tasks do pharmacy technicians perform?

Pharmacy technicians can also perform a wide variety of other tasks, depending on State Regulations and Rules, in addition to, pharmacy setting. Technicians working in mail-order and retail pharmacies have many different responsibilities, such as processing prescription refills for patients. Pharm technicians play a crucial role in the refill process, and are an essential component in the successful completion of this routine task. Techs are responsible for reviewing medication orders for proper dosing, drug allergies, and drug incompatibilities and interactions. Pharmacy technicians also assist the Pharmacist in the mixing, labeling and packaging, as well as, delivery of the medication to the patient. Technicians are required to maintain computerized documentation of each medication, and work with the Pharmacist to assure that the correct prescriptions are delivered. In these particular pharmacy settings, technicians may also prepare insurance forms, create and maintain customer profiles, and take inventory and stock over-the- counter (OTC) and prescription medications.
Pharmacy techs may also work in hospitals, assisted-living and nursing homes. In these environments, technicians have additional responsibilities which can include; medication preparation, and reading patient profiles and charts. Pharmacy technicians may also sterilize and clean dispensing instruments and bottles, answer various questions concerning non-drug products, and transport medications and pharmaceutical devices from the pharmacy to nursing units in the facility.

Are there any specific qualifications needed to begin a career as a pharmacy technician?

Excellent customer service, observation, organization, and team work skills are needed to progress as a pharmacy technician due to the constant interaction with the general public and other health care professionals. Prospective technicians must be able to take direction from supervisors, while also possessing the ability to work independently. Strong mathematics, reading and spelling skills are also essential for potential pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy Technicians usually require a H.S. Diploma or equivalent and will receive on-the-job training, or they may complete a Pharmacy technician post-secondary program through a vocational school or community college. Most of the states now require a registration and/or licensing to practice as a Pharmacy Technician. *For your state’s requirements, please refer to your local state’s Board of Pharmacy.

What kind of education and training is needed to become a pharmacy technician?

Formal pharmacy technician training and education programs require students to perform both classroom and laboratory work in numerous areas of study. Pharmaceutical terminology, techniques, calculations, record keeping, in addition to, pharmacy ethics and laws are a few of the areas included. Several educational programs include internships, with prospective technicians gaining valuable technical experience in real pharmacy environments. Depending on the area and program, successful students will receive a diploma or certificate. More extensive education programs will offer an associate’s degree.
There are two national organizations that offer administration of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. There are a few requirements that applicants must meet to be eligible for the certification exam. Candidates are required to possess a high school diploma or GED, have no convicted felonies of any nature within a 5-year period of applying, and must have absolutely no pharmacy or drug-related felonies at any time. Employers favor technicians who pass the examination, as these techs have the skills and knowledge to work successfully in a pharmaceutical environment. Several pharmacies and employers will often pay for, or reimburse individuals for the exam cost.
Recertification is required every two years under the certification process. Twenty hours of continuing education must be completed within a 2-year time period. A minimum of one hour of continuing education must be Pharmacy Law and one hour in Patient Safety. There are several sources that offer continuing education, including pharmacy technician education programs, pharmacy associations, and colleges.

Work Environment and the Pharmacy Technician:

A tidy, well-lit, properly ventilated, and organized work area is needed for technicians to successfully perform their jobs. Pharmacy technicians are always in motion, and a majority of the workday is spent on their feet. Techs must be prepared to use ladders to gather supplies and inventory from high areas.
Pharmacy techs work the same hours and shifts as Pharmacists do. These shifts can include nights, evenings, holidays, and weekends. Health care facilities that are open 24 hours daily will require technicians to work longer shifts.

Describe the average salary statistics for qualified U.S. pharmacy technicians:

In 2017, the median hourly wage for pharmacy techs was $15.26. Technicians in the highest percentile salary range earned between $18.53 and $22.58 an hour, while the lowest percentile earned approximately $10.58. The highest paying states in the U.S. are; Washington, California, Oregon and North Dakota, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What are the employment statistics and career outlook for pharmacy technicians?

Pharmacy techs with previous experience and training are projected to have excellent job opportunities for both full and part-time work. These job openings will be a direct result of employment growth, and also from the need to replace workers who changed careers or retired.

In 2016, pharmacy technicians held approximately 402,500 jobs in the United States, compared to 286,000 in 2006. By the year 2026, employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to increase by 12 percent, about 47,600 more technicians. This rise is significantly faster than average for many occupations, and is due primarily to the increased prescription usage by middle-age and elderly patients, in addition to, scientific advances that will bring management and treatment to various medical conditions. Unfortunately, the developing usage of drug dispensing machines will decrease the need for pharmacy technicians to some level. These progressive machines can increase pharmacy productivity by completing routine tasks performed by technicians. Some of these common duties include counting pills and dispensing them into proper containers. However, the effect of these machines on employment will be minimal due to the fact they can only be used for common medications.

Certified pharmacy technicians with formal training that are employed by large health care systems and pharmacies have the greatest chance of being promoted to an executive or managerial position, and will often train techs with less experience. Many pharmacy technicians advance into specialized positions including nuclear pharmacy and chemotherapy technicians. Some pharmacy technicians may even advance to Pharmacists with a significant amount of education and training.