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Pharmacy Technician Career Overview

What We Do

A pharmacy technician works closely with pharmacists in hospitals, drug and grocery stores, and other medical settings to help prepare and distribute medicines to patients. In many pharmacies, technicians:

  • Screen prescription orders for accuracy and completeness;
  • Prepare prescriptions: retrieve, count, pour, weigh, measure, and sometimes mix the medication;
  • Perform calculations;
  • Prepare medicines used to treat cancer;
  • Perform medication reconciliation;
  • Assist in the management of investigational drug studies, and;
  • Use technology to help maintain accurate patient records, prepare and package medications, and place orders.

State laws decide the activities that pharmacy technicians can perform. More detailed information about the roles and responsibilities of a pharmacy technician can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website.

Why Become a Pharmacy Technician

Good job opportunities are expected for full-time and part-time work, especially for technicians with formal training or previous experience. Job openings for pharmacy technicians will result from the expansion of retail pharmacies and other employment settings, and from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

  • Health services are one of the largest industries in the country, with more than 11 million jobs, including the self-employed.
  • Nine out of 20 occupations projected to grow the fastest are concentrated in health services.
  • Most jobs require less than 4 years of college education.

Career Opportunities

Pharmacy technicians are currently in very high demand and this demand is expected to continue through at least 2018. As pharmacies expand patient care services, the role of and need for pharmacy technicians will also expand.

With the appropriate amount of training and experience, pharmacy technicians may be promoted to supervisory roles, may seek specialization (e.g., oncology, nuclear pharmacy), or may pursue further education and training to become a pharmacist. Some technicians gain specialized skills in sterile products admixture, pharmacy automation, and health information systems. An ASHP survey of pharmacy practice managers in August 2009 revealed 56 percent of organizations offer career advancement opportunities for technicians. In an ASHP survey of pharmacy technicians, 81 percent indicated they expect to perform duties of a pharmacy technician for five or more years.

Pharmacy technician employment is anticipated to develop quickly because of a growing use of medications as a treatment for patients. Additionally, a larger amount of middle-aged and elderly people — who typically take more prescription drugs than those that are younger — will drive the need for technicians in all practice surroundings. View technician employment trends from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hospitals and Nursing Facilities

In hospitals and nursing facilities, the pharmacy technician jobs involve patient care. Pharmacy technicians in health care facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes, often fill prescriptions for patients and deliver them on a daily basis. They also record their dosages on the patient’s chart. If you’re the kind of person who likes one-on-one personal care and being an active part of a medical team, pharmacy technician jobs in hospitals or nursing care facilities are a great choice.

Community Pharmacies/Ambulatory Care Pharmacies

There are many pharmacy technician jobs available in community pharmacies such as the ones you find in your local grocery or drug store. Working in community pharmacies means working with people. If you like an active environment where keeping customers happy and comfortable is important, pharmacy technician jobs in community pharmacies offer some great advancement opportunities.

Mail Order

Mail order pharmacies present an opportunity to service a wider range of customers than local community pharmacies. For the pharmacy technician, this translates into good pay, benefits and the possibility of a flexible work schedule. Perhaps the most solitary of the three workplaces, mail order is great if you’re looking for pharmacy technician jobs where you can work independently or behind-the-scenes.

Job Settings

Pharmacy technicians work in clean, organized, well-lighted, and well-ventilated areas. Most of their workday is spent on their feet. They may be required to lift heavy boxes or to use stepladders to retrieve supplies from high shelves.

Technicians work the same hours that pharmacists work. These may include evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays, particularly in facilities that are open 24 hours a day such as hospitals and some retail pharmacies. As their seniority increases, technicians often acquire increased control over the hours they work. There are many opportunities for part-time work in both retail and hospital settings.

How to Get Hired

There are how easy it will be to get hired and at what salary you will be paid. The following things play a role in determining your pharmacy technician opportunities:

  • Education Level — Having a higher level of education may make you a more attractive job candidate, help you advance quicker, and help you boost your pharmacy technician salary.
  • Certification — Depending on your employer, pharmacy technician certification may trump education level in qualifying you for a higher pharmacy tech salary. Certification assures employers that your skills and knowledge meet high standards for professional practice in the field, and your pharmacy technician salary will likely reflect this.
  • Geographic Location — Where you live plays a part in determining your pharmacy tech salary. Employers in your area may pay more or less than the average salary for a pharmacy technician due to the local economy and the cost of living in your city or town.
  • Type of Employer — If you work at a hospital or a large retail chain, they are often able to pay larger pharmacy technician salaries than smaller independent pharmacies.

Your First Job

Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists prepare prescription medications, provide customer service, and perform administrative duties within a pharmacy setting. Pharmacy technicians generally are responsible for receiving prescription requests, counting tablets, and labeling bottles.

Pharmacy technicians who work in retail or mail-order pharmacies have various responsibilities, depending on state rules and regulations. Technicians receive written prescription requests from patients and perform medication reconciliation. They also may receive prescriptions sent electronically from doctors’ offices, and in some states they are permitted to process requests by phone. They must verify that the information on the prescription is complete and accurate. To prepare the prescription, technicians retrieve, count, pour, weigh, measure, and sometimes mix the medication. Then they prepare the prescription labels, select the type of container, and affix the prescription and auxiliary labels to the container. Once the prescription is filled, technicians price and file the prescription, which must be checked by a pharmacist before it is given to the patient. Technicians may establish and maintain patient profiles, as well as prepare insurance claim forms. Technicians always refer any questions regarding prescriptions, drug information, or health matters to a pharmacist.

In hospitals, ambulatory care pharmacies, nursing homes, and assisted-living facilities, technicians have added responsibilities, including preparing sterile solutions and delivering medications to nurses or physicians. Technicians may also record the information about the prescribed medication onto the patient’s profile.