Pharmacy Technician Career Overview
What We Do
Pharmacy technicians are critical members of the healthcare team and are essential to providing patients with safe and effective medication therapy. A pharmacy technician works closely with pharmacists and other healthcare professionals in diverse settings such as hospitals, clinics, and community pharmacies. Technicians perform vital functions to support the patient care efforts of the pharmacy team with roles and responsibilities that continue to expand and evolve. In many pharmacies, technicians:
- Accurately prepare and distribute patient medications;
- Perform calculations;
- Prepare sterile medicines including those used to treat cancer;
- Collect accurate patient information
- Process third party billing claims and assist with prior authorization completion;
- Work directly with patients to obtain medication histories and reconciliation;
- Assist in the management of investigational drug studies;
- Use technology to help maintain accurate patient records, medication inventory, and orders, and;
- Ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.
State laws decide the activities that pharmacy technicians can perform. Additional 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
Diverse career opportunities exist for full-time and part-time work as a pharmacy technician, especially for technicians with formal training or previous experience.
- Health services are one of the largest industries in the country, with more than 11 million jobs, including the self-employed.
- Ten out of 20 occupations projected to grow the fastest are concentrated in health services.
- Healthcare occupations are projected to grow more jobs than any other occupational groups from 2018 to 2028.
- Most jobs require less than 4 years of college education.
Pharmacy technicians are currently in very high demand and this demand is expected to continue. As pharmacies expand patient care services, the role of and need for pharmacy technicians will also grow.
Pharmacy technician employment is anticipated to develop quickly because of the growing use of medications as a treatment for patients. Additionally, a larger amount of middle-aged and elderly people — who typically use more healthcare services — will drive the need for technicians in all practice surroundings. View technician employment trends from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With the appropriate amount of training and experience, pharmacy technicians may be promoted to supervisory roles, may seek specialization (e.g., sterile compounding, informatics), or may pursue further education and training to become a pharmacist. Technicians can gain specialized skills in areas such as sterile compounding, pharmacy automation, hazardous drug management, revenue cycle management, health (including telehealth) information systems, and vaccine administration. An ASHP survey of pharmacy practice managers 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.
Technicians work similar hours that pharmacists work. These can include evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays, particularly in facilities that are open 24 hours a day such as hospitals and some community 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 hospital and community settings.
Hospitals and Health Systems
In hospitals and health systems, pharmacy technician jobs involve patient care. Pharmacy technicians in health care facilities, such as hospitals and ambulatory clinics, often have added responsibilities in addition to filling prescriptions for patients and delivering them daily. Responsibilities include preparing sterile medications, verifying the work of other technicians, and operating pharmacy automation systems. With additional training, activities may also include obtaining medication histories, facilitating transitions of care, diversion prevention, and medication assistance programs or supply chain management. Numerous advanced or specialized technician roles exist in these settings (e.g. Pharmacy Purchaser, Lead Pharmacy Technician, and Medication Reconciliation Technician). If you’re the kind of person who likes working directly with patients and other healthcare providers and being an active part of a medical team, pharmacy technician jobs in hospitals are a great choice.
Other work settings for pharmacy technicians include:
- Community Pharmacies
- Many pharmacy technician jobs are 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. 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. Technicians may establish and maintain patient profiles, as well as process insurance claims.
- Mail Order Pharmacies
- Mail order pharmacies present an opportunity to service a wider range of customers than local community pharmacies. 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.
Getting the Job
There are multiple approaches to obtain education and training to become a pharmacy technician including formal and standardized training and education programs, on-the-job training, and online courses. The following components play a role in determining your pharmacy technician opportunities and salary:
- Education Level — Having a higher level of education, such as completion of an accredited technician training program, 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 be required. Certification assures employers that your skills and knowledge meet high standards for professional practice and patient care, and your pharmacy technician salary will likely reflect this.
- Geographic Location — Where you live plays a part in determining your 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.
To support the advancement and professionalization of the technician workforce, ASHP officially launched the Pharmacy Technician Forum in 2018. Serving as the membership home for pharmacy technicians, the Forum provides diverse resources, networking opportunities, and valuable professional development. Learn more about the ASHP Pharmacy Technician Forum.