Prepare for a Pharmacy Technician Career
A pharmacy technician job involves helping a licensed pharmacist fill prescriptions. But a qualified pharmacy tech needs to know much more than how to count medication.
The job role has a wide range of responsibilities.
Duties include collecting information needed to fill a prescription, packaging and labeling prescriptions and coordinating and taking payment for prescriptions.
In some states, technicians are permitted to mix medications or get prescription refill authorizations from doctors.
In addition to these tasks, pharmacy technicians are responsible for:
- Processing insurance claims
- Answering customer phone calls
- Organizing inventory
- Referring customers to a pharmacist to answer questions
Pharmacy Technician Equipment and Tools
The role of a pharmacy technician requires precision and attention to safety. To ensure customers get the right medication and the correct dosage, you'll use certain tools and equipment on the job. Here's a look at what you can expect:
- Tube-filling and crimping machines
- Lab balances
- Lab blenders and emulsifiers
- Automatic bottle filling machines
- Computer-based dispensing equipment
- Medical software
- Accounting software
|Pharmacy technicians spend the majority of their day in contact with others, either with face-to-face discussions or telephone calls.|
As the job description expands, career opportunities increase, and the outlook for employment as a pharmacy technician is very strong. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, with a large percentage of the population aging the field is expected to increase by 9 percent through 2024, which is faster than average. This means that now is an excellent time to become a pharmacy technician. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.
Our Career Center will give you advice on how to become a pharmacy tech.
- Employers generally favor pharmacy technicians who have received certificates or associate's degrees from community or technical colleges. Most programs take less than a year to complete. Read more about pharmacy tech training and find the best pharmacy technician schools.
Most schools require students to complete a certain number of clinical hours at a local medical facility or drugstore. Upon completion, you should understand how to prepare medication and help pharmacists with patient care. You'll also be well-versed in federal, state and local regulations and know how to maintain pharmacy equipment.
Your classes may include pharmacy operations, pharmacy mathematics, pharmaceutical dispensing and general medical conditions. A quality program will give you the knowledge and tools needed to take a pharmacy certification exam.
- Look for pharmacy technician programs that are accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. They give their seal of approval to programs that provide students with at least 600 hours of instruction.
Graduates from formal training programs are prepared to take the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. Read more about pharmacy technician certification.
Pharmacy technicians are employed in a number of settings.
52 percent of pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies and drug stores
13 percent work in general medical and surgical hospitals
The remaining pharmacy technician workforce can be found in general merchandise stores, grocery stores and department stores.
In some instances, pharmacy technicians work in medical facilities where they make rounds or administer intravenous medication.
Specialized pharmacy technician roles offer an exciting career opportunity. Instead of working in a medical facility or drugstore, some pharmacy techs assist with infusion services in homes or nursing facilities. Prefer to work in a variety of settings? Travel pharmacy technicians take on short-term assignments in various parts of the country. If this sounds interesting, contact a health care agency who specializes in placing pharmacy technicians.
Job titles include: Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT), Compounding Technician and Lead Pharmacy Technician.
- The need for pharmacy techs is increasing. Retailers are expanding their pharmaceutical services, and scientific advancements continue. In addition, prescription requests are likely to increase as more people in the U.S. have access to health insurance. Pharmacy technicians will also be needed as pharmacists continue to offer more direct patient care, such as administering flu shots. Read more about your pharmacy technician career.
- While starting out can be a challenge, pharmacy tech salaries have excellent potential for growth as you gain experience. Read more about pharmacy technician salaries.
Randy Brown has over a decade of experience as a pharmacy tech. He gives you the everyday ins-and-outs of the job in our interview with a pharmacy technician.
Steps to a Pharmacy Technician Career
If you want to learn how to become a pharmacy technician, here is a simple outline of what it takes:
- Find a top pharmacy tech program. Nowadays you can study online or in a classroom. Review our list of pharmacy technician schools.
- Take the pharmacy technician certification exam. Exams are given in virtually every state. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) administer certification exams. Which one should you choose? Start by reviewing each exam's prerequisites. You may be required to have work experience or formal education in order to take the test. It's also a good idea to check with your state board or local employers to see which certification is accepted.
- Interview for pharmacy tech jobs. Decide what is most important to you: salary, benefits, hours, location.
- Keep your certification current. After becoming a certified pharmacy tech, you must complete 20 hours of continuing education every two years. Employers will usually cover the cost of your continuing education.
- Once you've worked as a pharmacy technician for some time, it can be beneficial to earn certifications in specialized areas such as compounding, chemotherapy and sterile products (IV). Your additional knowledge and credentials may open doors to better job opportunities or promotions.
Pharmacy Technician Personality Traits and Skills
Becoming a pharmacy technician is a great starting point if you're considering a career as a pharmacist. It's also a fast way to enter the field as education requirements are minimal. Learn what personality traits and skills are necessary to work as a pharmacy technician.
|You are...||You should have...|
|An active listener||Excellent customer service skills|
|Organized||Time management skills|
|A clear communicator||A knack for critical thinking|
|Comfortable working with the public||Patience|
|A problem solver||Compassion|
|Dependable||Attention to detail|
|Tolerant of stress||Integrity|