Pharmacy Technicians


Quick Facts: Pharmacy Technicians
2017 Median Pay $31,750 per year 
$15.26 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 402,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 12% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 47,600

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Pharmacy Technicians Career, Salary and Education Information

What Pharmacy Technicians Do

Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals. They mainly work in retail pharmacies and hospitals.

pharmacy technician.jpg

pharmacy technicians

Duties of pharmacy technicians

Pharmacy technicians typically do the following:

  • Collect information needed to fill a prescription from customers or health professionals

  • Measure amounts of medication for prescriptions

  • Package and label prescriptions

  • Organize inventory and alert pharmacists to any shortages of medications or supplies

  • Accept payment for prescriptions and process insurance claims

  • Enter customer or patient information, including any prescriptions taken, into a computer system

  • Answer phone calls from customers

  • Arrange for customers to speak with pharmacists if customers have questions about medications or health matters

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists, who must review prescriptions before they are given to patients. In most states, technicians can compound or mix some medications and call physicians for prescription refill authorizations. Technicians also may need to operate automated dispensing equipment when filling prescription orders.

Pharmacy technicians working in hospitals and other medical facilities prepare a greater variety of medications, such as intravenous medications. They may make rounds in the hospital, giving medications to patients.


Work Environment for Pharmacy Technicians

Pharmacy technicians held about 402,500 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of pharmacy technicians were as follows:

Pharmacies and drug stores: 52%

Hospitals; state, local, and private: 16%

General merchandise stores: 10%

Food and beverage stores: 8%

Pharmacy technicians spend most of the workday on their feet.

Work Schedules

Most pharmacy technicians work full time. Pharmacies may be open at all hours. Therefore, pharmacy technicians may have to work nights or weekends.


How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and learn their duties through on-the-job training, or they may complete a postsecondary education program in pharmacy technology. Most states regulate pharmacy technicians, which is a process that may require passing an exam or completing a formal education or training program.

Education and Training

Pharmacy technicians usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and typically learn their duties through on-the-job training. The training periods vary in length and subject matter according to the employer’s requirements.

Other pharmacy technicians enter the occupation after completing postsecondary education programs in pharmacy technology. These programs are usually offered by vocational schools or community colleges. Most programs award a certificate after 1 year or less, although some programs last longer and lead to an associate’s degree. They cover a variety of subjects, such as arithmetic used in pharmacies, recordkeeping, ways of dispensing medications, and pharmacy law and ethics. Technicians also learn the names, uses, and doses of medications. Most programs also include clinical experience opportunities, in which students gain hands-on experience in a pharmacy.

The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) accredits pharmacy technician programs that include at least 600 hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. In 2017, there were 309 fully accredited programs, including a few in retail drugstore chains.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states regulate pharmacy technicians in some way. Consult state Boards of Pharmacy for particular regulations. Requirements for pharmacy technicians in the states that regulate them typically include some or all of the following:

  • High school diploma or GED

  • Formal education or training program

  • Exam

  • Fees

  • Continuing education

  • Criminal background check

Some states and employers require pharmacy technicians to be certified. Even where it is not required, certification may make it easier to get a job. Many employers of pharmacy technicians will pay for employees to take the certification exam.

Two organizations offer certification. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification requires a high school diploma and the passing of an exam. Applicants for the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and have completed a training program or have 1 year of work experience. Technicians must recertify every 2 years by completing 20 hours of continuing education courses.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Pharmacy technicians spend much of their time interacting with customers, so being helpful and polite is required of pharmacy technicians in a retail setting.

Detail oriented. Serious health problems can result from mistakes in filling prescriptions. Although the pharmacist is responsible for ensuring the safety of all medications dispensed, pharmacy technicians should pay attention to detail so that complications are avoided.

Listening skills. Pharmacy technicians must communicate clearly with pharmacists and doctors when taking prescription orders. When speaking with customers, technicians must listen carefully to understand customers’ needs and determine if they need to speak with a pharmacist.

Math skills. Pharmacy technicians need to have an understanding of the math concepts used in pharmacies when counting pills and compounding medications.

Organizational skills. Working as a pharmacy technician involves balancing a variety of responsibilities. Pharmacy technicians need good organizational skills to complete the work delegated by pharmacists while at the same time providing service to customers or patients.


salaries for Pharmacy Technicians

The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $31,750 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $46,980.

 

In May 2017, the median annual wages for pharmacy technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Hospitals; state, local, and private: $36,710

General merchandise stores: $31,320

Food and beverage stores: $29,860

Pharmacies and drug stores: $29,500

Most pharmacy technicians work full time. Pharmacies may be open at all hours. Therefore, pharmacy technicians may have to work nights or weekends.


Job Outlook for pharmacy technicians

Employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Several factors will lead to increased demand for prescription medications.

The population is aging, and older people typically use more prescription medicines than younger people. Higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes among all age groups also will lead to increased demand for prescription medications. Advances in pharmaceutical research will allow for more prescription medications to be used to fight diseases.

In addition, pharmacy technicians may be needed to take on a greater role in pharmacy operations because pharmacists are increasingly performing more patient care activities such as giving flu shots. Technicians will need to perform tasks such as collecting patient information, preparing more types of medications, and verifying the work of other technicians, tasks formerly done by pharmacists.

 

Employment projections data for Pharmacy Technicians, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 402,500

Projected Employment, 2026: 450,100

Change, 2016-2026: +11%, +47,600


Careers Related to pharmacy technicians

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants perform many tasks, ranging from providing patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Medical records and health information technicians, commonly referred to as health information technicians, organize and manage health information data. They ensure that the information maintains its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper files and electronic systems. They use various classification systems to code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries, and to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories.

Medical Transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists, sometimes referred to as healthcare documentation specialists, listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare workers make and convert them into written reports. They also may review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents.

Pharmacists

Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. They also may conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, oversee the medications given to patients, and provide advice on healthy lifestyles.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Dental AssistantsPostsecondary nondegree award$37,630
Medical AssistantsPostsecondary nondegree award$32,480
Medical Records and Health Information TechniciansPostsecondary nondegree award$39,180
Medical TranscriptionistsPostsecondary nondegree award$35,250
PharmacistsDoctoral or professional degree$124,170

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Pharmacy Technicians,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm