The Scoop on Pharmacy Technicians

Pharmacies are no different than any other medical outlet.

Doctors and Supervisors run the show, and all of those Doctors and Supervisors have assistants (or Technicians) who help them get their work done. Pharmacy Technicians work directly with Pharmacists in retail Pharmacies to make sure that patients get the right prescriptions at the right time. However, since 71% of jobs in this field were in retail pharmacies, that means that you also have opportunities outside the pharmacy for advancement.

What in the World Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

If you were working as a Pharmacy Technician you would get to wear the white lab coat and work behind the counter with drugs and prescriptions. You end up doing the routine, but essential, work in the Pharmacy as you receive prescriptions, verify their accuracy, count pills or measure dosages and fill the prescriptions. You might also have to deal with insurance claims, co-payments, and other clerical duties that come along with the medicine you are dispensing. In addition, you would interact with patients and coworkers, so both interpersonal skills and technical competence are required.

Your ability to dispense routine prescriptions frees up the Pharmacist to handle more complex prescriptions (mixing, cutting tablets, handling dangerous chemicals, etc.). Also, you would refer any questions from the patients to the Pharmacist. In pharmacies without Pharmacy Aides, you would take on additional tasks, like stocking shelves, paperwork, and running the cash register. This job teaches you everything you need to know about how the Pharmacy is run and is a stepping stone position that will allow you to learn a lot before (or during) Pharmacy School. In the end, your job is to learn as much as you can and make the Pharmacist's life easier.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

The training to become a Pharmacy Tech can look different from State to State. Most States do not require formal training to become a Pharmacy Technician; however that might also limit your duties on the job. If you wanted to get a job as a Pharmacy Tech, you would have to get a job where they want to train you on the job or you would want to get certified (depending on what employers are looking for in your area.)

Training programs in Pharmacy Technology are housed in vocational schools, hospitals, military outfits, and community colleges. This sort of training does not result in a degree, but gives you a certificate in Pharmacy Technology. The training will take a year (or possibly two), and you will be able to take night or day classes so that you can work around your family and social life.

Once you get your education in Pharmacy Technology, you might be required to get a license from the State Medical Board to work as a Pharmacy Tech. Check the rules for your State to see whether you need to take this step or not. Some people may want to get nationally certified from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the Institute for Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. This is not required, but it makes you look more appealing to potential employers.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Even though 71% of Pharmacy Techs work in retail pharmacies, there are other opportunities for employment. Hospitals and large health clinics usually have on-site pharmacies that need Pharmacists AND Pharmacy Techs. Moreover, nursing homes and any other sort of specialty health facility may have an on-site pharmacy where they would need Pharmacy Techs. Many of these pharmacies are open most of the day and night, so you can find a schedule to suit you.

Other Techs may want to work in laboratories in a research environment or they may want to go to Pharmacy School. This is fastest way to advance your career, since the next step in this job family is actually becoming a Pharmacist, even though research jobs and management opportunities in a retail environment offer other job paths.

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Pharmacy Technicians Overview

Pharmacy Technician Salary:$27,710
Job Prospects:B
Education after high school:0.25 years
# Employed in US:324,110
% Who work Part Time:21%
Physical Difficulty:+ + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being a Pharmacy Tech

  • The training is short (or not required at all)
  • You can all work sorts of hours
  • You can work in a retail pharmacy or in a health clinic

The Cons of being a Pharmacy Tech

  • You can only move up if you become a Pharmacist or get out of the field into management
  • You do a lot of the grunt work in the Pharmacy
  • You stay on your feet all day