Are you considering a career as a pharmacy technician? If so, then you’ve come to the right place! In this blog post, we’ll be discussing the steps necessary to become a pharmacy technician, including educational requirements, job duties, and other tips. We’ll also look into the exciting career opportunities that a pharmacy technician can experience. With the right set of skills and knowledge, you can become a valuable asset to any pharmacy or hospital. Read on to learn more about this rewarding field.
Pharmacy technicians are responsible for handling all aspects of the prescription fulfillment process and assisting the pharmacist with day-to-day operations. Aspiring pharmacy techs can complete a one-year diploma or certification program at a pharmacy technician school or a two-year associate degree program. This career guide further provides in-depth information about pharmacy technician training, careers and job opportunities in this fast-growing field. Once they’re on the job, pharmacy technicians earn a median annual salary of $35,100 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS)
Who is a Pharmacy Technician?
A pharmacy technician is a health care professional who works alongside pharmacists to provide patient care. They are responsible for performing a variety of duties in a pharmacy, including preparing and dispensing medication, stocking shelves, accepting payments, providing customer service, and keeping records of inventory and patient information. Pharmacy technicians are an essential part of the modern healthcare system as they help pharmacists focus on more complex tasks and allow them to provide better patient care.
The scope of work for a pharmacy technician varies depending on the setting in which they work. In a retail setting, pharmacy technicians are often responsible for greeting customers, answering questions, ringing up purchases, and stocking shelves. In a hospital setting, pharmacy technicians may be responsible for more advanced tasks such as preparing and dispensing medications, entering patient information into the pharmacy computer system, and preparing sterile products.
To become a pharmacy technician, individuals typically need to complete a formal training program and pass a national certification exam. Most employers also require pharmacy technicians to be licensed in the state in which they work. The specific requirements for licensure vary from state to state, but typically include completing a formal training program and passing a national certification exam.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician, you should have excellent communication and customer service skills and knowledge of medical terminology and pharmacology. You should also be detail-oriented, organized, and able to work independently and as part of a team. With the right training and experience, pharmacy technicians can have rewarding and successful careers.
Job Duties of a Pharmacy Technician
1. Receive and verify prescriptions from patients and doctors: Pharmacy Technicians are responsible for receiving, verifying and entering prescription information into the pharmacy system. They must ensure that the prescription is accurate, complete and up-to-date before dispensing it to the patient.
2. Prepare medications and supplies: Pharmacy Technicians must prepare medications and supplies as prescribed by the pharmacist. This includes counting, measuring and mixing medications, as well as labeling and packaging the medication.
3. Maintain pharmacy inventory: It is the responsibility of the Pharmacy Technician to maintain an accurate inventory of medications and supplies. They must also ensure that all medications and supplies are stored properly and within the expiration date.
4. Answer patient questions: Pharmacy Technicians must be able to answer patient questions regarding their medications and other related topics. This includes providing information about the medication’s dosage, side effects and other information.
5. Keep patient records: Pharmacy Technicians must maintain accurate patient records, including the patient’s prescription history, allergies, medication interactions and any other relevant information.
6. Process insurance claims: Pharmacy Technicians are responsible for processing and filing insurance claims for patients. They must ensure that all required information is accurate and complete before submitting the claim.
7. Keep the pharmacy clean and organized: Pharmacy Technicians must maintain a clean and organized work environment. This includes stocking shelves, cleaning work surfaces and disposing of expired medications.
8. Assist pharmacists: Pharmacy Technicians must assist pharmacists with various tasks, such as filling prescriptions, counting tablets, pouring liquids and labeling containers.
Pharmacy Technicians are an important part of the healthcare team and play an important role in providing quality healthcare to patients. They must have a thorough knowledge of medications and be able to accurately and efficiently complete their assigned tasks. To be successful in this role, Pharmacy Technicians must be detail-oriented and possess excellent customer service and communication skills.
Career Benefits as Pharmacy Technician
A career as a Pharmacy Technician can offer a range of benefits to those looking to enter the healthcare field. Pharmacy Technicians are responsible for assisting pharmacists in preparing and dispensing medications, as well as providing customers with information on the drugs they are taking. As such, Pharmacy Technicians are an integral part of the healthcare team, and can be found working in a variety of settings, from hospitals and pharmacies to long-term care facilities.
The first benefit of a career as a Pharmacy Technician is the potential for career growth. As the healthcare industry continues to grow, so too does the demand for qualified Pharmacy Technicians. With the right experience and certifications, you can move up the ladder in your career and take on more advanced roles.
The second benefit of a career in Pharmacy Technology is the opportunity to develop a range of skills. Pharmacy Technicians must be knowledgeable in a wide range of topics, such as pharmacology, anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and pharmacy law. They must also possess excellent communication and customer service skills, as they interact with patients and other healthcare professionals on a daily basis.
The third benefit of a career as a Pharmacy Technician is the potential to earn a competitive salary. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for Pharmacy Technicians was $33,950 in 2020. The top 10 percent of earners earned more than $50,000 annually.
Finally, a career as a Pharmacy Technician can be personally rewarding. Pharmacy Technicians are often the first point of contact for patients and their families when it comes to medication information and advice. As such, Pharmacy Technicians can make a real difference in the lives of those they serve.
For those looking to enter the healthcare field, a career as a Pharmacy Technician offers a range of benefits. From the potential for career growth to the opportunity to develop a wide range of skills and the potential to earn a competitive salary, Pharmacy Technicians can play an important role in providing quality care to patients.
How to become a Pharmacy Technician
This career guide provides in-depth information about how to become a pharmacy technician, from going through the initial training to the job outlook over the next decade.
Complete a postsecondary education program (Optional)
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is the accrediting body for pharmacy technician programs. ASHP-certified programs are available at many community colleges and vocational schools. Most certificate programs can be completed within a year or less, while associate degree programs typically take two years to complete. Coursework covers technical and practical training in the following areas:
- Pharmacy law
- Pharmacy ethics
- Healthcare systems
- Medical terminology
- Pharmaceutical calculations
Complete pharmacy technician on-the-job training
Most programs allow students to gain clinical experience during their training. Depending on state laws, students may also choose to gain on-the-job training without enrolling in a postsecondary education program. Clinical experience may take the form of a structured training program at a retail drugstore that has partnered with the school. Another option is to complete hands-on training at an approved pharmacy or medical center.
Become a certified pharmacy technician
Become a specialized pharmacy technician
Some pharmacy technicians choose to work exclusively for a retail drugstore chain and will complete specialized training to serve as a general pharmacy technician, community pharmacy technician or central pharmacy operations technician, or in a similar role.
Maintain the pharmacy technician certification
Pharmacy techs need to pass a recertification exam, administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or National Healthcare Association (NHA) every two years. You need to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education before sitting for the exam. Approved continuing education activities can include seminars, workshops, conferences, college courses, and service to the credentialing agencies. As a technician you will have to document your continuing education and submit it online for verification. There’s also a biennial fee associated with recertification.
Pharmacy Technician Salary and Jobs Outlook
Becoming a pharmacy technician can be a gateway to a career as a pharmacist, nursing assistant or other medical professional. Demand for pharmacy technicians is expected to remain high for the next decade, making this career path potentially rewarding for those who wish to work in a pharmacy setting.
The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians in 2020 was $35,100, although this varies by state. The bottom 10% of earners make less than $25,400 per year, while the highest 10% earn more than $50,430.
Pharmacy technicians in California, Alaska, Washington, District of Columbia, and Oregon are the highest earners, on average. The BLS reports that the highest-paying positions are available with outpatient care centers, the federal government, and colleges and universities. Pharmacy techs that work in food and beverage stores and health and personal care stores typically make lower annual wages.
What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?
Pharmacy technicians work under the direction of a licensed pharmacist to dispense medication and provide information to customers. Pharmacy technicians typically work behind a pharmacy counter at a drugstore, grocery store, hospital, nursing home or other medical facility. This position involves working with pharmacists, patients and occasionally with pharmaceutical reps.
Types of Pharmacy Technician Programs
Diploma and Certificate Programs
A pharmacy technician diploma or certificate program can be completed in one year or less and provides the basic education and training needed to sit for the Certified Pharmacy Technician exam. These programs introduce students to basic concepts in pharmaceutical technology, record keeping, pharmacy law and ethics, and pharmacology. They typically include a combination of classroom learning and lab training so that students learn how to dispense medication, prepare sterile products, and manage prescription orders.
Graduates of a one-year program can apply for entry-level positions at drugstores, hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, or with mail-order pharmacy companies. Pharmacy tech certification programs typically require students to complete an externship at an approved pharmaceutical facility, hospital or retail pharmacy.
Students interested in a more comprehensive educational experience can enroll in a pharmacy technician associate degree program. Although a degree is not required to apply for entry-level positions, some students choose to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree so they can advance in their careers and apply for jobs as a compounding lab technician, pharmacy service technician, pharmacy implementation specialist or similar roles. Earning an associate degree can also help a student prepare for a Bachelor of Pharmacy or a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
The comprehensive two-year program covers topics in pharmacy operations, pharmacology and advanced administration, and may include an externship component. Students take a series of general courses in mathematics, science, psychology, humanities, and English, in addition to pharmacy- and medical-specific courses to fulfill degree requirements. Graduates of this program can process medication orders, have extensive knowledge about pharmacy law as it applies to filling prescriptions, and demonstrate fundamental knowledge of medical terminology.
Even after completing an associate degree, graduates will have to stay current with changes occurring in the industry or with particular pharmaceutical companies, since new drugs and generic brands are always entering the market. Additionally, they should have cultivated the following skills:
Attention to detail
Pharmacy technicians’ primary responsibility is dispensing prescription medication, which requires great attention to detail. Pharmacy techs must be able to measure, mix, dose and dispense appropriate amounts of medication based on the pharmacist’s orders. They may also be involved with data entry tasks to update patient records and fill prescription orders.
Sometimes, pharmacy technicians will need to read and interpret pharmaceutical literature and prescription information. They need to be knowledgeable about pharmaceutical and medical terms and, in some cases, translate information for the customer’s benefit.
Outstanding customer service
Even though it is not pharmacy technicians’ responsibility to provide medical advice, they will be responsible for interacting with customers when dispensing medication. They must have basic customer service skills to ensure they are providing customers with the correct prescriptions, contact customers to advise them that the prescription is ready and follow up with any inquiries customers may have about their order.
Pharmacy technicians can work in a variety of settings. Some settings, such as retail drugstores and grocery store pharmacies, may be busier than others on a daily basis. Pharmacy technicians, therefore, must be able to handle different types of customers, work with great precision under pressure and keep everything organized behind the counter.
Finding Online Pharmacy Technician Programs
Even though pharmacy tech certification and degree programs require hands-on training, some general coursework can be completed online. Many accredited schools offer online pharmacy tech programs that make it easier for a student taking care of a family or working a full-time job to complete their education. Here are some things to look for when exploring online pharmacy technician schools:
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the Commission on Credentialing (COC) accredit pharmacy technician training programs in the United States. Enrolling in an accredited program ensures the program maintains a high standard of quality and complies with the accrediting institution’s requirements.
Hands-on Training Opportunities
Since most certification and degree programs for pharmacy technicians require hands-on training through an externship or similar training, it’s important to determine what types of partnerships the school has secured for externships. Some schools offer externship placement as a courtesy to students, while others require students to seek out and apply for training on their own. In either situation, students are typically responsible for organizing their own transportation to the pharmacy, lab or other approved facility to complete this component of the program.
Certification is not required in some states, but most employers prefer pharmacy techs to be certified. An online pharmacy tech certification program needs to provide comprehensive training to prepare a student to sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam. Those interested in National Health career Association (NHA) certification must have at least one year of work experience, which can be acquired through an externship program offered by the school.
Pharmacy Technician Credentials
In addition to becoming a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT), pharmacy techs can acquire other certifications that allow them to explore attractive job opportunities. Options include:
- Sterile Products (IV) Certification
- Certified Pharmaceutical Industry Professional
- Chemotherapy Certification
- Compounding Certification
- Nuclear Pharmacy Technician (NPT) Training
Skills of a Successful Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy techs must have strong attention to detail, as the majority of their daily tasks involve measuring, dosing and dispensing prescription medication according to very specific orders. They must also have good written and verbal communication skills to communicate effectively with the pharmacists they work with, patients, and medical professionals or medical representatives they come into contact with.
Pharmacy technicians must take the lead in educating themselves on drug information and any major changes occurring in the industry. They may be required to read about drug studies, review pharmaceutical literature or produce reports about different prescription medications and dispensing activities. Since many work in busy retail drugstores or emergency rooms, they must also have strong organizational skills and be able to work in a fast-paced environment without making mistakes.
Pharmacy Technician Tools and Technologies
Pharmacy technicians are typically trained in all medical software programs used by the pharmacy so that they can fill prescription orders accurately, manage patient billing information and coordinate patient communications in a timely manner. Most become proficient in the following types of software programs:
- Accounting software for medical billing and reimbursement
- Database software to check for drug compatibility
- Inventory management software, such as Cardinal Health Pyxis CII Safe
- Label-making software
- Medical software covering a variety of areas, including patient records and prescription processing
Becoming a pharmacy technician can be a great career choice for those looking to work in the medical field. Pharmacy technicians must complete a formal education program, pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam, and obtain a state license, if required. With the right education, experience, and certification, pharmacy technicians can find exciting and rewarding job opportunities in a variety of settings. With hard work and dedication, pharmacy technicians can enjoy long–term stability and job satisfaction. Having the right skills, pharmacy technicians can open the door to many career options in the medical field.