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Pharmacy Technician Career Guide

What is a pharmacy technician?

A pharmacy technician serves as a critical point of interaction between patients, healthcare providers, and pharmacies. Acting as a bridge, their role involves supporting licensed pharmacists to dispense prescription medications accurately and efficiently. They also offer guidance and education on medication usage, safety, and side effects.

In a retail setting, pharmacy technicians also assist with administrative tasks such as managing inventory, fielding customer queries, and processing insurance claims. Their job is essential to the smooth functioning of a pharmacy, ensuring that all patients receive their medications correctly and on time, contributing to positive health outcomes in the community they serve.

Duties and responsibilities

The primary responsibility of a pharmacy technician involves assisting the pharmacist with dispensing prescription medications. They receive and verify prescriptions from healthcare providers and prepare the correct medication in the accurate dosage for the patients. A significant aspect of their work also involves maintaining patient profiles and contacting physicians for prescription refill authorizations.

Administrative tasks also fall under their purview – they manage inventory, order and stock medications, and process insurance claims. They also handle cash registries in a retail pharmacy and interface with customers, answering their queries regarding medication or general health issues. In hospital or long-term care facilities, they may additionally prepare intravenous medications or deliver medications to nurses or physicians.

Work environment

Pharmacy technicians work mainly in pharmacies, including those located in drug, food, and general merchandise stores. They may also work in hospitals and other medical facilities. The workspace is generally clean and organized, but it can become hectic and stressful during busy periods or when dealing with medical emergencies. Technicians stand for most of their shift but all safety measures are in place to ensure their well-being.

Typical work hours

The work hours for a pharmacy technician can vary based on the setting. In a retail setting, pharmacies often open for extended hours or operate 24/7, meaning pharmacy technicians might work evenings, weekends, or holidays. In hospitals and other medical facilities that operate round the clock, shift work, including nights, weekends, and holidays, is common. Full-time, as well as part-time positions, are generally available depending on the facility’s needs and the technician’s personal schedule preferences.

How to become a pharmacy technician

This career guide section outlines the process of becoming a pharmacy technician. The key steps involve acquiring appropriate education, earning certification, and gaining hands-on experience.

Step 1: High school graduation

The starting point for those interested in this field is obtaining a high school diploma or its equivalent such as a GED. Emphasize courses in mathematics, health, and sciences as they will be valuable for further study and in the actual job itself.

Step 2: Postsecondary education

While it’s not mandatory in all states, many aspiring pharmacy technicians opt to complete a postsecondary education program. These are typically offered by vocational schools or community colleges and take about a year to complete, culminating in a certificate. Coursework usually covers anatomy, pharmaceutical mathematics, medical and pharmaceutical terminology, pharmacy law and ethics, and recordkeeping procedures. Some programs also offer internships for practical experience.

Step 3: Certification

Most employers favor pharmacy technicians who are certified. Two recognized certifying organizations are the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). For certification from the PTCB, candidates must have a high school diploma and pass an exam. For NHA certification, candidates must have a high school diploma and completed a training program or have at least one year of job experience.

Step 4: Gaining experience through internships

In most cases, there are opportunities for internships during postsecondary education. These practical experiences provide invaluable exposure to the day-to-day work of a pharmacy technician and improve the possibility of employment after completion of the course. The most effective interns gain hands-on skills, learn about medication names–both generic and brand names–and get a feel for the pace and environment of a pharmacy. Internships can be executed in different settings such as hospitals, retail and mail-order pharmacies.

Step 5: Job search

After completing the necessary education, certification, and gaining some experience, it’s time to start applying for jobs. Pharmacy technicians can work in various settings, including hospitals, retail pharmacies, nursing homes, and even online pharmacies. Tailor your resume to highlight relevant experiences and certifications. Also, draft a compelling cover letter that differentiates you from other candidates and showcases your enthusiasm for the profession.

Step 6: Continuing education

It’s important to pursue continuing education to maintain your NHA or PTCB certification. This also keeps professionals up-to-date with the latest advances and changes in the field. Both the PTCB and the NHA require recertification every two years, which includes 20 hours of CE.

How much do pharmacy technicians make?

Pharmacy technician salaries will vary by experience, industry, education, location, and organization size. Additionally, the particular responsibilities of the role undertaken can greatly impact the compensation, such as whether the technician works in a retail pharmacy or a hospital setting.

Highest paying industries

  • Outpatient Care Centers – $54,440
  • Hospitals – $51,290
  • General Merchandise Stores – $48,320
  • Health and Personal Care Stores – $44,790
  • Pharmacies and Drug Stores – $43,500

Highest paying states

  • Alaska – $48,150
  • California – $47,610
  • Washington – $44,470
  • Oregon – $43,920
  • Connecticut – $42,250

Browse pharmacy technician salary data by market

Types of pharmacy technicians

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for pharmacy technicians. This section aims to provide an overview of the various roles and specializations you may encounter or consider in the pharmacy technician profession.

Retail pharmacy technician

Working primarily in drugstore chains or grocery stores, these professionals are usually the first point of contact for patients entering a pharmacy. They aid licensed pharmacists in running the pharmacy, assist customers, and handle additional administrative tasks. If you enjoy face-to-face interaction and a fast-paced environment, this career path might be a good fit for you.

Hospital pharmacy technician

In hospitals, these individuals work alongside healthcare professionals to provide life-saving medication to patients. Tasks include preparing intravenous (IV) medications, compounding special solutions and maintaining automated dispensing systems. Chosen by those with an interest in more clinical settings, this focus requires additional knowledge and responsibility.

Long-term care pharmacy technician

Working in nursing homes, assisted living centers, and similar facilities, the focus here is on helping people over an extended period. Common tasks include assisting with medication distribution, managing drug inventory, and liaising with healthcare providers. This role may appeal to those who enjoy developing lasting relationships with patients and are genuinely interested in geriatric care.

Mail order pharmacy technician

Operating within large-scale drug distribution facilities, such technicians play a somewhat behind-the-scenes role. Involved in packing and shipping prescriptions, these professionals cater to a large volume of patients who receive their medications via mail. This specialization can suit individuals who prefer minimal patient interaction and appreciate a more logistical role.

Specialty pharmacy technician

Focused on certain conditions such as oncology, psychiatry or diabetes, this role positions technicians in a specialty practice. This path can be rewarding as it involves dealing with specific patient populations and providing specialized medication. For those who have a passion for a specific medical subfield, this specialization may be a perfect match.

Top skills for pharmacy technicians

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that will help you find success as a pharmacy technician. Since pharmacy technicians are found in many areas the technical and interpersonal skills required in each setting can differ significantly Ensuring you have multiple skillsets will help to build a career that suits your personal strengths and interests.

Pharmacological knowledge

Understanding medicines, their uses, and how they interact with each other is essential in this profession. A general knowledge of pharmacology is advantageous as it assists you in maintaining inventory, preparing orders, and consulting with pharmacists to ensure patients receive correct medication regimens.

Attention to detail

Meticulousness is vital for a pharmacy technician. Every prescription must be filled accurately and errors can have serious health implications. It’s your job to ensure each medication order is correct, labeled properly, and safely dispensed.

Computer skills

Pharmacies use computerized systems to keep track of medications, insurance details, and patient data. In addition to general computing skills, you’ll need to learn how to use these specialized pharmacy software systems effectively.

Customer service skills

Often, you’ll be the first point of contact for patients in a pharmacy. Strong customer service skills ensure you can deal with different types of individuals, handle complaints, and provide helpful and compassionate service. The ability to communicate effectively and empathetically with patients is paramount.

Mathematical skills

Mathematics is a large component of the pharmacy technician role. You’ll be required to calculate medication dosages, and proportions for compounded medications, and determine appropriate patient pricing. Basic mathematical skills are very important in this profession.

Knowledge of laws and regulations

Pharmacies are governed by a complex body of federal and state regulations. Maintaining a good understanding of these laws and following them is critical to ensure the pharmacy operates legally and ethically, and to protect the well-being of patients.

Pharmacy technician career path

As a pharmacy technician, ample scope for growth exists within the healthcare field. A typical progression route includes climbing the ranks within the pharmacy setting itself, starting from entry-level to becoming a senior pharmacy technician. However, pursuing further education and training open opportunities for roles such as pharmacy managers or pharmacists with more responsibilities and higher pay.

Job roles in the healthcare industry

With additional qualifications, a pharmacy technician can also shift to other roles within the healthcare industry. Examples include positions in healthcare administration, pharmaceutical sales, or patient care coordination. It isn’t uncommon for professionals to use the experience and knowledge gained as a technician as a springboard into these related fields.

Further education

Further education opens doorways to expanded career paths. With a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy or related fields, opportunities for roles like pharmaceutical researchers or educators become accessible. Possessing a Doctor of Pharmacy degree allows for engagement in advanced pharmacist roles. Lecturing at a university, working in a hospital setting, or operating a private practice are all options at this level.

Specialized pharmacy technician roles

Technicians with a specialized skill set or certification can progress into roles like chemo therapy technician or nuclear pharmacy technician. These roles allow for interaction with specialized medicine and treatments, offering a different dimension to a pharmacy career.

The healthcare industry is rapidly changing and offers many promising career paths. Due to ongoing advancements in medication and treatment therapies, technicians have seen a noticeable shift in their professional role. They are taking on more significant tasks than were traditionally held by pharmacists. This transformation creates a broader spectrum of opportunities for those interested in pursuing this career.

One specific trend that’s shaking the industry is the rising demand for prescription medications. As the general population ages, chronic health conditions surface, causing an increase in the need for medication therapy management. As a result, the demand for pharmacy technicians is growing as they play a crucial role in managing this surge.

Technological advancements are also critical in shaping the pharmacy technician’s job. Utilizing pharmacy management software systems has increased efficiency, leading to a shift in responsibilities. It allows these professionals to contribute greatly to patient care, as they can now assist in managing therapy plans and ensure that patients adhere to them.

Employment projections

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for pharmacy technician roles is projected to grow by 5 percent through 2031. While this is about as fast as average for all occupations, the rising demand for pharmaceutical services will lead to an increase in the number of pharmacy technicians required. This growth may be tempered slightly by increased usage of pharmacy technology and the expanding role of pharmacy aides.

Pharmacy technician career tips

Acquire necessary certification

As a pharmacy technician, it’s important to have the appropriate certification. Many states and employers require pharmacy technicians to be certified. Certifications like the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) are national certifications recognized in most states. Always examine your state’s regulations and the requirements of potential employers to select the right certification.

Get hands-on experience

Whether by volunteering, internships, or part-time work, acquiring hands-on experience is key to standing out in the field. Real-world practice dealing with prescriptions, maintaining patient records, managing inventory, and interacting with healthcare professionals can help greatly when starting your career.

Stay updated on drug information

It’s fundamental to keep updated on the latest drug information, regulations, and advancements to maintain competency and offer a high level of service. This will help you assist pharmacists more effectively, which ultimately benefits patients.

Build a professional network

Building a strong professional network is critical to advancing one’s career. Networking enables you to learn from experienced professionals, get insights about the industry’s latest trends, discover new job openings, and have a support system for guidance and advice. Consider joining the following professional associations:

  • American Association of Pharmacy Technicians (AAPT)
  • National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA)
  • Pharmacy Technician Educators Council (PTEC)

Pursue continuous learning opportunities

Maintaining one’s knowledge and skills through continuous learning is essential in this rapidly evolving field. It helps to ensure that you remain effective in your role and can enhance your career progression. Here are some strategies:

  • Attending pharmacy-related seminars and webinars
  • Participating in relevant online classes and courses
  • Reading industry publications regularly

Where the pharmacy technician jobs are

Top employers

  • CVS Health Pharmacy
  • Walgreens
  • Walmart
  • Rite Aid
  • Pfizer

Top states

  • California
  • Florida
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • Pharmacy Times Job Center


What skills help someone succeed as a pharmacy technician?

Specific skills that can aid in succeeding in this role include excellent attention to detail, strong organization skills, and good customer service. Pharmacy technicians must also have a good understanding of medical terminology, and the ability to work well under pressure.

What educational preparation is recommended for this profession?

Many pharmacy technicians learn through on-job-training, though formal education programs are also available. These programs may be found at vocational schools or community colleges and usually take a year to complete. Certain states also mandate certification for pharmacy technicians.

What is the role of a pharmacy technician in the healthcare team?

Pharmacy technicians are important in the healthcare team, and are regarded as the connection between the patient and the pharmacist. They handle tasks like medication dispensation, assisting the pharmacist, communicating with healthcare providers, and interacting with patients.

What are the potential challenges of being a pharmacy technician?

Challenges within this role can include dealing with difficult customers, managing high pressure situations, standing for long periods, and maintaining an intricate knowledge of numerous drugs and their potential interactions.

Can pharmacy technicians administer vaccines?

This largely depends on the particular state’s laws. In some places, experienced and certified pharmacy technicians are allowed to administer vaccines under the supervision of a pharmacist. It’s always best to check the regulations in your specific area.

How does a typical day in the life of a pharmacy technician look like?

The daily routine can differ based on the type and location of the pharmacy. However, typical tasks can include receiving and verifying prescriptions, preparing patient medication, interacting with patients and healthcare providers, performing inventory checks, and following health and safety regulations.

What is the importance of continuing education for a pharmacy technician?

Continuing education is vital in this profession, given the rapidly advancing field of medicine. New drugs are frequently entering the market, and healthcare regulations can change. Continuing education ensures the pharmacy technician stays updated and can provide the best patient care possible.

Is it possible to specialize as a pharmacy technician?

Yes, pharmacy technicians can specialize in areas like chemotherapy, nuclear pharmacy, or geriatric pharmacy. Specialization typically requires additional training and certification and can help a pharmacy technician advance in their career.

Do pharmacy technicians need good people skills?

Indeed, since pharmacy technicians regularly interact with customers, patients, and healthcare providers, good people skills are a must. They need to be capable of empathizing with patients, de-escalating heated situations, and understandably delivering complex information.

Is there a physical component to the job of being a pharmacy technician?

Generally, the physical demands are fairly light, though it does require long periods of standing and the occasional need to lift heavy stock. Additionally, fine motor skills are needed for counting pills and preparing medications.