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Pharmacy Technician Career Guide

Do you enjoy the sciences and working with people? If so, a position as a pharmacy technician may be right for you.

Working under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist, a pharmacy tech performs a wide variety of critical pharmacy-related functions. A pharmacy tech refers questions regarding medication information, prescriptions, or health matters directly to the pharmacist.

Most people in this position work in pharmacies and drugstores, but clinics and hospitals also employ in-house staff to service patients. Pharmacy technicians can also work in the military, in-home health care settings, long-term care facilities, mail-order pharmacies, managed health care organizations, and educational programs.

Sample job description

Pharmacy technicians needed at [Your Company Name!] A pharmacy technician is the middle between the client and the pharmacists. One task required in this job is filling and delivering the prescriptions to clients. This is why a basic understanding of medicine, proven from possible certification or experience in the field, is required. If you work in a hospital as a pharmacy technician, preparing and distributing medicines and IVs will be inevitable. You will speak with clients directly, collecting and entering data about them. On top of all this, it will be on your shoulders to organize, count, and prepare the inventory. Safe and effective use of medicines will be up to the pharmacy technician, ensuring clients and patients get the most out of their medicines. Depending on your location chosen with this position, your job restrictions may vary due to legal reasons. If it sounds like this is a fitting job for you, and you have confidence in your ability to complete the described tasks, then please apply.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Receive written prescription or refill requests and verify that the information is complete and accurate
  • Answer telephones, responding to questions or requests
  • Establish or maintain patient profiles, including lists of medications taken by each patient
  • Order, label, and count stock of drugs, chemicals, or supplies and enter inventory data into computer
  • Operate a cash register to accept payment from customers
  • Mix pharmaceutical preparations, according to written prescriptions
  • Compute charges for medication or equipment dispensed to hospital patients and enter data into computer

Education and experience

This position requires an associate degree in pharmaceutical technology; a bachelor’s degree is preferred. A valid state certification is also required.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Knowledge of dosage administration and measurement, chemical compounds, medical brands, etc.
  • Knowledge of medication names, actions, uses, and doses
  • Expertise in pharmacy law and medical terminology
  • Excellent verbal communication and customer-service skills
  • Experience with an online prescription system is a plus

Preferred qualifications

  • Up to date certifications proving continued education
  • 2+ years working at a pharmacy or clinic
  • Knowledge of common prescription drugs and how they are prescribed
  • Ability to work with a wide variety of prescriptions and medical needs

Typical work environment

As a pharmacy technician, you may work in a variety of health-related places. This may be a hospital, a pharmacy, care homes, patient’s homes, or GP practices. You must have communication skills to speak with clients and pharmacists, gathering the knowledge needed to thrive in your field. This includes the ability to handle upset or impatient clients. Because the healthcare field is needed day and night, expect hours to differ from a regular 9 to 5. This may include night shifts, early morning, evening, and more. If you prefer independent working with little to no human interaction, mail-order pharmacies may be a good fit. 

Typical hours

Although some pharmacy technicians work 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, many work extended hours due to pharmacies and drug stores being open at nights and on weekends.

Available certifications

Being a pharmacy requires at least a degree, and having a certification for this position can be immensely beneficial due to the technical nature of the job:

  • PTCB. If you wish to advance your career, this may be one of the best options. It is a widely recognized certification to prove your knowledge in the field. Employers will prefer the completion of this test, and some will require it.
  • ExCPT. The Exam For Certified Pharmacy Technicians is an exam designed to prove your worth in the field, possibly giving you higher pay. This exam has a higher passing rate than the PTCB and only costs $115.

Career path

The career path for this position starts by completing a formal pharmacy technician education program and earning an associate degree, diploma, or certification. Often these programs include an internship with hands-on training. A valid state certification is also required.

This path can often have opportunities for advancement based on experience and performance. Also, with increasing seniority pharmacy technicians often have more control over the hours they work.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-2052

2020 Employment419,300
Projected Employment in 2030435,900
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 4% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift16,600 increase

Americans are taking more medicine than ever before, especially prescription drugs. This upward trend in the consumption of medicine would seem to boost the need for more pharmacy techs. However, more and more consumers are buying their medications online or through mail order, which leads to fewer positions available in retail settings.

Demand for pharmacy techs in health care settings such as hospitals and clinics is likely to increase, as well as in the military, at in-home health care settings, long-term care facilities, managed health care organizations, and in educational programs.