If you’ve ever filled a medical prescription at your local drug store, chances are you’ve interacted with a pharmacy technician. It is a well-known fact that pharmacists prescribe and dispense prescription drugs, and they can be the best source of information regarding a drug and its side effects. What many people might not realize is that pharmacists often require the help of pharmacy technicians or aides throughout the work day.
Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in a variety of capacities, including counting pills and performing clerical work, such as answering phones and providing customer service. Pharmacists may guide technicians through sorting, weighing, and mixing prescriptions. Technicians must refer any questions about drugs or drug interactions to a pharmacist, and all prescriptions must be inspected by the pharmacist before they are given to a patient.
For the most part, pharmacy technicians process prescription requests from doctors, clinics, and hospitals. They label prescription bottles and fill orders with the correct drug and dosage. Technicians also are responsible for processing insurance claims and ensuring proper payment is received for the prescriptions.
Pharmacy technicians are on their feet for the majority of the work day, and are expected to climb stepladders and lift heavy boxes. Because the job can be physically demanding, many positions are just part-time. Jobs at 24-hour care facilities, like clinics or nursing homes, may include some night shifts. Approximately 75 percent of pharmacy technicians work in retail positions, including pharmacies at local drug stores or supermarkets. The other 25 percent work in hospitals, clinics, or nursing homes. In clinical positions, pharmacy technicians may also be expected to deliver medicines directly to patients and assist them with taking the correct dose.
Education & Licensing
Some pharmacy technician positions require only a high school degree, with on-the-job training to gain a certification. However, many positions require at least some formal training.
Pharmacy technician programs can be found at community colleges or on the Internet at online schools. These programs can take six months to two years to complete. After school, some technicians choose to become certified through a national pharmacy technician training program. This is usually not required, but it does make a candidate more desirable.
Pharmacy technicians must be licensed by their state, and renew their qualifications every two years with 20 hours of continuing education. In some states, half of this requirement can be accomplished with on-the-job training, and the other half can be gained through classes at local community colleges or pharmacy associations.
Some technicians choose to take continuing education in a specific field, like chemotherapy technician training. With these classes, pharmacy technicians can work in a more specific field, or become a supervisor. Because of the increasing number of aging patients, pharmacy jobs are expected to increase 25 percent over the next decade, which is much faster than average job growth expectations.
Characteristics & Expectations
Pharmacy technicians earn an hourly salary, which on average is $13 per hour. The average annual salary for a technician is $30,000. Because of the high demand for medical care in all areas of the nation, pharmacy technician positions can be found throughout the country.
Good pharmacy technicians are cool-headed and precise. Prescription drugs can be extremely harmful in the wrong doses, and technicians must be extremely careful when filling prescriptions. They also should have good customer service skills, considering they not only deal with people on a regular basis, but sick people who may not have much patience. Also, Pharmacy technicians must have strong math and spelling skills in order to properly fill prescriptions.