If you’re interested in a healthcare job that doesn’t require years of education, becoming a pharmacy technician may be the answer. Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists to fulfill prescriptions, and they play a vital role in the healthcare system.
Job Responsibilities of a Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists with the preparation of prescriptions for patients. The specific responsibilities of pharmacy technicians vary by state as different states have different laws regarding what technicians can do. The following are their most common responsibilities:
- Fill bottles with prescribed medications; package and label prescriptions
- Organize inventory; keep a record of stock
- Enter patient information into the system
- Answer customer phone calls
- Resolve problems with insurance coverage
- Manage point-of-sale system at pharmacy
In some states, pharmacy technicians are allowed to mix medications and contact doctors for refill authorizations. Not every state gives technicians the authority to complete these tasks, though.
Where Pharmacy Technicians Work
The majority of pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies and drug stores. In most cases, these locations offer full-time positions with weekend and evening shifts.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 17 percent of pharmacy technicians work in local, state, or private hospitals. In these settings, technicians may be responsible for preparing intravenous medications and other types of prescriptions.
People who enjoy working in solitude may seek out a job as a mail-order pharmacy technician. In these settings, technicians spend less time interacting directly with patients and more time fulfilling and mailing prescription medications.
Education and Training
There are no standardized requirements to become a pharmacy technician, but you will need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Some pharmacies hire technicians with no formal training and offer on-the-job education. Others prefer to hire pharmacy technicians who have completed a training program.
Most programs can be completed in less than one year, but some people choose to complete an associate’s degree to become a pharmacy technician. Of course, additional education makes you a better candidate for the job, and it can help you earn a higher salary.
Educational programs for pharmacy technicians cover a variety of topics important in the field. Students learn about the math used in pharmacies, HIPAA and other pharmacy laws, record keeping, and other skills. You can take a pharmacy technician course online or in person. Many classes meet in the evenings or on weekends, which makes the training more accessible for full-time workers or students.
In most states, the Boards of Pharmacy regulate the hiring of pharmacy technicians. Some state boards might require technicians to take an exam, complete continuing education courses, or agree to a background check. You can consult with your state’s board to find out the specific requirements for being hired.
There are two organizations that offer certifications for pharmacy technicians. To be certified by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, you must have a high school diploma and pass an exam. To be certified by the National Healthcareer Association, you must have a high school diploma and complete a training course or a year of work experience. Not all workplaces require that their technicians be certified, but holding a certification does make you a more competitive candidate.
Most Important Skills
Becoming a pharmacy technician can be a great career option for people who are highly organized and show good attention to detail. Medications have an enormous impact on a patient’s health, so technicians must be extremely careful when dispensing, packaging, and labeling prescriptions.
Successful pharmacy technicians have strong listening and reading comprehension skills, too. They have to follow the pharmacist’s instructions, and they may have to juggle multiple tasks on busy days. Technicians should also be able to understand written documentation easily.
Most pharmacy technician jobs involve regular interaction with customers, so customer service skills are very helpful. Whether you’re speaking on the phone or face-to-face with patients or doctors, you should feel comfortable with your communication skills.
The outlook for many healthcare jobs is positive because the population is aging, and certain chronic diseases are rising. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for pharmacy technicians will grow by about 4 percent between 2019 and 2029.
The pay for pharmacy technicians varies greatly depending on your experience, level of education, and working environment. Technicians in hospitals tend to have the highest wages. The median annual wage is just over $35,000, but wages range from around $25,000 to more than $50,000.
Being a pharmacy technician is a rewarding job with a fairly low barrier to entry. It’s an excellent choice for people who are highly organized and enjoy lively and fast-paced working environments. Pharmacies and drug stores can be found in virtually every community, so there are plenty of job opportunities. If this career interests you, you can search online or in your area for pharmacy technician training courses so that you put your best foot forward when applying for jobs.