A pharmacy technician works under the supervision of a certified pharmacist and assists with tasks. They make sure the labels are correct, measure doses, and mix medications when necessary. Pharmacy technicians dispense medicine and make sure everything is administered in a timely manner.
Pharmacy technicians can work in several environments. They can work in hospitals, drug stores, or general stores. Some examples of drug stores are Rite-Aid, Walgreens, or the independent pharmacies that you see in your neighborhood. More than half of all pharmacy technicians work in these types of stores. Some general stores that have pharmacies are Target and Wal-Mart.
Communication skills are an absolute must. A pharmacy technician is often dealing with people who aren’t feeling 100% and are generally not in the best of moods. It is important to remain professional and clear any concerns the customer may have. A pharmacy technician also has to frequently communicate with the supervising pharmacist in which he/she works under. The tech needs to make sure they are doing everything correctly and listening to any important information the pharmacist may relay.
Being detail oriented is also an absolute must because an incorrect label or giving the wrong dosage can have dire consequences. Pharmacy regulations are always changing and being updated, so a pharmacy technician needs to be aware of these changes and make sure they are following the new procedures and protocols. Another reason that it is important to be detail oriented is that a pharmacy technician enters data and patient information into a database. Entering the wrong info can cause issues when looking up the patients medical file or looking at their medication history and seeing an incorrect dosage. A pharmacy technician also needs math skills for some of the tasks.
Knowledge of current treatments is extremely important to have and it will set you apart from other pharmacy techs. Below is an article that goes into the different ways to treat hair loss. Having knowledge at this level will make you valuable to the customers that you interact with on a daily basis.
A pharmacy technician needs to pass a certification exam. Most states require a license. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for some study guides that have great reviews. The PTCB (Pharmacy Technician Certification Board) issues these exams. The training can be received from accredited centers or the company your work for. Training centers can be located on the American Society of Health System Pharmacist (ASHP). Even in states that do not have any license requirements, employers generally favor applicants who have obtained certification. The place that you work at will train you on the job.
If you happen to work in a hospital or pharmacy that serves nursing homes, the states will usually require a national PTCB license. Laws vary state to state so not all licenses are transferable across states. You also have to renew your license every 2 years through continuing education credits.
The work environment for a pharmacy technician is active and also physically exhausting. It involves a good amount of walking back and forth, as well as standing in one place. You will be bending and moving a lot. Sometimes you will even have to life over 50 pounds as you have to carry heavy medication bags. It also involves interacting with the other pharmacy staff and taking questions from customers. It is important to be detail orientated and knowledgeable about the various drugs. It is not as physically demanding as other jobs, but requires a great deal of mental exertion throughout the day.
Pros: This is a great job for someone who wants a flexible work schedule. It is possible to work out a 3 or 4 day schedule. This job can also be done while in school, and it is great for people who want to eventually become pharmacists. The pharmacy section of a store usually closes earlier than other sections. It also has a great sense of fulfillment since you are helping people when they are in need. The right medication can have a big impact on a person and you can directly see the value in the work you provide. The pay is also decent and there are no detrimental effects on your health since it isn’t hard on your body, and you aren’t sitting for prolonged periods of time throughout the day.
Cons: One of the main drawbacks about this career is that there is limited job mobility. A pharmacy technician can’t become a pharmacist without advanced schooling. The job may get repetitive. A pharmacy technician often deals with people who are irritated and are going through a tough time because they are sick mentally are/or physically. Mistakes can potentially be very serious. There is always a lot going on and a lot of mistakes are made as you are constantly interrupted by the phone ringing or from people or colleagues asking questions.
Total Employment: 417,720
Mean Annual Wage: $33,060
Median Annual Wage: $31,750
Top 5 Highest Paying States
Annual mean wage
Top 5 States with Highest Employment
Annual mean wage
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)
Overall this is a decent job that often offers flexible hours. It can be done part time or full time. The pay is decent and the work environment is good. There is a lot of standing but nothing that is back breaking. There are pharmacies everywhere, so regardless of where you are or move to, you will be able to find a job.
Helpful Links and References
If you are interested in the career it is highly recommend that you read this book. It gives a lot of in depth knowledge of the industry. It gives more detail on the work environment and the necessary skills that will help you in the field. It also breaks down different requirements for different states and different ways to obtain certification.
Study Guides and Aids
This book is recommended if you are serious about the test. You should pair this with one or more of the study guides below and then you should be good for the test as long as you stick to a good study schedule.
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board
You can use this site to apply for the certification or follow news about the industry.
Certain states require have stricter requirements for pharmacy technicians. You can use this site to locate training centers and other helpful links.
The course is a little pricey but you have 6 months access to the course. They also have several flexible payment options. It typically takes 3 months to complete. It is good for people who need some guidance while learning the material. Some of the things included are instructor support, all necessary textbooks, a voucher to take the PTCB exam ($129), and a free laptop. CareerStep has partnerships with CVS and Walgreens and you have the opportunity to gain some experience even before you pass your exam. CareerStep also has graduate support and will help you get a job. They will help you prep for interviews, edit your resume, and other things that will aid in securing a job.