Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technician with customer
Pharmacy technicians play an important role in the pharmacy. Learn what it takes to land a career that’s in high demand.

The idea of launching a new career can be intimidating. Whether you’re new to the job market or are thinking of making a change, you’ve undoubtedly got questions. Our guide to becoming a pharmacy technician will help you explore the field by presenting you with the educational requirements to enter the profession, the certification and licensing necessary for each state, and what you can expect to earn, all of which are introduced below.  Please let us know if you have any questions or feedback. Enjoy!

Training as a pharmacy technician can be one of the fastest ways to enter the field of pharmacology. Programs are often less than a year to complete, and can be offered in a variety of settings.

Pharmacy Technicians play a vital role in our healthcare. They work directly under a licensed pharmacist, helping to prepare and dispense prescription medication. As the number of prescribed medications grows, due in part to an aging population and  continuing medical discoveries, employment for pharmacy techs is expected to be “much faster than average” (BLS, March 2012).

What is a Pharmacy Technician?

A pharmacy technician (sometimes noted as PhT) is a healthcare professional who dispenses medication and medical devices to patients, working under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist.  They provide customer service within the pharmacy, help clients at the register, work with referring physicians’ offices and insurance companies, and perform a variety of administrative duties.  They are not able to provide advice, direction, or act in a consultative manner regarding the medications that are prescribed.

Pharmacy Technician At A Glance

  • Degree Level Requirements: Program Certificate, typically less than 1 year of classwork & internship.
  • Licensure Requirements: Licensing requirements vary by state, visit our state resource pages for state specific information.
  • Specializations: Certification available in: Sterile product preparation, Chemotherapy, Extemperaneous pharmaceutical compounding
  • Median Annual Salaries: $29,320*
  • Job Outlook: 32% growth from 2010 to 2020**

Job Description

A pharmacy tech fulfills a variety of duties in a pharmaceutical location. They may receive incoming prescriptions, fill and dispense medications, prepare labels, and take payment for filled prescriptions.

To the individual filling their prescription, the pharmacy tech is often the first person they speak with, and as such must have good customer service skills. In an industry where mistakes can have dire consequences, attention to detail is critical. They may also perform a variety of clerical duties in their workplace, such as working with physicians’ offices, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies and representatives.

Education & Licensure Requirements

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, over 80% of jurisdictions license, register, or require certification of pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy technicians are hands-on with clients and patients, and have access to confidential medical records. The work they do can directly affect the health and well-being of their clientele, and even though all work must be directly supervised by a licensed pharmacist, it is critical that the Pharmacy Techs be as educated and trained as possible.

The sensitive nature of the work they do, and the access to controlled substances that they have, means it is in the best interest of the technician, the pharmacy, the client or patient, and the state that regulatory requirements exist. While not all states have such requirements, it will benefit any job applicant to obtain at the very minimum certification in their field.

Education

The majority of pharmacy techs complete a pharmacy technician program, either at a community or technical college, or by attending a training program offered by a retail pharmacy. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) recommends that by 2015, all certified pharmacy technicians be required to complete an accredited pharmacy technician education and training program.

Training

Most employers will do on the job training with new hires, but any training that an applicant can bring to the job can help increase the likelihood of finding employment. Training for new pharmacy techs often comes in the form of a successful internship completed in the final quarter or semester of school. Networking during that internship is a great way to find employment opportunities, so take advantage of this time by performing at your best at all times.

Certification/Licensure

Most states require their PhT’s to be certified or licensed. Certification primarily comes from two different agencies: The National Healthcareer Association (NHA), and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Both are nationally recognized and accredited, and their certification is valid in all 50 states. To find out if your state requires licensure, visit the state’s Board of Pharmacy website, or our certification page for more information.

Career Expansion Opportunities

There are ways in which you can further your career opportunities, whether through ongoing training or education or by considering employers that you may not have thought of.

Employment Outlook

Jobs for pharmacy techs are expected to increase at a rate of 32% spanning the decade from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Work Setting

Approximately 75% of pharmacy techs work in a retail setting, such as a grocery store, drug store, or online. With this type of employer, good customer service skills are very important as there is a great deal of interaction between the pharmacy tech and the client.

“Job prospects should be excellent for pharmacy technicians, particularly those with formal training and those with experience in retail settings.”
– BLS**

Others work in hospital settings, nursing homes, or even the Federal Government. In a hospital or nursing home, the duties of the pharmacy tech might differ from that of a retail outlet. The administration of patient charts, delivering of medication, or the assembly of medication packets for nurses to administer might be part of the job description. No matter the duties, though, work is always checked and signed off by a licensed pharmacist.

Compare Careers In Pharmacy

Pharmacy Aide
  • Maintain and stock inventory, run cash register, perform other clerical duties.
  • Mean annual wage: $22,860 (BLS, May 2012)
  • No specific training/certification/licensure required
Pharmacy Tech
  • Performs more advanced duties. Working directly under a licensed pharmacist, the PhT is able to prepare and dispense prescriptions, along with other tasks.
  • Mean annual wage: $29,320 (BLS, May 2012)
  • Some states/employers require formal education or training programs, as well as certification or licensure
Pharmacist
  • Head of the pharmacy, able to compound and dispense drugs, as well as act in a consultative manner regarding prescribed medications.
  • Mean annual wage: $116,670 (BLS, May 2012)
  • Doctor of Pharmacy required, as well as state licensure.
  • Source Data
  • * Salary Data Provided by https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm
  • ** Job Growth Data Provided by https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-6