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What is a Pharmacy Technician?

If you are deciding on a career, you may be wondering what is a pharmacy technician? Well, a pharmacy technician is mainly responsible for working alongside a pharmacist to dispense medications to patients.

what is a pharmacy technician

Other Job Duties

Pharmacy technicians do have other responsibilities such as:

  • Creating prescription labels
  • Verifying prescription information and dosage
  • Retrieving prescription orders
  • Selecting the proper pill bottle
  • Entering prescriptions into a database
  • Contacting physicians’ offices when questions arise over a prescription
  • Making sure the prescription is accurate
  • Making sure customers have information pamphlets about their medication such as side effects
  • Mixing certain medications
  • Answering the telephone
  • Taking inventory of over-the-counter medications
  • Rotating medications
  • Preparing insurance forms
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Using a cash register to take payment from customers
  • Greeting patients who come to the pharmacy

They are generally not allowed to advise patients when it comes to side effects and medication dosages, and will need to ask a pharmacist to consult with any customer who has such questions.

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Pharmacy technicians should:

  • Pay close attention to detail
  • Have good organization skills
  • Have good interpersonal skills
  • Have good communication skills
  • Have effective problem solving skills
  • Be dependable
  • Be a team player
  • Be able to handle busy or stressful situations

Where do Pharmacy Technicians Work?

They work in a variety of settings such as:

  • Hospitals
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Medical stores
  • Retail or mail-order pharmacies
  • Health and personal care stores

Pharmacy technicians can have either full-time or part-time hours, and depending on their employer, working nights or weekends may be required. They spend much of their day on their feet, and often have to lift heavy boxes (weighing up to fifty pounds) and climb ladders.

Education

Many pharmacy technicians can begin work in the field after obtaining a high school diploma. In this case, they earn on-the-job training as opposed to attending a pharmacy technician program. However, more and more employers are opting to hire those that have earned a diploma or certificate from a certified program. Programs are found at hospitals, vocational schools, and community colleges, and take six months to two years to complete. Students can expect both classroom and laboratory work, and general coursework includes pharmacy math, pharmacy law and ethics, dosage calculations, pharmacy keyboarding, interpretation of medication orders, and inventory management. Some programs include a clinical internship to give students real life experience working in a pharmacy before graduation. An internship has the potential to lead to permanent employment.

Certification

While certification is not required by most states, it’s a good idea for pharmacy technicians to earn certification in order to enhance their job prospects. Private organizations such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians administer national certification exams. Re-certification is required every two years, and within that period, it is necessary to obtain twenty hours of continuing education.

Job Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth for this career is expected to rise 20 percent until 2022. The increase is mainly due to the rising number of people who require prescription medication, especially the elderly population.

In 2013, pharmacy technicians earned a median annual salary of $29,650. The highest paid made $43,320 and the lowest paid earned $20,640. Salary will depend on location, experience, certification, education, and employer. The cities that pay the highest are all located in California and are: Oakland, San Jose, San Francisco, Madera, and Napa.

This career ranked #22 on the U.S. News & World Report list of “Best Healthcare Jobs.” If you would like to learn more about working as a pharmacy technician, please contact us for additional information.