Pharmacists would have a difficult time in a world without pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists by preparing prescription medications, performing administrative duties, and providing customer service. Technicians receive prescription requests from doctors as well as patients, count pills, and label prescription bottles. In some work environments that don’t employ pharmacy aides they answer phone calls, stock shelves, and ring up sales at the point of purchase.
Pharmacy technicians receive electronic prescriptions sent by doctors, receive written requests for medications from patients, and in some states they can process those requests by phone after all the information on the prescription is verified by a pharmacist. Technicians prepare, retrieve, measure, pour, count, mix and weigh medications and then select the appropriate container and label it. They also price and file the prescription once it’s check by the pharmacist. Technicians also set-up and maintain patient profiles and prepare insurance claim forms.
There are over three hundred and twenty-six thousand pharmacy technicians employed in the healthcare industry and that number is expected to increase by over thirty-one percent over the next ten years. Seventy-five percent of these new jobs will be in the retail pharmacy industry and sixteen percent will be in hospitals. The other nine percent will be in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
The work environment in retail as well as in hospital settings is well-lit, clean, organized, and well ventilated. Most technicians spend most of their working hours on their feet and they may be required to work nights, especially if they work in a facility that’s open twenty-four hours a day. Full time as well as part time positions are available especially in retail locations.
Pharmacy Technician Schools By State
Education, Training, Qualifications, and Advancement
There are no standard training requirements for pharmacy technicians, but most employers require a high school diploma, formal training, certification, and some previous work experience. In order to function effectively as a pharmacy technician, applicants must have basic math and reading skills as well as good communication and customer service skills. Technicians must be able to focus on details and be precise under stressful conditions.
Formal training is available through vocational schools, community colleges, the military, and hospitals. Training programs can be as short as six months, but the two year program is best in terms of classroom study and laboratory training.
Students learn pharmaceutical and medical terminology, pharmacy record keeping, pharmacy calculations, pharmacy laws and ethics, and pharmacy techniques. Pharmacy terms, names, uses, actions, and doses are also part of the two year program. Some programs require an internship in a pharmacy in order to receive an associate’s degree or a diploma.
Most states don’t require pharmacy technicians to be certified, but all technicians must register with the state board of pharmacy. Even though certification is not required some employers only employ technicians that have completed the certification exam given by the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Technicians must be recertified every two years and that requires twenty hours of continuing education within the two year certification period. Ten hours of that certification can be on-the-job instruction by a pharmacist, and the other ten hours can be completed at a college, a pharmacy training program, or a pharmacy association.
Advancement opportunities are limited but some large companies do offer supervisor positions to technicians with experience. Specialty positions like nuclear pharmacy and chemotherapy technician are also available when additional training is completed. Some pharmacy technicians continue their studies and become pharmacists.
Earnings and the Job Outlook
Pharmacy technician employment is expected to increase faster than the national average according to the Bureau of labor Statistics. Job opportunities will continue to increase in hospitals, assisted living facilities, and the retail pharmacy industry. Retail stores and hospitals will hire fewer pharmacy aides over the next ten years which means pharmacy technicians will be taking over their responsibilities in these locations.*
Job openings will also develop from people leaving the work force or from workers who are transferring to another occupation. As cost cutting insurers use pharmacies as patient care centers more pharmacy technicians will be needed to assist in patient care and to fill other roles that develop due to this expansion.*
The average hourly wage for a pharmacy technician is a little under $13.50 an hour. The middle fifty percent earn between $11.00 and $16.00 an hour and the bottom ten percent earn around $9.50 an hour. The top ten percent earn over $18.50 an hour.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Pharmacy Technician Training Programs
Information about pharmacy technician certification programs is available from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, 2215 Constitution Ave. NW., Washington DC 20037-2985. Internet: http://www.ptcb.org, and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians, 2536 S. Old Hwy. 94, Suite 224, St. Charles, MO 63303. Internet: http://www.nationaltechexam.org.
A list of accredited pharmacy training programs is available from American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 7272 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814. Internet: http://www.ashp.org, and pharmacy technician career information is available through the National Pharmacy Technician Association, P.O. Box 683148, Houston, TX 77268. Internet: http://www.pharmacytechnician.org.