Everything You Need to Know about Becoming a Pharmacy Technician

As the population continues to age and national health care reform takes shape, the demand for health care professionals will rise. If you pursue a career as a pharmacy technician, you can expect that demand will increase and positions will be available in pharmacies and hospitals throughout the country. The median salary range for a pharmacy technician in 2015 was around $30,000.

Job Tasks

As a pharmacy technician, you would assist pharmacists in dispensing prescription medication to clients or other health care professionals. You would be expected to gather the data needed to correctly fill prescriptions, measure medication, label prescriptions, and manage medication inventory. Additionally, you’ll be required to accept customer payments, process insurance information, and coordinate customer interactions with pharmacists when necessary.

Since more and more pharmacies are opened 24/7, you may be expected to work a schedule that could reach all hours and on all days.

Job Outlook and Security

Many societal factors will contribute to the job security of pharmacy technicians in upcoming years. The population is aging and living longer in general, and as a result, more people will develop chronic diseases or conditions that will require long-term prescription medication.

National health care reform will continue to push for more coverage for more people, driving demand for pharmaceuticals. Corporations will continue to invest in research and development, potentially discovering additional drug treatments for ailments.

As pharmacists continue to move into health care roles such as providing wellness services, you might be expected to take over tasks traditionally handled by pharmacists such as preparing medications and checking junior-level professionals’ work.

As a result, the employment of pharmacy technicians is expected to increase 9 percent between 2014 and 2024, which is more rapidly than the average for all careers.

You would be supervised by a pharmacist and the scope of your work may be limited by individual state laws. For instance, in some states, you may be allowed to mix some medications, contact doctors’ offices to obtain authorizations for prescription refills, and use automatic dispensers to complete customer orders.

If you are a pharmacy technician who works in a hospital or clinic, you might be required to prepare and dispense intravenous medications.

Education and Licensing

Most pharmacy technicians have a high school diploma, and some earn post-secondary education certificates or associate degrees. All obtain on-the-job training and experience, and most states will require you to pass an exam, obtain state certification and participate in continuing education to work as a pharmacy technician.

If you choose to enroll in a community college or a vocational school, you would take classes in math, bookkeeping, medication dispensing, and law and ethics. You would probably be required or encouraged to work at a pharmacy or hospital as part of your degree program as well.

Industry organizations such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association offer certifications to help young professionals reach their goals.

Skills and Strengths

If you have natural abilities in the following areas, you might be well suited for a career as a pharmacy technician:

  • Strong Customer Interaction Skills: If you enjoy working with lots of different people and find it rewarding to serve others, you may enjoy being a pharmacy technician. You will spend a great deal of time listening to customers, helping them obtain the correct medication, and assisting them in addressing issues with their doctors and insurance company.
  • A Love of Details: Since customers rely on doctors and pharmacists to provide the right medication in specific doses in order to treat an illness or disease, it is important that you mind the details. As a pharmacy technician, you will need to be exact in how much medication is dispensed and precise in how the medication is labeled. As you become a more senior technician, you may need to check and verify the work of someone less experienced than yourself.
  • Excellent Communication Skills: You must excel in both communicating with and listening to doctors, health care professionals, patients and insurance providers. In some cases, customers may need additional assistance or direction from the pharmacist, and it will be your job to help screen those moments and act accordingly.
  • Precise Math Abilities: Although advanced math skills are not needed, you will need to have a good handle on how math must be applied in order to dispense medication or compound orders correctly.
  • Multi-Tasking Abilities: Since you will be in a customer-facing position, you will need to be organized and have the ability to multi-task and prioritize the many questions, activities, and duties that will be going on at one time. You will need to understand how to provide good service to customers while at the same time focusing on the tasks at hand in supporting the pharmacist.

How to Find a Job

Pharmacies are located throughout cities and towns today so application opportunities can be readily available. You can check openings of major pharmaceutical chains and search by locations near your home. Online clearinghouses can also provide leads on job openings in your area. You may want to check your local hospitals, medical facilities or clinics and find out if they operate pharmacies within their facilities. Don’t forget the pharmacy locations at major super stories or grocery chains as well.

Benefits of Working as Pharmacy Technician

As you consider your career options, becoming a pharmacy technician can hold many benefits. Here are just a few to ponder:

  • Growing Field: Because health care is such a hot field overall, you’ll have more opportunities by pursuing a related career such as a pharmacy technician. There are many openings today and more expected in the future.
  • Quick Start: Unlike some fields that require years of education followed by experience, you can get started and certified in under a year in most states. Although there are always opportunities to learn more in any field, you can start working, earning and gaining experience very quickly as a pharmacy technician.
  • Doing Something Worthwhile: If it’s important to you to make a difference, a health care related career can be rewarding because you’ll be working to help others improve their health and deal with a variety of illnesses and ailments. You’ll have daily contact with people, giving you the opportunity to simply be cheerful, kind and supportive in all your tasks.
  • Flexibility: Because many pharmacies are opened around the clock, you may have some flexibility in setting your work schedule. If you are seeking a job that can be worked around education, family or other commitments, you may be able to negotiate hours that are helpful to you but unpopular with others.
  • Lots of Variety: You’ll be juggling a lot of tasks from customer interaction to working with the pharmacist and from filling prescriptions to dealing with insurance companies on the phone. You will be challenged and on your feet in a fast-paced environment.

Although many people enjoy being a pharmacy technician, it can also be a stepping stone for other health-care related careers. You will learn a great deal about many facets of health care services, which can be built upon to achieve whatever your future career aspirations may be.

Iakov Filimonov / Shutterstock.com

Suggested