Pharmacy Technician Job Description: Pharmacy technicians are responsible for receiving prescription requests, labeling bottles, and counting tablets, while aides perform administrative duties like stocking shelves, waiting on customers, and answering telephones. Technicians will also perform pharmacy aide duties in settings where aides are not employed.
Depending on state and local regulations, pharmacy technicians may process written or electronically delivered prescriptions. They may also handle requests made by phone. Verifying complete and accurate information is an important duty, as is properly preparing prescriptions. This generally entails pouring, weighing, measuring, mixing, and counting medication. After the technician prepares the prescription label and container, the medication is checked by the pharmacist before the patient receives it.
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In nursing home or hospital settings, pharmacy technicians also deliver medications to nurses or physicians and update patient records. Pharmacy aides may prepare insurance forms and maintain patient records and profiles.
Pharmacy Technician Job Summary
- Job opportunities are predicted to be good, particularly for technicians with certification or previous work experience.
- Evening, weekend, and holiday hours are standard for many technicians and aides.
- Approximately 75% of pharmacy technician and aid jobs are in a retail setting.
Work Environment for Pharmacy Technicians and Aides
Pharmacy technicians and aides work in a clean, organized, and well-lighted environment. They spend much of their time on their feet, and may be required to lift heavy boxes and climb stepladders to retrieve stock. Technicians and aides can work varying schedules, including nights, weekends, and holidays – especially when working for hospitals. Many pharmacy technicians and aides work part-time.
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Pharmacy Technician Degree Requirements and Certification
There is currently no national standard for pharmacy technician training requirements. Some states require a high school diploma or equivalent; and in most states, pharmacy technicians must be registered. Employers often prefer to hire those who have completed formal training and certification.
Pharmacy technician education programs are available through community and technical colleges, vocational schools, hospitals, and the military. Programs usually include classroom and laboratory instruction, covering topics like medical and pharmaceutical terminology and calculations, pharmacy ethics and law, pharmaceutical techniques, and pharmacy recordkeeping.
Students are also required to learn the names, actions, uses, and doses of the medications they will be working with. Depending on the program, students may participate in internships that provide hands-on experience in actual pharmacy settings. Upon completing a program, graduates usually earn a diploma, certificate, or associate’s degree in a medical specialty. Pharmacy technician programs range from six months to two years.
Pharmacy aides may enter the field with a high school diploma or equivalent, and then receive on-the-job training. A pharmacy aide job is a good first step to becoming a pharmacy technician.
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Registration requirements vary by state. Prospective pharmacy technicians should check with their state’s board of pharmacy for details. While most states do not require certification, many technicians opt to pursue it. National certification exams are administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT).
Certification can enhance applicants’ prospects for employment; some employers require it. To be eligible, candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent, and no felony convictions. Candidates for the PTCB exam must also have no drug- or pharmacy-related convictions, including misdemeanors.
Recertification every two years is standard for pharmacy technicians. It requires 20 hours of continuing education – which can be obtained through colleges, pharmacy associations, and technician training programs – within the two-year period.
Pharmacy technicians and aides should possess good customer service skills, and they need to be able to communicate clearly with colleagues, healthcare professionals, and customers. Basic math, spelling, and reading skills are also important. Technicians must be precise with details, which can sometimes be a matter of life and death.
Pharmacy Technician Salary Outlook
Pharmacy technician and aide jobs numbered about 381,200 in 2008, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 326,300 were pharmacy technicians and 54,900 were pharmacy aides. Most professionals in these fields work in retail drug or grocery stores. Others are employed by hospitals, nursing homes, assisted-living and other healthcare facilities, or online pharmacies.
Employment in this field is expected to grow faster than other occupations, due to an aging population, scientific advances that lead to new drugs, and expansion of prescription drug coverage.
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BLS surveys show that pharmacy technicians earned an average annual salary of $28,940 in May 2009, with the middle 50% earning between $23,020 and $33,820. The lowest 10% earned about $19,480, while the highest 10% earned $40,160.
For pharmacy aides, BLS records cited an average annual wages of $22,330. The middle 50% of pharmacy technicians earned wahes between $18,060 and $25,030. The lowest 10% earned salaries about $16,340, and the highest 10% earned roughly $31,040 annually.