Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in providing medication to pharmacy patients. They are responsible for a variety of routine tasks, such as counting tablets and labeling bottles, and refer any prescription questions to a pharmacist. They usually work in retail or mail-order pharmacies and their duties vary in accordance with State regulations. They greet customers and take written prescriptions from customers. They check to ensure the information on the prescription is accurate and complete. Then they begin preparing the order. To do this, they may retrieve, count, pour, weigh, measure, and sometimes mix medication. They create a prescription label and container, then check the prescription with a pharmacist. They may also keep patient records, prepare insurance forms, and stock inventory.
Pharmacy technicians who work in nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted-living facilities have more responsibility than those working in pharmacies. They are responsible for reading patients' charts, preparing medicine, and delivering it to patients. They may also put together a 24-hour supply of medicine for every patient in the facility. They package and label the doses separately, placing them in the patient's individual medicine cabinet where it is checked by a pharmacist before it is delivered.
Pharmacy technicians should have well-developed communication and customer service skills. They need to be alert, observant, organized, dedicated, and responsible. They must be good at following directions accurately. They should also be able to pay extremely close attention to detail.
In 2002, pharmacy technicians earned a median hourly wage of $10.70. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $7.44, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $15.82. The following shows the median annual salaries in the industries employing the highest numbers of pharmacy technicians:
- General medical and surgical hospitals -- $12.32
- Grocery stores -- $11.34
- Drugs and druggist' sundries merchant wholesalers -- $10.60
- Health and personal care stores -- $9.70
- Department stores -- $9.69
Training and Education
Employers prefer to hire applicants for pharmacy technician jobs who have competed formal training, although most employers train employees on the job. Formal training programs include courses and laboratory work in areas such as medical and pharmaceutical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy record keeping, pharmaceutical techniques, and pharmacy law and ethics. Many programs include internships that allow students to gain valuable experience working in pharmacies. Prospective employees who have experience working as an aide in a community pharmacy or volunteering in a hospital have a major advantage over their competitors. Pharmacy technicians can become voluntarily certified by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. Eligibility requirements include a high school diploma, a record free of felony convictions, and successful passing of an exam. To renew their certification every 2 years, pharmacy technicians must complete continuing education courses.
In 2002, pharmacy technicians held about 211,000 jobs. Two-thirds worked in retail pharmacies. 22% worked in hospitals.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of pharmacy technicians is expected to increase faster than the average. The population will continue to age rapidly, creating more demand for pharmaceutical products. Job opportunities will be good for full- and part-time positions. Opportunity will by best for those with experience and formal education.
For more information on becoming a pharmacy technician, please see our directory of schools offering Pharmacy Technician Training