The job of a pharmacy technician is to assist a pharmacist in the preparation of prescription medications for customers. He or she may receive written prescription requests or may process requests from doctors’ offices that have been sent electronically or phoned in.
Depending on state laws, a pharmacy technician may compound or mix medications and get refill authorizations from doctors. Technicians organize drug inventory and let the pharmacist know if there are any shortages.
A pharmacy technician is not the same as a pharmacy aide, although pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides (also called pharmacy assistants) both assist and are both supervised by pharmacists. Although there is an overlap between their duties, an aide performs primarily clerical tasks while a tech helps the pharmacist fill prescriptions.
Pharmacy Technician Job Duties
Pharmacy technicians are responsible for a wide range of duties:
- Maintaining inventory and ordering new supplies
- Processing prescription orders, including filling, labeling, and packaging prescriptions
- Receiving and processing prescription payments
- Verifying the accuracy of prescriptions with prescribers before filling them
- Assisting customers with insurance or billing questions
- Keeping records of all prescriptions processed, inventory levels, and other information related to the pharmacy’s operation
Pharmacy technicians have a variety of responsibilities that help ensure that pharmacists can focus on more complex tasks.
Pharmacy Technician Salary & Outlook
As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labour Statistics reports that the median annual wage for pharmacy technicians is $35,100, with the highest-earning 10% of pharmacy technicians making more than $50,430.
Job growth for pharmacy technicians is expected to be steady, with the Bureau of Labour Statistics predicting a 4% increase in employment over the next decade. As the population ages, demand for prescription medications will increase, as will the need for pharmacy technicians to fulfill these prescriptions.
Pharmacy Technician Job Requirements
The pharmacy technician position requires the following:
Education: Most pharmacy technician positions require a high school diploma or equivalent. Employers may prefer to hire applicants who have completed relevant training programs, such as a pharmacy technician certificate program.
Certification: Some employers require their pharmacy technicians to be certified, and some states also require it. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board is the most widely recognized certification program.
Experience: The amount of experience you’ll need depends on the job. Pharmacy technicians who work in retail stores may need only a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Those who work in hospitals or other healthcare facilities may need an associate’s degree or certificate from a formal training program.
Pharmacy Technician Skills
A pharmacy technician needs to have a number of different skills, including:
Patience: A pharmacy technician must be able to work with customers who are often frustrated and upset.
Grammar: Technicians must be able to write prescriptions and other documents that are free of grammatical errors.
Memory: Pharmacy technicians must remember the names of many different medications, dosages, and other information about each one.
Multitasking: Pharmacy technicians need to be able to handle multiple tasks at once, such as filling prescriptions, counting pills, answering phones, taking inventory, and restocking shelves.
Critical thinking: A pharmacy technician must make decisions quickly when faced with problems or questions from customers or doctors.
Pharmacy Technician Work Environment
Pharmacy technicians work indoors, often in a store or other retail environment. They work with people and are required to have excellent communication skills.
As a pharmacy technician, you may be exposed to contagious illnesses. You may also experience stress due to the heavy workload and time pressure, and the potential for errors in carrying out your job.
Pharmacy Technician Career Advancement
Pharmacy technicians may advance into higher-level positions within the profession. These roles, such as a Clinical Research Pharmacist, require experience in the field and a degree in pharmacy. Other opportunities include working for a pharmaceutical company or opening your own pharmacy.
As the pharmacist for a company, you’ll supervise and direct other technicians to ensure that medications are filled correctly and packaged in an appropriate way. As the owner of a pharmacy, you’ll do everything from hiring employees to managing inventory and handling stock orders.
Pharmacy Technician Trends
Here are three trends influencing how Pharmacy Technicians work. Pharmacy Technicians will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Increased Importance of Technological Skills
Technological advances have become increasingly important as healthcare systems work towards digitalization for increased efficiency, safety, and patient satisfaction. This trend is likely to increase over time as more pharmacies invest into technological upgrades such as automated filling machines or electronic medical records; pharmacy technicians should focus on developing strong technical skills so that they can handle greater responsibility with ease and confidence.
Increasing Complexity of Treatment Plans And Prescriptions
Since 2001 there has been an increase in medications available on formulary lists which requires careful monitoring when filling prescriptions due to adverse reactions between drugs that may occur if patients take certain combinations together. This increases the importance of technician’s knowledge of drug interactions as well as potential side effects related specifically around dosage amounts versus body weight versus age.
Increased Importance of Specialization
In recent years, pharmacy technicians have increasingly focused their skillsets on specific areas so that they can offer more value to employers who may only need one or two specialized employees rather than an entire team.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
1. Planning Your Career Path
Those who are passionate about the medical field may find that pharmacy tech is a good fit, especially if they enjoy working with customers. If you are considering a career as a pharmacy technician, it is important to note that the job can be quite fast-paced, so being detail-oriented and well-organized is essential.
2. Writing a Resume
In order to write a successful pharmacy technician resume, you’ll need to demonstrate your proficiency in areas that are relevant for the job. These include customer service skills, knowledge of pharmaceutical terminology and regulations, medical equipment operation, computer use and communication abilities.
You should also make sure that all of the information on your resume is accurate and up-to-date; don’t include anything irrelevant or vague. Your work history will be one of the most important parts of your application so make sure it’s as strong as possible.
3. Applying for Jobs
When looking for a job, you can set up alerts with sites like Monster.com, Indeed.com, and SimplyHired.com to have new openings delivered to your inbox. You can also use social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with other professionals in the field. Many companies may have openings that they don’t advertise externally for various reasons, so it’s always worth asking your contacts in the industry whether they know of any opportunities at their company.
4. Ace the Interview
Pharmacy techs must be well-versed in all areas of their pharmacy’s operations, so you will want to do your research ahead of time. Practice explaining how a pharmacy operates, what the purpose is for each area and how you are a part of that process.
The interviewer will also be looking for a friendly demeanor and strong customer service skills — after all, one of your main responsibilities as a pharmacy tech is dealing with customers. Be prepared to answer questions about any errors or accidents that have occurred while working there. Also remember to mention why you enjoy working in this field — it can help distinguish yourself from other candidates who may have similar experience but don’t show an interest in staying with this career long-term.