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Pharmacy Technician Career

Career Description

A Pharmacy Technician helps licensed Pharmacists provide medication and other health care products to patients. Technicians usually perform routine tasks to help prepare prescribed medication, such as counting tablets and labeling bottles.  They also perform administrative duties, such as answering phones, stocking shelves, and operating cash registers.

Common Work Tasks

  • Receive written prescriptions or requests for prescription refills from patients
  • Verify that information on the prescription is complete and accurate
  • Retrieve, count, pour, weigh, measure, and sometimes mix the medication
  • Prepare the prescription labels, select the type of prescription container, and affix the prescription and auxiliary labels to the container
  • Price and file the prescription, which must be checked by a pharmacist before it is given to the patient
  • Establish and maintain patient profiles, prepare insurance claim forms, and stock and take inventory of prescription and over-the-counter medications
  • Read patients’ charts and prepare the appropriate medication
  • Copy the information about the prescribed medication onto the patient’s profile
  • Assemble a 24-hour supply of medicine for every patient and package and label each dose separately
  • Answer telephones, handle money, stock shelves,  and perform other clerical duties

Other Job Titles

Pharmacy Technicians are also known by other titles,  including:

  • Pharmacy Aides
  • Pharmacists
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Internists

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
 
Although most pharmacy technicians receive informal on-the-job training, employers favor those who have completed formal training and certification. However, there are currently few State and no Federal requirements for formal training or certification of pharmacy technicians. Employers who have insufficient resources to give on-the-job training often seek formally educated pharmacy technicians. Formal education programs and certification emphasize the technician’s interest in and dedication to the work. In addition to the military, some hospitals, proprietary schools, vocational or technical colleges, and community colleges offer formal education programs.

Certification and Licensure
     
Two organizations, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians, administer national certification examinations. Certification is voluntary in most States, but is required by some States and employers. Some technicians are hired without formal training, but under the condition that they obtain certification within a specified period of time. To be eligible for either exam, candidates must have a high school diploma or GED, no felony convictions of any kind within 5 years of applying, and no drug or pharmacy related felony convictions at any point. Employers, often pharmacists, know that individuals who pass the exam have a standardized body of knowledge and skills. Many employers also will reimburse the costs of the exam.

Experience
  Strong customer service and teamwork skills are needed because pharmacy technicians interact with patients, coworkers, and health care professionals. Mathematics,  spelling, and reading skills also are important. Successful pharmacy technicians are alert, observant, organized, dedicated, and responsible. They should be willing and able to take directions, but be able to work independently without constant instruction. They must be precise; details are sometimes a matter of life and death. Candidates interested in becoming pharmacy technicians cannot have prior records of drug or substance abuse.

Salary

The median annual salary for a Pharmacy Technician is $26,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $38,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $19,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of pharmacy technicians are:

  • Health and Personal Care Stores - $26,150
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals- $30,950
  • Grocery Stores - $27,700
  • Department Stores - $25,230
  • Other General Merchandise Stores - $25,840

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  32%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 91,000
  • Employment 2006 : 285,000
  • Employment 2016:  376,000
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