Pharmacy technician is an entry level medical job. This article will present an overview of a pharmacy technician career, giving the basic facts and figures that anyone needs before determining if a career as a pharmacy tech is a good fit. We’ll discuss what pharmacy technicians do, any training or education required, certification requirements, current wages and job prospects, and the outlook for both of these in the future. While it will not be an exhaustive review, all the necessary basic information a person needs for an understanding of a pharmacy technician career will be presented.
A pharmacy technician works directly with licensed pharmacists in filling drug prescriptions. Some work in hospitals, but the vast majority work in drug stores or grocery stores with on-site pharmacies. Most jobs are on the day shift, but in hospitals and some stores with 24-hour pharmacies, second, third, and weekend shifts are also available. The job generally requires technicians to be on their feet for the entire shift, and there may be some lifting of fairly heavy boxes involved, as well as the use of small step ladders. There aren’t many job hazards, and the injury rate for pharmacy technicians is lower than the average for all jobs.
The most common tasks include accepting prescription drug requests from patients in person, or by fax, computer, or other electronic means from licensed doctors. In some states, techs are authorized to accept prescriptions phoned in by doctors, but because of the potential for fraud, many states ban this practice. Much of the work shift will be spent filling orders, which involves retrieving, sorting, and counting the drugs, and then putting them in bottles and labeling them. Once the order is filled, the work is passed on to the pharmacist, who must double-check and sign off on the prescription to make sure it’s been accurately filled.
Formal training is not a strict requirement; some pharmacy technicians receive on-the-job training. However, there are many training programs available, usually at trade and vocational schools, and at some community colleges. In addition, there are online study programs that make it possible to learn the skills in one’s home. While there are various training options, all of them should conclude with the prospective pharmacy tech passing the national pharmacy technician certification test, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam, or PTCB. While most states don’t require certification, almost all employers do, and finding a job without passing the PTCB will be extremely difficult.
Wages in a pharmacy technician career are surprisingly good, given the short time spent training for the necessary skills. The median wage for pharmacy techs is around $14 an hour, which means that half of them make more than this, and half make less. The majority of pharmacy technicians make between $12.50 and $17 an hour. As of this writing, job prospects are above average, and according to official government projections, should keep rising for the foreseeable future. That’s because millions of baby boomers are moving into middle age or becoming senior citizens, and these age groups use the vast majority of prescription drugs. Because of this trend, the outlook for wages and job openings is extremely positive. It’s an excellent time to pursue a pharmacy technician career.