Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists in their job duties. Although pharmacy technicians cannot fill prescriptions without the supervision of a registered pharmacist, they perform an important job function by taking over many of the day-to-day tasks that occur in a pharmacy and free the registered pharmacists to handle situations that require their expertise.
What Do Pharmacy Technicians Do?
Pharmacy technicians perform a variety of tasks in a pharmacy setting, including talking to customers about their prescriptions and taking insurance information. They also count and measure the amounts of prescriptions in individual orders, package and label these orders, and answer calls and questions from customers. While pharmacy technicians cannot answer many specific questions about drug interactions or other medical queries, they can refer customers to the pharmacists who can answer these questions.
How Much Do Pharmacy Technicians Make?*
Pharmacy technicians in various types of jobs earned different median salaries in May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pharmacy technicians working in hospitals earned the highest salaries, with a median of $32,400. Those working in grocery stores earned $28,720, while pharmacy technicians in private pharmacies earned between $25,330 and $27,160 per year.
Where Can I Find A Job As A Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy technicians work anywhere there is a need for prescriptions to be filled and distributed. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that 54 percent of all pharmacy technicians work in privately-owned pharmacies and drug stores, while 18 percent work in hospitals and 19 percent work in grocery, merchandise, or department stores with in-house pharmacies.
The job field for pharmacy technicians is growing very quickly. The BLS estimates that the number of job opportunities for pharmacy technicians will grow by 32 percent in the next ten years; this represents a significantly higher growth rate than the average of 14 percent for all jobs combined. The majority of these jobs will be found in private pharmacies, but hospitals and clinics will also increase their number of job openings for pharmacy technicians. As employers continue to look for ways to cut costs, the trend will probably be to limit the number of registered pharmacists in any given pharmacy and hire more pharmacy technicians to take over the bulk of the everyday tasks.
How Can I Become a Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy technicians must have a high school diploma, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, although in states that require pharmacy technicians to gain certification the trend is for pharmacy technicians to complete a one-to-two year course of study to prepare for the certification exam. All pharmacy technicians must have a high school diploma or its equivalent, undergo a criminal background check, have some type of training, and, if required, take a certification exam.
The criminal background check is essential for a pharmacy technician in all states, as federal regulations apply to people working around narcotics and other drugs. Training can take place in a vocational or college setting; some large pharmacy chains have their own in-house training programs that admit likely candidates and train them on the job.
In states in which pharmacy technicians are required to be certified, continuing education is often required to renew certification.
Certification for pharmacy technicians is offered by two different organizations. In some states, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or PTCB is the governing body; other states accept certification from the National Healthcareer Association or NHA. Both organizations require a written exam to confer pharmacy technician certification.
What Should I Look For In A Pharmacy Technician Program?
One of the most important things a pharmacy technician program can do is prepare candidates for real work in a pharmacy setting, so look for pharmacy technician training programs that emphasize skills as well as theoretical knowledge. You should also look for a program that prepares you for your state’s certification examination, if your state requires this test.
A good pharmacy technician training program is accredited by a state, regional, or national agency. The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education is the most-recognized governing body for this accreditation. If your training program is not accredited, you run the risk of paying for an education that may not prepare you to pass the examination that will certify you to become a pharmacy technician in your state.
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm#tab-1)