Pharmacy techs are some of the most important medical technicians in the field. The job goes far beyond simply helping the pharmacist keep orders fulfilled. Pharmacy technicians are responsible for a wide array of everyday pharmacy tasks and specialized jobs. If you’ve ever considered becoming a pharmacy tech, there’s never been a better time for it. The job outlook is good, the field is growing, and our healthcare system is constantly expanding.
In this guide, we’ll cover the pharmacy technician job description, the certifications that are required, as well as information on the salary and job outlook for the field. Let’s dive in and get you started on your journey toward becoming a certified pharmacy technician!
First, let’s cover what responsibilities a pharmacy technician can expect on a daily basis working in a pharmacy. Keep in mind that depending on the pharmacy environment that you work in, your responsibilities could change. There are several options for employment, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, retail pharmacy locations, and more. We’ll cover some of the more universal responsibilities here.
- Helping the pharmacist fill prescriptions
- Tracking and managing inventory
- Following all state medical guidelines
- Following up with insurance companies
- Handling patient requests and answering questions
- Measuring medication
- Pre-packaging medication and applying correct labeling
- Maintaining a clean, safe work environment
These are some of the universal responsibilities that all pharmacy technicians share, despite their chosen work environment. You’ll need an attention to detail and a head for organization to work in this field.
Aside from acquiring your certification or degree and training in a hands-on environment, you’ll need some other skills to succeed in the field.
Attention to detail: You’ll be handling medications, which requires a serious attention to detail. The slightest miscalculation can lead to over or under-dosing, and mixing up prescriptions could be potentially life-threatening to the patient receiving the wrong medications. The bottom line? You must be vigilant and pay close attention to the smallest details as a pharmacy tech.
Organization skills: It’s no easy task to keep hundreds of medications organized, but that’s part of the job of a pharmacy technician. Keeping the pharmacy organized isn’t just a matter of cleanliness, but it’s a requirement as per state guidelines. Certain medications (controlled substances) need to be stored properly and monitored.
People skills: If you’re working in a retail environment, customer service skills will benefit you greatly. We all know that retail isn’t always the most pleasant environment, as customers can often be difficult. This is where your people skills come in handy; the ability to talk calmly and defuse situations as well as interact with patients in a professional manner.
There are essentially two options for pharmacy tech education: you can get a certification, which takes less time, or you can opt for a two-year program to get your associate’s degree. The latter is preferred and can actually open up more opportunities for employment than the former.
You’ll need to find an ASHP-certified program, as well as look into your state’s requirements. Some training requirements will differ from state-to-state, so be sure you know what path you need to take before signing up for classes. Most states will require a specific number of in-person training hours, where you’ll learn exactly what goes on in a pharmacy on a day to day basis.
Pharmacy technician schools like UMA offer this in the form of an externship. This hands-on training helps get you in the door with a reputable pharmacy should a position open up. You’ll have hands-on experience already in their environment, and they’ll have likely partnered with your school anyway to employ new graduates.
While pharmacy tech salaries will differ by state, there are still some averages to consider. A new pharmacy technician can expect to make anywhere from $13-$16 per hour, depending on the pharmacy and state it’s in. The average salary falls somewhere around $14 per hour.
Most pharmacy technicians will have access to good benefits as well, being that they’ll work for a major retail company or an established hospital. Of course, your level of experience will also play a role in your salary. Technicians with several years of experience can expect to make more around the $16-$17 per hour range, with the highest being around $19 per hour.
The healthcare system is constantly expanding to meet the demands of an increasingly unhealthy population. With heart disease being the number one killer of adults in the US, and dietary patterns that are increasingly dangerous to our health, there’s a serious burden on our healthcare system that simply can’t be met fast enough.
While this is bad for statistics, it’s good for people headed into the medical field. Each year, thousands of jobs are added, and the pharmacy tech field is expected to rise by about 7% over the next decade, with 420,000 jobs already listed in 2018.