Pharmacy Technicians: The Basics
What We Do
A pharmacy technician works closely with pharmacists in hospitals, drug and grocery stores, and other medical settings to help prepare and distribute medicines to patients. In many pharmacies, technicians:
- Screen prescription orders for accuracy and completeness;
- Prepare prescriptions--retrieve, count, pour, weigh, measure, and sometimes mix the medication;
- Perform calculations;
- Prepare medicines used to treat cancer;
- Assist in the management of investigational drug studies and;
- Use technology to help maintain accurate patient records, prepare and package medications, and place orders.
State laws decide the activities that pharmacy technicians can perform. More detailed information about the roles and responsibilities of a pharmacy technician can be found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos252.htm.
Why Become a Pharmacy Technician
Good job opportunities are expected for full-time and part-time work, especially for technicians with formal training or previous experience. Job openings for pharmacy technicians will result from the expansion of retail pharmacies and other employment settings, and from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.
- Health services are one of the largest industries in the country, with more than 11 million jobs, including the self-employed.
- About 13 percent of all wage and salary jobs created between 2000 and 2010 will be in health services.
- Nine out of 20 occupations projected to grow the fastest are concentrated in health services.
- Most jobs require less than 4 years of college education.
Pharmacy technicians are currently in very high demand and this demand is expected to continue through at least 2018. As pharmacies expand patient care services, the role of and need for pharmacy technicians will also expand.
With the appropriate amount of training and experience, pharmacy technicians may be promoted to supervisory roles, may seek specialization (e.g. oncology, nuclear pharmacy), or may pursue further education and training to become a pharmacist. Some technicians gain specialized skills in sterile products admixture, pharmacy automation, and health information systems. An ASHP survey of pharmacy practice managers in August 2009 revealed 56 percent of organizations offer career advancement opportunities for technicians. In an ASHP survey of pharmacy technicians, 81 percent indicated they expect to perform duties of a pharmacy technician for five or more years.
As a new graduate, you'll start with an entry-level pharmacy technician salary. This is typical of virtually any field—most entry-level workers are offered entry-level wages for their first jobs. The good news about pharmacy technician salaries is that they have the potential to increase dramatically as you gain experience.
The chart below shows how experience affects the average pharmacy technician salary*:
Pharmacy technicians work in hospitals, drug and grocery stores, long-term and managed care facilities, and in mail order pharmacies. Pharmacy technicians also serve in the armed forces and as part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. A technician’s work schedule may include evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. There are many opportunities for full and part-time work in both retail and hospital pharmacy settings.