|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||42,600|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.8%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||2,230|
- Pharmacy technicians may go through a one-year certification process at a vocational school or receive on-the-job training.
- Many employers prefer formal training, but it is not necessary in all states.
- Internships are often part of pharmacy technician programs.
What you study:
Because pharmacy aides must sharpen their organizational skills, programs usually focus on them as well as on pharmaceutical terminology and processing. Coursework may include:
- Pharmaceutical mathematics
- Introductory pharmacology
- Record keeping
- Chemistry for pharmacy technicians
- Pharmacy law and ethics
A quick intro into the work of pharmacy assistants. Created for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a pharmacy technician working in a local drugstore, you arrive about half an hour before the pharmacy counter opens for the morning. The pharmacist on duty is there before you, so you say hello and take a quick inventory of bottles, caps and jars as you prepare to start the work day. It's getting close to flu season, so you expect to be busy. After restocking the prescription bags and checking the label printer, it's time to open the window and greet your first customers.
Only one person has been waiting, and she's just picking up a refill on a prescription the pharmacist prepared yesterday. As you're completing her transaction, you hear an incoming fax, the first of many you'll get throughout the day. Doctors' offices and hospitals fax prescriptions to your pharmacy as a convenience for patients, and it's your job to organize them for the pharmacist. In some cases, you may also prepare the prescriptions under the pharmacist's directions.
As you expected, your day is becoming busier near lunchtime. You spend most of your morning on the phone calling in refill requests to doctors' offices, entering new prescriptions into the system and ringing up customers. At one point, the pharmacist directs you to reconstitute an antibiotic suspension while he compounds another medication; it's a common task and one you enjoy. Counting pills and pouring liquid medicines are also part of your daily work, but you've had more paperwork than preparation today.
Before lunch, you wash your hands thoroughly, something you've gotten in the habit of doing regularly because of the number of sick people who interact with you. It's as much for their protection as yours, and so are the gloves you wear while preparing medications. When you return, you have a shipment of medications to receive, record and stock. You're responsible for ensuring that every medication is accounted for and in its proper place. Organization is vital to a pharmacy.
The rest of your afternoon goes by quickly as you count and label prescriptions while your fellow pharmacy aide handles the cash register. The pharmacist relies on you to add the necessary patient precaution labels on bottles, and you have a system that makes the work go smoothly. Double-checking everything is part of your system. You've worked in the pharmacy long enough to know many common medications by sight, but you check with the pharmacist or with a reference guide if you have any questions.
As your shift ends, you give the arriving shift any information they need. Some retail pharmacies and hospital pharmacies are open 24 hours a day, but your location closes when the drugstore shuts its doors for the night. You're headed home on time.
Certifications and Licensing
Certification as a pharmacy technician is voluntary in some states and mandatory in others. Most states also have continuing education requirements to maintain certification. A background check is also part of certification in some states.
Full-time versus part-time:
Full-time and part-time work is available for pharmacy technicians. Most aides work conventional shift lengths, but as more locations offer 24-hour pharmacy service, those shifts may occur at any hour. This flexibility is useful for pharmacy assistants who prefer overnight or afternoon shifts.
Pharmacy aides work exclusively in retail pharmacies, medical centers and hospitals. Technicians usually stay in one place, although those who work in hospitals may deliver prescriptions to various locations within the hospital complex.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Pharmacy Technicians – Future pharmacy technicians will find a general overview of the job at this site. Although it is not a comprehensive guide to the profession, the Occupational Outlook Handbook does provide detailed salary information and job demand statistics in one convenient place. It is an excellent initial resource for prospective pharmacy aides.
- National Pharmacy Technician Association – As the largest professional association for pharmacy technicians, the NPTA provides an in-depth look at the profession. Visitors will find detailed information about finding accredited schools, the certification process and career advancement. The site's continuing education programs are an especially valuable resource.
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists – One of the largest professional organizations for pharmacists also welcomes pharmacy assistants. The ASHP focuses primarily on pharmacists and pharmacy aides who work in a hospital or clinical setting. Career services, continuing education and frequently updated drug information are highlights of the extensive site.