|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||353,340|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||4.3%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||16,630|
What you need: Pharmacy technicians aren't required to hold associate's or bachelor's degrees from accredited institutions. However, those who wish to pursue careers in this field will be significantly more attractive to employers after completing vocational pharmacy technician programs. Many community colleges, online universities and vocational schools offer one-year certificate programs that cover the basic responsibilities of pharmacy technicians. This minimizes the need for on-the-job training. Those who lack these educational credentials may require several weeks of intensive on-the-job training after being hired.
What you study:
There are few formal educational prerequisites for aspiring pharmacy technicians. However, those who wish to become certified should have a solid background in the following subjects:
- Basic medical law
Briefly recaps the work of pharmacy technicians. Produced for the US Dept. of Labor.
A Day in the Life
As a pharmacy technician in a drugstore pharmacy, you'll work regular shifts at varying times during the day. Assuming that most of your hours fall during the high-volume midday period, you'll arrive for your shift by 10 a.m. to handle the coming rush of customers looking to fill prescriptions on their lunch breaks. You'll greet the other employees at your drugstore and check in with the pharmacist on duty. Since he's your direct report, you must follow his instructions carefully and ensure that the facility remains error-free.
The day begins rather uneventfully. Since your drugstore receives most of its orders from the nearby medical professional building, you won't see a lot of business until late morning. By the time you start seeing customers, most doctor's offices in the area have been open for at least two hours. You're sometimes grateful for a job that doesn't get busy until lunchtime.
As business picks up, you assume your position at the cash register near the front of the pharmacy. This lets you greet new customers as they approach and answer phone calls from doctors and patients.
Throughout the course of the morning, several doctor's offices call to request that certain prescriptions be filled. You carefully take down the name of the drug, its dosage size, and the prescription's quantity and duration. To ensure that you don't misplace this information, you also enter it into your pharmacy's electronic database. After all, it's your responsibility to maintain accurate and up-to-date records of all of the prescriptions that your pharmacy issues.
By 30 minutes to noon, several customers are standing in line. You alert the pharmacist of the rush and let him take your place at the register. While it's busy, it's your job to retrieve filled prescriptions and bring them to the counter. Since your pharmacist is legally required to verify that each prescription is correct before giving it out, he'll need to take each batch of medication from you in order to finalize the transaction. You work contentedly in this manner for about an hour.
After lunchtime, it begins to slow down. You use this downtime to fill some of the prescriptions that came in earlier. Before counting and dispensing each medication, you verify the accuracy of the prescription with your pharmacist.
At around 3 p.m., the pharmacist must show you how to mix two medications with which you have little experience. You appreciate the guidance and thank him for his help. As you resume your work, you think about how nice it is to have a boss who can teach you something new every day.
You stay at work until after the pre-dinner rush has ended at around 6:30 p.m. Since you're paid by the hour, you're not particularly concerned about working a few extra hours here and there. Since your pharmacy is a 24-hour facility, you take a moment to greet your replacement technician and let her know how the day went. Finally, you bid the other drugstore employees farewell and leave.
Certifications and Licensing
Licensing and certification requirements for pharmacy technicians vary from state to state. While most states don't require these workers to receive formal certification or licenses, many employers avoid hiring non-certified technicians. In the United States, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board is the principal issuer of certifications in this field.
Although it may cost a substantial amount of money to take the certification exam, some employers include free certification as an employee benefit. Many employers agree to hire non-certified pharmacy technicians on the condition that they receive certification. Additionally, many state pharmacy boards require these workers to receive periodic continuing-education instruction through community colleges or certification organizations. Certified workers may command higher salaries and more prestigious positions in hospitals and other clinical settings.
Full-time versus part-time:
Most of these workers are paid by the hour and work more than 30 hours per week. Since many drugstores and medical clinics are open around the clock, this job may involve non-traditional shifts. However, pharmacy technicians typically have some control over their hours. This privilege usually increases with seniority: More experienced technicians may be able to work during regular business hours.
By definition, pharmacy technicians must work in on-site pharmacy environments. While most work in classic drugstores and pharmacies, some may work in larger facilities like grocery stores or big-box superstores. About one in five pharmacy techs works in clinical settings like hospitals and doctor's offices.
These four websites contain useful resources for those interested in pursuing pharmacy technician careers.
- National Pharmacy Technician Association -- An offshoot of the non-profit International Federation of Pharmacy Technicians, the NPTA offers certification, continuing education and job-search resources for existing pharmacy technicians. It also provides aspiring pharmacy techs with valuable information about the field's current and future jobs picture.
- American Medical Association -- The American Medical Association maintains a fact sheet about education requirements, job growth and potential earnings for aspiring pharmacy technicians. This primer offers a detailed snapshot of the field and provides contact information for relevant professional and educational organizations.
- Pharmacy Technician Certification Board -- In addition to providing ample study resources for pharmacy technicians who wish to take the field's official certification exam, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board also offers career resources, continuing-education information and a full job-search function.
- U.S. Department of Labor -- The U.S. Department of Labor regularly updates a comprehensive fact sheet for current and prospective pharmacy technicians. This useful primer contains information about education, certification and future job growth prospects. It also provides median salary information and a detailed snapshot of the typical technician's work environment.