careertrend article image
MJ_Prototype/iStock/GettyImages

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

A Bright Outlook for Your Interpersonal Skills

If you love talking to people and helping others, you might consider using your skills to become a pharmacy technician. As a pharmacy technician, you’ll have the chance to talk to customers, help dispense medications and address any concerns the customers may have. It’s a rewarding career choice in a growing market with a bright future. As an added perk, you can work part-time and still have time to spend with your children.

Job Description

A pharmacy technician is an integral person between the pharmacist and the customer, as you help both. You will collect information that is needed to fill prescriptions from customers and health professionals as well as measure the medications. Pharmacy technicians also are in charge of inventory, and they accept payments for prescriptions, enter patient information into the computer system and answer phone calls from customers. A person in this job reports directly to the pharmacist and may compound or mix medications, handle automated dispensing machinery and call physicians for prescription refills for customers.

Education Requirements

You can become a pharmacy technician with a high school diploma and on-the-job training in many pharmacies. The training provided hones your interpersonal skills with customers and provides you with information to measure or dispense medications.

However, should you decide to enroll in post-secondary education, you can learn the math skills, pharmacy laws, medication names and uses, doses of medications and dispensing techniques to get a leg up on the competition. Pharmacy technology programs are offered by vocational schools and community colleges. You’ll earn a certification after only about one year of classes, though some may take longer if you want to earn an associate’s degree.

Accreditation through the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) includes about 600 hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks.

Your particular state regulates pharmacy technicians through the state's Board of Pharmacy, which you can check for individual state regulations. Most states will require:

  • GED or high school diploma, and either a training program or formal education
  • An exam
  • Potential fees
  • Criminal background check
  • Continuing education

Your state may require that you be certified before being hired as a pharmacy technician. The organizations that offer certification are the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The PTCB requires you to have a high school diploma and pass an exam. The NHA regulations require you to be 18 years old, have a high school diploma and either complete one year of experience or have formal training.

Industry

The majority of pharmacy technicians, 52 percent, work in drug stores and pharmacies. Sixteen percent work in state, local and private hospitals, 10 percent are in general merchandise stores and 8 percent are in grocery stores.

Pharmacy technicians spend most of their time working on their feet and most work full-time; however, you can secure a part-time position at a location that is not open 24 hours a day and have extra time to spend with your kids and family.

Years of Experience

The median wage reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for pharmacy technicians is $30,920. The median wage is the middle of wages of all in a profession; half the workers earn more and half earn less. The lowest 10 percent and highest 10 percent earn less than $21,370 and more than $45,710 respectively.

Pharmacy technicians earn a reasonable wage when they start out in their careers, but the salary rises as you build experience in the field. Salaries are projected to rise steadily as a technician gains more experience:

  • 0-5 years: $25,000
  • 5-10 years: $31,000
  • 10-20 years: $34,000
  • Over 20 years: $37,000

Job Growth Trend

Employment of pharmacy technicians is reported to grow at a 12 percent rate over the next decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This rate is 5 percent faster than the average for all occupations. This makes the profession a lucrative one to secure.

Pharmacists that are now more involved in patient care and may administer vaccinations need additional help from pharmacy technicians in the workplace to manage all of the patients. Technicians need to count and fill more medications, consult with patients and interact with physicians for refills in order to take over a few of the pharmacists' duties.

As the expected age of mortality rises due to new, innovative treatments and medications for the older population, more pharmacy technicians are needed to fill prescriptions and to provide general care in the pharmacy.

The outlook is better for pharmacy technicians that secure some formal training or certifications.