Pharmacy technicians receive prescriptions from customers and fill the prescriptions, which a supervising pharmacist then reviews. These technicians also label and price prescription containers, track inventory and provide customer service. Most pharmacy technicians work in retail drugstores, including pharmacies located in department stores and grocery stores. The career has advantages and disadvantages, and what one person may see as an advantage, someone else might see it as a disadvantage.
Advantage: Good Employment Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts employment for pharmacy technicians will be good through at least 2018, with jobs increasing by 31 percent, much faster than average for all occupations. An aging population needs more pharmaceutical products, and scientific advances continue to produce new drugs for more health conditions.
The top 25 percent of pharmacy technicians earn a median salary of over $15.80 per hour or $33,000 annually, according to the BLS. Some opportunities generally pay more. For instance, pharmacy techs working for the federal government earn an average annual salary of around $37,500. Technicians in large pharmacies or hospital pharmacies can advance to supervisory positions or specialize in dispensing medications for nuclear medicine or chemotherapy. Some pharmacy techs move into a sales career, which can be lucrative.
Advantage: Flexible Work Schedule
Because numerous pharmacies are open at all hours, pharmacy technicians have the opportunity to work flexible schedules. If you prefer to work second or third shift or work a part-time schedule, many jobs are available.
Advantage: Work Environment
The pharmacy technician's work environment is generally pleasant. Pharmacies are clean, well lighted, well ventilated and organized. If you like having contact with a variety of customers as well as having technical job duties, you may find this career enjoyable.
Disadvantage: Salary and Advancement
Pharmacy technician pay on average is not very high. The average salary in 2008, as listed by the BLS, was $13.70 per hour or $28,500 per year. The bottom 25 percent of techs on the earnings scale were making less than $22,800 annually. Advancement opportunities are limited for techs who don't work in large pharmacies.
Disadvantage: Job Requirements
Employers increasingly prefer pharmacy technicians to hold a two-semester certificate or a two-year associate degree in a pharmacy technician program, as explained by the BLS. Prospective technicians with only a high school diploma and no experience have fewer opportunities to be trained on the job. Most states require pharmacy technicians to register with the state board of pharmacy, which involves paying a fee. Some states and employers require certification by a professional organization, which involves passing an exam. These technicians must be re-certified every two years, which requires 20 hours of continuing education each time. The tech can obtain up to 10 hours of continuing education on the job.
Disadvantage: Work Schedule
Many pharmacy technicians do not work a standard daytime schedule. Pharmacies are typically open evenings and weekends, and some are open 24 hours. Techs may have schedules involving nights, weekends and holidays.
Disadvantage: Additional Job Duties
Pharmacy technicians spend most of their workday on their feet. In addition, pharmacies are generally phasing out the position of pharmacy assistant or aide and assigning those job duties to the technician. This means pharmacy techs increasingly perform administrative tasks such as answering phones, working as a cashier and stocking shelves.