Pharmacy Technicians (school, programs, courses, training)

What Pharmacy Technicians Do?

Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals.


Duties

Pharmacy technicians typically do the following:
  • Collect information needed to fill a prescription from customers or health professionals
  • Measure amounts of medication for prescriptions
  • Package and label prescriptions
  • Organize inventory and alert pharmacists to any shortages of medications or supplies
  • Accept payment for prescriptions and process insurance claims
  • Enter customer or patient information, including any prescriptions taken, into a computer system
  • Answer phone calls from customers
  • Arrange for customers to speak with pharmacists if customers have questions about medications or health matters
Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists, who must review prescriptions before they are given to patients. In most states, technicians can compound or mix some medications and call physicians for prescription refill authorizations. Technicians also may need to operate automated dispensing equipment when filling prescription orders.

Work Environment

Pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies, including those found in drug, general merchandise, and grocery stores, and in hospitals. Most work full time, but many work part time.

Pharmacies and drug stores52%
Hospitals; state, local, and private17
Food and beverage stores8
General merchandise stores8
Pharmacy technicians spend most of the workday on their feet.

Work Schedules

Most pharmacy technicians work full time. Pharmacies may be open at all hours. Therefore, pharmacy technicians may have to work nights or weekends.

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and learn their duties through on-the-job training, or they may complete a postsecondary education program in pharmacy technology. Most states regulate pharmacy technicians, which is a process that may require passing an exam or completing a formal education or training program.

Education and Training

Pharmacy technicians usually need a high school diploma or equivalent and typically learn their duties through on-the-job training. The training periods vary in length and subject matter according to the employer’s requirements.
Other pharmacy technicians enter the occupation after completing postsecondary education programs in pharmacy technology. These programs are usually offered by vocational schools or community colleges. Most programs award a certificate after 1 year or less, although some programs last longer and lead to an associate’s degree. They cover a variety of subjects, such as arithmetic used in pharmacies, recordkeeping, ways of dispensing medications, and pharmacy law and ethics. Technicians also learn the names, uses, and doses of medications. Most programs also include clinical experience opportunities, in which students gain hands-on experience in a pharmacy.
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) accredits pharmacy technician programs that include at least 600 hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. In 2017, there were 309 fully accredited programs, including a few in retail drugstore chains.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states regulate pharmacy technicians in some way. Consult state Boards of Pharmacy for particular regulations. Requirements for pharmacy technicians in the states that regulate them typically include some or all of the following:
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Formal education or training program
  • Exam
  • Fees
  • Continuing education
  • Criminal background check
Some states and employers require pharmacy technicians to be certified. Even where it is not required, certification may make it easier to get a job. Many employers of pharmacy technicians will pay for employees to take the certification exam.

Pay

The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $32,700 in May 2019.
The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,740, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $48,010.
In May 2019, the median annual wages for pharmacy technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
Hospitals; state, local, and private$37,390
General merchandise stores31,450
Food and beverage stores30,640
Pharmacies and drug stores30,470
Most pharmacy technicians work full time. Pharmacies may be open at all hours. Therefore, pharmacy technicians may have to work nights or weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all occupations. Increased demand for prescription medications will lead to more demand for pharmaceutical services.
The population is aging, and older people typically use more prescription medicines than younger people. Higher rates of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, among all age groups also will lead to increased demand for prescription medications. Advances in pharmaceutical research will allow for more prescription medications to be used to fight diseases.
In addition, pharmacy technicians will be needed to take on a greater role in pharmacy operations because pharmacists are increasingly performing more patient care activities, such as giving flu shots. Technicians will need to perform tasks—such as collecting patient information, preparing more types of medications, and verifying the work of other technicians—that were previously done by pharmacists.