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WHAT DOES a PHARMACY TECHNICIAN DO

WHAT DOES A PHARMACY TECHNICIAN DO?
PHARMACY TECHNICIAN JOBS: THE BASICS
Pharmacy technicians work under the direction of a licensed pharmacist to dispense medication and
provide information to customers. Pharmacy technicians typically work behind a pharmacy counter at
a drugstore, grocery store, hospital, nursing home or other medical facility. This position involves
working with pharmacists, patients and occasionally with pharmaceutical reps.
PHARMACY TECHNICIAN JOBS: IN-DEPTH
Most technicians are certified — the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) is earned by passing the
Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) — and have completed several hundred hours of onthe-job training in order to be able to work with different prescription drugs, understand pharmacy
operations and protocol, and abide by ethical standards. Basic job duties include dosing medications
and filling prescription orders, taking care of administrative tasks, and handling basic customer service
duties at the counter. Some pharmacy techs lead a team of pharmacy staff members as a lead
pharmacy technician. Others may be responsible for managing supply and inventory or providing
pertinent information to other healthcare professionals.
PHARMACY TECH EARNINGS AND JOB OUTLOOK
Pharmacy Technician Salaries
Becoming a pharmacy technician can be a gateway to a career as a pharmacist, nursing assistant or
other medical professional. Demand for pharmacy technicians is expected to remain high for the next
decade, making this career path potentially rewarding for those who wish to work in a pharmacy
setting.
The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians in 2014 was $29,810, although this varies by state.

Pharmacy technicians in Washington, Alaska, California, Hawaii and Oregon are the highest earners, on
average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the highest-paying positions are available with
federal, state and local government agencies, outpatient care centers, and scientific research and
development organizations. Pharmacy techs that work in department stores and health and personal
care stores typically make lower annual wages.
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Pharmacy Technician and Related Job Salaries


Select a state:

alaska



Select City 1:

ANCHORAGE




Select City 2:

FAIRBANKS





10th Perc…50th Perc…90th Perc…AnchorageFairbanks$20,000$30,000$40,000$50,000$60,000
City

10th
Percentil
e

50th
Percentil

e

90th
Percentil
e

Anchorag
e

$28,270

$39,700

$53,250

Fairbanks

$28,100

$38,380

$48,670

ANCHORAGE 2012 MEAN PAY$39,970 per year$19.22 per hour
FAIRBANKS 2012 MEAN PAY$38,880 per year$18.69 per hour
Pharmacy Technician Job Projections
Job growth for pharmacy technicians is expected to be roughly 20 percent from 2012 through 2022,
much faster than the average for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Demand
for experienced and skilled pharmacy technicians is expected to stay strong as consumers live longer
and increasingly turn to pharmacists for prescription medication to manage chronic diseases and take
care of aging-related health issues.
The following states are projected to expand their pharmacy tech job openings the most by 2022:


1

32%Idaho


2

30%Utah


3

30%Colorado


4


28%Texas


5

26%Tennessee


6

25%Georgia


7

24%Florida


8

23%North Carolina


9

22%Arizona


10

22%Kentucky


Select a state:

Alabama



Employed Pharmacy Technicians

Employed Pharmacy Technicians6,0006,6007,2007,8008,400202020108,2606,560
Year

Jobs

2020 8,260
2010 6,560
2.33%Average Annual Job Growth285Annual Job Openings


STEPS TO BECOMING A PHARMACY TECHNICIAN
1
COMPLETE A POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION PROGRAM (OPTIONAL)
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) is the accrediting body for pharmacy
technician programs. ASHP-certified programs are available at many community colleges and
vocational schools. Most certificate programs can be completed within a year or less, while associate
degree programs typically take two years to complete. Coursework covers technical and practical
training in the following areas:


Pharmacy law



Pharmacology



Pharmacy ethics



Anatomy



Healthcare systems



Physiology



Medical terminology



Pharmaceutical calculations

SCHOOL NAME
Penn Foster
Pharmacy Technician
Unitek College
Pharmacy Technician
Milan Institute
Pharmacy Technician

MORE INFORMATION

Request Information

Request Information

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2
COMPLETE ON-THE-JOB TRAINING
Most programs allow students to gain clinical experience during their training. Depending on state
laws, students may also choose to gain on-the-job training without enrolling in a postsecondary
education program. Clinical experience may take the form of a structured training program at a retail


drugstore that has partnered with the school. Another option is to complete hands-on training at an
approved pharmacy or medical center.
3
BECOME CERTIFIED
Some states require pharmacy technicians to become certified. Even in states where certification is not
required, most employers will only hire pharmacy techs who are certified by the Pharmacy Technician
Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA).
The PTCB requires applicants to pass an exam, while the NHA requires students to complete a training
program or have at least one year of experience working as a technician. Both organizations require
applicants to have a high school diploma.
4
BECOME SPECIALIZED
Some pharmacy technicians choose to work exclusively for a retail drugstore chain and will complete
specialized training to serve as a general pharmacy technician, community pharmacy technician or
central pharmacy operations technician, or in a similar role.
5
MAINTAIN CERTIFICATION
Pharmacy techs need to pass a recertification exam every two years. They need to complete at least 20
hours of continuing education before sitting for the recertification exam.
TYPES OF PHARMACY TECHNICIAN PROGRAMS
Diploma and Certificate Programs
A pharmacy technician diploma or certificate program can be completed in one year or less and
provides the basic education and training needed to sit for the Certified Pharmacy Technician exam.
These programs introduce students to basic concepts in pharmaceutical technology, record keeping,
pharmacy law and ethics, and pharmacology. They typically include a combination of classroom
learning and lab training so that students learn how to dispense medication, prepare sterile products,
and manage prescription orders.
Graduates of a one-year program can apply for entry-level positions at drugstores, hospitals, nursing
homes and assisted living facilities, or with mail-order pharmacy companies. Pharmacy tech
certification programs typically require students to complete an externship at an approved
pharmaceutical facility, hospital or retail pharmacy.
Examples of courses available in pharmacy technician diploma and certificate programs include:
INTRODUCTION TO PHARMACY
This course introduces students to pharmacy practices and terminology.


Skills & Knowledge Gained


Pharmacy and medical terms



Basic pharmacy operations

DOSAGE FORMS AND ROUTES OF ADMINISTRATION
Students gain an understanding of how medications interact in the body after administration and how
to use basic mathematic principles for dosing.
Skills & Knowledge Gained


Administration of medication



Basic measurement systems and best practices



Mathematical techniques and methodologies used in pharmacies

SCIENCE OF PHARMACOLOGY
This class covers the process by which drugs are approved for general use, as well as drug
administration issues for patients.
Skills & Knowledge Gained


Drug approval process



Drug administration processes for individual patients


HOSPITAL PHARMACY PRACTICE
This course details basic pharmacy operations in a hospital setting.
Skills & Knowledge Gained


Hospital pharmacy operations



Basic guidelines for working in a hospital setting



Role of the pharmacy technician in a hospital setting

PHARMACY ETHICS
Students are introduced to the laws and ethics governing pharmacy practice.
Skills & Knowledge Gained


Modern laws governing pharmacy and pharmacology practices in the United States



Ethical considerations for different customer situations



Pharmacy technician codes of conduct


Associate Degrees
Students interested in a more comprehensive educational experience can enroll in a pharmacy
technician associate degree program. Although a degree is not required to apply for entry-level
positions, some students choose to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree so they can advance
in their careers and apply for jobs as a compounding lab technician, pharmacy service technician,
pharmacy implementation specialist or similar roles. Earning an associate degree can also help a
student prepare for a Bachelor of Pharmacy or a bachelor’s degree in a related field.
The comprehensive two-year program covers topics in pharmacy operations, pharmacology and
advanced administration, and may include an externship component. Students take a series of general
courses in mathematics, science, psychology, humanities, and English, in addition to pharmacy- and
medical-specific courses to fulfill degree requirements. Graduates of this program can process
medication orders, have extensive knowledge about pharmacy law as it applies to filling prescriptions,
and demonstrate fundamental knowledge of medical terminology.
Examples of courses offered through a pharmacy technician associate degree program include:
INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATIONS FOR THE WORKPLACE
Students learn effective interpersonal communication skills for working with customers in a medical
environment.
Skills & Knowledge Gained


Strong communication skills to communicate effectively with pharmacists and customers



Customer service skills



Non-verbal communication

PHARMACY CALCULATIONS
This course covers mathematical equations and best practices for managing calculations in a pharmacy.
Skills & Knowledge Gained


Fundamental mathematical concepts



Applied mathematics



Best practices for using mathematical formulas to solve problems


PHARMACOLOGY I
Key principals of drug interactions and the human body are studied, along with the drug types and
their effect on the nervous system. This course typically covers basic principles of pharmacokinetics
and pharmacodynamics.
Skills & Knowledge Gained


Human anatomy and physiology of the nervous system



Drugs for the treatment of nervous system disorders

OVER-THE-COUNTER DRUGS
This is a review of nonprescription drugs for common disorders and best practices for managing
customer questions about self-treatment.
Skills & Knowledge Gained


Advanced knowledge of nonprescription drugs and medications



Customer service skills



Pharmaceutical ethics


PHARMACY LAW
This course details federal and state laws governing the practice of pharmacies and rules regulating
pharmacy technicians’ activities.
Skills & Knowledge Gained


Comprehensive knowledge of relevant state and federal laws related to pharmacies



Ethical considerations and legal issues pertaining to pharmacy technicians

Even after completing an associate degree, graduates will have to stay current with changes occurring
in the industry or with particular pharmaceutical companies, since new drugs and generic brands are
always entering the market. Additionally, they should have cultivated the following skills:
Attention to detail
Pharmacy technicians’ primary responsibility is dispensing prescription medication, which requires
great attention to detail. Pharmacy techs must be able to measure, mix, dose and dispense appropriate
amounts of medication based on the pharmacist’s orders. They may also be involved with data entry
tasks to update patient records and fill prescription orders.
Pharmaceutical literacy
Sometimes, pharmacy technicians will need to read and interpret pharmaceutical literature and
prescription information. They need to be knowledgeable about pharmaceutical and medical terms
and, in some cases, translate information for the customer’s benefit.
Outstanding customer service


Even though it is not pharmacy technicians’ responsibility to provide medical advice, they will be
responsible for interacting with customers when dispensing medication. They must have basic
customer service skills to ensure they are providing customers with the correct prescriptions, contact
customers to advise them that the prescription is ready and follow up with any inquiries customers
may have about their order.
Organization
Pharmacy technicians can work in a variety of settings. Some settings, such as retail drugstores and
grocery store pharmacies, may be busier than others on a daily basis. Pharmacy technicians, therefore,
must be able to handle different types of customers, work with great precision under pressure and
keep everything organized behind the counter.
SEARCH PHARMACY TECHNICIAN SCHOOLS
Accredited pharmacy technician certification and degree programs are available at many colleges
across the country. Use the search tool below to explore programs by state and degree level.


School:



State:



Degree Level:



Subject:



Total Results:875
SCHOOL NAME

CITY, STATE

DEGREE LEVEL

SUBJECT

Academy of Careers and Technology

Beckley, WV

Award (<1 year)

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant


SCHOOL NAME

CITY, STATE

DEGREE LEVEL

SUBJECT

Acadiana Technical College-Lafayette Campus Lafayette, LA

Award (<2 years)

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant

Access Careers

Brooklyn, NY

Award (<1 year)

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant

Albany Technical College

Albany, GA

Associate

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant

Albany Technical College

Albany, GA

Award (<2 years)

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant

All State Career-Baltimore

Baltimore, MD

Award (<1 year)

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant

Allegany College of Maryland

Cumberland,
MD

Award (<2 years)

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant

Allen County Community College

Iola, KS

Associate

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant

Allen County Community College

Iola, KS

Award (<2 years)

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant

Allen County Community College

Iola, KS

Award (<1 year)

Pharmacy
Technician/Assistant

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What To Look For In Online Pharmacy Technician Programs
Even though pharmacy tech certification and degree programs require hands-on training, some
general coursework can be completed online. Many accredited schools offer online pharmacy tech
programs that make it easier for a student taking care of a family or working a full-time job to
complete their education. Here are some things to look for when exploring online pharmacy technician
schools:
ACCREDITATION
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) and the Commission on Credentialing
(COC) accredit pharmacy technician training programs in the United States. Enrolling in an accredited
program ensures the program maintains a high standard of quality and complies with the accrediting
institution’s requirements.


HANDS-ON TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES
Since most certification and degree programs for pharmacy technicians require hands-on training
through an externship or similar training, it’s important to determine what types of partnerships the
school has secured for externships. Some schools offer externship placement as a courtesy to students,
while others require students to seek out and apply for training on their own. In either situation,
students are typically responsible for organizing their own transportation to the pharmacy, lab or other
approved facility to complete this component of the program.
CERTIFICATION PREPARATION
Certification is not required in some states, but most employers prefer pharmacy techs to be certified.
An online pharmacy tech certification program needs to provide comprehensive training to prepare a
student to sit for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam. Those interested in
National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification must have at least one year of work experience,
which can be acquired through an externship program offered by the school.
COMPONENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL CAREER
AS A PHARMACY TECHNICIAN
What Skills Are Required?
Pharmacy techs must have strong attention to detail, as the majority of their daily tasks involve
measuring, dosing and dispensing prescription medication according to very specific orders. They must
also have good written and verbal communication skills to communicate effectively with the
pharmacists they work with, patients, and medical professionals or medical representatives they come
into contact with.
Pharmacy technicians must take the lead in educating themselves on drug information and any major
changes occurring in the industry. They may be required to read about drug studies, review
pharmaceutical literature or produce reports about different prescription medications and dispensing
activities. Since many work in busy retail drugstores or emergency rooms, they must also have strong
organizational skills and be able to work in a fast-paced environment without making mistakes.



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