Pharmacy Technician Job Description & Education Guide

March 8, 2017

Pharmacy Technician Job Description & Education Guide

Thinking about a career as a pharmacy technician? The demand for pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. It’s the right time to start considering your career options and where a pharmacy technician education could take you.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a pharmacy technician works under the supervision of a pharmacist to help perform many tasks within a pharmacy setting. Pharmacy techs often learn through training at a career school as well as on the job and through internships. They may also be required to pursue certification.

Interested in becoming a pharmacy technician? Here’s some more information about the position.

Pharmacy Tech Job Description

A pharmacy technician’s primary duties include:

  • Dispensing prescription and over-the-counter medications to patients
  • Collecting insurance and other information necessary to distribute prescriptions
  • Preparing dosages and compounds for patients
  • Organizing pharmacy inventory
  • Providing customer service in-person and over the phone
  • Connecting patients to the pharmacists for any extra questions or concerns

Pharmacy technicians perform these functions under the supervision of a pharmacist. They may also help the lead pharmacist with preparing medicines for sale, repackaging certain prescriptions, dispensing medications and delivering them at the counter, and will occasionally receive some pharmaceutical training under the supervision of the pharmacist.

You can find pharmacy tech jobs in hospitals, retail outlets and occasionally pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesalers. Most work full-time in a pharmacy. Typically a pharmacy will staff a 1:1 ratio of pharmacists to technicians, depending on the needs of the pharmacy, the size of the market, the number of available qualified professionals, and mandates by the state.

The potential for career growth as a pharmaceutical technician is very positive. The median income in 2016 was $30,920, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is expected to be a 12% job growth for pharmacy technicians by 2026, which is more than the national job growth average overall.

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

The educational route for a pharmacy technician can include earning an associate degree and receiving the CPhT certification. Once you earn your degree and certifications, there are facilities in certain areas that offer internships, work experience and entry-level positions. Some online schools also offer coursework that prepares students for certification.

When you decide to go to a career training school for a pharmacy technician degree, you will most likely take several classes about the general terminology, practice and theory behind pharmacology. Some common courses for a pharmacy tech curriculum include:

  • Pharmacy Technician Fundamentals
  • Pharmacology and Sterile Products
  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Pathophysiology
  • Pharmaceutical Calculations
  • Drug/Dosage Interaction
  • Pharmacy Law & Ethics
  • Community & Institutional Pharmacy

Depending on the state where you work or the employer, you may have to pass a standardized certification test from one of two different certifying institutions. These include:

  • The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), a nationally accredited certification board that offers training resources, certification testing and renewals for pharmacy techs.
  • The CPhT test from the National Healthcareer Association. This organization offers certification in several medical fields, including pharmacy technician.

Career Services & Placement

The career school you choose may have what is called a “career placement” or “career services” office, where you can consult with a staff member about opportunities after schooling. Career Services offer assistance in preparing for certification exams, finding internships and externships, and help with resume writing and job applications. Many schools also provide services after you graduate, such as refresher courses and support during training periods at your first pharmacy tech externship or entry-level position.

Two of the largest employers for pharmacy technicians are Walgreens and CVS Pharmacies. These retail pharmacies have entry-level pharmacy technician positions across the country. A career service specialist may be able to help you find positions at major companies like these, as well as smaller drugstores.

Some advisors will work with you one-on-one to help you with your specific jobs. If you know which hospital or pharmacy you want to apply for, a career placement advisor can help you apply and write your resume and cover letter. Career advisors help write thousands of resumes and will most likely know how to format yours to impress a potential employer.

Including an externship on your resume also helps make you stand out among other applicants. An externship is on-the-job training you can complete before you graduate. Receiving this training will help you be better prepared for your first pharmacy tech job, and it helps prepare you for practical application of the skills you learn in the classroom.

Career Services advisors at UMA can help you find these training opportunities at local pharmacies and hospitals. One of UMA’s greatest benefits to students is its hands-on externship opportunities that you complete as part of your curriculum. These are designed to help you develop your skills and place you within the professional environment. In the past, students have even been hired into permanent positions with the institutions where they completed externships.

Aside from a pharmacy technician, there are other medical careers that might interest you. You may want to consider other career paths before enrolling in the pharmacy tech program. Some of the top career training healthcare programs include:

Conclusions

When you start your medical career as a pharmacy tech, you’re opening the door to a growing occupation within the healthcare field. Pharmacy Technician career training teaches you the skills of pharmaceutical practice, patient care and medical concepts that will help you pursue an entry-level position as a pharmacy technician.

A pharmacy technician is responsible for helping the primary pharmacist with general tasks, such as preparing and dispensing medications and managing inventory. Pharmacy techs can learn from career-focused training schools, externships and on-the-job training. Receiving certification through the NHA or PTCB is required in some states and by some employers which may help candidates stand out as job applicants. Depending on which school you choose, you could receive help throughout your job search from a specialized Career Services team.

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About the Author

is an award-winning writer and journalist with years of experience within the healthcare and education space. She has contributed to dozens of periodicals, publications and blogs, and she specializes in providing well-researched and thought-provoking content.

The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ultimate Medical Academy.

The UMA Blog covers information and advice for employers and workers at the intersection of healthcare, education and employment. Our contributors are intimately familiar with a wide range of subjects covering professional development, career advancement, workplace politics, healthcare industry specific topics, personal finance, education and so much more. Learn what you need to get ahead and stay ahead.

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