The role of a pharmacy technician is often confused with the role of a pharmacist. While the two roles work closely with one another – and some duties even overlap – these are two distinct jobs.
Vitally, pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists. The role is similar to that of an assistant.
In this article, we’ll cover the duties of a pharmacy technician, as well as how to become one, and what salary you can expect to earn.
Daily Duties of a Pharmacy Technician
The daily duties of a pharmacy technician can be broken down into three main categories.
Customer Service Duties
- Providing customer service in-person and over the phone
- Delivering medications at the counter and processing payments
- Speaking with doctors’ offices over the phone
- Assisting patients with insurance forms
- Connecting patients to pharmacists if they have any extra questions or concerns
- Organizing pharmacy inventory
- Updating patients’ medical records
- Data entry
Prescription Fulfillment and Processing
- Measuring, mixing, and labeling medication dosages
- Under the supervision of the pharmacist, dispensing prescription and over-the-counter medications to patients
- Collecting insurance and other information necessary to distribute prescriptions
- Repackaging prescriptions
The Average Salary of Pharmacy Technicians Across the US
A number of factors affect how much pharmacy technicians are paid across the US. Generally speaking, salaries can vary depending on:
- Where you work (e.g a hospital or a retail pharmacy) and who you work for (e.g the federal government or a private pharmacy chain)
- Your location
- Your level of experience
The overall median salary of pharmacy techs is $33,950, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This means that about half of pharmacy technicians earn more than this number, and half earn less.
Some of the highest-paid pharmacy technicians work in hospitals, whether state, local, or private — the median annual salary for those with hospital jobs is $38,310.
The highest-paid pharmacy techs in the United States are located on the West Coast. More specifically, the people with the highest salaries live in either Washington or California.
According to the BLS, the average hourly wage for pharmacy techs is $16.32, and the top 10% of earners in this field make at least $49,130.
Where Pharm Techs Work
Pharmacy technician employers may include:
Retail pharmacies supply prescription and non-prescription medication – as well as other goods – to the public.
Compounding pharmacies typically make drugs prescribed by doctors that are not commercially available.
In hospital settings, pharmacy techs help to fill orders for patients and ensure they are delivered to the right places.
Nursing Homes and Extended Care
Pharmacy techs in nursing homes and extended care environments support pharmacists to ensure patients get the medication they need.
There are currently more than 600 pharmacy technicians serving in the US army, where they help to mix and fill prescriptions, maintain records, and carry out administrative duties.
Mail Order Pharmacies
At a mail order pharmacy, pharmacy technicians are more able to focus on the medical and administrative side of their roles, as customer service largely takes place over the phone and online.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
As a pharmacy technician, your job concerns public health and wellbeing. As a result, you’ll be required to hold certain qualifications or experience to find work in the field.
Pharmacy Technician Education Requirements
Most pharmacy technicians undergo between one and two years of training in order to be prepared to sit for and pass a certification exam that will allow them to work in their chosen fields (more on this below). Eligibility requirements must also be met in order to take an exam.
Pharmacy techs can learn from online courses or offline career-focused training schools, externships, and on-the-job training.
While different states/employers have different education requirements for their pharmacy technicians, it is generally not necessary to obtain an associate degree to work in the field. That said, earning one can help you become a more competitive candidate and command a higher salary.
Most pharmacy tech education programs cover:
- Privacy laws and ethics
- Recordkeeping in a medical setting
- Pharmaceutical calculations and techniques
- Medical and pharmaceutical terminology
- Preparing insurance claims
Soft Skills and Personality Traits
Many of the people you’ll communicate with in your role as pharmacy technician will be unwell or vulnerable. Given that, it’s extra important to consider whether you’ll be able to provide warm, considerate, and empathetic care in response to difficult circumstances or challenging behaviors.
The people who will find the role of pharmacy tech most rewarding tend to be compassionate by nature and have a strong desire to help others.
You will also need strong communication and organizational skills – given the importance of keeping accurate records of stock – and the regular tasks of speaking with customers, doctors’ offices, and pharmacists.
Depending on your state or employer, you may need 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.
There’s rarely been a better time to start on the path to becoming a pharmacy technician. Due to the increasing number of elderly people in the US population and rising levels of Americans taking prescription drugs, people with these skills have never been more in demand.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7% job growth for pharmacy technicians through 2028, which is higher than overall job growth in the US.
When you pursue a career as a pharmacy tech with UMA, you’re opening the door to a growing occupation within the healthcare field. Enjoy plenty of advancement and learning opportunities, as well as the chance to help people every day as a pharmacy technician.