If you'd like to make a difference in your community while helping people when they're sick, you should consider working as a pharmacy technician.
Not only is the demand for this career path growing rapidly, but being a pharmacy technician can also give you an opportunity to gain valuable experience.
Want to learn what it’s like to work in a pharmacy and how to get started in this field? Just keep reading.
What Exactly is a Pharmacy Technician?
To someone unfamiliar with the inner workings of a pharmacy, the role of a pharmacy technician may be confused with the role of a pharmacist. While they work closely with one another, these are two different jobs.
As a pharmacy technician, you would work under the supervision of the pharmacist. The role is like an assistant. Working as a pharmacy technician requires you to have keen precision and pay close attention to detail. This job includes measuring, mixing, and labeling medication dosages. Pharmacy technicians generally hold a high school diploma, and may have an additional post-secondary diploma or an associate degree.
Meanwhile, the pharmacist approves and dispenses medication and offers advice on things like side effects and dosages. Pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
However, this doesn't mean that a pharmacy technician won't interact with customers. Part of your job as a pharmacy technician is manning the register and assisting patients with insurance forms.
Because the people you'll communicate with might be sick, you should be warm, considerate, and empathetic while on the job. This role could be a good fit for compassionate people who like to help others.
Pharmacy Technician Education and Training Requirements
States may allow you to begin a career as a pharmacy tech with a high school diploma. This is something you need to double check within your own state because the laws vary. Many pharmacy technicians undergo between one and two years of training, and some train on the job.
Some states and employers may require you to pass a certification exam or complete a statewide registration.
Although it isn't necessary to obtain an associate degree to work in the field, earning one might help you become a more competitive candidate. If you already have a busy schedule, you can enroll in online courses that work within your schedule, as well.1
Most pharmacy technician education programs cover:
- Privacy laws and ethics
- Recordkeeping in a medical setting
- Pharmaceutical calculations and techniques
- Medical and pharmaceutical terminology
- Preparing insurance claims
Pharmacy Technician Employment Growth Rate
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for pharmacy technicians is expected to grow 5 percent from 2021 through 2031. During this time, there will be roughly 22,400 open positions to be filled.2
So, where is this demand coming from?
Demand for pharmacy services is expected to increase because of the large number of older people in the United States, who 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.
So, if you've been on the fence about becoming a pharmacy technician, this may be the right time to jump into the field.
Of course, salaries differ based on the cost of living in your area, the setting for the job, and a person’s qualifications and experience. More information about pay for pharmacy technicians is available here.
What's It Like To Work in a Pharmacy?
A Pharmacy Technician's Schedule
Because pharmacy technicians work in various places, their hours vary widely.
For example, some pharmacies have locations that are open 24 hours a day, even on weekends and holidays. In contrast, someone working at a clinic might have more of a 9-5 schedule.
There can also be seasonal or part-time positions available in your area. Some of the schedules you may see while job hunting include:
This shift is typically found at pharmacies that are open 24 hours. You might also work a rotating night schedule if your job is at a hospital or inpatient pharmacy.
This may be a standard 9-5 position. You'll likely find these in a retail store or a grocery store where the pharmacy closes before other departments.
Weekend and Holiday Shifts
Pharmacists don't typically close for weekends or holidays. Why? Because illnesses and prescription needs don't stop over weekends and holidays, either.
Since coverage will typically be required, it's unlikely that you will go your entire career without working some weekends and holidays.
Pharmacy Technician Duties, Tasks, and Responsibilities
In addition to interacting with customers and handling medications, pharmacy technicians have other administrative tasks to complete.
These can include:
- Updating patients' medical records
- Taking stock of inventory
- Updating the pharmacist if there are shortages
- Understanding insurance billing procedures
Pharmacy technicians also have to continue learning about new medications as they develop and enter the marketplace.
You may also have to stock and update the pharmacy's database when new shipments arrive.
Your other duties as a pharmacy technician could include:
- Answering the phones and speaking with doctors and patients
- Data entry
- Ordering and stocking medications
- Processing payments
- Standing for long periods, bending, and lifting heavy boxes
- Troubleshooting discrepancies with insurance companies and patients
- Working directly with insurance companies and healthcare providers
- Using medical technological systems and accounting software
- Mixing, measuring, and labeling medications
This position also requires the ability to multitask in a busy environment, math skills, and a passion for helping others.
Benefits of Becoming a Pharmacy Technician
Working as a pharmacy technician can help you help others while offering a starting point in your healthcare career. But there are more benefits that you probably haven't considered yet.
Other benefits of becoming a pharmacy technician are:
Not only is pharmacy technician employment predicted to grow in the next few years, but you can also work in many settings.
Work in Different Industries
Your experiences as a pharmacy technician can change depending on where you work. And if you're someone who likes to explore and learn about different ways of life, this is a good benefit for you.
You're not limited to your local drugstore. You can work in nursing homes, hospitals, merchandise stores, national pharmacies, and more.
Is This the Right Path for You?
Whether you're fresh out of high school or you want to change careers, working as a pharmacy technician could be a rewarding opportunity.
To be a pharmacy technician, you should enjoy working with people from various backgrounds and giving outstanding customer service. You should also have the patience to multitask and solve complex issues involving insurance companies and other third parties.
You can learn more about this and other opportunities in the healthcare field by following our blog. We update it often to keep you informed. Or you can check out our pharmacy technician training program to learn how Ultimate Medical Academy can get you started on your career path.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook. Pharmacy Technicians. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm
2 Coursework is online except for on-site externship. Set schedules and deadlines required for on-site externship coursework are set by instructors.