What Is It like to Be a Pharmacy Technician?
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.
This is a good start for someone who wants to progress in the medical field. A pharmacy technician can aspire to become a pharmacist, a lab tech, medical secretary, or even a nurse with additional training, education, and certifications/licensure.
Want to learn how to get started in this field? Just keep reading.
What Exactly is a Pharmacy Technician?
The role of a pharmacy technician is often 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 similar to that of 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.
Meanwhile, the pharmacist usually dispenses medication and offers advice on things like side effects and dosages. However, this doesn’t mean you won’t interact with customers. Part of your job as a pharmacy tech is manning the cash register and assisting patients with insurance forms.
Because the majority of the people you’ll communicate with are sick, you should be warm, considerate, and empathetic while on the job. This role is good for compassionate people who like to help others.
Education and Training Requirements
Most pharmacy technicians undergo between one and two years of training. Although it isn’t necessary to obtain an associate degree to work in the field, earning one can 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.
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
States may allow you to begin this career path with a high school diploma, but this is something you need to double check within your own state because the laws vary.
Some states and employers require you to pass a certification exam or complete a statewide registration.
Employment Growth Rate
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for pharmacy technicians is expected to grow 12% by 2026. During this time, roughly 47,600 new positions will need to be filled.
This predicted growth rate is faster than the average growth for other professions. So, where is this demand coming from?
More prescription medications are being approved and taken by Americans than before. This is especially true with baby boomers. Since this part of the population is aging, they are receiving more prescriptions, as well.
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. But with a pharmacy technician, your salary also depends on where you work.
Some of the highest-paid pharmacy technicians work for the federal government and outpatient healthcare centers. The average annual salary for those with the federal government is $42,710, which isn’t much higher than the $41,350 average for pharmacy technicians at outpatient centers.
The overall median salary of pharmacy techs is $31,750 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means that about half of pharmacy technicians earn more than this number, and half earn less.
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.
A Pharmacy Technician’s Schedule
Because pharmacy techs work in various places, their hours vary widely.
For example, some pharmacies like Rite Aid have locations that are open 24 hours a day, even on weekends and holidays. While 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 will 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 will be your standard 9-5 position. You’ll likely find these in a retail store like Target 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 holidays, either.
Since coverage will typically be required, it’s unlikely that you will go your entire career without working some holidays.
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. Pharmacy technicians are usually briefed by the pharmacist about these changes at the start of their shift.
You may also have to stock and update the pharmacy’s database when new shipments arrive.
Your other duties as a pharmacy tech 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 technology 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. Working as a pharmacy technician can be an ideal role for you if your goal is to become a pharmacist.
But retirees and recent graduates may also fit well in this position.
Benefits of Becoming a Pharmacy Tech
Working as a pharmacy tech 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 tech are:
Not only is pharmacy technician employment predicted to grow in the next few years, but you can also work in many locations.
Work in Different Industries
Your experiences as a pharmacy tech 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.
If you work in a retail location, you may receive store discounts. If you work at a national chain, you might even receive discounts at other stores throughout the country.
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 is 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 medical field by following our blog. We update it often to keep you informed.