Employment Trends Healthcare

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

pharmacy-technician
Written by Kate Lopaze

If you’ve ever waited in line at a pharmacy for a prescription, you likely know that pharmacy technicians are the ones who help to keep everything moving. Meeting the prescription and over-the-counter healthcare needs of the community is a huge task, and the pharmacy tech plays an essential part.

The Day-to-Day

Pharmacy technicians (also known as pharm techs) are healthcare professionals who assist licensed pharmacists. Their duties may include:

  • Dispensing drugs and medical devices to patients
  • Educating patients on potential side effects
  • Educating patients on the use of medical devices
  • Reviewing prescriptions from doctors’ offices
  • Reviewing insurance coverage and working with the insurance companies
  • Ensuring that patients get the correct prescription
  • Handling payment and insurance transactions
  • Other administrative duties related to the pharmacy as needed

Most pharm techs work in community, retail, or hospital pharmacies, but there are also opportunities in nursing homes, private companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, government, or academic settings. The majority work full-time, in a standard work week, though some pharmacy techs work part-time.

For more on what it’s like to be a pharmacy technician, check out these videos:

How to Be a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy Technician Career Overview

Career Profile: Pharmacy Technician

The Requirements

Becoming a pharmacy technician is a process that can take less than a year, or up to 2 years. To get started, you should have at least a high school diploma. Most pharmacy techs opt to take a 1-to-2 year program at a community college or vocational school, where the coursework may provide technical training and certification. Each state has its own rules that can vary widely (from required schooling, certification, and exams to no official certification necessary), so be sure to check your own state’s requirements before you get started.

The Skills

Accuracy is an absolute necessity for pharmacy techs. Inaccurate prescriptions, or the wrong medicine going to the wrong person, can be extremely dangerous. Pharm techs are often the first and last line of defense, making sure that everyone is getting the medication they’re supposed to be getting. Attention to detail is perhaps the most important skills for a tech to have, but others are crucial as well. These skills are typically learned through certification programs or on-the-job training:

  • Pharmacy and medical terms
  • Basic knowledge of medications
  • Basic pharmacy operations
  • Medication dosage measurement and best practices
  • Law and ethics for pharmacy practice

The Pay

The median salary for pharmacy technicians is $29,810 per year, or $14.33 per hour, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And according to a PayScale.com survey, pharm techs are “highly satisfied” with their career choice.

The Outlook

As pharmacies change with the times and drugs are shipped in bulk, pharmacy techs will be more in demand than ever so that they can dispense medicine accurately and effectively, freeing up pharmacists to provide clinical services. The BLS expects the field to grow by at least 9% by 2024.

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