Pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. They have many responsibilities, the most important being the packaging and labeling of prescription drugs. Needless to say that this task requires a great degree of responsibility that leaves no room for error. Most pharmacies require no formal training and have no educational requirements other than a high school diploma for new techs; however, some places may require completion of a certification program before hiring takes place.
National Average Pharmacy Technician Salary
Hourly Wage Annual Wage
Upper: $21.10 $43,900
Median: $14.33 $29,810
Lower: $9.97 $20,730
States With Highest Salary
State Avg. Hourly Wage Avg. Annual Wage
- Washington $19.38 $40,300
- Alaska $19.22 $39,980
- California $19.09 $39,710
- Hawaii $17.50 $36,400
- Oregon $17.44 $36,270
*All statistical data is from the U.S. Department of Labor and is updated quarterly
Pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. They perform many of the duties that are needed for the pharmacy to function smoothly and efficiently. A good portion of their time is spent interacting with customers. They are usually the face you see at the counter of a pharmacy. Some of their main responsibilities include:
- Intake of prescriptions from physicians or patients
- Counting pills to make certain the correct amount are dispensed according to the prescription
- Filling prescription bottles with medication and labeling to reflect contents
- Processing payments
- Answering a customers non-prescription medication question
- Forwarding a customers inquiries about prescription medication to a licensed pharmacist
Around half of all pharmacy techs can be found working in retail pharmacies and drug stores. The rest will usually find employment at hospitals and health clinics. These positions will usually be filled on both a part time and full time basis.
It is of vital importance that doctors and patients have access to a pharmacies services at all times; therefore, hospitals as well as some retail pharmacies will need to be staffed 24 hours a day. Depending on the facility, work shifts can be available at all times including weekends and overnight.
Pharmacy technicians spend most of their shift either standing or walking around. Some techs in hospitals may be tasked with delivering medication directly to patients. While in the pharmacy they will be working the counter, filling prescriptions and answering phones. Talking with customers and doctors can take up a good portion of their time.
All techs will work under the supervision of a pharmacist at all times, taking directives when appropriate. The pharmacist is responsible for reviewing and checking all work done by the technician. Prescriptions must be filled correctly before being dispensed, failure to do so can have fatal consequences.
How To Become A Pharmacy Technician:
Education requirements vary depending on the state in which the tech is employed. A good portion of pharmacy techs receive their training from their employer, though there is also the option of taking a certification program in pharmacy technology. Upon successful completion of such a program, a person can become certified. Pharmacy technician certification programs can usually be found at vocational schools, hospitals, or colleges and can last any where from six months to a year.
During training, techs learn not only about how to dispense medications but what each drug does as well as dosages and interaction information. There are many laws and regulations that must be learned as well.
Each state sets their own guidelines for licensing requirements. Most require candidates to have a high school diploma or equivalency. Some will require criminal background checks. Some states also have exams that must be passed before a license in awarded. Certification is not required in all areas, but a certified pharmacy tech has a greater chance of finding employment.
Who Should Become A Pharmacy Technician:
There are certain characteristics that one should have in order to do well at this job. Because of the high amount of customer interaction that takes place, it is important to have good interpersonal skills. Helping customers with any questions they may have entails being able to listen and then effectively communicate any important information. When explaining how a certain drug is do be used, it is important to be clear so that the customers understand what they need to do. This can also require a good deal of patients as some customers will be difficult to deal with.
A pharmacy tech has many responsibilities and managing all of these tasks at the same time can take some getting used too. Someone who has a natural ability to multitask will be have an easier time handling the many duties that are required of them. This of course, like many other personal skills, is something that can be developed over time.
When filling prescriptions it is of extreme importance that everything is done correctly. Giving someone the wrong drug or wrong dosage can have fatal consequences. Even though all work is overseen and checked by a licensed pharmacist, it is important to not make any mistakes. Staying focused on the task at hand while still juggling all other responsibilities is a must.
How Much Does A Pharmacy Technician Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pharmacy technician salary is $31,090. The lowest 10 percent of reported incomes was averaged at $20,730, while the top 10 percent of earners took home an estimated $43,900. The state with the highest average salary is Washington with an annual mean salary of $40,300.
Factors That Can Influence Salary:
As with most jobs, location and experience will be a large factor that will determine salary. For pharmacy techs, who the employer is plays an even bigger role. Hospitals tend to pay the most, with large retail outlets paying slightly less. Department stores that have pharmacies pay the least. Having a certification can greatly improve your chances of finding a job with the most sought after employers.
There are many other careers that one could pursue after working as a pharmacy technician. The most logical would be that of a pharmacist since you would already be familiar with many drugs as well as dosages that are commonly used. Also having worked closely with pharmacists, you will have a good idea of what the job consists of. Nursing would be another good choice considering the knowledge you would have of the uses of various drugs.
The expected job growth for pharmacy technicians is 16% between 2014 and 2024. This growth rate far exceeds the expected average growth for all other jobs during this same period. Due to the aging population and the increased reliance of drugs to treat disease, there will be a need for more pharmacies and pharmacy staff. Like most other health care related jobs, this represents a great employment opportunity as there will be many jobs available in the coming years.
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