What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?
In the US, nearly half of the population takes at least one prescription medication for therapeutic reasons. The use of prescription drugs increases by age. Around 85% of people over the age of 60 took at least one medication during 2015-2016. A population that’s growing older and increased rates of chronic diseases are thought to contribute to an increase in demand for prescriptions over the next few years.
Along with a higher demand for medications, there will also be an increase in demand for people to work in pharmacies, dispensing medicines and providing customer service. Pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies, usually in retail or hospital settings, preparing and giving people their prescriptions. If working as a pharmacy technician appeals to you, learn more about the exciting and growing career.
A Day in the Life of a Pharmacy Technician
In 2018, around 420,400 people worked as pharmacy technicians in the US. Although a few, about 17%, of pharmacy technicians work in hospitals, the majority, 52%, go to work each day at a retail pharmacy.
While on the job, a pharmacy technician spends a considerable amount of time interacting with customers. When a customer drops off a prescription, a pharmacy technician collects the information and gets to work preparing the medication. They are likely to measure out the pills or liquids required and to package the medicine and apply a label to it. In some cases, they might mix ingredients to create medication.
When people come to the pharmacy to pick up their prescriptions, a pharmacy technician will locate the order, look up the customer in the system and ring up their purchase. If customers have specific questions about their medicines, the pharmacy tech will most likely refer them to the pharmacist on duty.
Along with working with customers and preparing medications, a pharmacy technician’s day might involve spending time organizing the pharmacy’s inventory. When needed, a technician might contact a physician’s office to request a refill for a patient. Pharmacy technicians who work in hospitals might visit patients’ rooms to dispense their medications.
The responsibilities of a pharmacy technician are evolving somewhat as the role of pharmacist’s change. Pharmacists now work more directly with customers, giving flu shots and offering other forms of care. As pharmacists work more one-on-one with their customers, pharmacy techs are more likely to perform more tasks such as preparing medications and collecting patient information.
Skills a Pharmacy Technician Needs
Pharmacy technicians who have certain skill sets are likely to do well in the position and to enjoy their work. Since much of what a pharmacy tech does involves working with the public, it’s important for them to have customer service skills.
Good communication skills are also important. A pharmacy technician usually has to listen to customers’ concerns, follow instructions provided by physicians and let the pharmacists they work with know when inventory is low or when a customer has a concern.
Although the work of a pharmacy technician isn’t particularly physically demanding, many do spend a full shift on their feet. The role also requires good math skills and attention to detail.
Job Opportunities for a Pharmacy Technician
By 2028, the number of opportunities available for pharmacy technicians is expected to increase by 7%. The occupation is seeing faster growth than all other occupations combined, but slower growth compared to other health care careers. It’s expected that there will be more than 450,000 pharmacy technician positions by 2028.
In 2018, the median annual salary for a pharmacy technician was $32,700. Salaries vary based on where a person works. Although fewer people work in hospital pharmacies, those who do tend to earn more than those who work in retail pharmacies, $37,390 annually compared to $30,470.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
If you’re interested in becoming a pharmacy technician in Florida, you need to complete a board-approved pharmacy technician program. Completing a pharmacy technician training program also allows you to earn a Pharmacy Technician Certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Prior to January 1, 2020, you could earn the certification without completing a training program. As of January 1, 2020, you’ll need to finish a program, and meet other requirements5, to become PTCB certified.
Orange Technical College’s Pharmacy Technician Career Certificate program requires about 10 months of full-time study. During the program, you’ll take several courses designed to prepare you for a career as a pharmacy tech. Once you finish the program, you are eligible to take both the Registered Pharmacy Technician exam from the Florida Department of Health and the Certified Pharmacy Technician exam from the PTCB.
- “Fast Stats: Therapeutic Drug Use,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 19, 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/drug-use-therapeutic.htm
- “Prescription Drug Use in the United States,” 2015-2016, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 19, 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db334.htm
- “Pharmacy Technicians,” Bureau of Labor Statistics, September 19, 2019, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm
- “Registered Pharmacy Technician,” Florida Board of Pharmacy, https://floridaspharmacy.gov/licensing/registered-pharmacy-technician/