PROS / Pharmacy technicians have a steady job with flexible hours and a bright future.
CONS / Errors in work can be very costly to patients in this vocational career.
VERDICT / Great job for people who like working with patients and who are detail-oriented.
Demand for pharmacy technicians is expected to grow over 30 percent in the next 10 years because of the increase in elderly individuals as well as advancements in the pharmaceutical industry. Additional demand for individuals in this vocational career is expected because many of the responsibilities that presently may be performed by a pharmacy aide, including administrative tasks at a pharmacy, will soon need to be completed by a licensed technician.
Individuals in this profession assist the pharmacist by processing prescriptions including counting tablets and labeling bottles. They will check patient files to make sure they don't foresee any allergy or drug interaction problems. In this job, individuals may also perform functions that may be done by pharmacy aides, including answering phones, verifying insurance coverage and receiving payment for medications.
The pharmacist must check all prescriptions before they are given to patients. In addition, only the pharmacist may assist patients regarding questions about medications or dosing, as well as other medical inquiries.
Although a majority of individuals in this profession work in a retail pharmacy, about 15 percent work in 24-hour pharmacies at hospitals, where they may work swing or night shifts. At hospitals, nursing homes or assisted living facilities they have additional responsibilities such as preparing prescribed doses for patients, which nurses or physicians will administer.
Starting salary for this job is about $21,000 annually with the potential to earn $40,000 annually. These figures are based on a full-time work schedule, although many individuals in this profession work on a part-time basis.
Presently 331,890 individuals are employed in this profession with 182,000 jobs expected to open in the next decade.
Although certification is not required, individuals in this career track are more qualified for positions if they do. Two organizations offer the certification including the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. Community colleges and vocational schools usually prepare individuals for a certification exam in an educational program that often lasts about one year. Individuals may also go through a program in the U.S. military.
Twenty hours of continuing education is required for recertification every two years, and 10 of those hours may be completed on the job under the supervision of a pharmacist. Requirements to take the certification tests are a high school diploma with no felonies and no drug-related convictions of any kind. Many pharmacy employers will reimburse the cost of the exam.
Once an individual has received their certification, advancement within a regular pharmacy depends on how big the facility is. Pharmacies that employ multiple technicians and aides may promote individuals in this profession to a supervisory position.
Other opportunities for advancement include employment in a specialized pharmacy as a chemotherapy tech or a nuclear pharmacy tech. In addition, some pursue a career in pharmaceutical sales, which can offer the average salary of $99,000 annually.
Individuals in this vocational career work in clean facilities that must be well-lighted and have good ventilation systems. Individuals often work day or evening schedules during regular store hours if they work in a retail pharmacy. However, those who work in a 24-hour hospital, nursing home or assisted living facility may work swing or night shifts. They may also work weekends and holidays. Some work full-time and some work part-time. Because individuals in this profession work closely with pharmacists as well as pharmacy aides, they often work in a team environment, and they have the opportunity to interact with many patients.
This job requires being on your feet most of the time, so wearing comfortable shoes that support your feet in essential. A uniform, either scrubs or a white coat, is usually required. Individuals must also be able to see detail at close range.
Basic Office Skills Required
Basic spelling, grammar, punctuation and math skills are essential for this profession. Reading skills and English proficiency are critical in order to accurately interpret prescriptions and to verify doses, as errors can have disastrous consequences. If a patient is given the wrong prescription or the wrong dosage, it can make them very sick or can even cause death. Typing, data entry and ten-key skills are important, and techs may use MS Outlook for interoffice communication or to communicate with doctors and nurses. Phone skills and the ability to establish a rapport with patients is also helpful.
A pharmacy technician has a promising vocational career with a reasonable salary. Accuracy and attention to detail is critical to this job as errors can be costly to patients' health. However, the service that they provide is very important to individuals, and as such the job can be very rewarding. At TopTenREVIEWS We Do the Research So You Don't Have To.™
A Pharmacy Technician's Typical Work Day
Desmond is a pharmacy technician at a pharmacy that is part of a national chain. He chose his vocational career because of his interest in science as well as the medical field. He also enjoys working with and assisting people.
In his vocational career, Desmond does everything that a pharmacist can do except for consulting patients about medications, dosages, or other medical questions patients may have. He receives a prescription from a patient or from a doctor's office, interprets it, selects the proper medication on the shelf, counts out pills, and properly labels a bottle. The pharmacist must review his work before he can give it to a patient. Desmond can also greet customers at the drop-off window and can be their cashier at check-out, but because they are often very busy, he usually lets the pharmacy aide perform those tasks if one is working during his shift. In addition, he takes phone calls from doctors and nurses who are calling in prescriptions for patients.
Desmond plays an integral role in his job as a pharmacy technician. One of his most important jobs is checking a patient's account to make sure the present prescription won't counteract or cause an adverse reaction in combination with other medications that the patient may be taking. This is more common when a patient is prescribed medication by more than one doctor. For example, they may have a regular family physician but also see a specialist such as a dermatologist or ophthalmologist. A patient's account often indicates whether a patient has allergies to certain medications. Although doctors usually ask patients about their allergies, it is also the responsibility of pharmacists to ask, as both can be liable if a patient has a serious reaction.
Because the pharmacy carries controlled substances, the facility is under tight security. Only authorized personnel are allowed to come behind the desk. Certain medications, such as oxycodone, benzodiazepine and anabolic steroids are kept in a locked safe that only the pharmacist has access to. Because of the tight security measures at his pharmacy, they rarely deal with robberies, although Desmond has experienced one before, and he hopes he never goes through that again.
Much of the work he does is completely confidential, especially concerning patient records, with which Desmond practices the utmost discretion. Gratefully, he works at a pharmacy across town from his home, so he rarely sees anyone there that he knows.
Desmond is used to working with very ill patients. Those who are prescribed medications over a long term are regular customers who he becomes well acquainted with. About half of his regular customers are elderly. One lady who he sees about twice a month is on oxygen and carries around a portable oxygen canister with her. Some elderly patients are accompanied by family members, but many come alone.
Accuracy is critical to Desmond's vocational career as a pharmacy technician, and because of his great attention to detail and his excellent customer service skills, he is valued by both the pharmacy and its patrons.