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Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians assist licensed pharmacists by filling and dispensing prescriptions, keeping tabs on inventory, and answering customer questions. They may also make appointments for customers to speak with pharmacists about medication-related concerns. These professionals work in a variety of medical facilities as well as retail pharmacies. Pharmacy technicians that work in hospitals may take medications directly to patients.

An example of the duties a person in the profession may complete includes:

  • Receive prescription requests from healthcare providers
  • Measure out the tablets and liquids required for the prescription
  • Mix ointments or other compound medications
  • Place medication in packages and label them
  • Answer phone calls
  • Process insurance claims and receive payment for prescriptions from patients

Work Environment

In 2010, there were approximately 334,400 people employed as pharmacy technicians. These people primarily worked in retail pharmacies like those found in drug and grocery stores. They are also employed in hospitals, general merchandise stores, and select department stores.

The schedule a pharmacy technician works is based on the hours of the pharmacy. They may be required to work evenings, overnights, and weekends. The majority of technicians work full-time.

Getting Into the Field

Becoming a pharmacy technician is fairly simple. At minimum, you must have a high school diploma to enter the field. Most people learn their duties on the job. However, there are educational programs available that are dedicated to teaching people all they need to know to become pharmacy technicians.

These programs can be found at vocational and community colleges and usually entail learning about pharmaceutical math, medication dispensation techniques, pharmacy law, and recordkeeping. The programs usually only last a year and people are awarded certificates upon completion. Some schools offer internship opportunities that provide students with chances to gain hands-on experience they can use to find employment.

Like pharmacists, pharmacy technicians are typically regulated by state governments. This means you may be required to obtain a license or certification to work. Each state is different, but most require technicians to complete formal training and to pass an exam. It’s best to contact the agency that handles licensing in your state for information about specific requirements. If certification is required, there are two organizations that award them to pharmacy technicians: The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association. More information about the certification process can be found on the organizations’ respective websites.

Qualities Required to Work in the Field

  • Customer Service – You will spend the bulk of your time dealing with customers. It’s important that you have first-rate interpersonal skills, have a good attitude, and work well with others.
  • Detail Oriented – Pharmacy technicians deal with substances that directly affect a person’s health. Mistakes can be deadly, so it’s critical that you mind every minute detail to avoid making what could be a life-threatening error.
  • Organized – Technicians are responsible for completing a variety of tasks. Being organized can help you complete your assigned work while still providing good service to customers and coworkers.

Pharmacy Technician Salary

The average salary for pharmacy technicians n 2010 was $28,400. The top ten percent earned $40,710 and the bottom ten percent earned $19,840. The exact wages you’ll earn as a technician in the field will depend on your geographical location, experience, and who you work for. Pharmacy technicians who worked in hospitals earned the most with salaries averaging $32,400 per year. Other places paid as follows:

  • Grocery stores – $28,720
  • Drug stores – $27,160
  • Department stores – $25,780
  • Other places – $25,330

Job Outlook

This is a fast-growing career. It’s expected that the number of available jobs will increase 32 percent by the year 2020. There are several reasons for this change including the steadily expanding senior population and advances in medical research. People with formal educations and training will do particularly well in this field. Some additional careers that have similar job growth are Radiology Technician and Ultra Sound Techs.

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