Pharmacy Technicians

Summary

pharmacy technicians image
Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists.
Quick Facts: Pharmacy Technicians
2012 Median Pay $29,320 per year
$14.10 per hour
Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2012 355,300
Job Outlook, 2012-22 20% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2012-22 70,700

What Pharmacy Technicians Do

Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals.

Work Environment

Pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies, including those found in grocery and drug stores, and in hospitals. Most work full time, but many work part time.

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician

Becoming a pharmacy technician usually requires earning a high school diploma or the equivalent. Pharmacy technicians typically learn through on-the-job training, or they may complete a postsecondary education program. Most states regulate pharmacy technicians, which is a process that may require passing an exam or completing a formal education or training program.

Pay

The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $29,320 in May 2012.

Job Outlook

Employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Several factors will lead to increased demand for prescription medications.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of pharmacy technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about pharmacy technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Pharmacy Technicians Do About this section

Pharmacy technicians
Pharmacy technicians fill prescriptions and check inventory.

Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals. They work in retail pharmacies and hospitals.

Duties

Pharmacy technicians typically do the following:

  • Take the information needed to fill a prescription from customers or health professionals
  • Measure amounts of medication for prescriptions
  • Package and label prescriptions
  • Organize inventory and alert pharmacists to any shortages of medications or supplies
  • Accept payment for prescriptions and process insurance claims
  • Enter customer or patient information, including any prescriptions taken, into a computer system
  • Answer phone calls from customers
  • Arrange for customers to speak with pharmacists if customers have questions about medications or health matters

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists, who must review prescriptions before they are given to patients. In most states, technicians can compound or mix some medications and call physicians for prescription refill authorizations. Technicians also may need to operate automated dispensing equipment when filling prescription orders.

Pharmacy technicians working in hospitals and other medical facilities prepare a greater variety of medications, such as intravenous medications. They may make rounds in the hospital, giving medications to patients.

Work Environment About this section

Pharmacy technicians
Pharmacy technicians work primarily in pharmacies, including those found in grocery and drug stores, and in hospitals.

Pharmacy technicians held about 355,300 jobs in 2012. They worked primarily in pharmacies, including those found in grocery and drug stores. Some technicians work in hospitals or clinics. Pharmacy technicians spend most of the workday on their feet.

The industries that employed the most pharmacy technicians in 2012 were as follows:

Pharmacies and drug stores53%
Hospitals; state, local, and private17
General merchandise stores12
Grocery stores7
Ambulatory health care services3

Work Schedules

Most pharmacy technicians work full time. Pharmacies may be open at all hours. Therefore, pharmacy technicians may have to work nights or weekends.

How to Become a Pharmacy Technician About this section

Pharmacy technicians
Pharmacy technicians spend much of their time interacting with customers.

Becoming a pharmacy technician usually requires earning a high school diploma or the equivalent. Pharmacy technicians typically learn through on-the-job training, or they may complete a postsecondary education program. Most states regulate pharmacy technicians, which is a process that may require passing an exam or completing a formal education or training program.

Education and Training

Many pharmacy technicians learn how to perform their duties through on-the-job training. These programs vary in length and subject matter according to the employer’s requirements.

Other pharmacy technicians enter the occupation after completing postsecondary education programs in pharmacy technology. These programs are usually offered by vocational schools or community colleges. Most programs award a certificate after 1 year or less, although some programs last longer and lead to an associate’s degree. They cover a variety of subjects, such as arithmetic used in pharmacies, recordkeeping, ways of dispensing medications, and pharmacy law and ethics. Technicians also learn the names, uses, and doses of medications. Most programs also include clinical experience opportunities, in which students gain hands-on experience in a pharmacy.

The American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP) accredits pharmacy technician programs that include at least 600 hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. In 2012, there were 213 fully accredited programs, including a few in retail drugstore chains.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states regulate pharmacy technicians in some way. Consult your state’s Board of Pharmacy for its particular regulations. Requirements for pharmacy technicians in the states that regulate them typically include some or all of the following:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Criminal background check
  • Formal education or training program
  • Exam
  • Fees
  • Continuing education

Some states and employers require pharmacy technicians to be certified. Even where it is not required, certification may make it easier to get a job. Many employers will pay for their pharmacy technicians to take the certification exam.

Two organizations offer certification. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification requires a high school diploma and the passing of an exam. Applicants for the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and have completed a training program or have 1 year of work experience. Technicians must recertify every 2 years by completing 20 hours of continuing education courses.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Pharmacy technicians spend much of their time interacting with customers, so being helpful and polite are required of pharmacy technicians in a retail setting.

Detail oriented. Serious health problems can result from mistakes in filling prescriptions. Although the pharmacist is responsible for ensuring the safety of all medications dispensed, pharmacy technicians should be detail oriented so that complications are avoided.

Listening skills. Pharmacy technicians must communicate clearly with pharmacists and doctors when taking prescription orders. When speaking with customers, technicians must listen carefully to understand customers’ needs and determine if they need to speak with a pharmacist.

Math skills. Pharmacy technicians need to have an understanding of the math concepts used in pharmacies when counting pills and compounding medications.

Organizational skills. Working as a pharmacy technician involves balancing a variety of responsibilities. Pharmacy technicians need good organizational skills to complete the work delegated by pharmacists while at the same time providing service to customers or patients.

Pay About this section

Pharmacy Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2012

Health technologists and technicians

$40,380

Total, all occupations

$34,750

Pharmacy technicians

$29,320

 

The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $29,320 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,580, and the top 10 percent earned more than $42,400.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for pharmacy technicians in the top five industries in which these technicians worked were as follows:

Ambulatory health care services$35,470
Hospitals; state, local, and private33,550
Grocery stores28,760
Pharmacies and drug stores28,030
General merchandise stores27,450

Most pharmacy technicians work full time. Pharmacies may be open at all hours. Therefore, pharmacy technicians may have to work nights or weekends.

Job Outlook About this section

Pharmacy Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2012-22

Health technologists and technicians

24%

Pharmacy technicians

20%

Total, all occupations

11%

 

Employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Several factors will lead to increased demand for prescription medications.

The population is aging, and older people typically use more prescription medicines than younger people. Higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes among all age groups also will lead to increased demand for prescription medications. Advances in pharmaceutical research will allow for more prescription medications to be used to fight diseases.

The number of individuals who have health insurance will increase due to federal health insurance reform legislation. As more people have access to insurance coverage, more pharmacy technicians will be needed to handle their prescriptions.

In addition, pharmacy technicians may be needed to take on a greater role in pharmacy operations because pharmacists are increasingly performing more patient care activities such as giving flu shots. Technicians will need to perform tasks such as collecting patient information, preparing more types of medications, and verifying the work of other technicians, tasks formerly done by pharmacists.

Job Prospects

Job prospects should be good for pharmacy technicians, particularly those with formal training, certification, and those with experience in retail settings.

Employment projections data for pharmacy technicians, 2012-22
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2012 Projected Employment, 2022 Change, 2012-22 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Pharmacy technicians

29-2052 355,300 426,100 20 70,700 [XLS]

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of pharmacy technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2012 MEDIAN PAY Help
Dental assistants

Dental Assistants

Dental assistants have many tasks, ranging from providing patient care and taking x rays to recordkeeping and scheduling appointments. Their duties vary by state and by the dentists’ offices where they work.

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,500
Medical assistants

Medical Assistants

Medical assistants complete administrative and clinical tasks in the offices of physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, and other health practitioners. Their duties vary with the location, specialty, and size of the practice.

Postsecondary non-degree award $29,370
Medical records and health information technicians

Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Medical records and health information technicians, commonly referred to as health information technicians, organize and manage health information data. They ensure its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper and electronic systems. They use various classification systems to code and categorize patient information for insurance reimbursement purposes, for databases and registries, and to maintain patients’ medical and treatment histories.

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,160
Medical transcriptionists

Medical Transcriptionists

Medical transcriptionists listen to voice recordings that physicians and other healthcare professionals make and convert them into written reports. They may also review and edit medical documents created using speech recognition technology. Transcriptionists interpret medical terminology and abbreviations in preparing patients’ medical histories, discharge summaries, and other documents.

Postsecondary non-degree award $34,020
Pharmacists

Pharmacists

Pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients and offer expertise in the safe use of prescriptions. They also may provide advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle, conduct health and wellness screenings, provide immunizations, and oversee the medications given to patients.

Doctoral or professional degree $116,670

Contacts for More Information About this section

For information on becoming a pharmacy technician, visit

National Pharmacy Technician Association

For information about accredited pharmacy technician programs, visit

American Society of Health System Pharmacists

For information about state licensure laws, contact individual state Boards of Pharmacy, or visit

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy

For more information about certification, visit

Pharmacy Technician Certification Board

National Healthcareer Association

O*NET

Pharmacy Technicians

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Pharmacy Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm (visited August 23, 2014).

Publish Date: Wednesday, January 8, 2014