Job OverviewAlso known as a pharmaceutical technician, the pharmacy technician is a worker in the healthcare industry who deals with pharmacy related tasks, commonly working under the supervision of either a licensed pharmacist or another health professional.
Such a technician can work in community or hospital pharmacies, in long-term care facilities, for a pharmaceutical manufacturer, an insurance company, a software company, for the government or in the education system, as a teacher.
Although the technician can work in a variety of locations, the main one is the retail pharmacy. There, he or she will take the prescriptions brought in by patients and process them using the computer. The technician can also help with preparing and dispensing the medications that are included in prescriptions.
The main limitation a technician has, where its pharmacy-related duties are concerned, is that he or she cannot counsel patients when it comes to drug-related inquiries and other health matters.
What are the job duties of a pharmacy technician?
- Dispensing the drugs from the prescription the patient has received, as well as other medical devices, along with offering instructions on how they should be taken/used.
- Counting pills in accordance with the given prescription
- Packaging and labeling prescriptions
- Processing the medication on the prescription for pharmacists to check
- Ensuring that the drugs are securely and properly stored
- Answering to simple patient inquiries and directing them to a pharmacist for being clarified on drug information and interaction issues
- Dealing with drug inventory and placing drug orders
- Labeling drugs, supplies and chemicals correctly
- While observing the prescription indications, mixing pharmaceutical compounds and preparing IV injections
- Keeping a record of patient profiles and history of medications given
- Maintaining a clean work environment, with care for needed equipment
- Processing claims related to medical insurance and accepting payments
- In hospitals, assisting in the process of giving medications to the patients
- Reviewing prescription requests with insurance companies and MD’s offices, in order to make sure that the payment is performed and the medication is provided correctly.
- More recently, a pharmacy technician might also communicate with patients on the phone in order to make them aware of the necessity to take medication on time.
In both developed and developing countries, the importance of the pharmacy technician has grown, especially due to pharmacist shortages, with the technician gaining more responsibilities.
SalaryThe salary of a pharmacy technician can vary. According to the BLS, in 2012, the median annual wage of a pharmacy technician was $28,030 and the mean annual wage was $28,940. The lowest paid technicians earned $20,240 – $27,670 and the best paid pharmacy technicians earned $32,150 – $40,560.
TrainingIn order to become a pharmacy technician, each state may have different education requirements. There are states that do not require specific qualifications, but merely a high school diploma or the equivalent. Once a technician is employed in such a state, he or she will receive on-job training from the employer.
In other states, employers will look for technicians that are certified with a national or local pharmacy board, with passing a standard exam being necessary or a fee to be paid. There are many private organizations that make voluntary certification available in the US.
There are countries, such as Tanzania or the UK, where a pharmacy technician must be registered with the national regulatory council.
In U.S.A. states that require formal training, there are community colleges and vocational schools that provide this training. Usually, such a training can be completed in one year. The subjects of study are various and they can include arithmetic, law and ethics related to the pharmacy field, dispensing of drugs and record keeping. The training includes practical experience, so that real-life pharmacy duties be adjusted to. The trainee receives a certificate at the end of the training.
Those who are interested in obtaining certification can participate in exams from recognized organizations, respectively the National Healthcare Association (NHA) and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). The website of PTCB provides a list of the states that require pharmacy technician certification in order to be able to get employed.
Reviews & AdviceBecoming a pharmacy technician can be a great part-time job for people who wish to enter a pharmacy school, as this will allow them to see from the start if this is a career they would really like to approach, as well as to gain some experience in the field. Also, as a pharmacy tech, you can specialize in more specific areas, which will generally allow you to access higher salaries.