Career Profile:Why Pursue An Pharmacy Technician Career?

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Job Description: A pharmacy technician assists licensed pharmacists, either in retail or mail-order pharmacies, or in hospitals. Regardless of the setting, technicians help provide medication and other healthcare products to patients. Technicians usually perform routine tasks to help prepare prescribed medication for patients, such as counting tablets and labeling bottles.

Technicians working in pharmacies have some, most, or all of the following responsibilities, depending on state regulations. Technicians will receive prescription requests/refills from patients, as well as prescriptions sent from doctor's offices. After verifying the accuracy of the information, technicians may prepare the prescription, which could include counting pills, or weighing, measuring, or mixing the medication. Once the prescription is filled, the technician will price and file it, and it must be checked by an accredited physician before it is given to a patient. In this setting technologists may also prepare insurance claim forms, stock, and take inventory of prescription and over-the-counter medications.

In hospitals and similar environments, technicians read patient charts and prepare and deliver the medicine to patients. The technician then copies the information about the prescribed medication onto the patient's profile and prepares a 24-hour supply of medicine for each patient (which needs to be checked by a pharmacist before being delivered).

Work Environment: Technicians work the same hours pharmacists work. As hospitals and retail pharmacies may be open 24 hours a day, shifts may include, day, night, evening, weekend, and holidays. There are many opportunities for part-time work for technicians in both hospital and retail settings; and as a technician gains seniority, they have more control over their hours and shifts.

Pharmacy technicians work in clean, well-lit, orderly environments. They spend most of the day on their feet, and in some cases are required to lift heavy boxes or find materials in supply rooms, sometimes using a stepladder to reached stored supplies.

Education and Training Requirements: For the most part, employers favor technicians who have completed some sort of formal training, although there are few state (and no federal) requirements in terms of training and/or certification for pharmacy technicians. Many technicians receive informal, on-the-job training.

Increasingly, as states rely more and more on pharmacy technicians, more and more are moving toward requiring formal certification. Eligible candidates must have a high school diploma or GED, as well as no felony convictions. There is a pharmacy technician certification examination, and through education, on-the-job training, or a combination of the two, technicians can work toward certification. Many employers will also reimburse the cost of the examination, as an incentive for certification.

Technicians are typically organized, responsible, alert individuals. Attention to detail is a must - an incorrect prescription can sometimes be a matter of life and death. There is also a good deal of interaction with patients, coworkers, and other professionals. Candidates interested in becoming pharmacy technicians cannot have prior records of drug or substance abuse.

Salary Range: Median hourly earnings of wage and salary pharmacy technicians in 2002 were $10.70. Depending on your work environment, these wages vary. The following are examples of median salaries for pharmacy technicians:

  • General medical and surgical hospitals: $12.32
  • Grocery stores: $11.34
  • Drugs and druggists' sundries merchant wholesalers: $10.60
  • Health and personal care stores: $9.70
  • Department stores: $9.69

Other factors affecting wage include certification, shift (evening and weekend shifts can increase earnings in some cases), and union membership.

Job Outlook: Good, especially for technicians with formal training, or previous experience in the industry. Due to the increased pharmaceutical needs of a larger, and older, population as well as the need to replace workers who transfer to other jobs or retire, opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to grow faster than average through 2012.

In addition, advances in science have led to more medications becoming available to treat more conditions, which could lead to a spike in employment opportunities for properly trained technicians.