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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Is a career as a pharmacy technician right for you?

June 3, 2019

SJVC Pharmacy Technology Student in Blue ScrubsWould it surprise you to learn that not all of those people behind the counter at your local drug store are pharmacists? Chances are many are pharmacy technicians. And this post is all about what it takes to start a career in pharmacy technology.

We’ll cover information regarding:

  • What pharmacy technicians do on the job
  • Where pharmacy technicians work and how much they reportedly make
  • The skills and characteristics needed to be a successful pharmacy technician
  • Pharmacy technician certifications and licenses (what’s required)
  • How to become a pharmacy technician

Let’s take a look!

What does a pharmacy technician do?

Pharmacy technicians play an important role in the healthcare industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupations Outlook Handbook, “Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals. They mainly work in retail pharmacies and hospitals.

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.”1

The BLS lists pharmacy technicians’ responsibilities as:

  • Collecting information needed to fill a prescription from customers or health professionals
  • Measuring amounts of medication for prescriptions
  • Packaging and labeling prescriptions
  • Organizing and tracking inventory
  • Entering customer or patient information into a computer system
  • Arranging for customers to speak with pharmacists about medications or health matters

Sound interesting? Read on to learn that more about this in-demand healthcare career.

Why should I become a pharmacy technician?

According to the U.S. News & World Report, pharmacy technician is ranked in the top 100 best jobs in the United States2, which is based on factors such as median salary, future job prospects and more. Pharmacy technician is also ranked as the 16th best healthcare support job in the United States by U.S. News & World Report2.

In addition, pharmacy technology is an in-demand career that’s expected to grow over the next decade. According to the BLS, “employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 12 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than average for all occupations. 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.

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.”3

Pharmacy Technicians also can earn a decent wage. The BLS reports that the annual mean wage for pharmacy technicians in the state of California was $42,610 in May 20184. Salary can vary by city, years of experience and more. California also has the highest employment level for pharmacy technicians in the entire U.S., reporting 37,630 pharmacy technicians employed in May 20184.

Where do pharmacy technicians work?

According to the BLS, here is a list of common work environments for pharmacy technicians5:

  • Pharmacies and drug stores
  • Hospitals
  • General merchandise stores
  • Food and beverage stores

Is a career in pharmacy technology right for me?

A pharmacy technician’s job is both fast-paced and rewarding. There are several important qualities that pharmacy technicians must possess, says the BLS6. These include:

  • Customer-service skills. Pharmacy technicians spend much of their time interacting with customers. Being helpful, understanding, and polite is especially 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 pay attention to detail so that complications are avoided.
  • Listening skills. Pharmacy technicians must communicate clearly with pharmacists and doctors when taking prescription orders. Names of medications are often long, their treatments complicated and dosages precise. 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. Being able to multitask is a real asset. Pharmacy technicians need good organizational skills to complete the work delegated by pharmacists while at the same time providing service to customers or patients.

Do I need to be licensed and certified to work as a pharmacy technician?

The California Business and Professions Code states that “A person shall not act as a pharmacy technician without first being licensed by the board as a pharmacy technician.”7

Graduates of the SJVC Pharmacy Technology program are eligible to apply for licensure with the California State Board of Pharmacy providing they meet requirements as specified by the Board, including a Department of Justice criminal background check and data bank query to determine if an act has been committed that constitutes grounds for denial of licensure.8.

Students qualify to take the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Exam (PTCE) upon successful completion of practice examinations administered during their course of study with the approval of the Pharmacy Liaison. Students also have the opportunity to earn their Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Certification8.

How do I start my Pharmacy Technician training?

The first step is to enroll in a Pharmacy Technology program like the one offered at SJVC. Students in the SJVC program can earn their Pharmacy Technology Certificate in as few as 9 months.

Contact SJVC

Request more information or call 866-544-7898 to learn how you can start your training.

Important information about the educational debt, earnings and completion rates of students who attended SJVC can be found here.

8 SJVC College Catalog, page 140

Learn More About Pharmacy Technician School

Still unsure if pharmacy technology is for you? Read our free guide and learn more about this career.

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