Where can you work as a pharmacy technician?
Most pharmacy technicians work in large retail drug stores like CVS and Walgreens, but there are a number of other opportunities for pharmacy technicians. Some of those options include:
- Pharmacies, including compounding and specialty pharmacies
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Hospitals and other health care clinics
Learn more about what you can expect when working in these environments as a pharmacy technician below.
Retail drug store
The most common type of pharmacy is the one that most of us are familiar with: the retail, or chain, pharmacy. In fact, there are 62.1% more retail pharmacies in the U.S. than independent and other types of pharmacies, according to IQVIA (a healthcare data bank).
The 25 largest retail pharmacy chains had 34,845 locations in the U.S. in 2018 and employed more than 75,000 pharmacists, according to National Pharmacy Market Summary by IQVIA. The 10 largest retail pharmacies are:
|RANK (based on # of stores)||Retailer||# of stores||Link to jobs page|
|1||CVS||9207||Jobs at CVS|
|2||Walgreens||7768||Jobs at Walgreens|
|3||Rite Aid||4488||Jobs at Rite Aid|
|4||Walmart||4473||Jobs at Walmart|
|5||Kroger||1918||Jobs at Kroger|
|6||Publix||890||Jobs at Publix|
|7||Safeway||888||Jobs at Safeway|
|8||Cerberus Capital Management*||504||Jobs at Albertson’s|
|9||Sears||450||Jobs at Kmart pharmacies|
|10||Costco||435||Jobs at Costco|
*Cerberus Capital Management owns several retail pharmacies, according to the 2018 SK&A report, “National Pharmacy Market Summary.” Their subsidiaries, according to Cerberus’s website, including Albertsons, which includes Safeway, Jewel-Osco and other retailer brands.
What do pharmacy technicians do at retail chains?
Pharmacy technicians are the friendly faces who greet patients at the pick-up and drop-off windows. They also support the pharmacist by handling administrative tasks such as:
- Processing prescriptions
- Communicating with health insurance companies
- Keeping the pharmacy cleaned and organized
- Doing inventory checks
Occasionally, pharmacy technicians who work in a retail environment may be asked to complete tasks in other parts of the store.
Independent drug store
Community pharmacies, or independent drug stores, offer similar goods as large retail chains, but they are owned by an individual, family or small group. They aren’t franchised or owned by large holding companies.
According to the National Community Pharmacists Association, the U.S. is home to 21,909 small business community pharmacies. Pharmacy Times estimates that independent pharmacies account for 35 percent of retail pharmacy space.
People choose “corner store” pharmacies over big retailers for many reasons, according to a Consumer Reports survey. Survey respondents who said they prefer independent pharmacies because:
- More personal, individualized attention
- Shorter wait times
- Less likely to run out of medications
- Less expensive
- Options for home delivery
- In-person interactions rather than apps and websites
What do pharmacy technicians do at community pharmacies?
Pharmacy technicians’ jobs at independent drug stores are similar to those at larger chains. According to numerous job listings, they assist pharmacists with inputting and filling prescriptions, maintain inventory records, answer phones, and communicate with patients and doctors who call to refill prescriptions or ask questions.
Look for pharmacy technician jobs through NCPA’s InPharmacyJobs website. You can sign up to get alerts as jobs are posted.
Compounding and specialty pharmacies
Compounding pharmacies offer a special service that retail drug stores do not: They create medications tailored to individual patients. A doctor may refer a patient to a compounding pharmacy for hormone medications that are tailored to his or her specific needs. Or, if a patient is allergic to certain ingredients in a medication, such as gluten, their doctor may refer them to a compounding pharmacy.
Specialty pharmacies specialize in medications that treat specific conditions or complex diseases. The medications are typically high-cost, high-touch because they must be administered by healthcare professionals.
Specialty pharmacies are healthcare providers as they tend to be more involved in patients’ care. Examples of conditions that specialty pharmacies treat: HIV and AIDS, cancer, immune disorders, infertility, and multiple sclerosis, to name a few. The video below explores the role technicians play in compounding facilities.
Specialty pharmacies can be retail or independent. CVS Health, for example, has multiple CVS Caremark specialty pharmacy locations.
What do pharmacy technicians do at compounding and specialty care pharmacies?
Like retail and community pharmacies, pharmacy technicians in specialty environments assist pharmacists with:
- Logging and filling prescriptions
- Communicating with patients
- Maintaining inventory
- Other administrative tasks
If you are interested in learning more about compounding, SJVC’s pharmacy technology certificate program includes a pharmacy course specific to compounding. Download the latest brochure on the pharmacy technology program page.
Hospital, clinical and long-term care facilities
Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians work in drug-dispensing departments of larger organizations, such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care (LTC) facilities, such as nursing homes, assisted living communities, and memory care facilities. These pharmacies may employ staff 24 hours a day. 
What does a pharmacy technician at a hospital, clinic or LTC facility do?
They work under the supervision of a pharmacist and may:
- Help fill prescriptions
- Fill syringes
- Set up IV-drip solutions
Technicians in these settings typically spend most of their time filling prescriptions, and they have very little direct interaction with patients.
Mail order pharmacies
Some larger insurance companies require or encourage patients to use mail-order pharmacies for medications they take on a regular basis, such as maintenance drugs to manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol or depression.
What do pharmacy technicians do at mail-order pharmacies?
Mail-order pharmacies are a lot like assembly-line factories because much of the work is automated, so the job of the pharmacy technician is to oversee the equipment. They may handle refill prescription requests, customer complaints, and coordinate prescriptions as they are received from doctors, cleared through insurance companies and sent to patients.
According to Drugchannels.net, some of the largest U. S. pharmacies based on total prescription revenues in 2018 were:
- CVS Health
- Walgreens Boots Alliance
- Cigna / Express Scripts
- UnitedHealth Group (OptumRx)
- Rite Aid
Want more information about becoming a pharmacy technician?
Becoming a pharmacy technician does not require a four-year degree, which makes it a perfect career for those looking to get into the workforce quicker. You can explore the pharmacy technology certificate program at SJVC, where you can download the latest program brochure for more information.
If you have questions about this program or any other programs at SJVC, contact an admissions specialist.
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