Pharmacy Technician Careers
Pharmacy Technicians help pharmacists dispense drugs. Most of these positions require a high school diploma, though some employers may prefer a degree or completion of a related certification program. There are stringent federal requirements that detail who can, and cannot, dispense drugs and in what capacity. Pharmacy technicians are not licensed pharmacists and their role in handling and dispensing drugs is minimal in order to abide by laws and regulations.
Pharmacy technicians may work in drugstores, grocery stores with pharmacies, in hospitals, long-time care facilities, or in independent pharmacies. According to the BLS, most pharmacy technicians work full-time, though part-time careers are also an option. Some pharmacy technicians see working in this position as a learning opportunity while studying to become a PharmD (Doctor of Pharmacy).
One of a pharmacy technician’s primary duties is to provide customer service. These professionals may take orders by phone, email, or in person and pharmacy technicians often serve as the face of the pharmacy. Having exceptional customer service skills, a professional attitude, friendliness, and empathy is critical. Some customers may not be feeling well, or feel stressed and anxious, so it is important that pharmacy technicians are adept at making transactions as simple as possible.
The BLS reports that job growth in this field is expected to reach 32% by 2020. This is great news for individuals interested in this career path. A few industries are recession-proof and the pharmaceutical/drug industry is one of them. Regardless of the economy, people still need prescription drugs, so this can be a stable career choice for many people.
There are no federal laws requiring accreditation or certification for pharmacy technicians. Some states or employers allow pharmacy technicians to begin their careers with no formal training. Other employers do require accreditation or a degree. Regardless of requirements, having accreditation or a degree is a great way to improve job prospects. Accreditation can also help with job security and can aid in advancement or promotions.
There are some different avenues to get certified, including:
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)
The online Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) consists of 90 multiple choice questions. Study guides are available online. Categories include assisting a pharmacist in serving customers, maintaining medication and inventory control systems, and participating in administration and management of pharmacy practice.
National Health Career Association (NHA)
NHA offers certification as a pharmacy technician (CPhT) as well as other medical-related certifications. This program is geared towards pharmacy technicians who receive written prescriptions from patients and electronic prescriptions from doctors, process physicians’ orders by phone, maintain patient profiles, and prepare insurance claim forms.
These are just two of the many available pharmacy technician certifications. Students should consider a school’s accreditation, the cost for classes, the school’s reputation, and the time commitment for completion when selecting a program. Individuals considering a degree or certificate program should also ensure that the school or college is accredited by the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists (ASHP). Interested candidates can check a program’s accreditation on the ASHP web site.
Pharmacy Technician Categories
Pharmacy technicians might work in a number of environments. These professionals can be found in areas outside of the healthcare industry, though that is still the leading work environment. Some categories of pharmacy technicians include:
Pharmacy technicians are needed at military bases around the world. Although employed by the U.S. government, these pharmacy technicians may or may not be serving in the military. Some pharmacy technicians are enlisted and may be pursuing a related degree or PharmD while serving their country. Others may work as a military pharmacy technician and be bound by a contract for a certain length of time.
Community pharmacy technicians work in a number of retail outlets outside of hospitals. Pharmacies inside of chain supermarkets are one of the most common places where community pharmacists work. A larger emphasis is placed on customer service in this environment since many shoppers are multi-tasking.
Hospitals are where pharmacy technicians originally began working. Sometimes these professionals have more responsibilities than professionals working in community settings. Depending on state and hospital laws, these pharmacy technicians might be in charge of making creams and ointments. They also have the important job of doing the final check of labels before drugs and medicines are distributed to patients.
Academic requirements vary by employer and state. The BLS reports that pharmacy technicians are required to have a high school diploma. However, some employers may require or prefer certification or a degree in a related field. It’s a safe bet that since this industry is expected to boom in the next decade, competition will be intense. A great way to improve career prospects is with pharmacy technician certification or a related degree.
Related degrees include Anatomy, Chemistry, and General Science. Certified pharmacy technicians who are pursuing a PharmD may be more likely to get hired at a pharmacy in any setting. The downside to this scenario is that pharmacy technicians have a relatively low salary. It’s important to consider what type of career and potential financial debt a person is comfortable carrying.