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Pharmacy Technician Has Bright Job Outlook

Updated on May 22, 2011

A person aspiring to become a pharmacy technician can find new job opportunities after training and certification, according to the National Center for O*NET Development, the organization hired by the U.S. Labor Department and Employment and Training Administration to assist students and job seekers about their career options.

When O*NET says an occupation has a Bright Outlook, it means that job opportunities for this occupation will increase by at least 100,000 job openings over the period from 2008 to 2018.

What does a pharmacy technician do?

  • Prepares medications following instructions from a pharmacist
  • Measures, counts or mixes medications according to instructions
  • Records dosages of medications
  • Receives written prescriptions and refills requests
  • Maintains patient profiles and medications taken
  • Ensures that drugs are protected, secured and stored properly
  • Gathers patients' personal health information
  • Counts and labels prescriptions
  • Ensures that drug inventory levels are adequate
  • Orders drugs needed for the next day
  • Answers the pharmacy phone
  • Greets patients

What are the basic skills, abilities, and knowledge needed?

  • Can do basic calculations, such as add, subtract, multiply and divide
  • Can read and understand written instructions
  • Can listen to and understand verbal instructions
  • Can understand what other people say
  • Can ask relevant questions
  • Can notice when there is a problem and can find a way to solve it
  • Can learn to use a medical software, such as a database software, drug compatibility software, patient record maintenance software
  • Can memorize, as well as comprehend, names of drugs and indications
  • Can learn how to compound liquid drugs and creams

Who are best suited to the job of a pharmacy technician?

People who like activities that involve data and details and they thrive doing regular routines.


How do you become a pharmacy technician?

If you're a high school graduate or you've finished some college, you can find training or apprenticeship to become a pharmacy technician. 

Find a Registered Apprenticeship program in your state. Google the name of your state together with the word "apprenticeship". Click the one that leads to your state's government agency handling apprenticeship.

  • For example, in California, the agency handling apprenticeship is California Department of Industrial Relations. 
  • In Florida, the agency is the Florida Department of Education.
  • In Illinois, the agency is Illinois Department of Employment Security.

If you can't find an apprenticeship in your state for this job, you can take up pharmacy technician programs offered by community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals, or military facilities.

Do you need a license or a certification to get employment?

In most states, you need to register with or get a license from the state's Board of Pharmacy, or the state's licensing agency for pharmacy technicians.

You can beat employment competition or get a higher-paying position if you get certified by private national organizations, such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board or the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. To get certified by these groups, you need to pass their exams and their training requirements.  

Who Is a Certified Pharmacy Technician?

A Certified Pharmacy Technician is one who has passed the certification exam and requirements of the:

  • Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)
  • or the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT), which is now owned and managed by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

PTCB

The PTCB says that it has certified more than 400,000 pharmacy technicians nationwide since 1995. In 2010, more than 55,000 technicians took its Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE).

It also says that its PTCE is the one taken by federal pharmacy technicians getting their training at the U.S. Department of Defense Military Education and Training Campus at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

You can apply online to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam given by the PTCB.

The content of the exam revolves around three areas:

  • Helping the pharmacist in serving patients -- 66%
  • Managing medication and inventory control systems -- 22%
  • Assisting in the management of pharmacy practice -- 12%

NHA

You can apply to take the NHA Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam if you:

  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Have completed a pharmacy technician training program or have at least one year of relevant work experience

What's the difference between a pharmacy technician and a pharmacist?

A pharmacist has a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree or a Doctor of Pharmacy degree and has passed the required board exams.

In a pharmacy, the pharmacist is responsible for clinical tasks, or activities that require medical judgment, such as:

  • making sure medications do not interact with other prescriptions or with the patient's condition
  • checking prescriptions before they're given to patients
  • counseling patients or answering patients' questions about their medications
  • taking new prescriptions over the phone

How much money does a pharmacy technician make?

You can expect an annual salary of about $28,070.

In some states, pharmacy technicians are paid above the average salary. In high-paying metro areas, annual salaries range from $29,080 to $39,210.


Where can pharmacy technicians earn the highest salaries?

State
Annual Mean Salary
 
 
Alaska
$39,210
Washington
$37,290
California
$37,280
Hawaii
$34,920
Washington, D.C.
$34,850
Metro Area
Annual Mean Salary
 
 
San Jose, CA area
$41,940
Oakland, CA area
$41,110
Santa Cruz, CA area
$40,510
San Luis Obispo, CA area
$40,010
San Francisco, CA area
$39,990
Salinas, CA area
$39,870
Fairbanks, AK area
$39,790
Anchorage, AK area
$39,730
Data from a May 2010 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

How can one obtain a higher pharmacy technician salary?

  • Get a certification and a license.
  • Work in higher-paying facilities such as hospitals.
  • Work in higher-paying metro areas, such as certain cities in California, Arkansas and Washington State.
  • Strive in your work so you get to work in the preparation of chemotherapy drugs or IV medications.


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