Pharmacy technicians work diligently along side pharmacists to help them with a variety of tasks throughout the pharmacy. These jobs include assisting with the preparation of medications and prescriptions, attending to customers and their orders, and clerical duties such as typing and filing. A pharmacy technician will find their responsibilities really vary depending on the locale in which they work.
Larger pharmacies may well employ pharmacy aides, in which case the vast majority of the administrative and clerical duties will be handled by them. The greatest responsibility of the pharmacy tech, of course, is working with medications and prescriptions. Often the tech will be asked to accept paperwork from the customer, and then go about filling the order, including the preparation of medication such as counting pills, measuring liquids, and properly applying identification labels to the drug containers.
Job duties also vary by state and city, depending on the local laws for pharmacies. Since technicians are often responsible for the prescriptions, they must verify that the information contained within them are accurate and safe. After all, even the slightest mistake can lead to a fatal reaction. As such, care must be taken to confirm all medications, whether the order be received in person after a doctors visit, or over the phone. More recently, doctors’ offices have become more modernized and are able to send information via fax or email.
In many instances, the pharmacy technician is involved in every step of the preparation of the medication, including measuring the amount (whether it be pouring, mixing, counting tablets, etc.) and combining them into a container which is then properly labeled. Of course, all this is done under a pharmacist’s supervision and the ultimate responsibility for the prescription lies with him or her. The tech may handle billing and insurance information, but the pharmacist will be the one to answer any health questions or concerns about medications and side effects.
Pharmacy technicians may also work in settings beyond the traditional stand-alone pharmacies or those that are part of national chains, such as grocery stores. About one quarter of all pharmacy techs work in hospital, clinic, or nursing home settings. In these instances, they must take extra steps to prevent nosocomial infections and will interact directly with nurses and physicians. As such, the added responsibilities for these individuals may lead to higher pay and non-traditional work hours.
Pharmacy technicians generally work in well-maintained office and laboratory type settings. Most of the time they are on their feet, interacting with customers, pharmacists, or preparing medications for consumption. Depending on the presence of pharmacy aides and the demand for administrative tasks, some techs may find themselves sitting during their work day to file paperwork, handle insurance documents, type up patient records, and other clerical duties. As one might guess, mobility will also be required to be able to move large quantities of boxed medications or access high shelving where other drugs are stored.
For those who do not work in the traditional types of pharmacies, there may be extra work involved as well. Those who are employed in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted care facilities, urgent care clinics, and other venues which maintain around the clock care will be called upon to work holidays, overnight shifts, and more. These jobs are typically more stressful and demanding, but do have the advantage of paying more than their regular business hour counterparts. Part time work is also often available for pharmacy techs in all manner of job settings.
In order to get the job you want, it’s vital to get the best possible schooling and training possible. While there are many opportunities available for pharmacy technologists, it never hurts to be clearly better than your competitors and this is one way in which you can accomplish that. For those who don’t yet have experience, good education, certification, and training can provide an important leg up in the profession. There is no national standardized training program, but there are plenty of state and federal agencies that provide certified education plans.
The first step is to make sure you have a high school diploma or G.E.D. equivalent. If you don’t have this yet, make it a priority. Even if you decide not to become a pharmacy tech, it will prove invaluable in any career path you choose to follow. Once that’s under your belt, you can begin to explore pharmacy tech training programs. These can last anywhere from six months to two years and are offered at a wide range of venues, such as community college, vocational schools, junior colleges, and at health care providers such as hospitals and clinics.
While it is true that in the past many pharmacies offered on the job training, these opportunities have become less common as the economy has slowed. Fewer jobs are available and with liability costs on the rise, most employers prefer to hire well trained individuals rather than taking on the time and expense to train you themselves. If you’re trying to land a position in a pharmacy and competing again someone who is looking to learn while being paid, odds are good you will be hired ahead of your competition.
Training for pharmacy technicians is likely what you’d expect. A thorough curriculum of classes geared toward medicine and drugs along with practical lab experience. Techs are expected to master the pharmacology and math needed by the profession, as well the medical terminology needed to effectively communicate in pharmacy settings. Before entering into a training program, a good background in high school math and science is of great advantage. You will be building on your math and science skills during your pharmacy education.
More advanced programs will then go on to cover in depth subjects such as pharmaceutical calculations, formulas, methods, and more. Ethics and legal practices are also touched upon, along with drug conventions including naming, dosing, usage and more. Once these subjects are adequately covered, and a student demonstrates proficiency, he or she will be granted a diploma or certificate of complete.
Subsequently, many graduates of a pharmacy technician training program will go on to pursue registration with the state board of pharmacy. While requirements vary depending on location, many state boards require credentials and the payment of a fee for registration purposes.
There are also many national organizations that offer the ability to be certified. Perhaps the two most well known and regarded organizations in the United States are the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT). Each of these two groups offer and administer their own exams which result in the certification of pharmacy technicians. This certification may then be used to enhance the applicant profile and attain a better job with a higher salary than the alternative, non-certified positions. Some states and employers even go so far as to require a passing score from one of the two groups in order to be eligible for a job.
There are several requirements for applicants to the ICPT and/or the PTCB. A high school diploma is required, along with a clean record with regard to criminal behavior. Any sort of drug conviction is a red flag and will prove a serious hindrance to your future employment. While the costs for each of these exams can be expensive, hiring organizations will often reimburse for the price of the test. Additionally, the certification only lasts for two years, and must be renewed. Along with passing the exam, pharmacy technicians must also complete twenty hours of professional development credit, which can be earned through local college or university courses, as well as online or through staff development days offered by employers.
In order to be a pharmacy technician, there are some basic standards that prospective employees should meet. In terms of mental capacity, individuals should have strong science and math backgrounds with the capability to retain the many different forms of medication available. While the tech will not be the one to answer health care questions directly, he or she is part of the team along with the head pharmacist who will be preparing the drugs for patients and customers. A clear mind and a sharp focus are needed in order to ensure that dosing and prescriptions are completed in an ideal manner.
Besides the mental skills, pharmacy technicians need to be well versed and skilled with customer service, since a great deal of their day to day interactions will be with customers, or in the case of more advanced facilities, patients. The tech must be able to contribute as part of the health care team, and in hospitals and clinics, they are expected to interact with nurses and physicians as needed.
Physically, techs need to be capable of standing on their feet for most of the day when needed. They will also likely need to be mobile when moving back and forth between interacting with customers, filling scripts, and delivering medication in various forms. Light lifting is a very common demand, and adequate balance when using step ladders to reach drugs that are stored in more difficult to reach or secure areas.
Pharmacy technologists can expect to earn more and pass up through the ranks with greater experience and education. In fact, one of the best ways to ensure not only a job today, but employment tomorrow, is with a strong resume that is well filled out with both experience and training. These requirements can be met via continuing education and certification from national and state agencies. The most likely path for advancement is to management, where a tech may oversee other employees of the pharmacy including aides. Ultimately, techs may choose to branch out into other, higher paying professions such as sales or even pharmacy school.
According to the latest government data, there were about three hundred and twenty-five thousand positions for pharmacy technicians in the year 2008. Almost three quarters of these jobs were in settings such as national chains (CVS, Rite Aid, etc) and supermarkets, and independent retailers. The other positions are in health care settings such as hospitals, urgent care centers, community health clinics, assisted living facilities, and skilled nursing centers.
The number of jobs available for pharmacy techs is expected to grow much faster than the national average. This is for a number of reasons, but largely because of two factors. The first is that the population is continuing to age, and as more baby boomers approach old age, they will be in need of more medication and pharmaceuticals. Secondly, due to the expenses associated with health care and the increasing costs, pharmacy techs will be in greater demand and enjoy more responsibility than ever before. This is because by offloading some of the pharmacists’ jobs will lead in fewer of them being needed. So, as you can see, now is a great time to be interested in the field.
Other reasons for the expected thirty one percent rise in pharmacy positions include the advancement of science and medicine. While it is true that older individuals take more medications than their younger counterparts, never before have so many taken optional medications for conditions as variable as hair loss or bedroom problems. Drugs such as these will only become more prevalent in the decades to come.
Hiring is expected to be largely dependent on factors such as education, training, and experience. For this reason, prospective candidates should focus on these areas if they wish to target the most desirable jobs. Ensuring a quality education, complete with full certification and quality references will allow one to get the experience needed to obtain the best possible job.
Earnings for pharmacy technicians have steadily risen over the years. As demand has increased, pharmacy techs have enjoyed higher and higher salaries along with being given more job duties. The latest data available, from 2008, suggests that most techs earn between ten and fifteen dollars per hour. The actual figures depend greatly on a number of factors. Certified professionals generally earn more than non-certified counterparts, and those with experience naturally tend to have higher salaries as well. Those seasoned techs may also be promoted to supervisory positions.
Wages also vary depending on the location, with urban settings generally paying more than rural outposts. Considering the relative difference in cost of living, however, is important to weigh when comparing potential offers. Benefits packages, such as health care and paid vacation time are also worth pondering, since not all hourly positions offer these choices. Part time workers are generally also paid a lesser amount, unless they are part of a temporary or traveling assignment.