Pharmacy technicians (also known among other names as pharmacist assistants, pharmacy helpers, pharmacy clinicians or pharmacy support personnel) assist and support licensed pharmacists in providing healthcare to patients, performing those pharmacy-department activities that don’t require the professional judgment of a qualified pharmacist. In recent years, pharmacy technicians have become indispensible to the healthcare field. A growing consumer demand for prescription medications and chronic shortages of pharmacists have allowed pharmacist assistants the opportunity to play a continually more crucial role in today’s pharmacy industry. With this growing opportunity, pharmacist assistants are now able to enjoy a rewarding career in the constantly evolving field of health care while maintaining a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.
Pros and Cons of Being a Pharmacy Technician
– For individuals aspiring to develop a pharmacy-based career, this job can serve as a great starting point since it can allow them to learn the ins and outs of the profession
– Excellent job outlook
– Great work environment
– One has the option of working in countless different locations and health care settings
– Requires minimal education and training
– Highly satisfying and rewarding
– The job involves performing repetitive tasks, which can make one feel tired and bored
– It can be stressful, especially when it comes to dealing with rude patients, demanding superiors, and insurance companies
– Pays relatively low wages
Pharmacy Technician Job Description
Pharmacist assistants typically work behind the pharmacy counter assisting licensed pharmacists with a range of tasks. They work in many different practice settings, including: retail and mail-order pharmacies, hospitals, physician offices, clinics, nursing homes, and assisted living institutions. In these settings, pharmacy helpers are responsible for helping licensed pharmacists screen prescriptions for accuracy, order, stock, package and prepare medications, dispense and sore medications, provide customer service and perform various administrative duties, which can include answering telephones, operating cash registers, filing paper work, and inventory control. Pharmacist assistants may also input the prescription data into a database or on a patient’s file, as well as deliver sterile solutions to medical staff and remove any expired medications and properly dispose of them. In addition, they may be required to handle insurance issues, contact doctors when needed, undertake cleaning and any other miscellaneous job duties as assigned. Essentially, pharmacy techs may perform many of the same duties as a pharmacist, but all their work must be checked by a licensed pharmacist.
Pharmacy Technician Duties
– Greet each customer in a courteous and professional manner
– Screening prescriptions for accuracy
– Dispensing and storing medications
– Handling and labeling medications
– Ordering medications and supplies, and verifying deliveries
– Stocking medication
– Answering the phone
– Operating cash registers
– Noting prescription information in a patient’s file
– Preparing and delivering sterile solutions to medical staff
– Filing paperwork
– Stocking inventory
– Handling insurance companies
– Removing any expired medications and ensuring they are properly disposed of
– Training new employees
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
To become a pharmacist assistant, one must take up training through a formal training program or on-the-job training/apprenticeship program. Pharmacies often hire trainees, who get the opportunity to move to a pharmacy technician position within the organization upon successful completion of their training program and per local state pharmacy guidelines. With a registered apprenticeship program, aspiring pharmacist assistants can earn a paycheck and get hands-on experience while building up their skills. However, graduates of a formal training program have a strong competitive edge in obtaining entry-level employment and career advancement in all pharmacy settings. This is because most employers prefer applicants who have completed a pharmacy technician program. Training programs can be found at vocational schools and community colleges.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacist assistant programs award a certificate or associate degree and can last between 1-2 years. On-the-job training or apprenticeship programs may last anywhere from a few months, to one or two years.
In all parts of the country, pharmacist assistants must possess a broad knowledge of pharmacy practice and must be skilled in the techniques required in order to perform their duties proficiently, but they don’t need the advanced education required of a licensed pharmacist. Each state has its own education requirements for pharmacy support personnel. Nonetheless, the only requirement to be considered for a trainee job as a pharmacy tech is a high school diploma or G.E.D. certificate. But because most employers tend to favor candidates with some training in the field, many students are opting to first complete a certificate or an associate degree in pharmacy technology before seeking work. These programs focus on relevant courses such as mathematics, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, pharmacy law, computer applications and more. As part of the training program, students are required to participate in clinical rotations (also called externship) to gain hands-on skills in the field. Students may be required to provide evidence of TB skin tests or results, pass a background check and have CPR certification before being allowed to participate in the pharmacy externship program.
Currently, there are no nation-wide certification requirements for pharmacist assistants. State requirements for certification can vary, but most states require that prospective pharmacy clinicians either hold degrees from accredited institutions or complete a set number of training hours in order to practice as pharmacy techs. Organizations that offer voluntary certification require individuals to pursue formal training. This training also helps boost student job prospects. Nearly all states require aspiring pharmacist assistants to reveal any criminal or drug conviction record or to assert that they don’t have such a record.
Most states require pharmacist assistants to be registered or earn a license from the state pharmacy board. Certification, which typically involves completion of a formal training program and successful passing of a competency exam, is required by some states in order to earn licensure. These states will license pharmacist assistants only after they earn voluntary national certification. There are two nationally recognized accrediting bodies that offer voluntary certification for pharmacy helpers: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Health Career Association (NHA).
Pharmacy Technician Job Outlook
Between 2012 and 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Statistics (BLS) projects employment of pharmacist assistants to grow 20% – which is much faster than the average for all professions. This tremendous growth will be driven by the expanded role pharmacies are playing in providing patient care as well as the expanded role of pharmacy clinicians as clerical workers and caregivers. Pharmacist assistants are now responsible for performing majority of the administrative tasks in busy pharmacies. This means today pharmaceutical establishments are relying more and more on technicians to run their operations smoothly. And with the ever-increasing number of pharmaceutical businesses, the demand for qualified pharmacy technicians can only grow. Another factor that will boost job growth in this field is the aging population. As the number of older adults – who use more prescription drugs – increases, the need to dispense greater number of medications will increase. In addition, as advances in medical technology bring cheaper medications for an increasing number of conditions, more pharmacist assistants will be needed to fill a growing number of prescriptions. Because of this, job opportunities for licensed pharmacy technicians are fairly good and should remain so over the next decade.
Employed people, by detailed occupation and gender
Percent Women 56%
(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nursing-assistants.htm
(2) Women in Labor Force: http://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/cps/women-in-the-labor-force-a-databook-2014.pdf