How to Become a Pharmacy Technician
What is a Pharmacy Technician?
If you’ve ever wanted to work with the public and help them get the medications they need but aren’t sure you want to invest the money and time it takes to become a pharmacist, you may be wondering how to become a pharmacy technician. Pharm techs can find employment in retail drug stores (i.e. CVS or Walgreens), clinics, and hospitals, working alongside pharmacists to provide service to customers purchasing prescriptions. The duties of a pharmacy technician is as fluid as that of a pharmacist, performing duties and jobs as the position requires. Those who work in hospitals may find a greatly expanded role, extending even to making rounds in some instances.
Unlike many careers, the work schedule of a pharmacy technician can be unpredictable, leading to long and unusual hours. Many pharmacies are open around the clock, meaning night shift hours are common in the field. Pharmacy technician positions are available in both part-time and full-time varieties. As of the latest survey (May of 2010), the median annual salary for the position leveled off at $28,400, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top ten percent of the field earned north of $40,000 per year. If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a pharmacy technician, the following information may be of use.
Pharmacy Technician Job Description
A comprehensive pharmacy technician job description is hard to come by, only because each employer will have a different set of expectations for their employees. That said, there are certain things common to the work, regardless of the employer. A pharmacy technician must be able to work with computers to enter and retrieve data, obtain information on prescriptions and patient medical histories, and be able to work seamlessly with the public. Most pharmacy technician jobs will involve working with customers to some degree, so communication skills are important for the position.
Pharmacy Technician Duties
Once again, the specific duties for a pharmacy technician will vary as the employer requires. However, there is a certain set of duties that any pharm tech should be prepared to perform in the service of the pharmacist. These include:
- Obtaining information to help fill prescriptions
- Counting medications and measuring out amounts to ensure customers get exactly what has been prescribed by their doctors
- Mix and prepare medications.
- Package prescriptions for customers, ensuring they are labeled correctly with dosage information.
- Process retail transactions and handle money.
- Process insurance claims as part of filling a prescription.
Certain retail drug stores, of course, may have their pharmacy technicians performing a wider array of duties. It isn’t uncommon, for instance, for a pharm tech to be called upon to answer phones, perform customer service duties, ring up non-pharmacy related purchases, or help clean the store.
Pharmacy Technician Requirements
In the course of their duties, pharmacy technicians must bring to bear a wide variety of skills. Working in this industry does not require advanced math, but a strong basic grasp of pharmacy technician mathematics and science is necessary. The job entails a number of precise calculations, each of which is necessary to provide patients with the correct amount of medicine. Math skills needed include the ability to work with percentages, basic algebra, and fractions. Pharm techs must also possess basic knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and chemistry. Detail oriented individuals tend to make better pharmacy technicians. Organizational skills and self motivational skills are also highly prized among employers.
How much do Pharmacy Technicians Make?
If you’re interested in a career as a pharmacy tech you’re most likely curious of the salary. As of the last BLS.GOV survey (May of 2010), the median annual salary for the position leveled off at $28,400, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10% percent of the field earned more than $40,000 per year. If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a pharmacy technician, the following information may be of use.
Pharmacy Technician Schools
If, after learning about the duties of a pharmacy technician you still want to know how to become a pharmacy technician, you will be happy to learn that some employers are willing to train new hires from scratch. There are many opportunities for entry level pharmacy technician jobs. If you cannot find employment through on-the-job training, however, you can get an edge on the competition by beefing up your resume. Vocational school and community colleges often offer programs for certification. Most of these programs can be completed in only a year and some come with internships that can give students hands-on experience and a potential route to employment. Look for programs that will provide such opportunities as well as schools that are conveniently located and can provide the training needed in a relatively short amount of time.
Some community colleges provide shorter, 100-150 hour pharmacy training programs intended to teach students basic medical terminology, dosage calculations, drug names and their generics, and more. These programs also provide a fertile training ground for those students who want to take a pharmacy tech certification exam, as much of the material covered on the exam will be taught in the class. It should be noted, however, that these programs rarely include college credit, meaning state and federal aid may not be available.
Pharmacy Technician Training
Before applying for a pharmacy technician position or entering a training program, check with your state’s Board of Pharmacy to determine the exact prerequisites for employment. Some clinics and retail pharmacies may have tighter restrictions for employees, while others will provide all of the training you need. Regardless, obtaining the minimum requirements for the position ahead of time will improve your resume and make finding a job much easier. Some of the typical requirements include a high school diploma (or equivalent GED), a clean criminal background, an exam, state-administered licensing fees, and continuing education.
Pharmacy Technician Certification
Many states require pharmacy technicians to be officially certified. Some hospitals and retail establishments provide on-the-job training programs that are governmentally accredited, while others will require applicants to obtain their certification before applying. The benefits to obtaining this certification include greater employment opportunities, the potential for further advancement and higher pay, and a dependable understanding of the laws surrounding pharmaceuticals and their administration. There are two primary routes to independent certification. The first is through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. The second is through the National Healthcareer Association, a nationally accredited organization. No matter which organization you choose, the certification (CPhT) is the same and should provide the same benefits.