Becoming a pharmacy technician requires dedication and commitment, but the result is a rewarding career that is not only fulfilling but can also be lucrative as well. For those who want to know how to become a pharmacy technician, the next few paragraphs will include information on pharmacy technician training and the eligibility requirements for pharmacy technician schools. Pharmacy technician salary and availability of pharmacy technician jobs will also be discussed, and those interested in becoming a pharmacy technician are encouraged to use this information as a guideline for their own research before deciding to embark on this challenging but ultimately gratifying career.
Job Description: What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?
A basic pharmacy technician job description will include the dispensing of prescription medications. This means not only transferring pills and liquid medications from larger receptacles to smaller bottles, applicators or syringes, but also correctly filling and labeling bottles with individually prescribed medications, mixing medications and measuring amounts when necessary, and stocking, pricing and keeping track of the pharmaceutical inventory. While a licensed pharmacist supervises these duties, the pharmacy technician needs to have extensive knowledge and understanding of each of these tasks.
While pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are not allowed to give medical advice concerning patient conditions and treatments, they are required to have extensive knowledge of drug interactions and side effects, and must be ready to respond intelligently to customer questions about these concerns. Pharmacy technicians must also be able to give some general information, when requested, about specific medications.
In addition, the pharmacy technician job description includes administrative duties within the pharmacy, such as answering the phone, assisting customers and processing medical and insurance forms. These duties may be increased in other pharmaceutical venues; for instance, a pharmacy technician working in a nursing home may also be required to deliver medications to medical personnel as well as keep individual patient medication records, while those working in mail-order pharmacies must be proficient at filling a large volume of customer orders.
How to Become a Pharmacy Technician: Training and Certification Requirements
Pharmacy Technician Training
Pharmacy technician training can be done in a variety of ways, but some basic requirements apply. Many states require either a high school diploma or equivalent certification, after which, those wishing to further their training can take specific courses at vocational schools, community colleges and even some hospitals. These specialized programs are often conducted in a lab setting and include laboratory work and training in pharmaceutical techniques and applications, as well as learning the names, uses and effects of prescription drugs. These programs also often include hands-on internships at real working pharmacies. Online courses in pharmaceutical training are also available from accredited colleges and vocational schools.
Depending on the school, pharmacy technician training can take from six months up to two years for a diploma or for certification. While this type of specialist training is not a state requirement, be advised that many pharmacies tend to favor applicants who have at least a high school diploma, and a further course of specialized pharmaceutical training often gives applicants an edge when applying for a job.
Pharmacy Technician Certification
As for certification, it is essential in many states that pharmacy technicians must have licensure from their state’s board of pharmacy; this necessitates that the applicant first acquire a high school or equivalent diploma. This type of licensure includes a background check, and applicants must pay an application fee; also, be prepared to wait for at least several weeks for the application to be processed.
Other certification requirements differ from state to state; while some states don’t require board certification, others do, and board certification will certainly enhance a pharmacy technician’s credentials and might easily provide increased opportunities for employment, particularly because board certification is required by some pharmaceutical employers. Towards this end, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board as well as the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (now part of the National Healthcareer Association) conduct examinations for pharmacy technicians. In order to be eligible to take either of these exams, applicants must have at least a high school diploma and cannot have been convicted of a felony. Likewise, applicants taking the PTCB exam cannot have had any drug or pharmacy related convictions in their past. While there is a fee for these exams, some pharmaceutical employers will reimburse this cost to their employees. After passing the exam and getting certification, pharmacy technicians are required to undergo 20 hours of continuing education over the next two years, 10 hours of which can be done hands-on at the pharmacy where they work. In addition, certified technicians need to be re-certified every two years.
Salary and Pay: How Much Does a Pharmacy Technician Make?
Pharmacy technician salaries vary across the country. According to the Occupational Employment Statistics Survey Program conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2010 the median hourly wage of pharmacy technicians was $13.65, with the mid-range averaging between $11.24 and $16.62. Pharmacy technician salary averages at the lowest 10 percent were less than $9.27, while the top 10 percent salaries averaged more than $19.57. The median annual wage is $28,400, with the lowest 10 percent making $19,840 and the top 10 percent making $40,710. These fluctuations depend upon regional salary averages, and pharmacy technicians in some specialized settings requiring more training might make a higher wage than others. Likewise, some states pay a higher median wage than others; according to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, Alaska, Washington, California, Hawaii and the District of Columbia are the highest paying areas in the country for a wide range of employees, including pharmacy technicians, so those seeking a higher salary might consider applying in one of these locations. The lowest paying states, according to these statistics, are Arkansas, Kentucky and Oklahoma, where the annual mean wage averages at $26,000 and lower, so those who require a higher salary should take these statistics under consideration as well.
Jobs: What is the Job Outlook for Pharmacy Technicians?
The good news is that pharmacy technician jobs are open all over the country, in a wide variety of venues ranging from grocery stores and chain-operated drug stores, to hospitals, clinics, and assisted living facilities. With medical advances continuing at top speed, the need has grown for trained practitioners experienced in mixing and dispensing medications.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2010 there were 335,500 pharmacy technicians employed nationwide. Indicators predict that employment in this particular profession will increase faster than it will for a number of other professions, particularly for those pharmacy technicians who have certification or who have some years of experience in the field. These indicators predict an increase of employment averaging at approximately 31 percent over the 10 year period between 2008 and 2018. In numerical terms, this averages out to approximately 99,800 new pharmacy technician jobs. In particular, larger states such as California, Texas and Florida are expected to employ the most pharmaceutical workers, including pharmacy technicians, during this 10 year period.
For those seeking board certification, the prospects look particularly bright. According to statistics, those who have at least some college education make up at least 77 percent of the pharmacy technician workforce, and it is almost certain that employers will continue to seek out those who are the most highly trained for these demanding jobs. Because of this, most career counsellors advise those pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician to get as much specialized training as possible, and then to apply for board certification with either the PTCB or ICPT. In addition, hands-on work in an active pharmacy, whether as an intern or pharmacy aid, is also advisable for those who want to be considered for the best, highest-paying jobs.
What Does it Take to Become a Pharmacy Technician?
While this gives a basic sketch of how to become a pharmacy technician, it must be said that anyone who is considering this career must have a dedication to learning, and should try to develop a highly-honed attention to detail. In addition, those who want to pursue a career as a pharmacy technician should consider taking continuing education courses in related topics such as organic chemistry. This not only gives the applicant a strong working knowledge of the chemical makeup of prescription medications, but also helps to develop the necessary concentration required when mixing and dispensing pharmaceutical drugs.
In addition, those pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician must be able to cultivate a certain level of patience and compassion in dealing with the public. Customers who are availing themselves of the pharmacist’s services are often in pain or some physical distress, and may even be confused or frightened at the prospect of taking certain medications. While it’s part of the physicist’s job to ally those fears, the trip to the doctor is often followed by a trip to the pharmacist, and it may take a certain amount of tact and reassuring to be able to communicate effectively and compassionately with the customer.
These are the factors that make up the everyday life of a pharmacy technician, and that’s why it’s so important to learn about how to become a pharmacy technician. The career choice a challenging one, not only because of the educational requirements and intensive amount of knowledge required, but also because of the responsibility involved. Yet these are also the reasons that a career as a pharmacy technician can be intensely rewarding, and well worth the time and effort spent in training and certification. In the end, becoming a pharmacy technician can lead to a fulfilling, and even lifelong, career in the service of mankind.