Pharmacy Technician: A Complete Career Guide

A pharmacy technician is one of the most basic careers in the medical industry. Entering the medical profession does not necessarily mean training to become a doctor or a nurse. Other careers may involve the medicine needed to make people overcome illness or live more normal lives. Here is a closer look at what this professional does, the salary that is involved, what training is required, and the job outlook.

Job Description

This position holds the responsibility of helping licensed pharmacists with clerical duties involved with running a pharmacy. This person will make sure that the business runs smoothly. They may collect money, answer the phone, or stock shelves. They may also get involved with deeper administrative duties like maintaining accurate records of patients and handling insurance issues. They must be very careful to steer clear of dangers and make safety a number one priority.

The size of the pharmacy will affect the job duties of this profession. People who work in clinics or large pharmacies will usually physically measure medicine and deal directly with customers. At smaller pharmacies, these people may simply run the cash register or answer the telephone. At times, they may also fill prescriptions. Accuracy is vital in all counting, weighing, measuring, and mixing of medication.

Many techs will work behind a pharmacy counter and stand on their feet most of the day. Some of these individuals will find employment in drugstore chains, supermarkets, or hospitals. If working in the public eye, they should have a friendly disposition and be able to deal with customers who may be sick or in pain.


A pharmacist tech holds the necessary skills to run a pharmacy without the total educational qualifications to be an active pharmacist. They not only work alongside a pharmacist filling prescriptions, they also handle administrative duties and move supplies after delivery. They usually hold odd work hours unlike the standard 9-5 job, especially if they are employed by a pharmacy that is open 24 hours. Many will be required to work nights and weekends.

All of these features along with experience will be the framework for determining a pharmacy tech’s salary. Technicians without formal qualifications will receive lower pay than those with more education. Salary will also be higher with people who have a large amount of work experience.

Average Salary Ranges

According to, the average salary of a new technician will be around $25,000 a year. The normal range will be from $20,000 to $40,000 per year. A technician may earn a higher salary when working for a hospital instead of a drugstore. When working for the government or while doing scientific research, a person may earn upwards of $50,000 a year. Alaska, California, Hawaii, and Washington are the highest paying states for this field, paying $35,000 as median income.

The job commonly includes good health and retirement benefits and paid sick leave. People who want to increase their salary should seriously consider more education.

Training And Schools

When a person discovers that they want to become work in this career feild, they must first graduate from high school. Other requirements will differ from state to state. Some places make a student pass a test or finish a formal program of training.

Some technicians learn their craft by training on the job. Other people will attend vocational schools or a community college. These classes usually last one year and deal with many different subjects like ways to dispense medicine, keeping records, math used in pharmacies, law, and ethics. They also learn names, uses, actions, and proper medical dosing.

One benefit to attending school for this field is obtaining an internship with a hospital or other local pharmacy. This is very valuable experience. The cost for training will vary. Most schools charge by the credit and an average program includes 36 credits. Financial aid is often available to individuals who cannot afford the cost up front.

For people who unable to commit to a real school environment, there are also online programs available. Online classes give a person much more freedom with time constraints. A person can work at a personal pace, going fast through easy subjects and spending more time on harder areas. One drawback of this route of education is that no internships are given. On a positive note, a quality online school will have instructors within reach through telephone or email to deal with any questions a student may have. A usual course load through online education is split into sections or modules. A test is normally given at the end of each section. Costs will also vary with these programs, but all of the online learning programs in this field are less expensive than traditional schools.

There are other options to receive training for this profession. First, a person can partake in an internship program. This gives hand on training as a student studies next to an experienced professional. Many national retail chains like CVS and Walgreens offer these types of programs. Not every program is similar. For example, Walgreens’ program is accredited by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP). This is a paid program that offers national certification and full preparation for a job in this field.

It provides experience in a high tech atmosphere and is a good way to expand career options through the company as they offer many positions throughout the organization. Certain local pharmacies may also offer internship programs. Working on the job will also provide a great learning opportunity. With each passing day at work, a person can expand their knowledge and skills. However, many pharmacies prefer to hire employees with previous training or education.

To advance past the job of a general tech, many people choose to continue their education and become a certified pharmacy technician.


Not every state requires a person to become certified to practice as a pharmacy assistant. However, if a person is to achieve certification after completing the appropriate courses, a person will need to pass the National Pharmacy Technician Certification (PTCB) exam. Becoming certified will greatly enhance future employment prospects. It will be necessary to acquire recertification every two years thereafter and a person must pursue 20 hours of education within that 2 year time period.

People with this certification will be delegated work from a licensed pharmacist according to rules and regulations of individual states. These people will take written prescriptions, prescriptions sent by email, as well as phone orders. A certified technician can read and fill all of these medications. Even though they have a good knowledge about different medicines, any clerical questions must be addressed by a licensed pharmacist.

One of the best online schools to obtain certification is the Ultimate Medical Academy. As the pharmaceutical industry expands, this school continues to keep up to date with the latest technology and prepare students to achieve a long and prosperous job. This is a flexible course of study geared to help a student pass all necessary national and statewide exams. Penn Foster Career School is another online school that provides all of the necessary practical training in this field and includes all textbooks and learning aids at an affordable price.

There are different kinds of degrees and certifications. A certificate in pharmacy technology gives students the skills needed to fill and mix IVs, handle pharmacy inventory, take orders, and help pharmacists throughout regular daily activities. A pharmacy tech program may or may not offer students the chance to sit for the examination which can earn a student a diploma. However, they train people to communicate using medical terminology, fill prescriptions, and give a better understanding behind how certain medicines affect the body.

These will train people to begin an entry level position in a pharmacy. An Associate Degree in Applied Science is a real college degree that requires completion of both pharmaceutical technology classes like chemistry and biology, along with general education classes. Students will be a trained to mix IV solutions, fill prescriptions, take orders, manage inventory, and comprehend how medicine treats illness. It is an excellent start for people who want to advance their future career in this industry.

Jobs And Employment Opportunities

The job growth rate for pharmacy techs are on the rise and are expected to grow faster than average in the coming years. There are many reasons for this including the fact that people are living longer and need medicine as they reach old age. Also, pharmacists are starting to take an active role in patient care. This means that a technician must fill in for the basic duties that pharmacists no longer have the time to finish. The development of new medical treatments are also placing higher demands for technicians. As previously stated, a person can work as a technician in a hospital, clinic, local chain or pharmacy inside of a department store, or supermarket.

Working in a retail environment will keep a technician active. They must be keep customers constantly satisfied. Jobs in this area offer some of the best chances for advancement. The best reasons to work here is that these jobs usually provide regular working hours, insurance, and retirement planning.

Mail order pharmacies are also a place to seek employment. As the internet is controlling more and more aspects of life, people are used to transactions that do not involve direct interaction. Mail order requires less operating costs and gives the ability to serve a broader customer base. This gives employees better pay, benefits, and overall flexibility. Working int he mail order field is good for independent workers. These people are responsible for receiving orders, reading prescriptions, counting medication, and labeling finished bottles.

For people who enjoy personal care and being part of a team, getting a job in a hospital or nursing home may be a smart option. Technician jobs involve patient care by filling prescriptions, delivering them, and recording dosages on patient logs.

It is not necessary to become certified to find employment in this area, yet it may open up new opportunities with higher pay. A person can take courses in a classroom or online to obtain certification. The future job outlook is very promising in this field. If a person is detail oriented, likes dealing with people, and is fascinated with the medical industry, the job of a pharmacy technician may be the ideal profession.

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