Pharmacy Technician: Job Duties, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become a pharmacy technician. Learn about job duties, employment outlook, education requirements and certification to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Pharmacy Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Pharmacy Technician?

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of licensed pharmacists to fill prescription orders for patients. Most work in pharmacies or hospitals. Their daily tasks include taking information needed to fill a prescription, measuring amounts of medication, labeling prescriptions, organizing inventory and informing pharmacists of any shortages. Pharmacy technicians will often need to process payments and insurance claims, answer phone calls, enter patient information into the computer system and notify the pharmacist of any questions from customers. Depending on the state in which they work, pharmacy technicians may also be qualified to compound, mix and/or administer some medications. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this profession.

Degree Required No formal education required; however, associate's degree, certificate or diploma preferred
Education Field of Study Pharmacy technician
Key Skills Verify and fill prescriptions, maintain records, coordinate with insurance companies
Registration/Certification Most states require registration; voluntary certification available
Job Growth (2014-2024 ) 9%*
Average Salary (2015) $31,680*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Job Duties Will I Perform as a Pharmacy Technician?

As a pharmacy technician, you will assist a licensed pharmacist with providing customer service and preparing patients' prescriptions. Your duties may include verifying prescriptions, counting or measuring appropriate amounts of medications, preparing prescription labels, maintaining patient records, filing insurance claims and directing drug-related questions to a pharmacist. If your employer doesn't have pharmacy aides, you may also answer phones, operate cash registers and manage inventory.

What Type of Job Outlook is Expected?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment for pharmacy technicians would increase by 9% over the 2014-2024 decade, which was faster than average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). This growth was due in part to an increasing elderly population, an increasing number of people with access to prescription drug coverage and the development of new prescription drugs. In addition, some pharmacy technicians were expected to take on a larger share of pharmacy aides' administrative and clerical duties. Gaining experience, completing formal training and earning certification may help improve your job prospects.

What Education Prerequisites Are Required?

Although pharmacy technicians have no formal education requirements, many employers prefer to hire those who have graduated from a formal training program and earned certification, according to the BLS. Formal training programs typically range in length from 6-24 months and may result in a certificate, diploma or associate's degree. Courses typically covered include medical terminology, pharmacy laws and ethics, pharmacology and mathematics. You may also be required to gain clinical experience or complete an internship. If you choose not to complete a formal training program, you need to complete a period of on-the-job training that may last 3-12 months.

Each state has its own credentialing requirements for pharmacy technicians. Most require that you have a high school diploma, pay a fee and register with your state's board of pharmacy. While certification is not always required, you may earn it voluntarily with a private organization, such as the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). If you become certified, you must participate in continuing education and periodically renew your certification.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a handful of related careers that require at least a postsecondary nondegree award, such as a certificate or diploma. Some of these include medical transcriptionists, medical assistants and medical records and health information technicians. Medical transcriptionists convert recordings of healthcare professionals into written reports. They can also review and edit medical documents. Medical assistants help physicians by completing clinical and administrative tasks. Medical records and health information technicians manage health information data. This includes checking documents for accuracy, maintaining medical histories and using classification systems to code information.

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