What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

Pharmacy technicians assist licensed pharmacists in drug stores and hospitals. They mix medications, fill prescriptions, and handle paperwork. The job requires knowledge of medical terminology, strong math skills, and attention to detail. Schools offering Pharmacy Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

In a pharmacy, the routine work involving prescriptions and medications is usually handled by pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy technicians may supervise pharmacy assistants who perform general office work such as answering phones, operating cash registers, and stocking inventory. However, some employers assign these tasks to the technicians instead. The specific responsibilities of a pharmacy technician will depend on whether the job is in a retail or medical care environment. Pharmacy techs generally must refer patients' questions about medicine to the pharmacist.

Important Facts About Pharmacy Technicians

Key Skills Interpersonal communication, customer service, attention to detail
Required Education High school diploma or GED equivalent
Professional Certification Available through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the National Healthcareer Association
Similar Occupations Pharmacist, health information technician, dental assistant

Work Environments

Retail Pharmacies

Retail pharmacies can be independently-owned drug stores, chain drug stores, or pharmacy departments in convenience, grocery, and department stores. Some stores may operate by mail-order or through the Internet. Pharmacy technicians in retail locations receive and verify prescriptions from customers. They find, measure, and pour the medicine for that prescription, explains the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). In some cases, they may also compound the medication. After preparation, the prescription is priced, labeled, and filed for the pharmacist to check. Technicians may also be responsible for paperwork regarding customers, such as insurance claims.

Medical Care Facilities

A medical care facility can be a clinic, hospital, nursing home, or assisted-living facility. Pharmacy technicians here fill orders for medications based on a patient's chart. They enter information on these medications into the patient's profile, to ensure an accurate record of what the patient has been taking. Every day, pharmacy technicians create a 24-hour supply of prescribed medicine for each patient, with every dose labeled and packaged separately. Commonly prescribed medicine may come pre-packaged as single doses, so the technician needs only to select the right package. Otherwise, technicians must pack it themselves. Unlike their retail pharmacy counterparts, pharmacy technicians in medical care facilities also work with injectable medicines, which they transfer into disposable syringes for each patient's 24-hour supply.

Hospital pharmacy technicians are also responsible for drug inventory. This includes keeping track of current stock, restocking nursing stations, and overseeing the operation of robotic inventory sorting systems.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

According to the BLS, the mean annual salary earned by pharmacy technicians was $31,090 in May 2014. Those employed by health and personal care stores, such as drug stores, earned an average of $29,200 in 2014, while those working in hospitals took home salaries averaging $35,820 a year. The employment of such technicians is expected to grow by 20% between 2012 and 2022, per the BLS.

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