What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

Job Description

Pharmacy technician handing medication to customer in drug store
Tom Merton / Getty Images

A pharmacy technician assists a pharmacist with the preparation of prescription medications for customers. He or she may receive written prescription requests or may process requests doctors' offices send electronically or phone in.

Depending on state laws, a pharmacy technician may compound or mix medications and get refill authorizations from doctors. He or she organizes drug inventory and lets a pharmacist know if there are any shortages.

Quick Facts

  • Pharmacy technicians earned a median salary of $30,920 a year or $14.86 an hour in 2016.
  • About 373,000 people worked as pharmacy technicians in 2014.
  • More than half of all jobs were in pharmacies and drug stores.
  • Positions are usually full-time, and schedules may include weekends and evenings.
  • The job outlook for this occupation is very good, predicts the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The government agency says employment will grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2024.

A Day in the Life of a Pharmacy Technician

What does a pharmacy technician do? To find out we looked at job announcements on Indeed.com and learned they have the following duties. Please note, laws in some states prohibit them from performing certain tasks.

  • "Prepack bulk medicines, fill bottles with prescribed medications, and type and affix labels"
  • "Handle all cash register operations"
  • "Resolve customer complaints, issues, and concerns"
  • "Call doctors for Rx refills"
  • "Type prescription information to produce labels"
  • "Keep detailed records of medications and stock"
  • "Resolve insurance issues"

Educational and Other Requirements

There are no formal training requirements for pharmacy technicians, but getting the "right" training can make a job candidate more appealing to employers.

Many pharmacy technicians receive only on-the-job training, but employers prefer those who have attended a formal training program at a community college, vocational school, hospital, or in the military. These programs run for six months to two years, while on-the-job training lasts from three months to a year.

Pharmacy technicians working in most states must register with that state's board of pharmacy. Several professional organizations offer certification which is mandatory only in some states. Like formal training, it may make a pharmacy technician more appealing to employers.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed As a Pharmacy Technician?

In addition to any required or optional education and training, registration, and certification, you should also have certain qualities, commonly called soft skills, which will contribute to your ability to do this job. They are:

  • Active Listening: You will have to understand doctors' instructions, and customers' requests and inquiries.
  • Speaking: You must be able to convey information to pharmacists and comfortably communicate with doctors and customers.
  • Attention to Detail: It is essential to be careful when filling prescriptions and preparing labels. Mistakes can be deadly.
  • Organizational Skills: Being well organized will also allow you to avoid dangerous errors.
  • Reading Comprehension: You need to be able to understand written documentation.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

Here are some requirements contained in actual job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Ability to provide an exceptional customer service experience at all times"
  • "Work well within a team environment"
  • "Ability to work in a fast-paced environment"
  • "Professional demeanor while on the phone"
  • "Ability to work independently, meet deadlines and be flexible"
  • "Proven computer skills in Microsoft Office"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

What Is the Difference Between a Pharmacy Technician and a Pharmacy Aide?

Pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides (also called pharmacy assistants) both assist and are both supervised by pharmacists.

Although there is overlap between their duties, an aide tends to primarily clerical tasks while a tech helps the pharmacist fill prescriptions.

Related Occupations

 DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2016)Minimum Required Education/Training
Pharmacy AideStocks medications; receives prescriptions; processes payments.$25,240HS or Equivalency Diploma
PharmacistDispenses medication and explains their use to patients.$122,230Doctor of Pharmacy Degree (4-6 years)
Dispensing OpticianFits eyeglasses and contact lenses according to optometrists' and ophthalmologists' instructions.$35,530HS or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-Job Training
Licensed Practical NurseAssists registered nurses (RNs) in taking care of patients.$44,090HS or Equivalency Diploma + 1 year Nursing Program
Health Information TechnicianManages and organizes patients' medical records.$38,040Post Secondary Certificate or Associate Degree in Health Information Technology

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 (visited September 14, 2017).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited September 14, 2017).

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