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Frequently Asked Questions about Pharmacy Technicians

Q: What is a pharmacy technician?

A: A pharmacy technician is a person who may assist in performing, under the immediate supervision and control of a licensed pharmacist, manipulative, non-discretionary functions associated with the practice of pharmacy.

Q: What does a pharmacy technician do?

A: A pharmacy technician may work in various practice settings including hospitals, home health care facilities, compounding pharmacies and mail order pharmacies, to name a few.  Pharmacy technicians take in prescriptions and enter them into a computer, select and count out medications, check for drug outdates, run a cash register, order and stock medications, fill unit dose packages, prepare IV admixture with medication, perform drug calculations per doctors’ orders, and deliver medication to various departments in a number of health care practice settings.  Pharmacy technicians may also perform insurance billing and payment collection for medication and pharmacy services.  Pharmacy technician duties may vary depending on the practice setting and the state in which they work. 

Q: How does a person become a pharmacy technician?

A: Many states require completion in a training program.  The Pharmacy Technician Educator Council (PTEC), a national organization composed of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and other credentialed pharmacy technician educators, chose college/vocational-training programs as necessary in becoming a pharmacy technician.

Q: What schools teach pharmacy technicians?

A: Vocational, technical and community colleges.

Q: How much money does a pharmacy technician make?

A: The pay rate for a pharmacy technician is based on several factors, including geographic location, practice setting and experience.  Because salaries are subject to different variables, please explore salary and wages of pharmacy technicians by accessing any number of salary calculator websites.

Q: What are the requirements to become a pharmacy technician?

A: Requirements vary by state.  Pharmacy technicians must be 18 years of age, pass a state accredited pharmacy technician course and/or exam, obtain a state license, registration or national certification, and pass a background check through a local law enforcement agency (includes finger printing).  To register for the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Exam, individuals must hold a high school diploma or GED.  Check local state laws/regulations pertaining to pharmacy technician practice.

Q: What are the working conditions like in a pharmacy?

A: Working conditions vary by practice setting.  According to the Manual for Pharmacy Technicians, (American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 2005), pharmacy technicians practice in many environments, which are commonly divided into ambulatory care and institutional settings.  Ambulatory care settings are those such as community, home care and mail order.  Institutional settings are those where patients receive long or short-term care by health professionals.  Each of these practice settings is commonly known as inpatient (hospital or home care) and outpatient (retail or community pharmacies such as Walgreen’s or Sav-On).  Physical requirements include standing for long periods. A neat, professional appearance is required along with a courteous and cooperative attitude.  Each practice setting is extremely rewarding for pharmacy technicians. 

Q: How do I get nationally certified as a pharmacy technician?

A: Certification as a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) is granted through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, which is located at 2215 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20037-2985.  Phone (202) 429-7576. http://www.ptcb.org.

Some states require state or national certification of pharmacy technicians in addition to graduation from an accredited pharmacy technician program.  Either a State Board of Pharmacy or the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) currently awards certification of competency for pharmacy technicians.  PTCB is the only nationally recognized certification body.  Certification is valid for two years and requires 20 contact hours of pharmacy-related continuing education.

Many State Boards of Pharmacy require registration, certification or licensure of pharmacy technicians.  Program directors should check their respective State Board of Pharmacy requirements and fees to appropriately advise pharmacy technician students.  Most states have websites for each State Board of Pharmacy.

Q: What are the job prospects for pharmacy technicians?

A: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of pharmacy technicians and aides is expected to increase by 32 percent through 2020, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. The increased number of middle-aged and elderly people—who use more prescription drugs than younger people—can spur demand for pharmacy workers throughout the projection period. In addition, as scientific advances lead to new drugs, and as more people obtain prescription drug coverage, pharmacy workers may be needed in growing numbers.

Q: What is the future employment outlook for pharmacy technicians?

A: Since the majority of the population (Baby Boomers) is entering its senior age, there may be a greater demand for pharmacies and pharmaceutical care.  Thus, there may be greater employment opportunities for pharmacy technicians.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states the profession may see a greater than average growth over the next 10 years*.

Q: Are there professional organizations available to pharmacy technicians?

A: Yes.  There are several pharmacy organizations that support professional membership for pharmacy technicians.  The following are pharmacy technician organizations:

PROFESSIONAL PHARMACY ORGANIZATIONS

American Association of Pharmacy Technicians
http://www.pharmacytechnician.com

National Pharmacy Technician Association
http://www.pharmacytechnician.org

Pharmacy Technician Educators Council
http://www.pharmacytecheducators.com/

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
http://www.ashp.org

American Pharmacists Association
http://www.pharmacist.com

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Pharmacy Technicians, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm (visited May 22, 2013). Finding employment in your field of interest is may be due to a combination of your own hard work, experience, certification, work attitude and local market conditions.


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