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How To Become A Pharmacy Technician

How To Become A Pharmacy Technician

how to become a Pharmacy Technician
If you enjoy talking to people and working in an office-like atmosphere, then you want to think about entering a career as a pharmacy technician. As a pharmacy technician, your primary duties are to help licensed pharmacists dispense medications and answer general customer questions. Other duties associated with this profession include:

  • Obtain patient prescription information
  • Process payments including insurance claims
  • Answer the telephone
  • Mix medications such as ointments
  • Measure the right medications for prescriptions
  • Package medications with the correct labels

Pharmacy technicians that work in hospitals or clinics may concoct a larger variety of medications such as IVs. They may also be required to deliver medications directly to patients in the facility. While technicians work under the supervision of licensed pharmacists, they must still refer patients to the pharmacists if they have questions about specific drugs or health concerns. Part of the technician’s responsibility, therefore, is to arrange a time for the customer to meet with the pharmacist if he or she is not readily available.

Pharmacy Technician Education, Training, and Certification You’ll Need to Become A Pharmacy Technician

Requirements for becoming a pharmacy technician vary by state. In general, you must have a high school diploma to enter the profession. Some states require pharmacy technicians to obtain at least a certificate to qualify for the job. These certificates take one year to complete and programs are offered at community colleges and technical schools.

You can also earn an associate’s degree which takes about two years. The benefit of going this route is the degree can be used to pursue education in other fields, including Registered Pharmacist, which may lead to higher paying job opportunities. Most technicians, however, receive on-the-job training, which can take several weeks to a few months to complete depending on the trainer.

States that require formal education tend to call for pharmacy technicians to obtain certification. This involves sitting for and passing a state test or a test offered by a certifying body such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. More information about certification can be obtained from the local state licensing department or medical board.

In addition to education and certification, people entering this profession must be able to pass a criminal background check since they will have access to narcotic drugs like Oxycotin. Some employers may also require employees to take regular drug screenings. Continuing education to maintain credentials may also be required.

Important Characteristics you will need To Become A Pharmacy Technician

Interpersonal Skills: A major part of your job is to work with customers. You must be able to listen and respond to their needs in a polite and professional manner.

Detailed Oriented: Since you will be mixing and filling prescriptions people will be using to improve their health, accuracy and attention to details is critical to avoiding possibly fatal mistakes.

Organized:  You will be balancing a variety of responsibilities in your position. Being organized and on top of things is an excellent way to keep your employer and customers satisfied.

Work Environment

Just over half, approximately 54%, of all pharmacy technicians work in pharmacies and drug stores. The second largest employer is state and private hospitals (about 18%). Grocery stores with pharmacies, department stores, and general merchandise stores also employ pharmacy technicians.

Most technicians work full time, though a good few work part time. Since pharmacies are open all hours of the day, you may be required to work evenings, overnight, and weekends especially if you work in a hospital. Pharmacy technicians employed in retail stores, though, tend to work daytime hours.

Working as a pharmacy technician requires endurance as you will be standing or walking around your entire shift. Since you will be dealing with the general public, you will be exposed to communicable diseases like the common cold and influenza. The exposure is worse if you work in a hospital or other medical facility.

Salary of a Pharmacy Technician

In May 2010, the top and bottom 10% of pharmacy technicians earned $40,710 and $19,840 respectively. The average wage, though, was $28,400. The exact wage you will earn depends on where you work and your location in the nation. Private and state hospitals paid the most at $32,400 per year. Grocery stores are the second highest paying employer at $28,720. Pharmacy technicians may enjoy other benefits such as health insurance, paid sick leave, and paid vacation time.

Job Outlook

In 2010, about 334,400 pharmacy technicians had jobs. The job market is expected to grow 32% by 2020. The faster than average growth rate is spurred by advances in pharmaceutical research and technology. The ever expanding number of older people and the increasing use of prescription drugs to fight psychological and physical diseases are both contributing factors to the growing need for pharmacy technicians.

People with formal training and experience working in retail environments have the best prospects in this field.