Working as a Pharmacy Technician
Once you have completed your pharmacy technician schooling, it's time to get certified per your state's Board of Pharmacy requirements and start looking for a job. This guide has all the information you need to land your first job as a professional pharmacy technician.
Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists assisting in dispensing medications to customers and medical professionals. In most states, pharmacy technicians can measure, compound, and/or mix some medications and call physicians for prescription refill authorizations. In addition to providing customer service, answering phones and basic customer questions, and helping to manage inventory, pharmacy technicians may package and label prescriptions and use automated dispensing equipment to fill prescription orders.
Pharmacy technicians play a critical role in healthcare. They serve in various sectors of healthcare, including but not limited to community pharmacy, hospital pharmacy, specialty pharmacy, informatics, research and so many more. With the supervision of pharmacists, they assume many distributive functions to allow pharmacists to perform more patient-centric activities. In a community setting, pharmacy technicians help patients with non-clinical questions, transcribe accurate information needed to fill a patient's prescription, and assist with administrative duties such as inventory and regulatory compliance of the pharmacy. In a hospital setting, they compound oral and intravenous medications (IV), collaborate with nurses to triage issuer and deliver the medications to the patient care areas, and assist in advanced technician duties, such as tech-check-tech programs, inventory management, quality audits, and so many more. Pharmacy technicians serve important roles in healthcare by integrating patient care and interdisciplinary teams.
Most pharmacy technicians work in retail pharmacies and drug stores. Some pharmacy technicians may also work in hospitals or other medical facilities such as long-term care facilities. Pharmacy technicians working in hospitals and other medical facilities may prepare a greater variety of medications, such as intravenous medications, as well as make rounds giving medications to patients. The majority of pharmacy technicians work a full-time schedule, often working nights and weekend hours due to the extended hours of most pharmacies. During the course of their workday, they are often or always on their feet.
Most states regulate pharmacy technicians in some way, and may require specific certification. Even where it is not required, certification often makes it easier to find a job for aspiring pharmacy technicians. Be sure to check with your state's Board of Pharmacy for specific regulations that apply to you. Many states typically require pharmacy technicians to have the following:
- High school diploma or GED
- Formal education or training program
- Certification exam
- Continuing education
- Criminal background check
Two organizations offer certification for pharmacy technicians: the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and the National Health Career Association (NHA). The PTCB certification requires a high school diploma and the passing of an exam. The NHA certification requires that applicants be 18 or older, have a high school diploma and have completed a training program or have at least one year of work experience in order to take the certification exam. Learn more about becoming a pharmacy technician.
Following certification, pharmacy technicians are ready to find a job. A good place to start is an online job search website, such as Indeed or Monster, which can deliver job postings in your area for pharmacy technician positions. You may also start by checking with local pharmacy chains in your area as well as hospitals and long-term care facilities. Another resource is the pharmacy where you have completed your externship during school. Even if that pharmacy does not have an immediate job opening, the pharmacists and technicians you worked with may know of possible openings elsewhere and/or may serve as a job reference for you.
One way to advance your career and stay up-to-date on the latest news in prescription medications and pharmacy best practices is by getting involved in industry organizations. Many organizations have local networking events where you can meet and mingle with fellow pharmacy technicians, as well as pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. In addition to in-person events, many of these organizations also offer online and print industry publications as well as continuing education resources.
A few of the top industry organizations and publications to research include:
- American Association of Pharmacy Technicians
- American Pharmacists Association
- National Association of Pharmacy Technicians
- Drug Store News
- Various State Pharmacy Associations
Pharmacy technicians must recertify every two years by completing 20 hours of continuing education courses. According to the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), continuing pharmacy education “is a structured educational activity designed or intended to support the continuing development of pharmacists and/or pharmacy technicians to maintain and enhance their competence.” Examples of continuing education providers include the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians, American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.
In addition to a rewarding career as a pharmacy technician, many pharmacy techs use their experience as a jumping off point to a variety of exciting career paths. Many pharmacy technicians ultimately become pharmacists after working so closely with pharmacists in their role as technicians. Others pursue careers with pharmaceutical companies, in pharmaceutical sales or as nurses in hospitals or long-term care facilities. With an education and work experience as a pharmacy technician, a world of exciting career possibilities awaits you. Read more about the salary of a pharmacy technician.