Learn About Being a Pharmacy Technician

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published December 10, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

What does a pharmacy technician do?

A pharmacy technician (PT) supplies patients with prescribed and over-the-counter medicines and manages the pharmacy inventory under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. They perform duties that assist the pharmacist, such as answering the telephone, ordering medications and working with insurance companies to obtain payments.

A pharmacy technician could perform the following duties:

  • Ensure that the pharmacy and dispensary areas are kept clean and organized

  • Supervise junior staff

  • Provide information to patients

  • Follow the law and confidentiality regulations of the institution and state

  • Compound or mix solutions, ointments and creams

Average salary

Pharmacy technicians can be full-time or part-time employees. The private sector, including drug development companies, typically pays a higher hourly rate. The location and size of the company can affect wages, as well as the education and experience level of the employee. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.

  • Common salary in the U.S.: $15.43 per hour

  • Some salaries range from $7.25 to $31.40 per hour.

Pharmacy technician requirements

Pharmacy technicians require a range of educational qualifications, skills and training to gain employment in this field.

Education

The first step to beginning a career as a pharmacy technician is earning your high school diploma or General Education Development (GED) equivalent. Once you have this qualification, you can look for an entry-level job that offers on-the-job training.

Many pharmacy technicians choose to undertake post-secondary education programs in pharmacy technology. You can find these one-year educational programs in community colleges or vocational schools. It is also possible to earn an associate degree in a two-year program. There are classes in record keeping, dispensing methods, law and ethics, medical terminology, pharmaceutical dosages and mathematics. You are likely to have a reasonable period of work experience as part of the course where you shadow a licensed pharmacist to see what the job entails. 

Some states require pharmacy technicians to complete at least a one-year program to practice. Look for an educational program accredited by The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). Courses include a minimum of 600 instructional hours over four months.

Training

Most employers will offer a period of training when you start a new job. Every pharmacy has different systems and practices in place that may vary from other companies. Your introduction period will prepare you for dispensing medicines efficiently and for using the computerized systems correctly. You may shadow another pharmacy technician so you learn what the role entails.

The length of training might depend on your level of previous education. If you are a certified pharmacy technician, then you may receive a basic one-week introduction. If you begin a job directly from high school, your training may be several months in duration and cover many of the classes that you would receive during certification training. Your training will also familiarize you with the hospital or organization you are working in, health and safety guidelines, inventory management, insurance procedures and any other knowledge you may need to do your job.

Certifications

It is important to review your state’s requirements to determine whether you need to earn a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) certification to practice as a pharmacy technician. Even if your state doesn’t require certification, it can be helpful to earn one to expand your job opportunities. These are two of the most common certifications for pharmacy technicians:

Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB)

To be eligible for a CPhT from the PTCB, you must hold a high school diploma or GED and pass an examination. The exam is two hours in duration and has 90 multiple-choice questions. You need to stay current with the latest pharmacy practices and complete 20 hours of continuing education every two years to renew your certification. There are examination centers nationwide.

National Healthcareer Association (NHA)

To earn a CPhT from the NHA, you must pass the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT). Before completing the exam, you need to be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent and have at least one year of experience or complete a training course. The ExCPT consists of 100 questions that you need to answer in two hours. You need to renew a CPhT from the NHA every two years by submitting proof on 20 hours of continuing education. 

Skills

A successful pharmacy technician will demonstrate the following skills:

Interpersonal skills

Pharmacy technicians should be able to make patients feel cared for and understood. When patients describe illnesses and conditions, pharmacy technicians should listen carefully to help make the right suggestions for over-the-counter medication. Pharmacy technicians should aim to show each person compassion, care and understanding. Pharmacy technicians also work as part of a team and should be able to support and communicate with each other.

Attention to detail

Pharmacy technicians pay attention to prescriptions and ensure that they dispense the correct medications at the proper dosages. They should be able to read instructions carefully and relay this information to the patient. When they are managing the inventory, it is essential to be accurate and note any discrepancies.

Critical thinking

When communicating with insurance companies, medical staff and patients, pharmacy technicians may have to use critical-thinking skills when faced with unexpected situations. They should feel comfortable seeking advice from senior staff members as needed and have the skills to solve any conflicts that could occur.

Organizational skills

Maintaining pharmacy inventory requires organization and coordination. Pharmacy technicians need to keep the shelves stocked, products ordered and neat, ensure that labels are correct on the packaging and update the inventory records. Organization is important to locate medications quickly for patients. 

Pharmacy technician work environment

A pharmacy technician will work in an organized and clean area of a hospital or clinic. They may work standard hours or on a rotating shift pattern in a pharmacy open during nights and weekends. They may have a desk within the pharmacy environment to complete tasks on a computer or to label stocks. 

A pharmacy technician will experience the following environmental aspects of their work:

  • Long periods of standing and walking around a small area

  • Repeated bending and reaching to manage the stock

  • Using stepladders to stock or retrieve supplies from high-level shelving

  • Lifting boxes of medication 

  • Communicating using written and verbal means both in person and over the telephone with patients and other employees

How to become a pharmacy technician

If you follow these steps, you should be well prepared for a career as a pharmacy technician:

1. Pursue education.

Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. You then have the option to pursue further education if you feel it will improve your job prospects. Review the jobs available and determine the minimum level of education. Some employers may require that you have an associate degree or complete a training program. 

2. Gain practical work experience.

Learning as much as you can about the role will improve your chances of employment in a competitive job market. You can learn transferable skills, such as customer service and communication, from retail roles in other industries. 

3. Obtain a CPhT.

Your state may allow you to work as a pharmacy technician without a certification, but earning one will demonstrate to employers you are dedicated to a career as a pharmacy technician and wish to provide top-level patient care. 

4. Create your resume.

A good resume is your opportunity to show your education, qualifications and experience to a potential employer. You should also highlight the soft skills that will make you an excellent candidate for a pharmacy technician role. If you earned your CPhT, add that to your resume as well. 

5. Apply for jobs as a pharmacy technician.

Use the internet, local newspapers and specialist pharmacy publications to browse job advertisements in your area. Tailor your resume and cover letter to suit each job you apply for so you stand out to the hiring manager.

Pharmacy technician job description example

The UpTown clinic is seeking a pharmacy technician to work under the supervision of our pharmacist. You will assist in the preparation of medicines and pharmaceuticals, the distribution of prescriptions and the management and maintenance of the drug inventory. Our team members work a rotating shift pattern. We pride ourselves on offering our staff a superb range of benefits and, for the right candidate, and there will be opportunities to progress in your career. 

Essential responsibilities:

  • Adhere to federal, state and local laws and other regulatory requirements 

  • Promptly and accurately fill prescriptions

  • Follow our standard operating procedures when determining the type of substance, strength, dosage and quantity to be dispensed

  • Enter the details of the prescriptions into the computer system and checks for allergies, drug/drug or drug/food interactions

  • Clarify any issues with the pharmacist

You must enjoy working in a busy environment and have compassion for our patients. 

Qualifications:

  • PTCB National Certification

Related careers

  • Health administrator

  • Pharmacist

  • Medical coder

  • Medical technologist

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