Pharmacist Assistant Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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A pharmacy technician's median annual salary is around $30,000. Is it worth the training requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a pharmacy technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians fill prescriptions for medications under the direction of a licensed pharmacist. Take a look at some of the following pros and cons of this career.

Pros of a Career as a Pharmacy Technician
Employment opportunities projected to grow faster than average from 2012 to 2022*
High public contact work with opportunity to assist others*
Some employers offer on-the-job-training*
Choice of different employment venues*

Cons of a Career as a Pharmacy Technician
Routine work performed standing up may become repetitious and tiring*
Some customers may be impatient or difficult*
Certification requirements are inconsistent from state to state*
Evening, holiday and weekend work*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Pharmacy technicians perform a variety of related tasks under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Their primary responsibility is to read and then fill prescriptions that have been submitted either directly by a patient or electronically from a doctor's office. Filling prescriptions can involve counting, pouring, measuring, weighing or mixing medications. After a script has been filled, the pharmacist will check the technician's work for accuracy. In addition to processing scripts, pharmacy technicians may be responsible for establishing patient profiles and updating their medication records.

Pharmacy technicians also perform cashier duties, conduct inventory procedures, process insurance claims and respond to basic customer service inquiries in person or over the telephone. They must make sure that the medications they work with are properly stored in a secure place and that the equipment and workspaces they use are clean and well-maintained. This is not a desk job. Pharmacy technicians spend most of their time on their feet and must be able to handle a variety of tasks in a fast-paced environment.

Career Prospects and Salary Info

Pharmacy technicians can be employed by retail chains, hospitals, long-term care facilities and mail-order pharmacies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to increase 20% from 2012 to 2022, which is faster than average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The median salary for pharmacy technicians as of May, 2014, was $29,810. Formally trained technicians and those with retail pharmacy experience will have access to a variety of excellent opportunities.

What Are the Training or Education Requirements?

A high school diploma or its equivalent is the minimum requirement necessary for obtaining a job as a pharmacy technician. Although the majority of technicians are regulated by individual states, the requirements can vary and may include a formal training program and an exam. These can be verified by checking with a state's Board of Pharmacy. When they apply for a position, all aspiring pharmacy technicians should expect to undergo a criminal background check.

Some retail pharmacy chains and departments provide technicians with on-the-job training. Certificate and associate's degree programs in pharmacy technology are also available at community colleges and vocational schools. A certificate program will usually take a year or less to complete, and coursework will be limited to job-related topics. An Associate of Applied Science degree program will generally require two years of full-time attendance and classes in liberal studies. At either level, the curriculum for a program in pharmacy technology will include coursework in medical terminology, pharmacology, pharmaceutical compounding and dispensing, pharmacy ethics and law and aseptic techniques. Whether you acquire your training through a college or an employer, your supervising pharmacist will expect you to be able to:

  • Process prescriptions using appropriate techniques and in accordance with guidelines and laws
  • Perform basic mathematical calculations
  • Use computers and software necessary for communicating information, entering data and producing documents in the pharmacy environment
  • Communicate verbally and in writing with a variety of healthcare professionals and customers

Real Pharmacy Technician Job Postings From Real Employers

Pharmacy technicians can be employed on a full- or part-time basis, and because some pharmacies are open 24 hours a day, it is not unusual for techs to work nights, weekends and holidays. There are several different types of pharmacies, and the following job postings from April 2012 will give you an idea of the credentials and experience you will need to apply for these kinds of positions.

  • A retail pharmacy chain in Oregon has an opportunity for a technician with a high school diploma or GED, 600 hours in a retail and/or pharmacy position or an equivalent combination of education and experience. Technicians will need to be certified as required by state law and undergo an employee-training program.
  • A mail-order pharmacy in Ohio has an opening for a technician to fill, sort and ship orders for medications. In addition to a high school diploma or a GED, candidates must have the ability to pass the company pharmacy technician exam within one year of employment.
  • A medical center in Alabama is advertising for a full-time, certified pharmacy technician to work in their hospital pharmacy. Candidates must have six continuous months of related employment, and those with intravenous admixture service experience will be given preferential consideration.
  • A privately owned long-term care pharmacy in Baltimore is looking for a certified and experienced pharmacy technician to provide services to assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. This employer is interested in candidates with computer, pre-authorization, billing and high-volume-dosing experience.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and offers a Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (www.ptcb.org). This three-part, timed test consists of 90 multiple-choice questions divided into three sections, the Assisting the Pharmacist in Serving Patients, Maintaining Medication and Inventory Control Systems and Participating in the Administration and Management of Pharmacy Practice. To prepare for the test, you can purchase a set of practice exams from the PTCB.

Technicians can also obtain a Pharmacy Technician Certification (CPhT) from another NCCA-accredited organization, the National Healthcareer Association (www.nhanow.com). This professional association offers a variety of career and test-prep materials including training packages, manuals, study guides, workbooks and flash cards. A fee is required to take either the PTCB or the NHA exam, and some employers will cover the cost. Certifications must be renewed every two years, and this can be done by acquiring a designated number of continuing education hours as required by both organizations.

Related Careers

Dental Assistant

Dental assistants prepare patients for treatments and give dentists a hand during office procedures. To work in the field, some states require a certificate or a diploma from an accredited dental technology program and a passing grade on a professional exam. The BLS reports that in May 2011, the median annual salary for a dental assistant was $34,000, with employment opportunities projected to increase by 31% from 2010 to 2020.

Medical Assistant

Medical assistants help doctors take care of patients by scheduling appointments, recording patient histories, measuring their vital signs and helping with physical exams. While most states do not regulate the profession, certificate and associate's degree training programs are available at community colleges and vocational schools. According to the BLS, as of May 2011, the median annual salary for a medical assistant was $29,000, with employment opportunities expected to increase by 31% from 2010 to 2020.

Medical Records and Health Information Technician

Medical records and health information technicians classify, document, record and store patient information. An associate's degree, postsecondary certificate or professional certificate is typically required for this type of work. The BLS reports that as of May 2011, the median annual salary for a medical records and health information technician was $33,000, with a 21% job growth rate projected for the period of 2010 to 2020.

Pharmacist

Licensed pharmacists dispense medications and provide information on their safe use. To obtain a license, they must pass two exams and hold a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) from an accredited institution - a program that can take up to four years to complete. According to the BLS, in May 2011, the median annual salary for a pharmacist was $113,000 - more than all of the median salaries for a dental assistant, medical assistant and medical records technician professionals combined.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
      • Master of Science in Health Informatics
  • Campus Locations:
    2. Virginia College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate: Medical Assistant
      • Associate: Medical Assistant
    Certificate
      • Diploma Program - Pharmacy Technician
      • Certification - Pharmacy Technician
      • Certification - Medical Assistant
  • Campus Locations:
    3. Brightwood College

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Medical Assistant - AS
    Certificate
      • Pharmacy Technician Certificate
      • Medical Assistant - Certificate
      • Medical Assistant - Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Health Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
    Master's
      • MS - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Science in Management - Healthcare Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
    Certificate
      • Diploma: Medical Assisting
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma: Pharmacy Technician
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.
      • Bachelor of Healthcare Management

Featured Schools

George Mason University

  • Master of Science in Health Informatics

What is your highest level of education?

Virginia College

  • Associate: Medical Assistant
  • Diploma Program - Pharmacy Technician
  • Certification - Pharmacy Technician

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Brightwood College

  • Medical Assistant - AS
  • Pharmacy Technician Certificate
  • Medical Assistant - Certificate

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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

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Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Health Administration

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
  • MS - Healthcare Management
  • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

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Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • Associate of Science - Medical Assisting Services
  • Diploma: Medical Assisting

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