Certified Pharmacy Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons of a certified pharmacy technician career? Get the real job description, career outlook and salary info to see if becoming a certified pharmacy technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Certified Pharmacy Technician Career

Certified pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists and verify the accuracy of insurance and prescription information. Continue reading to learn the pros and cons of a career as a certified pharmacy technician.

Pros of a Certified Pharmacy Technician Career
Projected 20% increase in employment from 2012-2022 for pharmacy technicians*
Flexible hours with the opportunity to work days, nights, and weekends*
Wide range of employers, including hospitals, grocery stores and pharmacies*
Most hospitals and pharmacies provide benefits*
Certification enables pharmacy technicians to receive higher salaries*

Cons of a Certified Pharmacy Technician Career
Heavy lifting may be required while retrieving boxes and medications*
Must be on feet most of the time*
Work involves performing repetitious duties*
Recertification required every two years*

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

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Certified pharmacy technicians prepare prescriptions by counting, weighing, measuring or mixing drugs according to instructions. They usually work under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist as they fill prescriptions, maintain patient records and stock shelves.

Pharmacy technicians also type prescription bottle labels, select the proper container for medications and keep track of inventory, throwing out expired products and informing supervisors when new stock needs to be ordered. Other duties include maintaining a secure environment, sterilizing equipment and keeping the work area clean. Pharmacy technicians in a retail environment also operate the cash registers and provide other services for customers such as answering questions and filling out insurance forms.

Career Prospects and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacy technicians earned a mean annual wage of approximately $31,000 in 2014. Career prospects are expected to be excellent due to an increase in the elderly population and the development of new drugs, which should create a demand for a greater number of certified pharmacy technicians.

What Are the Requirements?

There are no federal standards for the certification of pharmacy technicians, and some states require that all pharmacy technicians are certified. A high school diploma or GED is generally required to work as a pharmacy technician, and some states additionally require a degree from an accredited pharmacy technician program. This type of program trains you in medical terminology, laws governing prescription labels, inventory control and the different classes of drugs. Some of the skills you will need for this occupation include:

  • Good communication
  • Organizational ability
  • Excellent reading comprehension
  • Manual dexterity
  • Good interpersonal skills for customer service
  • Strong math skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers look for both full-time and part-time workers in this field. Many employers offer benefits for full-time workers, which include paid vacation time and pension plans. Some employers require weekend work, and many also require certification. Below are some job postings open during March 2012:

  • A hospital in Ohio is looking for a certified pharmacy technician to work part-time. Duties include maintaining inventory, preparing intravenous solutions and keeping records. Experience is preferred, and weekend rotation is mandatory.
  • A pharmacy in Massachusetts is seeking a full-time certified pharmacy technician to handle patients in-person and on the phone in order to answer their questions or refer them to the pharmacist for answers. The technician is also expected to learn compounding and to keep the work area neat and clean. Training will require travel. This position offers many benefits, including a retirement plan.
  • A government agency in Louisiana is looking for a nationally certified pharmacy technician who has a state license and at least one year of experience. Hours are Monday through Friday with weekends and federal holidays off.

How to Beat the Competition

Since some states have few requirements to work as a pharmacy technician, obtaining a diploma or degree from an accredited program can make you more attractive to potential employers. Obtaining Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification is another way to stand out from the competition. In response to the lack of nationally established requirements for employment in this field, the PTCB was created in 1995 to develop standards for a nationally accredited program. In order to receive PTCB certification, you must have a high school diploma or GED and achieve a passing score on the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam.

Join a Professional Organization

Membership in a national organization for pharmacy technicians such as the National Pharmacy Technician Association or the American Association of Pharmacy Technicians is another way to demonstrate your professionalism to an employer. Membership in a professional organization offers the following benefits:

  • Continuing education courses
  • Networking opportunities
  • Certification and specialization programs
  • Workshops
  • Access to job postings

Other Career Paths

Medical Records and Health Information Technician

If you are interested in the healthcare field but certified pharmacy technician work doesn't seem like a good fit, you may want to consider a career as a medical records and health information technician. These technicians compile patient data, such as medical histories, test results and treatment details, and ensure the accuracy and confidentiality of these records. They interface with other healthcare personnel to obtain information, but they don't come in direct contact with the patients. According to the BLS, job prospects in this field should be very good, with an expected 21% increase in employment from 2010-2020. The median annual salary for a medical records technician was about $33,000 in 2011, and an associate's degree is usually required.

Medical Assistant

If you're looking for a related job in the healthcare field that allows you to perform more patient care tasks, consider working as a medical assistant. The job duties for medical assistants vary, with some performing clerical tasks, some processing insurance claims and others recording patients' vital signs and preparing patients for examinations. No formal requirements have been established for medical assistants, but some colleges and vocational schools have certificate and associate's programs that teach anatomy, medical terminology, recordkeeping and other pertinent skills. The BLS predicts that the occupation will be among those that experience a much faster than average rate of growth from 2010-2020, at 31%. The median annual wage for medical assistants in 2011 was about $29,000, as reported by the BLS.

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