Everything you wanted to know about being a pharmacy technician

A pharmacy technician is a healthcare professional who works under the supervision of a pharmacist to assist in the dispensing of medications. They may also be responsible for maintaining records, preparing insurance claims, and performing administrative tasks in a pharmacy.

Pharmacy technicians do not have the same level of education and training as pharmacists and are not licensed to dispense medications or provide information about them to patients.

Training requirements

The length of time it takes to become a pharmacy technician can vary depending on the individual’s educational and training path. Here are a few possible paths to becoming a pharmacy technician:

  1. On-the-job training: Some pharmacy technicians may be able to learn the necessary skills through on-the-job training, without completing a formal program. This type of training can take several months to a year, depending on the employer’s requirements.
  2. Certificate program: Many community colleges and vocational schools offer pharmacy technician certificate programs that can be completed in a year or less. These programs typically include both classroom and laboratory instruction, as well as a clinical externship in a pharmacy setting.
  3. Associate degree program: Some pharmacy technicians choose to pursue an associate degree in pharmacy technology, which typically takes two years to complete. These programs typically include coursework in pharmacy principles, medical terminology, and other topics, as well as a clinical externship.

Regardless of the educational path, pharmacy technicians are typically required to pass a certification exam, such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), in order to become certified and work in a pharmacy setting.

Job prospects for Pharmacy Techs

Yes, pharmacy technicians are in demand in many parts of the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of pharmacy technicians is expected to grow by 4% from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is expected to be driven by an increasing demand for prescription medications and an aging population that requires more healthcare services.

In addition, many pharmacy technicians find employment in hospitals, where they may be responsible for preparing and distributing medications to patients. The BLS projects that employment of pharmacy technicians in hospitals will grow by 5% from 2020 to 2030, which is also faster than the average for all occupations.

In addition to hospitals and retail pharmacies like Walgreens, pharmacy technicians may be able to find employment in a variety of settings, including:

  1. Mail-order pharmacies: These pharmacies fill and ship prescriptions to patients through the mail.
  2. Clinic pharmacies: These pharmacies are located in clinics and healthcare centers and dispense medications to patients receiving treatment at the facility.
  3. Long-term care facilities: Pharmacy technicians may work in long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes or assisted living facilities, where they may be responsible for dispensing medications to residents.
  4. Home healthcare agencies: Some pharmacy technicians may work for home healthcare agencies, which provide medications and other healthcare services to patients in their homes.
  5. Pharmaceutical companies: Pharmacy technicians may also find employment with pharmaceutical companies, where they may be responsible for tasks such as preparing medications for clinical trials or manufacturing medications.
  6. Government agencies: Pharmacy technicians may work for government agencies, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Indian Health Service, which provide healthcare services to specific populations.

Overall, pharmacy technicians may be able to find employment in a variety of settings, depending on their interests and career goals.

Pay and benefits for Pharmacy Techs

While it is true that pharmacy technicians generally earn lower salaries than pharmacists, techs don’t need nearly as much education and training as pharmacists.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $41,250 in 2020. However, it is important to note that wages can vary depending on factors such as the technician’s level of experience, the employer, and the location of the job.

Pharmacy technicians who have completed a formal training program or have earned a certification, such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), may have better job prospects and potentially earn higher salaries.

In addition, pharmacy technicians who work in hospitals or other higher-paying settings may also earn higher salaries than those working in retail pharmacies or other settings.

Pharmacy Techs vs. Pharmacists

Here are some other differences between pharmacists and pharmacy technicians:

  • Education and training: Pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, which typically requires at least six years of education and training. Pharmacy technicians, on the other hand, generally have a high school diploma or equivalent and receive on-the-job training or complete a formal pharmacy technician program.
  • Job duties: Pharmacists are responsible for a wide range of duties, including dispensing medications, consulting with patients and healthcare providers about medication use, monitoring patient medication therapy, and identifying and resolving medication-related issues. Pharmacy technicians, on the other hand, generally have more limited responsibilities and assist pharmacists in their duties.
  • Scope of practice: Pharmacists are licensed healthcare professionals who are able to independently evaluate and interpret patient medication orders, whereas pharmacy technicians are not licensed and must work under the supervision of a pharmacist.
  • Salary: In general, pharmacists tend to earn higher salaries than pharmacy technicians, due to their advanced education and training and greater scope of practice. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for pharmacists was $128,090 in 2020, while the median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $41,250.

Level of liability

As licensed healthcare professionals, pharmacists have a greater level of responsibility and may be held to a higher standard of care when it comes to dispensing medications and providing information to patients. This means that pharmacists may be held legally responsible for any errors or mistakes that they make in their practice, which could result in legal or financial consequences.

Pharmacy technicians, on the other hand, do not have the same level of education and training as pharmacists and are not licensed to dispense medications or provide information about them to patients. As a result, they may have a lower level of liability in their practice. However, pharmacy technicians can still be held responsible for errors or mistakes that they make in their work, and they may face disciplinary action or other consequences if they fail to follow the rules and regulations governing their practice.

Of course, it is important for both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to adhere to professional standards and practice safely and responsibly in order to minimize the risk of liability.

Pharmacy technicians, like all healthcare professionals, are expected to adhere to professional standards and follow the rules and regulations governing their practice. If a pharmacy technician fails to do so, they may face disciplinary action, which can range from a warning or reprimand to the suspension or revocation of their certification or registration.

It is also important to note that pharmacy technicians may be held responsible for any errors or mistakes that they make in their work, even if those errors are not intentional. For example, if a pharmacy technician dispenses the wrong medication to a patient or fails to properly label a medication, they may face disciplinary action or other consequences.

Overall, it is essential for pharmacy technicians to practice safely and responsibly in order to minimize the risk of legal or disciplinary issues.

Does working as a tech make it easier to be a fully licensed pharmacist?

It is not necessarily easier to become a pharmacist after working as a pharmacy technician, but it can be a helpful stepping stone for some individuals. Working as a pharmacy technician can provide valuable experience and insight into the day-to-day operations of a pharmacy, as well as an opportunity to learn more about medications and the healthcare system in general.

However, becoming a pharmacist typically requires a significantly higher level of education and training than becoming a pharmacy technician. In addition to earning a high school diploma or equivalent, individuals interested in becoming pharmacists must complete a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree program, which typically takes at least six years of full-time study. Pharm.D. programs include coursework in pharmacology, medicinal chemistry, pharmacotherapy, and other subjects, as well as clinical rotations in various practice settings.

After completing a Pharm.D. program, pharmacists must also pass a licensing exam in order to practice. In the United States, this exam is known as the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX).

So while working as a pharmacy technician can provide valuable experience and preparation for a career in pharmacy, it is not a substitute for the education and training required to become a pharmacist.

What other jobs are available in a Pharmacy besides Pharmacy Tech?

There are several other types of jobs that may be found in a pharmacy, in addition to pharmacy technicians and pharmacists. Some examples of these jobs include:

  1. Pharmacy aides: These individuals may assist pharmacy technicians and pharmacists with tasks such as stocking shelves, labeling medications, and answering phones.
  2. Pharmacy benefit managers: These professionals work with insurance companies and employers to design and manage prescription drug benefit programs.
  3. Pharmacy technicians in training: These individuals are in the process of completing a pharmacy technician program and may work under the supervision of a pharmacist or pharmacy technician while they gain the necessary skills and experience.
  4. Pharmacy clerks: These individuals may be responsible for tasks such as processing insurance claims and maintaining records in a pharmacy.
  5. Pharmaceutical sales representatives: These professionals work for pharmaceutical companies and promote the company’s products to healthcare providers and pharmacies.

Overall, the specific types of jobs that may be found in a pharmacy will depend on the size and scope of the pharmacy, as well as the specific needs of the pharmacy.

On-the-Job Training for Pharmacy Techs

There are several options for on-the-job training to become a pharmacy technician. Here are just a few possibilities:

  • Apprenticeship programs: Some pharmacies may offer apprenticeship programs that allow individuals to learn the necessary skills and knowledge to become a pharmacy technician through on-the-job training. These programs may be sponsored by a professional organization, such as the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA), or may be developed by the employerThere are many different apprenticeship programs and externship opportunities available to individuals interested in becoming pharmacy technicians. Here are a few examples:
    • National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA) Apprenticeship Program: The NPTA offers a pharmacy technician apprenticeship program that allows individuals to learn the necessary skills and knowledge to become a pharmacy technician through on-the-job training. The program includes a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience in a pharmacy setting, and it is sponsored by the NPTA.
    • Walgreens Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship Program: Walgreens offers a pharmacy technician apprenticeship program that allows individuals to learn the necessary skills and knowledge to become a pharmacy technician through on-the-job training. The program includes a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience in a Walgreens pharmacy, and it is sponsored by the company.
    • Rite Aid Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship Program: Rite Aid offers a pharmacy technician apprenticeship program that allows individuals to learn the necessary skills and knowledge to become a pharmacy technician through on-the-job training. The program includes a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience in a Rite Aid pharmacy, and it is sponsored by the company.
    • CVS Health Pharmacy Technician Apprenticeship Program: CVS Health offers a pharmacy technician apprenticeship program that allows individuals to learn the necessary skills and knowledge to become a pharmacy technician through on-the-job training. The program includes a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on experience in a CVS pharmacy, and it is sponsored by the company.
  • Externships: Some pharmacy technician programs, such as those offered at community colleges or vocational schools, may include an externship component. This allows students to gain hands-on experience in a pharmacy setting while they are completing their program
    • Community College Externship: Many community colleges offer pharmacy technician programs that include an externship component. These externships allow students to gain hands-on experience in a pharmacy setting while they are completing their program.
    • Hospital Externship: Some hospitals offer externship programs for pharmacy technicians, which allow individuals to gain hands-on experience in a hospital pharmacy setting. These externships may be sponsored by the hospital or by a professional organization, such as the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).
  • Informal training: Some pharmacy technicians may be able to learn the necessary skills through informal on-the-job training, without completing a formal program. This type of training can take several months to a year, depending on the employer’s requirements.

It is worth noting that, while on-the-job training can be a useful way to learn the skills and knowledge needed to become a pharmacy technician, many employers may prefer to hire technicians who have completed a formal training program and have earned a certification, such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

Additionally, some states may have specific requirements for pharmacy technicians, such as the completion of a formal training program or the passage of a certification exam.

 

 

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