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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Mail-order pharmacies: These pharmacies fill and ship prescriptions to patients through the mail.
- Clinic pharmacies: These pharmacies are located in clinics and healthcare centers and dispense medications to patients receiving treatment at the facility.
- 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.
- Home healthcare agencies: Some pharmacy technicians may work for home healthcare agencies, which provide medications and other healthcare services to patients in their homes.
- 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.
- 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.