What is a Pharmacy Technician?

Pharmacy technicians work under the direct supervision of licensed pharmacists. They process prescriptions, dispense medication, perform pharmacy-related functions, and provide information to customers.

The pharmaceutical industry is steadily expanding, and as the number of pharmacies increase in the coming years, pharmacy technicians will be in ever-higher demand.

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What does a Pharmacy Technician do?

A pharmacy technician standing with a pharmacist in a pharmacy, smiling for the camera.

One of the most challenging aspects of being a pharmacy technician comes down to maintaining knowledge on all the changes that occur within the field, since pharmacy practice changes on a weekly basis with new generics and new drugs.

Job duties include dispensing prescription drugs and other medical devices to patients, instructing on their use, performing administrative duties in pharmaceutical practice, and reviewing prescription requests with doctor's offices and insurance companies to ensure correct medications are provided and payment is received.

In many countries, both developed and developing, the importance of pharmacy technicians within the pharmacy workforce has grown in recent years due to pharmacist shortages, resulting in an increase in their numbers and responsibilities.

Duties and Responsibilities of Pharmacy Technicians:

  • Retail Pharmacy Technicians - work in a retail pharmacy where they interact with the general public on a daily basis. They are responsible for greeting customers, following the store’s customer service protocol, submitting prescription claims to insurance providers, resolving customer issues, managing transactions, and retrieving patient information.
  • Hospital Pharmacy Technicians - work in a hospital pharmacy. This requires extensive training and experience working with parenteral drugs and, in some cases, potentially hazardous medications. They are responsible for filling medication orders for doctors, prescriptions for patients and pharmacists, are involved with pre-packaging medications for patient use, conducting drug evaluations, and counseling patients when they are discharged from the hospital.
  • Rehabilitation Centre Pharmacy Technicians - work in private pharmacies onsite rehabilitation centres to take care of patient medications and prescriptions. They must be comfortable working with patients with mental health problems or substance abuse issues, and are typically responsible for preparing and dispensing medication for nurses or rehabilitation specialists.
  • Community Pharmacy Technicians - work in a community pharmacy and are responsible for assisting community pharmacists with prescription orders and helping patients on the phone or from behind the counter. They may also be responsible for stocking shelves, managing inventory, and taking care of day-to-day administrative tasks.
  • Central Pharmacy Operations Technicians - are responsible for refilling and replenishing prescription requests in a central fill centre or central pharmacy location. This position requires a deep understanding of pharmacy operations and distribution activities to different pharmacies. These pharmacy technicians may also be responsible for managing inventory, labeling shelves, and organizing pharmaceutical products.

Are you suited to be a pharmacy technician?

Pharmacy technicians have distinct personalities. They tend to be conventional individuals, which means they’re conscientious and conservative. They are logical, efficient, orderly, and organized. Some of them are also social, meaning they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly.

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What is the workplace of a Pharmacy Technician like?

Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of locations — usually behind a counter at a drugstore, grocery store, hospital, nursing home or hospital pharmacy — but can also work for long-term care facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturers, third-party insurance companies, computer software companies, in government, or in teaching. This position involves working with pharmacists, patients, and occasionally with pharmaceutical reps.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I become a Pharmacy Technician?

Perhaps the first question to ask yourself before committing to becoming a pharmacy technician is this: Am I prepared for career-long learning? This is one of those professions in which change is constant, requiring its practitioners to learn about the new drugs and generic brands that are always entering the market.

There is also an ongoing need to stay current with the medical software programs that pharmacies use to check drug compatibility, manage inventory, accurately fill prescription orders, and manage patient billing information.

In addition to being comfortable with the need to consistently absorb new information, the best pharmacy technicians have cultivated these skills:

Attention to detail
Almost needless to say, the work of a pharmacy technician demands particular attention to detail. Measuring, mixing, dosing, and dispensing prescription medication based on the pharmacist’s orders is a meticulous responsibility. In many cases, pharmacy techs are also charged with data entry tasks to update patient records and fill prescription orders. Entry of incorrect information can have potentially serious ramifications.

In most work environments, disorganization can result in errors. In the pharmacy setting, specifically, disorganization can result in errors that affect people’s health and wellbeing. The ability to keep things organized behind the pharmacy counter is even more imperative in very busy, fast-paced, high-pressure environments.

Exceptional communication and customer service
While pharmacy technicians do not provide medical advice, they frequently interact with customers when dispensing medication. They need to be comfortable communicating with medical professionals and medical representatives, as well as answering customer inquiries both in person and on the phone.

Another point to be made about the pharmacy technician career: it is both a respected profession unto itself and a great first step toward becoming a certified pharmacist.

How long does it take to become a Pharmacy Technician?

Formal training, certification, on-the-job training, and continuing education all play pivotal roles in becoming a successful pharmacy technician.

Some pharmacy technician training programs last as little as 15 weeks. The most common however, are one-year diploma or certificate programs, and two-year associate degree programs.

Pharmacy technician degree and certificate programs are typically offered by community colleges and vocational schools. Curricula commonly include the science of pharmacology; pharmacy practice and terminology; medication dosage and administration; and pharmacy ethics and law. Externships during which students can gain experience in a real-world pharmacy are also integrated into many of these programs.

Employers prefer to hire job applicants who are certified by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The PTCB requires certification candidates to have successfully completed an education program accredited by the Pharmacy Technician Accreditation Commission (PTAC).

Are Pharmacy Technicians happy?

Pharmacy Technicians rank among the least happy careers. Overall they rank in the 18th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

While we have no hard data to explain the profession’s markedly low happiness quotient, the repetitive nature of the work may explain some of the dissatisfaction.

What are Pharmacy Technicians like?

Based on our pool of users, Pharmacy Technicians tend to be predominately investigative people. This finding is completely in line with the responsibilities of the profession. Investigative skills are prominent in counting, measuring, weighing, dosing, and dispensing medications according to very specific orders.

Pharmacy Technicians are also known as:
Certified Pharmacy Technician Pharmacy Tech Compounding Technician