The market for pharmacy technicians is growing in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) speculates that the number of pharm tech jobs will increase by roughly 12% from 2016 to 2026. A pharm tech plays an important part in the operations of pharmacies in grocery stores, drug stores, hospitals, healthcare centers, and clinics.
What is a Pharmacy Technician?
The job of these techs is to assist pharmacists. Their duties can include helping customers at front counters, running drive-through pharmacy windows, keeping track of inventories, and filling prescriptions waiting to be picked up. Techs can only fill prescriptions under the review and approval of supervising pharmacists. They also cannot provide medical advice to patients.
What is the Required Education?
According to the BLS, the only required education across all fifty states is a high school diploma. Earning a high school diploma takes about four years. Someone with a General Equivalency Diploma (GED) is also qualified to be a tech in a pharmacy. Earning a GED takes around six months and the person must pass a final test. Once a person is hired as a tech, he or she typically receives on-the-job training from a supervisor or another employee with years of experience. No further formal education is required in some states, although others may require further certification and training.
Even if a state does not require it, additional education is still desirable as many employers prefer candidates who have completed or plan to complete additional training and certification. Becoming a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) is one way to gain a competitive edge over other pharm tech applicants. While specific requirements and other licenses vary by state, to become a CPhT one must register with the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) and pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE).
Various pharm tech programs and training courses are available to prepare someone for taking this exam. These programs can take anywhere from one to two years to finish, although some training programs may be completed in under a year. Continuing education (CE) is needed in order to maintain certification.
These educational requirements vastly differ from pharmacists in that pharmacists are required by law to earn a doctorate degree in pharmacology (PharmD). They are also required to successfully complete the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX). Any additional licenses or certifications vary by state.
The BLS states that the annual median salary for a pharm tech is $31,750, as of May 2017. The salary for this position can vary depending on where a tech works. For instance, a tech working in a busy pharmacy located in a hospital is likely to earn more than a tech working in a small drugstore. Also, a tech with years of experience is likely to make a higher salary than someone who is just starting.
Beneficial Skills and Qualities for a Technician
As with most jobs, there are certain qualities and skills that can benefit a person who wants to become a pharm tech. Good communication skills and personability are one such asset, as pharm techs will spend their day talking with customers and coworkers. Since some customers will have questions or anxiety about their medications, having a friendly, inviting attitude is important to helping customers feel more at ease (although specific questions about medications and requests for medical advice must be deferred to a pharmacist). Great organizational skills, too, are beneficial as pharmacies deal with a lot of customer information and other data. It all needs to be properly recorded to serve customers in an efficient way.