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Pharmacy Technicians: Career, Salary and Education Information
Career Profile: What do Pharmacy Technicians do?
Working with pharmacists and customers, pharmacy technicians are trusted with prescription information, patient records, and medication. Pharmacy technicians fill prescriptions, a process that includes counting, weighing, mixing, and measuring medication. Accuracy is necessary for the career and the most successful pharmacy technicians have a facility with details and customer service.
Most pharmacy technicians work in retail settings, such as grocery stores, retail pharmacies, department stores, or mass retailers. Depending on the size and scope of the location, a pharmacy technician can work with other technicians and one or two pharmacists at all times.
A Day in the Life of a Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy technicians spend a lot of time on their feet behind pharmacy counters, and may also have to move heavy boxes or use ladders. Non-traditional hours are common for pharmacy technicians, who can work nights or weekends in 24-hour pharmacies. Part-time work is common, which gives technicians a chance to build their schedule around their needs.
Depending on the size of the business, pharmacy technician duties vary. Those who work in larger pharmacies or clinics generally focus primarily on measuring medication or interacting with patients, while those staffing smaller locations can also be in charge of answering the phone, operating the cash register, and other duties.
Pharmacy Technician Training and Education
While most pharmacy technicians receive on-the-job training, hiring managers typically prefer those with experience, formal training, and certification. Formal training programs typically lead to a diploma or certificate and combine classroom and laboratory work.
Typical coursework in pharmacy technician training programs includes pharmacy math and dosage calculations, interpretation of medication orders, pharmacy law, inventory management, and pharmacy keyboarding. Some programs also include a clinical externship.
In addition to enrolling in a pharmacy technician training program, perspective technicians can increase their job placement opportunities by volunteering in a hospital or working as an aide in a community pharmacy.
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Pharmacy Technician Employment & Outlook
In 2006, pharmacy technicians held about 285,000 jobs nationwide. Most worked in retail settings, with the remainder working in hospitals or mail-order pharmacies. Job opportunities are expected to be good through 2016, as an aging population drives up the need for prescription drugs and pharmacies that dispense them.
Pharmacy technicians can also take on administrative duties performed by pharmacy aides--answering phones and operating the cash register--making them more desirable as workers. In areas experiencing low employment or high average salaries, formal education is preferred and often required for applicants.
Typical Pharmacy Technician Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports mean annual earnings for pharmacy technicians at $27,560 in 2007. Those working for the Federal government earned among the highest salaries in the profession, with mean annual wages of $36,590.
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