Under the supervision of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians help prepare medications for customers. The technician may measure, mix, or count out the medication and then label the item with information that includes the amount and dosage. Administrative and customer service duties are also usually performed by these individuals. If a pharmacy aide is not on staff, the technician may stock shelves, answer the phone, and operate the cash register. Technicians work in a pharmacy setting and can increasingly be found in retail pharmacy environments.
The mean annual wage of the 333,500 pharmacy technicians employed in the U.S. in May 2010 was $29,330, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The lowest ten percent earned $19,840 annually, while the median had a salary of $28,400. The top ten percent were earning $40,710.
The federal executive branch was the industry paying the highest annual mean wage, with management, technical, and scientific services coming in a close second.
Alaska, Washington, California, Hawaii, and District of Columbia were the highest paying states, in order. Those who want to avoid earning an annual mean wage of $26,000 or lower should not relocate to states like Arkansas, Kentucky, or Oklahoma.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment to increase much faster than average for pharmacy technicians and it characterizes job opportunities as good, especially for individuals with certification, formal training, or prior experience. An expected employment increase of 31 percent between 2008 and 2018 and large states like California, Texas, and Florida employing the most workers in this field should make it easier for a pharmacy technician to find a job.
A national training standard does not exist for the pharmacy technician career. However, employers look highly upon previous related experience, certification, or formal training. In some states, a high school diploma or equivalent is required. Very few pharmacy technicians surveyed by the O*Net occupational service had less than a high school diploma. Sixteen percent possessed a high school diploma or equivalent and 77 percent attended college but did not complete a degree program.
Most people in this career receive informal training while working, which usually takes about three to 12 months. Those interested can enroll in formal educational programs through the military, hospitals, vocational schools, and community colleges. Lab and classroom work is included in these six-month to two-year courses of study.
Central to the curriculum are pharmacy law, terminology, calculations, techniques, and recordkeeping. Learning the names, uses, doses, and actions of medications is also required. Some programs include an internship that allows the student to work in a pharmacy for hands-on learning.
A certification is not required by most states but the technician usually must register with the board of pharmacy in the state. Registration may require a high school diploma or equivalent and the payment of an application fee.
The Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) both offer national certification exams that may increase chances of being hired. A high school diploma or equivalent is required to take either exam. In addition, the candidate may not have any felony convictions and PTCB exam applicants may not have any pharmacy or drug related convictions, even misdemeanors. Continuing education of 20 hours every two years is required for recertification.