What Is a Pharmacy Technician?

Job Description and Educational Requirements

Pharmacy technician handing medication to customer in drug store
••• Tom Merton / Getty Images

A pharmacy technician assists a pharmacist with the preparation of prescription medications for customers. He or she may receive written prescription requests or may process requests doctors' offices send electronically or phone in.

Depending on state laws, a pharmacy technician may compound or mix medications and get refill authorizations from doctors. He or she organizes drug inventory and lets the pharmacist know if there are any shortages.

Quick Facts

  • Pharmacy technicians earn a median salary of $31,750 a year or $15.26 an hour (2017).
  • About 402,500 people work in this occupation (2016).
  • More than half of all jobs are in pharmacies and drug stores.
  • Positions are usually full-time, and schedules may include weekends and evenings.
  • The job outlook for this occupation is excellent, predicts the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The government agency says employment will grow faster than the average for all occupations between 2016 and 2026. There will be an increase of 47,600 jobs.

A Day in the Life of a Pharmacy Technician

What does a pharmacy technician do? To find out we looked at job announcements on Indeed.com and learned they have the following duties. Please note, laws in some states may prohibit them from performing some of these tasks. Pharmacy technicians may:

  • "Prepack bulk medicines, fill bottles with prescribed medications, and type and affix labels"
  • "Handle all cash register operations"
  • "Resolve customer complaints, issues, and concerns"
  • "Call doctors for Rx refills"
  • "Type prescription information to produce labels"
  • "Keep detailed records of medications and stock"
  • "Resolve insurance issues"

What Is the Difference Between a Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacy Aide?

Pharmacy technicians and pharmacy aides (also called pharmacy assistants) both assist and are both supervised by pharmacists.

Although there is overlap between their duties, an aide tends to primarily clerical tasks while a tech helps the pharmacist fill prescriptions.

Educational and Other Requirements

There are no formal training requirements for pharmacy technicians, but getting the "right" training can make a job candidate more appealing to employers. Many pharmacy technicians receive only on-the-job training, but employers prefer to hire applicants those who have attended a formal training program. These programs are available in community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals, or the military and run for six months to two years. On-the-job training may last from three months to a year.

Pharmacy technicians working in most states must register with that state's board of pharmacy. Several professional organizations offer certification which is mandatory only in some states. Like formal training, it may make a job candidate more appealing to employers.

What Soft Skills Do You Need to Succeed As a Pharmacy Technician?

In addition to any required or optional education and training, registration, and certification, pharmacy technicians need specific soft skills. These personal qualities with which you were born or acquired through experience will contribute to your ability to do this job.

They are:

  • Active Listening: Pharmacy technicians must be able to understand doctors' instructions and customers' requests and inquiries.
  • Speaking: They need the ability to convey information to pharmacists and comfortably communicate with doctors and customers.
  • Attention to Detail: It is essential to be careful when filling prescriptions and preparing labels. Mistakes can be deadly.
  • Organizational Skills: Being well organized also helps pharmacy technicians avoid dangerous errors.
  • Reading Comprehension: The ability to understand written documentation is crucial.

What Will Employers Expect From You?

Here are some requirements specified in actual job announcements on Indeed.com:

  • "Ability to provide an exceptional customer service experience at all times"
  • "Work well within a team environment"
  • "Ability to work in a fast-paced environment"
  • "Professional demeanor while on the phone"
  • "Ability to work independently, meet deadlines, and be flexible"
  • "Proven computer skills in Microsoft Office"

Is This Occupation a Good Fit for You?

If an occupation is a good fit for your interestspersonality typework-related values, and aptitude, you are more likely to be satisfied with it. Conduct a self-assessment to learn about your traits. If you have the following ones, think about becoming a chemist.

Related Occupations

 DescriptionMedian Annual Wage (2017)Minimum Required Education/Training
Pharmacy AideStocks medications; receives prescriptions; processes payments.$26,120HS or Equivalency Diploma
PharmacistDispenses medication and explains their use to patients.$124,170Doctor of Pharmacy Degree (4-6 years)
Dispensing OpticianFits eyeglasses and contact lenses according to optometrists' and ophthalmologists' instructions.$36,250HS or Equivalency Diploma + On-the-Job Training
Licensed Practical NurseAssists registered nurses (RNs) in caring for patients.$45,030HS or Equivalency Diploma + 1 year Nursing Program
Health Information TechnicianManages and organizes patients' medical records.$39,180Post Secondary Certificate or Associate Degree in Health Information Technology

Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook; Employment and Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET Online (visited January 22, 2018).