Job opportunities are expected to be good for full-time and
part-time work, especially for those with certification or previous
Many technicians work evenings, weekends, and holidays.
About 7 out of 10 of jobs were in retail pharmacies, grocery
stores, department stores, or mass retailers.
FOR A LIST OF SELECTED PHARMACY TECHNICIAN SCHOOLS IN YOUR AREA
Nature of the Work
Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists provide medication
and other health care products to patients. Technicians usually
perform routine tasks to help prepare prescribed medication for
patients, such as counting tablets and labeling bottles. Technicians
refer any questions regarding prescriptions, drug information,
or health matters to a pharmacist.
Pharmacy aides work closely with pharmacy technicians.
They often are clerks or cashiers who primarily answer telephones,
handle money, stock shelves, and perform other clerical duties.
(See the statement on pharmacy aides elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Pharmacy techniciansusually perform more complex tasks
than do pharmacy aides, although in some States their duties and
job titles may overlap.
Pharmacy technicians who work in retail or mail-order pharmacies
have varying responsibilities, depending on State rules and regulations.
Technicians receive written prescriptions or requests for prescription
refills from patients. They also may receive prescriptions sent
electronically from the doctor’s office. They must verify that
the information on the prescription is complete and accurate.
To prepare the prescription, technicians must retrieve, count,
pour, weigh, measure, and sometimes mix the medication. Then,
they prepare the prescription labels, select the type of prescription
container, and affix the prescription and auxiliary labels to
the container. Once the prescription is filled, technicians price
and file the prescription, which must be checked by a pharmacist
before it is given to the patient. Technicians may establish and
maintain patient profiles, prepare insurance claim forms, and
stock and take inventory of prescription and over-the-counter
In hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted-living facilities,
technicians have added responsibilities, including reading patients’
charts and preparing and delivering the medicine to patients.
Still, the pharmacist must check the order before it is delivered
to the patient. The technician then copies the information about
the prescribed medication onto the patient’s profile. Technicians
also may assemble a 24-hour supply of medicine for every patient.
They package and label each dose separately. The packages are
then placed in the medicine cabinets of patients until the supervising
pharmacist checks them for accuracy. The packages are then given
to the patients.
Pharmacy technicians work in clean, organized, well-lighted,
and well-ventilated areas. Most of their workday is spent on their
feet. They may be required to lift heavy boxes or to use stepladders
to retrieve supplies from high shelves.
Technicians work the same hours that pharmacists work. These
may include evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays, particularly
in facilities, such as hospitals and retail pharmacies, that are
open 24 hours a day. As their seniority increases, technicians
often acquire increased control over the hours they work. There
are many opportunities for part-time work in both retail and hospital
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Although most pharmacy technicians receive informal on-the-job
training, employers favor those who have completed formal training
and certification. However, there are currently few State and
no Federal requirements for formal training or certification of
pharmacy technicians. Employers who have insufficient resources
to give on-the-job training often seek formally educated pharmacy
technicians. Formal education programs and certification emphasize
the technician’s interest in and dedication to the work. In addition
to the military, some hospitals, proprietary schools, vocational
or technical colleges, and community colleges offer formal education
Formal pharmacy technician education programs require classroom
and laboratory work in a variety of areas, including medical and
pharmaceutical terminology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy
recordkeeping, pharmaceutical techniques, and pharmacy law and
ethics. Technicians also are required to learn medication names,
actions, uses, and doses. Many training programs include internships,
in which students gain hands-on experience in actual pharmacies.
Students receive a diploma, a certificate, or an associate’s degree,
depending on the program.
Prospective pharmacy technicians with experience working as an
aide in a community pharmacy or volunteering in a hospital may
have an advantage. Employers also prefer applicants with strong
customer service and communication skills, as well as those with
experience managing inventories, counting tablets, measuring dosages,
and using computers. Technicians entering the field need strong
mathematics, spelling, and reading skills. A background in chemistry,
English, and health education also may be beneficial. Some technicians
are hired without formal training, but under the condition that
they obtain certification within a specified period to retain
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board administers the National
Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination. This exam is voluntary
in most States and displays the competency of the individual to
act as a pharmacy technician. However, more States and employers
are requiring certification as reliance on pharmacy technicians
grows. Eligible candidates must have a high school diploma or
GED and no felony convictions, and those who pass the exam earn
the title of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT). The exam is
offered several times per year at various locations nationally.
Employers—often pharmacists—know that individuals who pass the
exam have a standardized body of knowledge and skills. Many employers
also will reimburse the costs of the exam as an incentive for
Certified technicians must be recertified every 2 years. Technicians
must complete 20 contact hours of pharmacy-related topics within
the 2-year certification period to become eligible for recertification.
Contact hours are awarded for on-the-job training, attending lectures,
and college coursework. At least 1 contact hour must be in pharmacy
law. Contact hours can be earned from several different sources,
including pharmacy associations, pharmacy colleges, and pharmacy
technician training programs. Up to 10 contact hours can be earned
when the technician is employed under the direct supervision and
instruction of a pharmacist.
Successful pharmacy technicians are alert, observant, organized,
dedicated, and responsible. They should be willing and able to
take directions. They must be precise; details are sometimes a
matter of life and death. Although a pharmacist must check and
approve all their work, they should be able to work independently
without constant instruction from the pharmacist. Candidates interested
in becoming pharmacy technicians cannot have prior records of
drug or substance abuse.
Strong interpersonal and communication skills are needed because
pharmacy technicians interact daily with patients, coworkers,
and health care professionals. Teamwork is very important because
technicians often are required to work with pharmacists, aides,
and other technicians.
Pharmacy technicians held about 258,000 jobs in 2004. About 7
out of 10 jobs were in retail pharmacies, either independently
owned or part of a drugstore chain, grocery store, department
store, or mass retailer. About 2 out of 10 jobs were in hospitals
and a small proportion was in mail-order and Internet pharmacies,
clinics, pharmaceutical wholesalers, and the Federal Government.
Good job opportunities are expected for full-time and part-time
work, especially for technicians with formal training or previous
experience. Job openings for pharmacy technicians will result
from the expansion of retail pharmacies and other employment settings
and from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations
or leave the labor force.
Employment of pharmacy technicians is expected to grow much faster
than the average for all occupations through 2014 because as the
population grows and ages, demand for pharmaceuticals will increase
dramatically. The increased number of middle-aged and elderly
people—who use more prescription drugs than younger people—will
spur demand for technicians in all practice settings. With advances
in science, more medications are becoming available to treat a
greater number of conditions.
In addition, cost-conscious insurers, pharmacies, and health
systems will continue to expand the role of technicians. As a
result, pharmacy technicians will assume responsibility for some
of the more routine tasks previously performed by pharmacists.
Pharmacy technicians also will need to learn and master new pharmacy
technology as it emerges. For example, robotic machines are being
increasingly used to dispense medicine into containers; technicians
must oversee the machines, stock the bins, and label the containers.
Thus, while automation is increasingly incorporated into the job,
it will not necessarily reduce the need for technicians.
Almost all States have legislated the maximum number of technicians
who can safely work under a pharmacist at one time. In some States,
technicians have assumed more medication-dispensing duties as
pharmacists have become more involved in patient care, resulting
in more technicians per pharmacist. Changes in these laws could
directly affect employment.
Median hourly earnings of wage and salary pharmacy technicians
in May 2004 were $11.37. The middle 50 percent earned between
$9.40 and $13.85. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $7.96,
and the highest 10 percent earned more than $16.61. Median hourly
earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of pharmacy
technicians in May 2004 were:
General medical and surgical hospitals
Other general merchandise stores
Health and personal care stores
Certified technicians may earn more. Shift differentials for
working evenings or weekends also can increase earnings. Some
technicians belong to unions representing hospital or grocery
This occupation is most closely related to pharmacists and pharmacy
aides. Workers in other medical support occupations include dental
assistants, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses,
medical transcriptionists, medical records and health information
technicians, occupational therapist assistants and aides, physical
therapist assistants and aides, and surgical technologists.
Sources of Additional Information
For information on the Certified Pharmacy Technician designation,
Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, 2215 Constitution
Ave. NW., Washington DC 20037-2985. Internet: http://www.ptcb.org/
For a list of accredited pharmacy technician training programs,
American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, 7272 Wisconsin
Ave., Bethesda, MD 20814. Internet: http://www.ashp.org/
For pharmacy technician career information, contact: