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What does a Pharmacy Technician do?

The fastest growing sector in the American economy is the healthcare industry. Want to play a part in providing health services to the country? Consider training for a career as a pharmacy technician.

As a pharmacy technician, you'll work under the direct supervision of a pharmacist. And the job comes with hefty responsibilities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), keeping precise records and paying close attention to details can be a matter of patient life and death.

Routine duties include:
  • Measuring, weighing and pouring medications
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Organizing and maintaining medication inventories
  • Preparing insurance claim forms
  • Performing customer service
Some 75 percent of pharmacy technician jobs are with retail pharmacies, but techs also work at nursing homes and clinics. Hospitals employ 16 percent of America's pharmacy technicians.

Thanks to technology, you may find yourself employed with a mail order or online pharmacy. The demand for prescriptions never ends, so you may be asked to work shifts, including evenings, weekends and holidays.

Career training for pharmacy technicians

The BLS reports that employers increasingly favor hiring pharmacy technicians who have "completed formal training and certification." Community colleges, medical trade and vocational schools and the U.S. military all offer career training programs for pharmacy technicians. Programs range from six months to two years in length and culminate with certificates, diplomas and associate degrees.

Coursework can include studies in medical terminology, record-keeping, pharmaceutical terminology and practices, patient ethics and laws. Many programs combine training with student internships in working pharmacies where you can practice your new skills.

While there is no standard rule among the states for licensing pharmacy technicians, you can boost your credentials by seeking voluntary certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

To earn the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) designation you must have a drug-free, crime-free personal background and pass a national examination. Many pharmacies will even pay for your exams. You can renew your certification every two years by completing continuing education.

Earnings and job outlook for pharmacy technicians

Job growth should be strong. The BLS predicts that jobs for pharmacy technicians are expected to increase by 31 percent. Opportunities will be best for candidates with formal training and certifications.

Salaries vary based on your employer, kind of pharmacy setting, and region of the country. Alaska leads the way in offering the top pay for technicians, followed by Washington, California, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.

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