Pharmacy Technician Career Guide

A pharmacy technician is a healthcare provider who performs pharmacy-related functions, generally working under the direct supervision of a licensed pharmacist. Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of locations, such as community, retail, and hospital pharmacies, but can also work for long-term care facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturers, third-party insurance companies, computer software companies, or in government or teaching. Pharmacy technicians are important to the field for several reasons:

  • Efficiency: Pharmacy technicians take care of routine tasks, freeing pharmacists to focus on more complex medication related issues, including drug therapy monitoring, medication reconciliation, patient counseling, and clinical services.
  • Patient Safety: They provide an additional check for potential errors in prescriptions, thereby increasing patient safety. They often assist in filling prescriptions, including counting pills and labeling bottles, a process where mistakes can have serious consequences.
  • Improved Access: By taking on routine tasks, pharmacy technicians allow pharmacists to engage in more patient focused roles such as health screenings or immunization services, improving public access to these important services.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Pharmacy technicians often cost less to employ than pharmacists. By handling tasks that do not require a pharmacist’s level of expertise, they help make the overall healthcare system more cost-effective.
  • Customer Service: Pharmacy technicians often are the first point of contact for patients in community pharmacies. They play a crucial role in patient satisfaction by providing good customer service.

In conclusion, pharmacy technicians are critical members of the pharmacy team, helping to enhance the efficiency and safety of pharmacy operations, which ultimately benefits patient care. They play a significant role in ensuring that the pharmacy functions smoothly and that patients receive their medications promptly and accurately.

The duties of pharmacy technicians vary with the location of the work.

Prescription Processing: This is the most common duty of a pharmacy technician. It involves receiving prescription orders from patients or electronically from doctors’ offices, checking the order for completeness, and then entering the prescription information into the computer system.

Filling Prescriptions: Pharmacy technicians select the correct medication, count or measure the appropriate dosage, label the medication container, and package the prescription. Technicians must pay close attention to details to ensure patient safety.

Customer Service: In many pharmacies, especially retail locations, pharmacy technicians often interact directly with customers. This can involve answering questions, explaining how to take medication, or processing payments. They also communicate with doctors’ offices and insurance companies to resolve any issues with prescriptions.

Inventory Management: Pharmacy technicians often help manage the pharmacy’s inventory. They may stock shelves, place orders for new supplies, remove expired medications, and keep track of what medications are in stock.

Compounding Medications: While not as common, some pharmacy technicians, particularly those working in hospital pharmacies or specialty compounding pharmacies, may prepare specialized medications according to instructions provided by a pharmacist. This might include mixing specific dosages of different medications, preparing topical
creams, or preparing intravenous (IV) mixtures.

Quality Assurance: This involves ensuring the cleanliness and organization of the pharmacy, adhering to safety procedures and regulations, and checking the work of other technicians to ensure accuracy and safety.

Administrative Tasks: Pharmacy technicians might handle phone calls, maintain patient
records, manage cash registers, and perform other general administrative duties.

Attention to Detail

Pharmacy technicians often deal with complex prescriptions that require meticulous attention. A small error could have significant consequences for a patient’s health

 

Mathematical

Pharmacy technicians must be able to accurately count pills, measure amounts, and calculate dosages. Basic understanding of algebra and proportions can be very useful.

 

Customer Service

In many settings, pharmacy technicians interact directly with customers or patients, answering questions and handling purchases. They must be patient, empathetic, and capable of providing excellent service.

 

Communication

Good communication is essential in the role of a pharmacy technician. They must effectively communicate with pharmacists, other healthcare professionals, and patients, both verbally and in writing.

 

Technical

Pharmacy technicians need to be comfortable using computers and other technology, as they often use software to process prescriptions and maintain patient records.

 

Organizational

Given the multiple tasks that pharmacy technicians have to manage, including filling prescriptions, managing inventory, and addressing customer needs, strong organizational skills are crucial.

 

Problem-Solving

Pharmacy technicians often need to resolve issues such as insurance problems, medication shortages, or discrepancies in a prescription, requiring critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.

 

Ethics & Integrity

Pharmacy technicians deal with sensitive information and controlled substances, so they must be trustworthy and adhere to all ethical guidelines and regulations.

 

Stress Management

The work of a pharmacy technician can be fast-paced and stressful, especially in busy settings like hospitals or large retail pharmacies. Being able to stay calm under pressure is essential.

 

Physical Stamina

The job often requires standing for long periods, and sometimes lifting heavy boxes of supplies.

 

Teamwork

Pharmacy technicians work as part of a team alongside pharmacists and other healthcare professionals. Being able to collaborate effectively and maintain a positive working relationship with colleagues is important.

Pharmacy technicians, like all healthcare professionals, must navigate a complex landscape of ethical and legal issues in their work. These can include:

 

Confidentiality: Pharmacy technicians have access to sensitive patient information, including medical histories and prescribed medications. They are legally and ethically obligated to maintain patient confidentiality, as mandated by laws such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the U.S.

 

Accuracy: The potential for harm in the case of inaccurate medication dispensing places a heavy ethical and legal responsibility on pharmacy technicians. They must ensure accuracy in every aspect of their work, from interpreting prescriptions to counting and labeling medications.

 

Professional Boundaries: Pharmacy technicians should maintain professional relationships with patients and avoid any behavior that could be perceived as inappropriate or a conflict of interest.

 

Controlled Substances: Pharmacy technicians must follow stringent legal guidelines when handling controlled substances to prevent misuse or diversion. This includes accurate record-keeping and reporting any suspicious prescriptions or behaviors.

 

Cultural Sensitivity: Pharmacy technicians serve diverse patient populations and should respect cultural, personal, and religious differences that might impact a patient’s approach to medication use.

 

Continuing Education: Technicians have an ethical obligation to stay current in their field to provide the highest quality of care. This includes knowing about new medications, changes to laws or regulations, and developments in pharmacy technology.

 

Report Ethical Misconduct: If a pharmacy technician witnesses unethical behavior, such as a coworker diverting medications, they have an ethical and often legal obligation to report it to their supervisor or appropriate authorities.

 

Patient Counseling: Technicians should understand their role in patient counseling. In many jurisdictions, there are legal limitations to the advice or information a pharmacy technician can provide to a patient, with more in-depth counseling reserved for pharmacists.

 

Product Integrity: Technicians are responsible for ensuring that products are stored correctly, are not expired, and that the supply chain is secure. Dispensing expired or compromised products can have legal repercussions and can harm patients.

Possible work settings for a Pharmacy Technician could include:

Chain/Independent Pharmacies

Chain/Independent Pharmacies Approximately 70% of entry-level pharmacy technicians in the United States are employed in retail pharmacy. Pharmacy technicians in this setting help dispense about 2.5 billion prescriptions per year. Their duties include but are not limited to Processing customer prescription data, Filling and labelling medications, Managing inventory, Answering phone calls, Dealing with insurance companies, and Distributing medicines to customers. In some states, technicians may be responsible for taking new and refilling prescription orders over the phone and transferring prescriptions between pharmacies. Independent pharmacies represent approximately 40% of all community pharmacies in the United States and employ thousands of pharmacy technicians nationwide. Responsibilities are similar to those in the chain setting but may include compounding, filling specialty packaging, and delivering medications directly to patients.

Nuclear Pharmacy

In nuclear pharmacy, technicians are trained and certified in handling and preparing radioactive medications. Roles for technicians in this setting include performing mathematical calculations, compounding, labelling, inventory management, and ensuring that radiopharmaceuticals are safely handled and transported. Less than 1% of pharmacy technicians have specialized training to work in a nuclear pharmacy.

Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical industry develops, produces, and markets drugs. In this setting, responsibilities may include Triage and coordination of drug information requests, Assisting with literature searches, Writing drug
information documents, and Other quality assurance processes.

Hospital Pharmacy

Approximately 17% of all pharmacy technicians work in a hospital setting. Responsibilities include Interpreting written prescription orders, Performing pharmacy calculations, Compounding medications, Refilling automated medication dispensers, Medication reconciliation, and Delivering medicines to patients within the hospital. Becoming certified will make you more competitive in employment as a hospital pharmacy technician.

Managed care

Health insurance plans and pharmacy benefit managers employ pharmacy technicians to ensure high-quality services. Common duties include Interacting with customers about offered pharmacy services, Review prior authorization requests, Claims adjudication, and Providing ongoing education and training to physicians’ offices and facilities. Less than 10% of pharmacy technicians work in the managed care setting.

Government Agency

Local, state, and federal government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service, and Armed Forces all require the expertise of skilled pharmacy technicians. In these settings, technicians can perform several tasks, including receiving and reviewing prescriptions, inventory management of drug products and pharmaceutical supplies, replenishment in automated pharmacy dispensing systems, compounding, and dispensing medications to patients.

Pharmacy technicians can advance their careers in several ways, often depending on their individual career goals, interests, and the opportunities available in their specific location or setting. Here are some common paths:

Further Education

Advancing one’s education is a common method for career progression. For example, some pharmacy technicians might choose to go back to school to become pharmacists, requiring a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm.D.). Others might pursue a degree in a related field, such as healthcare administration or public health.

Specialization

Some pharmacy technicians choose to specialize in a specific area of pharmacy practice, such as compounding, chemotherapy, nuclear pharmacy, or long-term care. Gaining specialized skills can lead to more responsibilities and potentially higher pay.

Certifications

Earning advanced certifications can demonstrate expertise in certain areas and make a pharmacy technician more competitive for advanced positions. For example, in the U.S., the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board offers certifications in areas such as compounded sterile preparations and medication history.

Management Roles

With experience, pharmacy technicians can move into supervisory or managerial roles, overseeing the work of other technicians. These positions often require strong leadership and organizational skills.

Industry Roles

Some pharmacy technicians may transition to work in the pharmaceutical industry, where they might work in sales, marketing, or research roles.

Education and Training Roles

Experienced pharmacy technicians might also move into roles where they train or educate others, either in an academic setting or within their own pharmacy.

Regulatory or Policy Roles

Pharmacy technicians with an interest in regulatory issues might choose to work for government agencies or regulatory bodies.

In pursuing any of these paths, it’s essential for pharmacy technicians to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in the field. This often involves continuing education, whether through formal coursework, workshops, or professional conferences. Networking can also be beneficial, as it can lead to new opportunities and connections in the field.

In the United States, the minimum requirement for many pharmacy technician positions is a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some employers may prefer or require a post-secondary certificate or associate degree in pharmacy technology. These programs typically cover topics such as medical and pharmaceutical terminology, basic anatomy related to pharmacology, pharmaceutical calculations, pharmacy law and ethics, and hands-on skills like techniques for dispensing medication. The pharmacy technician Associate’s degree and diploma programs at American National University are programmatically accredited by the Pharmacy Technician Accrediting Commission (PTAC), a collaboration between the American Society of Health–System Pharmacists and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

In addition to ANU’s institutional accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, the programmatic accreditation achieved by ANU’s pharmacy technician programs is a further validation of the quality of the program. Through a rigorous evaluation process, ANU has demonstrated compliance with 15 competency standards.

All students wishing to enroll in the Pharmacy Technician program will be required to pass a background check prior to the start of the program.

Hands-on Training

Our hands-on pharmacy technician training will give you the experience and confidence to succeed in your externship and future career.

  • Lab Kits can include: a counting tray with a well and spatula, mortar and pestle, a digital scale, syringes, and placebo medicine to learn dispensing.
  • Our pharmacy technician programs’ enhanced software learning experience is provided by PioneerRx. PioneerRx is a real-life pharmacy software system used across the United States, which will prepare students for externship and their new profession as a pharmacy technician.
  • In-Person Externship (Associate’s degree only): Two 120-hour, for a total of 240 hours, externships so that students gain hands on experience in a pharmacy.

Certification

In addition to education, pharmacy technicians may also need to be licensed or registered, depending on the state’s laws. It’s important to note that even in states where certification isn’t required, having a certification can make a pharmacy technician more competitive when applying for jobs. It demonstrates a certain level of knowledge and skill, and some employers may require it.

ANU’s Pharmacy Technician Associate degree and diploma programs prepare students to sit for the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) exam offered through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. The benefit of an Associate’s degree program is that college credit can be applied to future degrees at ANU or any other university as transfer credits.

State-by-State Requirements*

Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) also offers credentials to individuals who wish to distinguish themselves in the pharmacy technician field and build rewarding careers in healthcare.

Advanced Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT-Adv)

CPhTs who earn the CPhT-Adv Certification are recognized for their expertise and experience and demonstrate an unwavering commitment to advancing medication safety.

Eligibility Requirements

A candidate must hold an active PTCB CPhT Certification and have completed:

  • at least 3 years of work experience as a pharmacy technician within the past 8 years, and
  • at least four PTCB Assessment-Based Certificate Programs or three Certificate Programs

Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician® (CSPT®) Certification

Becoming a Certified Compounded Sterile Preparation Technician® (CSPT®) demonstrates a CPhT’s knowledge and
skill as a specialized pharmacy technician, as well as their commitment to the role they play in ensuring medication safety. Earning the CSPT Certification, provides the opportunity to be recognized by your employer and colleagues for successfully meeting PTCB’s rigorous requirements for this advanced credential.

Eligibility Requirements

  • To apply to become a CSPT, a candidate must be an active PTCB CPhT in good standing and satisfy PTCB’s education and/or work criteria.
  • An active PTCB CPhT must qualify under one of the following pathways:

Pathway 1: Completion of, or enrollment in, a PTCB-Recognized Education/Training Program for the CSPT Program AND one year of full-time continuous compounded sterile preparation (CSP) work experience.

Pathway 2: Three years of full-time continuous compounded sterile preparation (CSP) work experience

PTCB Certificate courses include:

  • Advanced Certifications
  • Medication History Certificate
  • Technician Product Verification Certificate
  • Hazardous Drug Management Certificate
  • Billing and Reimbursement Certificate
  • Controlled Substances Diversion Prevention Certificate
  • Immunization Administration Certificate
  • Point-of-Care Testing Certificate
  • Medication Therapy Management Certificate
  • Regulatory Compliance Certificate
  • Supply Chain and Inventory Management Certificate
  • Nonsterile Compounding Certificate

Organizations

Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB): This is the organization that provides certification for pharmacy technicians in the United States. Their website offers resources for studying for the certification exam, maintaining certification, and continuing education.

National Healthcareer Association (NHA): Another organization that certifies pharmacy technicians in the U.S., the NHA also provides a range of educational and career resources.

American Association of Pharmacy Technicians (AAPT): This is a national professional organization for pharmacy technicians in the U.S., providing continuing education, advocacy, and networking opportunities.

American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP): Although it’s primarily for pharmacists, ASHP also provides resources and advocacy for pharmacy technicians, including those working in health-system settings.

Industry Websites and Publications

Pharmacy Times: This industry publication covers news and provides continuing education for all pharmacy professionals, including pharmacy technicians.

Drug Topics: Another industry publication with news, articles, and continuing education that could be helpful for pharmacy technicians.

Forums and Social Media Groups

Reddit Pharmacy Technician Forum (/r/PharmacyTechnician): A subreddit where pharmacy technicians can ask questions, share experiences, and seek advice.

Indeed Pharmacy Technician Forum: A forum provided by Indeed where pharmacy technicians can discuss their work and career.

Facebook Groups: There are many Facebook groups dedicated to pharmacy technicians where members can share experiences, ask questions, and provide support to each other.

What is the total length of the Pharmacy Tech Associate's degree program?

A full-time undergraduate student will typically take 3 courses per term and there are 24 courses in the Pharmacy Technician Associate’s degree program. Assuming you maintain good academic standing in your courses and take courses in consecutive terms, you could complete your degree in 8 terms, or roughly 16 months. If you have transfer credits or transfer experience, your length of program may be reduced. Part-time undergraduates who choose to take 1 or 2 courses per term will take longer to complete their degree. 1 course per consecutive term = 48 months; 2 courses per consecutive term = 24 months

What are the admission requirements for a Pharmacy Technician program?

Graduation from high school is a minimum requirement for admission to American National University for those students enrolling in an associates programs Those who have completed high school in a homeschool setting or have satisfied graduation requirements through the General Educational Development (GED) Test or a state authorized examination are also eligible for admission.

An official transcript from an accredited college or university which evidences (a) the awarding of an associate’s degree, (b) successful completion of at least 60 semester or trimester credit hours or 72 quarter credit hours that does not result in the awarding of an associate’s degree, but that is acceptable for full credit toward a bachelor’s degree at an institution; or (c) enrollment in a bachelor’s degree program where at least 60 semester or trimester credit hours or 72 quarter credit hours have been successfully completed, including credit hours transferred into the bachelor’s degree program, will be recognized as the equivalent of a high school diploma for basis of acceptance. For colleges and universities outside of the U.S., transcripts must be evaluated by a private credential evaluation service who is a member of NACES (National Association of Credential Evaluation Services) or AICE (Association of International Credential Evaluators)

Students will sign an attestation on the enrollment application as to which of these credentials they have received.

Students enrolling in the Pharmacy Technician programs will be required to pass a background check prior to the start of the program. Any costs associated with this service are the responsibility of the student. Students who have a drug misdemeanor or felony will not be able to enroll in the program.

Students will be required to obtain immunizations and/or proof of immunity, and/or tuberculosis screening, and/or clean drug test results as required by the individual externship sites. The immunizations may include: varicella (chickenpox), measles, mumps, and rubella, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis and influenza vaccine. Hospital settings often mandate more extensive requirements than other healthcare facilities. The cost of immunizations, screening and drug testing is the responsibility of the student.

Some states require externship licenses. Students are advised to investigate the provisions for licensure to ensure they meet them before applying to the Pharmacy Technician programs.

Can I transfer credits from another institution?

Yes, transfer credits are accepted on an individual basis and after a complete evaluation has been done. Acceptance of prior collegiate work in any circumstance should not be interpreted as a blanket policy of acceptance in all cases. The academic integrity of the institution requires that each case be judged independently. In addition, the age of the prior coursework and technology changes will need to be considered. A student must complete the last 25% of any diploma, associate degree, or baccalaureate degree program coursework at American National University. This requirement means that a maximum of 72 quarter credit hours for an associate degree may be accepted.

What topics and courses are covered in the curriculum?

American National University’s Pharmacy Technician Associate degree program provides you the skills you need to succeed in a pharmacy environment. This will include maintaining patient health through medical record keeping, insurance claims, patient profiles, and providing care through medicine delivery and understanding drugs and their applications, prescription preparation and administration, labeling and keeping record of pharmaceutical products, inventory, and more. Your coursework includes hands-on training to develop the skills you need.

Are there any prerequisites or recommended prior coursework?

There are no pre-requisites or required coursework to start this program, but a passion for science and health service will be beneficial to your studies and future career.

What types of hands-on training or clinical experiences are included in the program?

Lab kits for hands-on learning are sent directly to the students home so that you can learn through physical touch. Instructors and coursework will guide you through the kit and the learning material. Clinical experience occurs during the 240-hour clinical externship of the associate’s degree program.

Are there opportunities for internships or externships?

A clinical externship of 240 hours of real-world work experience.

Do Medical Assistants require a degree to be hired?

Each state has different rules regarding employment and certification of a Pharmacy Technician. Many states require a board-approved education program and nationally recognized certification. Refer to page 7 for a list of requirements by state.

What are the typical class sizes?

The typical class size for a lecture course is 25 students and clinical lab sections have up to 12 students.

Will I be eligible to sit for certification exams upon completion of the program?

Students will take the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) exam offered through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) as part of PTA288 Pharmacy Tech Exam Success Class.

How much do the programs cost, and are there financial aid options available?

Please visit our tuition & fees page for the most up-to-date tuition fees per credit. The associate degree programs are 96 credits while the certificate programs are 48 credits. ANU offers a wide variety of options to help finance your education. You can apply forFederal Financial Aid, or visit our ANU-funded scholarships and grants.

What is the cost of textbooks and other required materials for the program?

ANU does not charge an application fee or technology fees. They also include all textbooks and laboratory kits and materials in the tuition fee. Lab kits will be sent directly to your home.

How is the program accredited?

The pharmacy technician Associate’s degree and diploma programs at American National University are programmatically accredited by the Pharmacy Technician Accrediting Commission (PTAC), a collaboration between the American Society of Health–System Pharmacists and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

Are there job placement services or assistance available after graduation?

The ANU Career Services team is available to coach you through the career preparation process, answering career-related questions, providing personalized feedback, connecting you to ideal resources and opportunities, and helping you stay focused on your ultimate career goal. No matter where you are in your career, you will have access to the full range of
services that ANU Career Services provides.

Can I pursue further education or specialization after completing the degree?

After completing a Pharmacy Technician Associate’s degree program, individuals may choose to further their education in various healthcare-related fields. Some common educational paths pursued by graduates of this program include:

  • Certificate programs: Some graduates may opt for shorter-term certificate programs to gain specialized skills in areas such as medical coding and billing and phlebotomy & ECG.
  • Bachelor’s degrees in: Nursing and Health Information Management.

ANU also offers an MBA in Healthcare Management for those ready to pursue a Master’s degree in healthcare

Can I work while taking the courses?

ANUs distance education programs were designed with working adults in mind. Online courses offer flexibility through easy access to course materials, instructors, and video conferencing for live lectures.

How are the program's faculty selected and what are their qualifications?

American National University prides itself on hiring qualified practitioners. Pharmacy Technician Program faculty have the following qualifications: 1) A faculty member teaching this course shall have at least one of the following credentials: Licensed pharmacist/Pharmacy Technician with 3 years of occupational experience.
Bachelor’s Degree or Higher in any Health Science Field with at least 3 years occupational experience and CPhT.
Current certifications or licensure depending on the degree/field; 3) At least three years’ experience in a Pharmacy technician field

What support services are available to students, such as tutoring or academic advising?

American National University provides support services to all students in: Admissions, Program-specific Academic Advising, Library services, Financial Aid Services, Career Services, and IT Help Desk.

How do I apply for the program, and what is the application process like?

To apply for any of the Medical Assisting programs, visit the website https://an.edu and click on the Apply Now button. Create a login account and complete the details of the application. An admissions representative will reach out to you if any other documents are needed in the application process. The whole process can take as few as 24 hours, depending on time zones and response time.

Are there opportunities for networking and professional development within the program?

American National University brings the university to our students as they study from the comfort of their own home with our High Tech, High Touch innovations. While our students do not meet in person, they do get to meet over Zoom sessions to have discussions and learn from their career-professional professors. Students do not lose on creating their own networks – if anything, students will make connections with like-minded professionals across the globe to enhance their professional networks. With our innovative online education systems, students at American National University will never miss out on important networking connections. Utilizing discussions, the services we offer, and their professors, our students have the chance to create a global network.

Are there any opportunities for international students to enroll in the program?

Yes! International students can enroll in the Medical Assisting Associate online degree program and take the courses from anywhere in the world where they can access the internet.

Translate »