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What does a pharmacy technician do?

Written by Ashworth College on Tuesday, 18 September 2018. Posted in Career, Healthcare

What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

If you’ve taken any prescription medications, you’ve no doubt interacted with a pharmacy technician. These professionals are most recognizable as the folks at your local drug store – handing you a prescription bag and ringing up your purchase on the cash register.

Retail pharmacies aren’t the only places pharm techs work, though. Pharmacy technicians work in a variety of settings, from hospitals to mail-order prescription facilities. And their job tasks can vary greatly depending on where they work.

What does a pharmacy technician do in a retail setting?

About half of all pharm techs work in drug stores, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In a retail environment, pharmacy technicians work under the direction of the registered pharmacist to handle a number of important tasks, including:

  • Receiving prescription information from patients and physicians
  • Counting medication pills or items to be dispensed
  • Packaging and labeling medications
  • Maintaining patient records, including allergy information
  • Processing and troubleshooting insurance claims
  • Maintaining drug inventory

Most pharmacy technicians employed in a retail setting work full time, sometimes in shifts that include nights and weekends. The median pharmacy technician salary in retail drug stores is about $30,000 per year, and demand for pharm techs is expected to grow rapidly as the Baby Boomer population continues to age.

What does a pharmacy technician do in a hospital?

Some pharm techs don’t want to interact with the public as much as required in a drug store setting. If that sounds like you, then you may be interested to know that hospitals employ many pharmacy technicians “behind the scenes” to prepare medications for patients. Like their retail peers, hospital-based pharm techs also work under the supervision of a registered pharmacist, but they may perform more complex tasks, including:

  • Preparing specialized medications for seriously ill patients
  • Mixing intravenous medications
  • Working in a sterile environment
  • Compounding radioactive materials for use in nuclear medicine scans and treatments
  • Conducting patient rounds or giving medications directly to patients

Working in a hospital is tops for pharmacy technician pay: the median salary for these professionals comes in at nearly $37,000 per year.

What does a pharmacy technician do in a mail-order facility?

Many people receive their medications through the mail these days, and while it’s true that big machines count and package those pills, the prescriptions still must be processed by someone who has passed a pharmacy technician exam.

In a mail-order pharmacy, a pharm tech might:

  • Learn specialized computer programs to operate the machines that fill high volumes of common medications
  • Set up machines to dispense a particular drug into the correct container
  • Troubleshoot label jams or other issues with the equipment
  • Interact with patients, physicians, and insurers by phone

Pharmacy technician hourly pay in a mail-order facility might run as high as $15.50, for a median annual salary of about $31,000.

Other places pharmacy technicians work

Pharm techs work in other settings, too, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities, where they may package and dispense medications to patients.

How to become a pharmacy technician

If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a pharmacy technician, our Admission Advisors can put you on the path to enter this this fast-growing field. Learn more about the online pharmacy technician program at Ashworth College. Call 1-800-957-5412 or request free information today!

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