Ashworth College Blog

What is a pharmacy technician?

Written by Ashworth College on Monday, 03 September 2018. Posted in Career

Pharmacy technicians performing drug inventory at a pharmacy

Every time you pick up a prescription from your local pharmacy, you probably see a number of people in white coats working behind the counter. At least one of those folks is a pharmacist, an expert in pharmaceutical drugs who holds a professional doctorate and has passed multiple licensing exams.

But most of the people you see behind the drug counter are pharmacy technicians co-workers who are trained specifically to assist pharmacists with the many ongoing tasks it takes to run the business.

What does a pharmacy technician do?

Though the tasks needed by every pharmacy are generally similar, pharm techs may perform them in varied settings from retail environments where they interact with the public constantly to closed-door environments where they have no direct interaction with customers at all. There’s a little something for everyone who aspires to build a career as a pharmacy technician.

Retail Pharm Techs

About half of all pharm techs work in retail pharmacies and drug store settings, while 10% work in general merchandise stores, and 8% work in grocery stores, according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.* In these environments, pharmacy technicians work under the direct supervision of a pharmacist to handle a number of important tasks, including:

  • Working with customers in person and on the telephone
  • Receiving prescription information from customers and physicians
  • Counting pills or measuring doses of prescribed medications
  • Packaging and labeling medications
  • Working the pharmacy cash register
  • Maintaining accurate patient records
  • Processing and troubleshooting insurance claims
  • Monitoring inventory of behind the counter and over-the-counter supplies

Retail pharmacy technicians may work full time or part time during regular daytime shifts, fill-in or temporary shifts, and even overnight shifts at 24-hour pharmacies. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for retail pharm techs in 2017 was $31,750.*

The median salary for pharmacy technicians in retail environments was $31,750 in 2017.*

If you’re interested in chemistry, medication management, and want to interact with people every day in an effort to help them live longer, healthier lives, then retail pharm tech could be a great career for you.

Closed-Door Pharm Techs

Not all pharmacies are customer-facing. Hospitals and private group care facilities need their own pharmacies to fulfill the medication needs of patients who are receiving emergency treatment, short-term rehabilitation, or ongoing residential care. Some of these environments may employ pharm techs who work completely behind-the-scenes, while others require pharm techs to make the rounds giving medications directly to their patients. But, just like their retail counterparts, closed-door pharm techs must work under the supervision of a pharmacist and they are likely to perform more complicated tasks, like:

  • Maintaining a sterile environment and dispensing sterile products
  • Compounding (customizing drugs to meet specific patient needs)
  • Preparing intravenous medications
  • Working with radio-pharmaceuticals (radioactive drugs used for diagnoses and therapies)

Because care facilities also function 24/7, there are likely to be opportunities for pharm techs to work shifts at any time of the day. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for hospital-based pharm techs in 2017 was nearly $37,000 per year.*

Other Kinds of Pharm Techs

Opportunities for pharmacy technicians certainly aren’t limited to the environments above, though they’re the most common. Skilled pharm techs have other ways to grow their careers. As business needs evolve, so do opportunities.

  1. Online and mail order pharmacies are growing in popularity as people turn to digital retailers for all of their needs, medicine included. A different kind of customer-facing business, mail order pharmacies need pharm techs, too. Digital customer service, postage management, and delivery and packaging logistics may be part of daily operations in these types of pharmacies.
  2. Domestic, farm, rescue, and zoo animals need medical treatment that includes pharmaceuticals just like humans do. Mail order, compounding, and veterinary school-based pharmacies need pharm techs who specialize in pharmaceuticals for animals.
  3. Branch pharmacies are sometimes found in underserved areas. Pharm techs may manage their daily operations under the supervision of an off-site pharmacist.
  4. Managers and supervisors with experience in pharm tech are needed to oversee operations in a variety of healthcare and allied healthcare environments. Some retail experience is usually desired for these roles where office skills, management skills and regulatory compliance knowledge are required.

Start Training Today for This Growing Field!

As the population ages and requires increasingly more medical care, there is an increasing need for pharm techs in all of the environments mentioned above. Demand for pharm techs is projected to rise about 12 percent through 2026. Learn more about the pharmacy technician job outlook and enroll today so you’ll be ready to join this rapidly growing field.

Learn more about the online pharmacy technician program at Ashworth College: Talk to an admissions advisor today!

About the Author

Ashworth College

Ashworth College

Our community is full of independent, motivated, growth-focused students. Dive into our blog to explore diverse stories from our students, friends, experts, and executives. From tips & tricks to student experiences and alumni stories, the Ashworth Blog is all about celebrating our community's accomplishments and passions.

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Meet the Ashworth College Online Engagement Coordinator: #ShawnCares

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We’re not so different from the students we serve. Like them, we each have our individual goals, dreams, personal roadblocks, and vision for who want to be and where we want to go. Here at Ashworth College, we’re all about inspiring and enabling students to be their best selves, so we thought we’d share insights into what motivates our staff to GO BEYOND the ordinary and always—always—strive for more.

Every company has that person—the one who knows everyone and seems to hold the key to finding the answers to any question. At Ashworth College, that person is Online Engagement Coordinator Shawn Bryant. Or, as he’s referred to by his social media teammates, #ShawnCares.

A graduate of James Madison University and lifelong athlete, Shawn originally came to Ashworth College in 2007 as an Admissions Advisor to pay for his training to play professional football. He eventually returned to Ashworth College where his career path took him from Admissions, to Student Services, to being tapped to join the social media team.

Today, Shawn can be found behind the scenes on the social media sites (Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) for Ashworth College and sister sites James Madison High School (JMHS), Madison School of Healthcare, and PCDI-Canada, responding to questions and resolving issues.

Q: #ShawnCares. Why do you think your peers gave you that nickname?

A: I think it’s because anything I put my name on, I take seriously. I remember something our CEO, Rob Klapper said, about everyone in our company being important from the janitor to the CEO and that resonated with me. When I’m responding to students, I’m not speaking for myself—I’m speaking for Ashworth College. So I treat every issue as if I had something to do with it, personally. That helps me be the very best I can be.

Q: You were the Chairman of VOTE for six years. Tell us about that.

A: VOTE is “Voice of the Employee” and its purpose is to give employees across the company a means to be heard. It’s also a morale booster, as we headed a number of projects like Habitat for Humanity builds, food bank drives, our annual company picnic, etc. When I was chair, I was still in admissions and student services but I had one-on-ones with our CEO, representing employee concerns. That was great training for what I do now on our social media channels.

Q: What’s your superpower?

A: I’m a puzzle-finder. My degree is in sociology with a minor in criminal justice and for a while I thought I might be a detective. My current role allows me a good bit of detective work. I trace down what was said, what the roadblock is, and put together the story of what happened, so I can bring our team members together to resolve it.

Shawn Bryant and Kamogelo Phahladira

Shawn Bryant and Kamogelo Phahladira. Kamogelo traveled from South Africa to attend our 2018 graduation. She often reached out to Ashworth College on Facebook Messenger with questions and was thrilled to meet the person who helped her along the way!

Q: What do you most enjoy about your job?

A: Resolving issues! It’s great to turn a frown into a smile or just know I was able to help someone seeking answers.

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A: Oddly enough, no. (Laughs). I prefer face-to-face conversations and being able to read body language and hear someone’s tone. That’s why when I receive a complaint over social media, I read the complaint over and over and over. I’m really trying to “hear” what the person is saying, so I can respond appropriately and give them the answers they need.

Certification Preparation

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Many of our career training programs include certification preparation as an integral part of their course content. We ensure that content in these courses aligns specifically with the content of the corresponding exam, so that the job training you receive gets right to the heart of the skills you need to succeed. When certification is what you need to land the job, Ashworth College is here to help you make that happen!

Scroll through the study areas below to see what kinds of certification preparation our programs can offer. Click on a program name for more details about enrollment, curriculum, and tuition.

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The certification required for pharm techs varies based on the laws that regulate the place of employment, that’s why our Pharmacy Technician Career Diploma program preps you for two certifications – ExCPT from the National Healthcareer Association and PTCE from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. Tuition covers the cost of your choice of certification exam.

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A Registered Healthcare Documentation Specialist (RHDS) Certification proves to potential employers that you have job skills that will add value to their businesses – even if you’re new to the workforce. Prep for the certification exam from the Association for Healthcare Documentation Integrity in our Medical Transcription Career Diploma program. Tuition includes the cost of the exam.

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How a Diagnosis Led to a Dream Career

Success Stories How a South African au pair became the first in her family to earn a college diploma

In our GO AFTER IT blog series, you'll meet fellow students and grads who committed themselves to chasing their dreams and proving it pays to GO AHEAD toward better opportunities — no matter the obstacles to be overcome.

Kamogelo Phahladira’s accomplishments are monumental, yet she speaks softly and modestly about them, her pride coming across only occasionally in the form of a self-conscious giggle. Not merely the first in her family to graduate with a college diploma, Kamogelo completed two Ashworth College programs in the space of 12 months. And this young South African woman from an economically disadvantaged family did it by overcoming obstacles others might never dream of.

A good opportunity, or too good to be true?

Kamogelo’s educational odyssey began in September 2017, when she arrived in the U.S. from South Africa as an au pair recruited by a cultural exchange organization that brings international students to the U.S. to provide nanny services to a host family while they study. The company promised Kamogelo “money for college” as part of her compensation package, but when she arrived in the U.S. she quickly discovered the $500 educational stipend offered by the company wouldn’t begin to cover tuition costs at any bricks-and-mortar university.

“I signed up with the cultural exchange program mainly for the potential to earn a college degree while I worked, but I realized there was no way I could afford to attend college on $500,”

Kamogelo explained, “so my father suggested I return home. But meanwhile I decided to look online for a college I might be able to afford, and I discovered Ashworth College.”

The path to an online college diploma – or two

Perhaps because of her too-good-to-be-true experience with the cultural exchange organization, Kamogelo at first took a skeptical view of Ashworth College. “I investigated them very thoroughly,” she said. “I read reviews and watched YouTube videos of their graduation ceremony to be sure they were a real college.”

Meanwhile, Kamogelo returned to her hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa, and took a job as a nanny there. Convinced Ashworth College was the real deal, Kamogelo enrolled in the paralegal career diploma program. “I really enjoyed that program, especially working at my own pace,” Kamogelo said. “It allowed me to complete the degree very quickly.”

But why not just attend college in South Africa?

“The curriculums for programs like paralegal or forensic science are not very good in my country,” Kamogelo explained, “and education is very expensive here. For me, coming from a poor background, it would be hard to complete a degree in South Africa because it’s too expensive, but Ashworth College was very affordable and has been a stepping stone to greater things for me.”

Parlaying her education into a career

Indeed, Kamogelo’s success in completing the paralegal diploma so quickly – with honors, no less – led her to consider taking a second program: the forensic science career diploma. And this decision unwittingly launched Kamogelo into her dream career.

“My local newspaper wrote up a small article about my educational accomplishments, which must have been seen by the South African Police Services (SAPS). They contacted me to offer me a position in forensics, sort of like an internship,” she said. “I can’t tell you how exciting that was.”

Walking the commencement stage

Asked what motivated her to study hard and graduate with honors from two Ashworth College programs, Kamogelo credits her family and friends. “When my parents and some friends told me they were saving up money to travel to America to watch me walk the stage at graduation, I felt very motivated to do my best with my studies,” Kamogelo said.

Today, the sky’s the limit for this ambitious young woman, whose ultimate goal is to work in crime scene investigation. So what would she say to other prospective students who may face financial barriers or other obstacles to an education? “Don’t limit yourself” is her quick response. And that’s good advice for anyone who has not yet discovered the benefits of the affordable online education offered by Ashworth College.

Learn more about the wide variety of online college degrees, diplomas and career certificates offered by Ashworth College. Talk to an admissions advisor today!

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