Depending on various state rules and regulations, pharmacy technologists perform a variety of duties under the direct supervision of a registered pharmacist. They assist the registered pharmacist with filling prescriptions and labeling bottles so that the pharmacist has more time to spend with patients, consulting with physicians, and overseeing patient medication profiles.
Duties, Activities, and Scope of Practice
Pharmacy techs typically receive written and faxed prescriptions from practitioners and refill requests from patients. They prepare the prescriptions through the various methods required such as weighing, measuring, counting, or even mixing compounds. They fill and label the appropriate bottles or containers and give them to the registered pharmacist to check before giving them to the patient. They also price and file the prescriptions.
Sometimes the pharmacy tech is involved in delivering the prescriptions either to retail customers or to nursing stations in hospitals and facilities. In mail-order pharmacies they may be involved in preparing the prescriptions and packages for mailing after the pharmacist has checked the prescription.
Pharmacy techs also read patient charts in facilities and update patients' medication profiles.
They may prepare insurance forms, and stock and order prescription as well as over-the-counter items for the pharmacy. In a retail pharmacy they might also be expected to work with displays and patient education materials.
Education and Training
Many pharmacy technicians begin as pharmacy aides and learn this position on the job. However, formal education programs and certification are becoming more the norm. Programs are available through community colleges, vocational schools, the military, and some hospitals.
The curriculum includes classroom and laboratory work in subjects such as medical and pharmaceutical terminology, pharmaceutical math calculations, pharmacy recordkeeping, techniques, and ethics and laws. Students also learn about pharmacology, including medication names, actions, doses, and side effects. They must have strong English, reading, math, and spelling skills. Some programs offer internships.
Depending on the program, students earn a diploma, certificate, or associate's degree.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board administers the National Pharmacy Technician Certificate Exam. At present it is strictly voluntary; however, many states as well as employers are beginning to require certification for pharmacy techs.
Candidates have to have a high school diploma or GED and have no felony convictions.
Certified pharmacy techs must renew every two years by completing twenty hours of continuing education, which must include at least one hour of pharmacy law.
Almost all fifty states have legislation governing the number of techs who can work under one pharmacist.
Work Settings and Salaries
In 2004, pharmacy techs held 258,000 jobs. Two-thirds of these jobs were in retail pharmacies. Others worked for hospitals, mail-order or Internet pharmacies, clinics, or the federal government.
Pharmacy techs work the same hours as pharmacists. Many pharmacies are open twenty-four hours or have on-call hours, so pharmacy techs could work shifts to cover evenings, weekends, and holidays to meet the needs of the patients.
The U.S. Department of Labor reports the median hourly wage for pharmacy techs in 2004 was $11.37. Wages ranged from $7.96 to $16.61 per hour.
Career Potential and Additional Information
This profession is expected to continue to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2014 due to an aging and growing population that will require more medications in the future.
Further information about pharmacy tech positions can be obtained from two sources. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Web site is
The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists provides a list of accredited programs. Their Web site is