Retail Pharmacy Technician Job Description

I have been writing articles on why and how to become a pharmacy technician, but some recent feedback has made me realize I left out the obvious. What is it that pharmacy technicians do in a pharmacy. Most people figure they help the pharmacist enter prescriptions and count pills. This is true for an outpatient pharmacy, also called a retail pharmacy, but there are many roles for pharmacy techs in healthcare. The rest of this article will discuss the job description of pharmacy techs in a retail or community setting, and provide a bulleted list of tasks. Future articles will cover different pharmacy settings for pharmacy techs and the job descriptions and tasks associated with them as well.

Community/Retail Pharmacy: I have worked retail, and I prefer other settings; however, it is where a large percentage of pharmacy technician jobs are found. What a pharmacy technician can do is determined by the state they work via state laws and rules. In general, technicians cannot provide clinical information to patients or be the final check for prescriptions. In some states, technicians are allowed to provide information on over-the-counter (OTC) medication (ie, medications that do not require a prescription, such as, acetaminophen and ibuprofen). Specific roles that pharmacy technicians can have in a retail pharmacy include: general technician, lead technician, buying technician, compounding technician, and billing/insurance technician. In most pharmacies, pharmacy technicians are general technicians with some of the above listed skill sets. When you go into a larger and busier pharmacy, you can actually have job differentiation where people have assigned specialized tasks (based on the needs of the pharmacy).

Pharmacy technician tasks for retail pharmacies include, but are not limited to:

Collecting patient information (insurance and personal information as needed)
Entering and processing prescriptions in the computer system
Filling and selling prescriptions
Requesting refills from doctor offices for patients
Compounding medications that are not commercially available
Ordering medications
Restocking shelves
Answering the phone
Working with insurance companies on approving payment for certain medications
Maintaining the cash register and conducting accounting functions
Retail pharmacies tend to get a bad rap from within the pharmacy profession. Although I prefer hospital (which will be the topic of the next article), I enjoyed my time in a retail pharmacy. I was able to get to know the customers (I like say patients) personally. It is a great feeling when a long-time customer comes to the pharmacy and you know them by name, maybe a little about their family, and most important you know their medical history. Because of this relationship, you are able to ensure that the patient’s medication regimen is optimal, as a technician you can help determine if there are generic alternatives to medications prescribed in order to help the patient save money.

In summary, retail pharmacies are the most common type of pharmacy, and therefore the place where the majority of pharmacy techs are employed. Due to an increasing elderly population (thank you baby boomers), retail pharmacies will continue to increase in demand. If you find a pleasant retail pharmacy to work in, and good staff to work with, a retail pharmacy technician position can be a positive experience.

Careers in Pharmacy – What Should I Pursue?

Pharmacies generally employ two types of professionals: Pharmacists and Pharmacy Technicians. While both are integral to a pharmacy’s performance, they represent two very different approaches to careers in pharmacy. When deciding what career path is right for you, a lot of factors come into play. In this article, we will outline these two careers in pharmacy so you can make the right choice!

Pharmacist- What is It?

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who are in charge of dispensing prescription medications to patients. Typically, a pharmacist will fill prescriptions, check interactions of a patient’s prescriptions, instruct patients on proper use of a medication, and oversee pharmacy technician, interns, and various other careers in pharmacy. Many pharmacists own or manage their own pharmacy and are more business minded. Some pharmacists work for pharmaceutical manufacturers, and are involved in the creation of new medications. The median annual wage of pharmacists is very good, punching in at $111,570 in May 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How do I become a Pharmacist?

The path to becoming a pharmacist is unique- while most graduate programs require a bachelor’s degree or four years of undergraduate experience, a Doctor of Pharmacy program requires as little as two, as long as the appropriate prerequisites are met, such as courses in chemistry, anatomy, and biology (although some programs do require a bachelor’s degree). An entrance exam, known as the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT), is also required. Most programs will take about four years to complete, and graduates who want a more advanced pharmacist position will complete a one-two year residency program. Many pharmacists who go on to own their own pharmacies will also acquire a master’s degree in business administration (MBA). Graduates must also pass two exams detailing pharmacy skills and pharmacy law in order to attain a state license. While this process may seem long, it pays off with one of the most rewarding careers in pharmacy.

Pharmacy Technician- What is It?

Pharmacy (or pharmaceutical) technicians help pharmacists dispense prescription medications to patients. They will usually be the ones measuring out prescriptions, compounding medications like ointments, packaging and labeling pharmaceuticals, and performing routine tasks like answering phones and filling forms. The pharmacy technician will work under the supervision of the pharmacist- if the customer has questions about medications or health, the pharmacy technician will arrange for the customer to speak with the pharmacist, as he/she is the more trained of the two careers in pharmacy. Technicians must have great customer service skills, organizational skills, and be detail oriented. The median annual wage of a pharmacy technician was $28,400 in May 2010, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

How do I become a Pharmacy Technician?

Becoming a pharmacy technician provides the simpler process of the two careers in pharmacy. Each technician must have a high school diploma or equivalent and pass an exam or complete a formal training program, depending on the state. Many pharmacy technicians will learn their skills on-site, but some will attend vocational schools or community colleges to complete programs in pharmacy technology. These programs detail arithmetic, pharmacy law and ethics, and record keeping. This path will allow for the quickest work straight out of high school for graduates pondering one of the careers in pharmacy.

A Few Tips on How to Start a Career As a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy Technician is a solid career choice. Health-care jobs are predicted to steadily grow over the next decade. In fact, labor and industry forecasters all seem to agree that most health-care job numbers will keep increasing over the next decade. The aging baby-boom population reaching their golden years is a major indicator of health-care’s upcoming growth. And, pharmacy is tied into health-care at nearly every level, which means that being a pharmacy technician should prove the be a stable career path over both the short and long term. This article talks about some tips and ideas about how to become a pharmacy tech. First, lets talk about what pharmacy technicians do day-to-day?

What Do Pharmacy Techs do?

Pharmacy Technicians have a wide range of duties since they work in a variety of venues. The majority of techs work in retail stores. Other environments include Hospitals, Long-Term Care facilities, Mail-Order pharmacies and Military bases. Insurance companies also hire experienced pharmacy techs to audit paperwork and adjust claims. Most pharmacy technicians work directly with customers / patients under the direction of a pharmacist. They may perform many of the same duties as a Pharmacist and must have a good working knowledge of the pharmacy operations. Besides counting out tablets and ringing up orders, pharmacy technicians also decode prescriptions, enter data into computers, create labels, make and receive phone calls, rotate stock as well as countless other duties.

Pharmacy Technicians do much of the work in a pharmacy, but they can’t do everything. They may not answer questions about medications or give any advice whatsoever. They can tell a customer where to find “over-the-counter” products and even read the words from the packaging. However, they can never personally advise anyone to use any type of drug product. Overall, a pharmacy technician’s main goal is to assist the pharmacist in helping patients and customers. They are expected to be attentive and accurate, but also friendly and knowledgeable.

Do I have to get certified to become a pharmacy tech?

Most employers and states require National Certification. Someday, the regulations may be the same everywhere, but for now it’s different in every state. The first step is to find out what is required in your state and/or any prospective employers. At the minimum, Pharmacy Technicians are required to register and keep an updated license with the Board of Pharmacy in their respective state. Most U.S. states require national certification from either the PTCB or ICPT (ExCPT). However, even if the state doesn’t require national certification, most companies who employ pharmacy technicians do. In addition, even if neither the state or your employer require certification, it’s recommended that anyone planning on a career as a pharmacy tech should become nationally certified in order to be more qualified when applying for a tech position or promotion.

What is the pharmacy tech test like?

Taking the PTCB Exam:

Most states recognize the PTCB since it’s been around longer and has a solid reputation. The pharmacy technician test given by the PTCB is a 90 question multiple choice test. There are four answers to choose from, with one being the correct answer. You get 120 minutes to complete the exam. The exam is in random format, which means that the subject matter switches around nearly every question. The exam is constructed as:

66% – Assisting the pharmacist / serving22% – Maintaining Medication and Inventory Control Systems12% – Administration and management of pharmacy business practices

To pass the PTCB Exam:

You’ll need to score at least 650 out of 900. Whatever you do, don’t read online message boards (Yahoo groups, etc.) where people who have passed try to tell you what’s on the exam. There are several test batteries that change frequently. In fact, they’ve currently updated all of the exams in mid 2010. The best way to ensure you pass the PTCB exam is to study until you confidently know all of the subjects on the exam.

What do Pharmacy Technicians earn?

The Salary paid to pharmacy technicians really varies by geographical location. So, in an attempt to collect the best available data, an ongoing wage survey has been running on my website for several months and the results are listed individually by city and state. To see those results, go to the wage survey page.

Pharmacy Tech School vs. Online vs. Self Study

The best route to get trained and certified really depends on each person and their own situation. Each type of program offers different types of structure and flexibility. The biggest factors to consider are job placement assistance, program accreditation and your budget.

Community College – pharmacy technology programs

Many Community Colleges offer a 1-2 year pharmacy technician program designed to prepare students to jump right into a pharmacy technician position. These programs usually qualify for financial aid and other assistance / re-training programs. One of the big questions you’ll want to ask when considering this type of program is about placement assistance after program completion.

Trade School / Pharmacy Tech Colleges

The trade schools are all a little different from each other, so you’ll want to research all of them to find one that’s best for you. If they are accredited, you may also qualify for financial aid grants and loans. If you are serious about attending one of the pharmacy technician schools, make an appointment and take a tour of the school. Ask specific questions about the program and the career placement. When you go for a tour at a pharmacy tech school, be prepared for the big sales pitch and some pressure. Remember, these schools are businesses and the folks who give the tours are salespeople and often work for commissions.

Online pharmacy Technician Programs / Online Colleges

An increasing number of schools are offering online programs which can be completed at home. An online pharmacy technician program can be a great choice for a highly disciplined person. If you’re prone to getting side-tracked by other projects (or TV shows) while you are at home, Online study programs may not work for you. On the other hand, if you can focus and stay on a schedule online programs are flexible enough to work around any schedule. When considering an online pharmacy technician program, shop around and look at the benefits of each. Some of the online programs may have affiliations with community colleges or chain drug stores, which may provide assistance in finding an internship or externship.

Self Study / Pharmacy Tech Review Books

Similar to online programs, self study can be challenging for the focus deficient types. However, one really good strategy for succeeding with a self-study pharmacy tech program is to form a small group and meet on a schedule. Even just having one partner to study with on a consistent basis helps immensely. Self study is also a very good option for experienced technicians who are in need of getting certified because of a new law or employers policy.

What subjects do pharmacy technician students study?

The breakdown of the test doesn’t really give a clear picture of what subjects pharmacy tech students need to study. In pharmacy technician programs, some of the subjects are: Pharmacy Math, The Top 200 Drugs, DEA Controlled Substance Schedules, Pharmacy Laws and ethics, Prescription decoding and abbreviations, parenteral Nutrition, Pharmacology and several more.