When you go to the store to get your prescription filled, the person helping you behind the counter is most likely a pharmaceutical technician. For anyone interested in becoming one, training programs--lasting from 6 months to 2 years--are available, though not required by employers. Most states require registration or licensing for these medical professionals.
Pharmaceutical technicians, also known as pharmacy technicians, assist licensed pharmacists in performing administrative and clerical tasks, preparing prescription medications and providing customer service. While formal training may not be required in all states, many prospective pharmaceutical technicians receive training through diploma, certificate and associate's degree programs.
|Required Education||High school diploma or equivalent at minimum; postsecondary programs available|
|Other Requirements||Most states have various regulatory requirements, such as licensure, certification or registration|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||9%|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$31,680|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Pharmaceutical Technician Education Requirements
Though some states require that technicians hold a high school diploma or equivalent, no standard education or training requirements exist for pharmaceutical technicians. Those technicians who do receive some formal training generally have an advantage in obtaining employment.
Formal pharmaceutical technician training programs are offered through community colleges, vocational schools, hospitals and the military. Depending on the program, students receive a diploma, certificate or associate's degree upon completion. Students in these programs learn basic pharmacology, pharmacy procedure, techniques for working with sterile and non-sterile drugs, drug labeling and pharmaceutical dosage calculation.
These programs can take six months to two years to complete and include classroom and lab instruction. Many pharmaceutical technician programs include pharmacy internships to provide students with hands-on experience.
Pharmaceutical technicians are supervised by and work closely with pharmacists. Typically technicians process prescription requests that are presented by patients in writing, delivered electronically, or in some states, submitted over the phone. After verifying the information technicians retrieve the medication, measure it, price it, prepare the labels and record the amount and dosage. Technicians also may keep patient records and prepare insurance claims.
As recorded by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2015, the average hourly rate for pharmaceutical technicians was $15.23, with an average annual salary of $31,680 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that 52 percent of technicians worked in pharmacies and drugstores in 2014, while others worked in different kinds of stores and hospitals.
Employment projections by the BLS indicated that job opportunities for pharmaceutical technicians would increase by 9 percent from 2014-2024. Job prospects were expected to be especially good for certified technicians and those with previous experience or formal training.
Registration and Certification Information
According to the BLS, most states require pharmaceutical technicians to register with or receive licensure from the local State Board of Pharmacy. Registration requirements vary by state, but commonly include a high school diploma or GED, a clear criminal background check and formal training or certification.
Pharmaceutical certification is voluntary in some states and mandatory in others. Two organizations that offer national certification exams are the Institute for Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT) and the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). In order to register for these exams, applicants must hold high school diplomas or the equivalent and must not have any felony convictions. Exam costs may be covered by some employers. To maintain PTCB and ICPT certification, technicians must be recertified every two years and take continuing education courses.
Pharmaceutical technicians work in pharmacies handling and distributing medications and working with pharmacists and customers. Pharmaceutical technician training programs are available for aspiring technicians as certificates, diplomas, and degrees. To get a licensed, a formal training program may be required, but it depends on the state and whether the state requires certification or licensure.