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.

Pharmacy Technician Job – Three Strategies For Getting A Job

As I searched on EzineArticles for pharmacy technician jobs, I found many good articles written on how to become a pharmacy technician, or various reasons why you should become a pharmacy technician. In general, they all make good points and provide useful information. It has made me think about what we are missing. I do not want to simply rehash the same topics and then add a few of my own thoughts. Then it occurred to me, I have a perspective that few people who are writing articles for pharmacy technicians have. I am the person who sits on every interview for pharmacy technicians in my institution’s inpatient pharmacy. Over the course of just one year, I probably interview about 50 to 60 technicians for about 10 to 12 openings. So here it is, what are three things you can do to get a job when you have just obtained your license/certification/registration (depends on your state), still working on your license, or maybe just moved to a new area and want to find a job (this happened to me as a pharmacy tech, and I will share one of my biggest mistakes when looking for a job)?

Volunteer or complete your required hours (depends on your state requirements for licensure/certification) in a pharmacy practice site you would like to work. Many states require you to obtain practice hours before you become a pharmacy technician. If your state does not require hours prior to becoming a pharmacy technician, then pick a set number of hours (40 to 80 hours should do it) and volunteer at a pharmacy. The pharmacy you choose should be a place you would like to work. If you know you want to work in a hospital pharmacy, then do not obtain your hours or volunteer at a community/retail pharmacy. Next, take advantage of this time by showing your practice site how good of a pharmacy technician you are. The traits I look for the most are someone who is a team player, proactive about taking on any work that he/she sees needs completing, and gets a long with other staff. I am looking for is a good fit, not necessarily the smartest tech, but the one who will be a good team member. What this time really amounts to is a trial period where the pharmacy gets to see how you work and you get to see if you really want a job there. I have had a few students who goof off or text for a large portion of their time in my pharmacy. Unfortunately, they will not even make the interview list for the next open position.
Obtain national certification, BLS/CPR, and be active in one of your state’s pharmacy organizations; and make sure you have these items on your resume. Regardless if your state requires you to get nationally certified or not, you should do it. The two major national certifications that are most recognized are the PTCB and the ExCPT. BLS/CPR (basic life support/cardiopulmonary resuscitation – for the most part it is the same thing) is a good additional skill that most pharmacy managers will consider a bonus. It tells them that the applicant is engaged in healthcare and will more likely be engaged as a pharmacy technician. State pharmacy organization (either the state ASHP affiliate or APhA affiliate) participation is another way to show your commitment to the pharmacy profession. In most states, it cost very little to be a member as a technician. Once you are a member, look for the Website link on joining a committee. If you have options, join the committee that sounds like the most fun (I personally like advocacy or legislative). Now be active in your committee, this is a great way to network with pharmacists and other technicians. Pharmacy is a small world, the more connections you make, the better off you will be. Once you have done some or all of this, make sure your update you resume.
Look on company Websites for job openings and not just the local newspaper or online newspaper site. This was my big mistake. After living on the east coast for many years I moved out to the west coast. I began looking for jobs in the local newspaper and there were a few, but not the ones I was most interested in (I was a sterile compounding tech and wanted to work in a hospital or IV infusion setting) were never open. Fortunately for me, a large health-system (the one I currently still work for after 11 years) was hiring a graveyard technician and didn’t get enough applicants from their internal site so they placed a newspaper ad. After I got a job, I found out about the company job postings Website, and I was seriously bummed that I had wasted months not looking in the right place. While you are on the company Website, do some homework about the company so that you can speak about the company during your interview. I will typically ask applicants why they want a job with my company or pharmacy, if you can respond with an answer that shows you have done some homework on the company, that will impress most interviewers (do not over do it or be cheesy, find something you genuinely like about the company).
I hope this article has been helpful to you. If you have any questions or topics for additional articles, please send them to me by submitting a comment on my Website listed in the author box.

Pharmacy Technician Job Description, What It Takes to Become a Pharmacy Technician?

Do you think you have what it takes to become a successful pharmacy technician? Take a look at this in-depth analysis of the typical pharmacy technician job description. If you want to be successful in this career choice, you want to be certain that many of your attributes line up with the mental and physical characteristics needed to perform well seen in the everyday life of many pharmacy technicians.

Let me start out by saying that regardless of what area you pursue (institutional or retail) for the most part, you will be involved in a fast paced environment. Certain times of the day can be stressful for many pharmacy technicians. For example, if you are working in retail you will most likely deal with short-tempered customers that are eager to drop off their prescriptions and be on their way in five minutes or less. There will be insurance issues that you will have to deal with on a regular basis. With the emergence of the internet, you have the added feature for online refills. This adds to the already heavy workload due to drop off prescriptions and phone in prescription refills.

If you are focusing mainly on an institutional setting, your focus will be on hospitalized patients and patients having procedures done in the clinics. This setting has a whole different stress level of its own. For example let’s say a patient is due for some type of surgery, the surgeon realizes that he needs a different IV bag, he calls down to the pharmacy and orders and IV stat. Being the IV room technician, it is your job and responsibility to prepare the IV admixture in record time. More cases than not, this can be a life or death situation. Imagine having the pressure mount on you knowing that you have to prepare this in a timely fashion, but you also have to prepare it with accuracy.

Here’s a general breakdown of the typical pharmacy technician job description for most pharmacy technicians. The main goal for a pharmacy technician is to assist the pharmacist in his duties and to provide the best customer service to patients. A pharmacy technician will receive prescriptions via telephone, fax, internet, and walk-ins. They generally are responsible for answering phone calls, but are limited by law to the advice that they may give out. Technicians will generally fill medication carts for the patients that are hospitalized. These medication carts are filled with one, two, or three days worth of meds. They are delivered to the patient floors and meds are dispensed accordingly.

Other duties include stocking medication on the shelves, ordering supplies, pre-packing medications, assisting customers in outpatient pharmacies, counting tablets, and doing some form of compounding of creams and ointments. Due to the structure of the pharmacy, some technicians will prepare IV admixtures. IV admixtures take a bit more training due to the implications that occur from technician error. Intravenous medications are given through the vein, which means the drug has instant contact with the blood stream. Knowing this, technicians have to be certain that the amount of drug is correct; also they have to be certain that they are using the most sterile technique as possible. Some technicians are eventually trained in chemotherapy agents that are given intravenously. Technicians without the proper training should never attempt to prepare these types of IV admixtures.

Technicians should have a great working knowledge of basic math skills, should have wonderful communication skills (verbal and written). The technician should be familiar with both weighing and measuring of medications. Due to the need for order entry, it is heavily advised that pharmacy technicians have some sort of computer skills. Some pharmacies look for technicians that are self motivated and action takers. The job can require long hours of standing with little to no breaks throughout the day.

The pharmacy technician job description may seem very draining at first, but it does have its upside as well. For starters there will be a huge demand for these career professionals. With the shortage of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians will be in great need to handle the technical side of things. These are areas that the pharmacist will have little to no time to oversee these areas. As far as financial rewards, many pharmacy technicians are paid handsomely for their efforts. One thing to keep in mind is that most institutional pharmacy technicians generally make more than retail pharmacy technicians. If you are after the financial gains, then Hospital Pharmacy is where you will find the financial benefits. Another added benefit is that you can advance your career in many ways as a technician. You can become certified. You can continue schooling and become an actual pharmacist. Some technicians enter this field and go on to become nurses. Entering this field can be a springboard for other healthcare occupations.

Now that you have seen a general Pharmacy technician job description overview, ask yourself do you have what it takes? Assess your skills. Focus on your strengths and weaknesses. Analyze the pros and cons of both the retail and the hospital setting. See which area will be of greater interest to you and a perfect match for your abilities. After you have made a complete and thorough analysis, get the training and get started in your new career that will reward you for years to come.

Many Different Types of Pharmacy Technician Jobs

It is estimated that there are hundreds of thousands of pharmacy technician jobs today, and that number is expected to increase by 25 percent over the next 5 to 10 years.

Working as a pharmacy technician or `PT` is one of the best jobs with which to enter the healthcare services industry without having a medical degree, and can be a very satisfying position with much room for advancement.

Depending on a person’s education and job experience it is possible to move into a variety of specialized employment positions with their qualifications, as there is much more to the job than simple retail sales at a drugstore or chemists.

Different Pharmacy Technician Jobs

Retail – This is the most known setting and position for most PTs. Technicians who are employed by retail pharmacy stores do a variety of jobs, which start with assisting the Registered Pharmacist or PharmD on duty but generally expand to many other duties that are typical in any retail environment.

Techs will count and prepare medications, do record keeping, inventory, ordering, stocking, insurance billing and records, and much more depending on the establishment and the need to do other tasks as well.

Depending on qualification and certification, sometimes pharmacy techs in a retail setting are also able to counsel consumers on the use of their prescribed medication as well. It is possible to obtain a job as a PT without any specialized education or training although more and more employers are beginning to require one or the other, or sometimes both.

Hospital – Every hospital has a pharmacy from where both outpatient prescriptions can be filled and inpatient medications are dispensed.

Working under the Pharmacist on duty, pharmacy technicians in a hospital setting are usually responsible for stocking, delivering and recording all medications that need to go to the different hospital departments, specially compounding medications for patients in the hospital and taking care of any and all medication requests throughout the hospital from other staff.

Knowing all hospital regulations in regard to the dispensing and handling of medications is a detailed yet essential part of the job as is being able to keep concise records for billing, inventory and legal purposes.

In-patient Care Facilities – Numerous types of inpatient care facilities such as rehabilitation centers, psychiatric hospitals and other facilities keep their own pharmacies as well, and require technicians to assist the Pharmacist on duty.

Pharmacy technician jobs usually entail inventory, stocking, ordering and recording of medications, preparing medication doses for patients, delivering daily medication doses to nursing stations, and most of the duties mentioned above as in any other hospital. Once again, record keeping and regulations are an extremely important part of the job for billing, inventory and legal purposes.

Medication Compounding – Certain pharmacies do not sell directly to the public, but instead create special medication mixes – called compounds – for other pharmacies and facilities.

In a compounding pharmacy, technicians are required to work under the supervision and guidance of the Pharmacist on duty in mixing medications as required by special orders, bulk orders for hospitals and facilities and other requests. Generally this work also involves great detail in record keeping, interpreting prescriptions, medication labeling and medication packing and shipping.

Obtaining Pharmacy Technician Jobs

The best way to get a job as a PT is to complete a training and education program for pharmacy techs. There are many of these programs available today lasting anywhere from 6 months to get a course certificate and basic education for a retail pharmacy setting to up to 2 years or more to become certified as a pharmacy technician and be able to advance to some of the more detailed positions mentioned above.

The best way to find out about schooling and any career requirements is to contact any local pharmacy technicians’ professional organizations in order to get recommendations and learn more about the career as a whole.

In most cases, those who have been to school should be able to get pharmacy technician jobs quite easily as it seems there is a constant and growing need for good, certified pharmacy technicians.

While qualifications do differ depending on state, region and country, in general it seems as though there are always positions available as the profession continues to grow and pharmacy technicians continue to get more and more responsibilities under their specialty.