Pharmacy technicians handle routine pharmacy work, allowing pharmacists to focus on providing patient care and advice. State laws regulate how involved technicians are in preparing medication for patients, but in most cases, pharmacy technicians must be closely supervised by a pharmacist. A pharmacy technician may count, pour, weigh, measure, and even mix medications as necessary for prescriptions. They may also perform customer service and cashier duties and will stock shelves, maintain patient files, and prepare insurance claims.
A high school diploma is the only formal education needed to become a pharmacy technician. However, some states require all pharmacy technicians to pass a certification exam in order to become certified. In many pharmacies and hospitals, certification is required either for employment or promotion. Certification courses and pharmacy exams typically cover pharmacy math, prescription decoding, pharmacy laws and regulations, dosage forms, pharmacy administration, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics. Students must also be familiar with a wide range of commonly prescribed drugs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health and personal care stores are the largest employers of pharmacy technicians, followed by general medical and surgical hospitals. While health and personal care stores may employ more people, they also pay less than hospitals, offering an annual average wage of $28,940 in 2012. Hospitals, on the other hand, paid their pharmacy technicians $34,410 per year.
Although certification can aid pharmacy technicians in professional development, it is not a substitute for a college degree. Some aspiring technicians prefer to enroll in pre-pharmacy associate degree programs in addition to receiving certification. An associate degree can serve as an educational foundation for pharmacy or related medical fields. Many online pharmacy technician programs make it easy for working professionals to obtain both associate degrees and certifications while maintaining a full-time job.