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What does a Pharmacy Technician do?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A pharmacy technician assists licensed pharmacists with tasks like formulating, labeling, and dispensing medications, along with maintaining patient profiles and performing other routine tasks. Unlike a pharmacist, a pharmacy tech does not attend medical school, and his or her job is usually restricted. The required qualifications for this job vary from country to country, and the market for trained technicians is generally very good, as are markets for other health professionals.

Some people go to school to become a pharmacy technician. Certification classes include courses in anatomy, chemistry, and other basic medical concepts. Certification can be useful for job seekers who want to impress potential employers with their level of education and skills. Other pharmacy technicians learn on the job, training in the pharmacies they work for. Some people start out as pharmacy clerks, handling registers and minor tasks before training as technicians; in other regions, technicians also act as clerks, and the two jobs are not differentiated.

The job duties of this profession vary. In many cases, pharmacy technicians handle a great deal of the routine clerking in a pharmacy; they accept and double check prescriptions, for example, or maintain patient records in computerized systems. The technician may also fill a prescription by dispensing pills or liquids, and make up a label for that prescription. A pharmacy technician may also talk with a pharmacist about potential drug interactions or other risks which the prescribing doctor may have missed. A licensed pharmacist still needs to check the work to ensure that it has been done correctly, however.

In a hospital, technicians fill prescription orders, record administered medications in patient charts, and sometimes assemble prescription packets for nurses to give to their patients. Again, this work is supervised by a licensed pharmacist who must sign off on it before medications can be given out. This double checking process ensures that the correct medications are dispensed. Double checking in general is a routine part of the medical profession, as errors with things like medication can be fatal.

A good pharmacy tech can often command a decent salary, along with benefits, especially if he or she works in a hospital environment. The work is not very physically taxing, although technicians do spend a lot of time on their feet, and they may need to lift heavy boxes. This profession is also not advised for people who may have ethical or moral issues with dispensing certain medications.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PracticalAdultInsights researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon924685 — On Jan 06, 2014

What is the difference between a pharmacy technician and an assistant pharmacist? Please tell me.

By anon337593 — On Jun 06, 2013

Do you have to take a random drug test to be a pharmacist?

By anon335658 — On May 22, 2013

I live in Pakistan and plan to move to Canada where my sister and some relatives have already settled and I have an intermediate study in Pakistan with a humanity group in the 1998 session. So after that, I went to my father's pharmacy business and got training at the pharmacy. Now I have almost 16 years experience running the pharmacy, although I am not a professional pharmacist. Still, I have good experience. Please tell me what I can do there in Canada for a pharmacy job.

By anon284782 — On Aug 11, 2012

I work as a Pharmacy Tech at Wal-Mart. I have been there four years It was pretty rough starting out. You may benefit a lot more from a course, since there is no training program at Wal-Mart. You're just supposed to know, even if you have no experience whatsoever. Sometimes someone will help you, but many times they are just too busy for training. It's not good for the pharmacy, and makes you feel terrible as well.

By anon174652 — On May 10, 2011

A pharmacy technician's job is a pretty important job. Most people think we just get a script, type it up in the computer, then fill it. Which essentially is correct, but it also goes way beyond that.

There are a bunch of things that can occur when we enter an Rx in the computer. For example, there could be a dosing conflict. I can't tell you how many times at my pharmacy we will get three different E-scripts for a certain drug with three different directions on them. Which dosing is the patient supposed to be on? Another example might include a problem with a patients insurance.

Pharmacy technicians also have to research what a patient's insurance will or won't cover (sometimes due to prescribed drug name, quantity, prior authorization, drug optimization, etc.). Then there are other problems. What if the prescriber writes for a medication that is no longer available? What if the prescriber writes for directions that say "Take half capsule every day"? (FYI: you're not supposed to cut capsules in half).

And it is very important that a pharmacy technician knows as much as they can because no pharmacist is perfect. A pharmacist and a pharmacy technician work as a team to promote safety and wellness for every patient who walks through their pharmacy doors.

By anon164498 — On Apr 01, 2011

can a pharmacy technician take a medication history interview?

By anon147074 — On Jan 28, 2011

this is shiela. i want to be a pharmacy tech. is it a good career? do you find jobs easily right after school? i want your help. thanks.

By anon106489 — On Aug 25, 2010

The extra schooling between a pharmacist and a technician makes a lot of difference. Yes, a pharmacist's salary can be about five times more than a technician's. What I'm looking forward to is learning all about the medications and then being able to help other people better. As a pharmacist, I can understand medications better because of the extra schooling. I really do think it's worth it.

By anon94605 — On Jul 09, 2010

I have been a pharmacy technician for three years. I received all my training from my job. My employers also paid for the test. My advice would be to get a job at Target, Walmart, Sam's Club, Costco or Grocery Store then look into getting placed in the pharmacy.

I would not spend $1000-?? taking a class to become a Pharmacy Tech. You can simply buy the CpHT (CERtified Pharmacy Tech book)and self study for it. No classes are required. The test runs about $100-$125 and the book about $50. If you feel as though you need extra assistance take a class at your local community college. Which usually runs under $100.

The difference between pharmacists and a tech is that the pharmacist is learned in pharmacology, organic chemistry and biology. That is used to figure out if there are any interactions with medications, who, how, and what the medicine is made for along with how it is made. So being a pharmacist is a highly skilled profession.

By anon74050 — On Mar 30, 2010

A pharmacist needs a bachelor's degree and then needs to do four years of pharmacy school, plus an internship/residency. They are Doctors of Pharmacy.

A Pharmacy tech can get certified by having a HS diploma and passing a test (the PTCT). Most take a course that is a few months long though.

The jobs are very different. The salary and education of a Pharmacist does not compare to a Tech's.

Most Pharmacists have an annual income well in the six digits. While techs at most get paid ~$20(+/-)/hr

By anon67933 — On Feb 27, 2010

What does a Pharmacy tech normally make per hour when first graduating?

By anon62734 — On Jan 28, 2010

i agree with you. i'm majoring in pharmaceutical sciences in vocational school right now and i'm seriously reconsidering changing my major before entering university.

By nightlights — On Jan 18, 2010

Almost sounds like the actual Pharmacist is pretty much a supervisor. Other than actually speaking with patients, the techs do most if not all of the work.

I wonder if the salary difference is worth the extra schooling required to be the Pharmacist instead of a Tech.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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