Pharmacy technicians work under the watchful eye of licensed pharmacists to fill prescriptions accurately every time. If you're organized, precise and a bit of a perfectionist, working as a pharmacy technician could be a rewarding vocation. The job is technical and task-based, and associate degrees in pharmacy technology cover the specific details of the occupation. In a typical program, you'll become comfortable with the following:
- Operating auger dose machines, laboratory blenders and emulsifiers
- Performing mathematical calculations
- Reading and working with laboratory balances
- Working with laboratory software, such as Cardinal Health Pyxis CII Safe
An associate degree program should also help you develop skills for patient interactions, listening and critical thinking, and clerical work. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that training often includes internships where you can gain real-world experience in pharmacies.
Most states require pharmacy technicians to be registered with the state's board of pharmacy. An application fee plus a high school diploma is sometimes all that is required. Certification is an additional step you may take, through either the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT). Certification is not typically required, but can go a long way in terms of your employment prospects.
Career options, outlook and salary
The BLS projects big gains for pharmacy technicians in the coming years, with more than 100,000 job openings between 2010 and 2020. Employment should grow by 32 percent, which is more than twice the growth rate expected for all occupations nationwide. The following industries reported the highest levels of pharmacy technician employment, shown with the mean annual wages in 2010:
- Department stores: $26,250
- General medical and surgical hospitals: $33,160
- Grocery stores: $28,880
- Health and personal care stores: $27,910
- Other general merchandise stores: $26,720
With additional training and experience, technicians may move into supervisory positions or specialized fields such as chemotherapy technician. With more formal training in the form of a Doctor of Pharmacy degree plus licensure, you could go on to become a pharmacist. Take a look at Web-based associate degrees in pharmacy technology and learn more about how you can train online, on your own time, for a degree with optimistic growth potential.