Associate’s-level programs in pharmacy technology prepare the graduate for jobs as pharmacy technicians, and an integral role in the nation’s pharmacies.  Students will learn the skills and knowledge necessary to work with supervising pharmacists in different settings, though the majority (about 75%) of technicians and aides work in retail pharmacies.  Pharmacy technology programs instruct students in both the practical aspects of pharmacy in which they will be involved, and the clerical duties assumed by those technicians and aides working in retail.

Though they complete many of the same tasks, technicians are more involved in the practical aspects of pharmacy (filling prescriptions, packaging and labeling pharmaceuticals), while aides tend to focus on the clerical duties.

Pharmacy Technology Career Opportunities

Related Careers: PHARMACY TECHNICIANS AND AIDES

In an effort to control skyrocketing costs, healthcare providers are relying more on medical support personnel to cope with an aging population’s increasing demand for health services, instead of highly-paid physicians.  Pharmacy is no exception; the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that job opportunities for pharmacy support personnel will be very strong from 2008 to 2018.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 381,200 pharmacy technicians and aides in 2008.  By 2018, that figure is expected to be 477,500; an increase of 96,300 positions, or 25%.  That growth rate is three times that of the 8.2% expansion of the entire civilian economy expected over the same period.  Better-trained and higher-paid pharmacy technicians accounted for almost 86% of this group in 2008, and are expected to account for almost 90% by 2018.

Projected Growth Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Actual job opportunities are even stronger than those strong predictions:  the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a project of the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, predicts that there will be a total of 182,000 openings for pharmacy technicians between 2008 and 2018.  That figure includes both the predicted new jobs, and established positions vacated by retirement, termination, or career changes.

Pharmacy Technician and Aide Earnings

Pharmacy technicians, who accounted for almost 86% of this occupational group in 2008, and are expected to account for almost 90% by 2018, are generally better paid and more educated than pharmacy aides.

According to the BLS, the median hourly wage for pharmacy technicians in 2008 was $13.32.  Pharmacy aides made a median of $9.66.  The middle 50% of technicians made between $10.95 and $15.88; the middle 50% of aides made between $8.47 and $11.62.  The top 10% of technicians and aides made more than $18.98 and more than $14.26, respectively.  The bottom 10% of technicians earned less than $9.27 hourly, the bottom 10% of aides made less than $7.69.

Hourly Earnings Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Earnings

Pharmacy Technology Educational Benefits

Though a post-secondary education is not required for entry-level positions as pharmacy aides and technicians, completion of a formal pharmacy technology program can ensure the prospective worker the best job opportunities and starting wages.

The Occupational Information Network, a government occupational resource that tracks educational achievement, reports that 30% of pharmacy technicians have a high school diploma and no further education.  The majority of pharmacy technicians – 53% – have some post-secondary education, including pharmacy technology associate’s degrees or diplomas from accredited pharmacy training programs.  The remaining 17% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Educational Achievement Source: Occupational Information Network

Formal pharmacy technology programs exist through a variety of educational providers, including vocational and technology schools and community colleges.  They generally take from 6 months to 2 years, depending on the complexity of the program.  Most pharmacy technology programs involve a combination of classroom and laboratory training.

Pharmacy technology programs include coursework in pharmaceutical terminology, techniques, calculations, ethics, and recordkeeping.   Pharmacist technology students must also learn the qualities, effects, and uses of the drugs with which they work.  Some pharmacy tech programs facilitate internships, where students can gain valuable work experience in the field.

Pharmacy Technology Programs Online

Degree Possible: Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.)

There are a number of pharmacy technology programs offered online, through accredited allied health schools and colleges.  The best of these programs will provide a rigorous education comparable to the pharmacy technology program offered at a local school or college, but in a more flexible format better suited to working students.

As with any serious educational decision, do your research when picking an online pharmacy technology program:  is the school accredited?  Will credits transfer if I decide to seek a bachelor’s degree?  What is the school’s job placement rate?  What are people saying about this school in general and this program specifically?  You’ll be able to find the answers to many of these questions on the University Bound Network of Web sites; but don’t be afraid to ask your admissions counselor pointed questions.

Pharmacy Technology Skills and Abilities

Pharmacist support personnel often spend more time dealing with clients than the pharmacists for whom they work; because of this, it is important that they have excellent interpersonal skills.  They should be good communicators and active listeners, able to take sometimes detailed technical instruction from pharmacists and other supervisors.

Pharmacy technicians and aides must also learn the vocational and scientific abilities associated with their roles in the pharmacy.  This can be taught on-the-job or through a formal pharmacy technology education.

Pharmacy Technology Qualification and Advancement

On completion of a pharmacy technology program, the graduate will be more qualified for entry-level positions as PHARMACY TECHNICIANS AND AIDES than those who have not completed any post-secondary training.

Completion of a formalized program may qualify technicians and aides for supervisory roles in their workplaces for which they may be otherwise unqualified.

Additional Information

The National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA) maintains a Web site at http://www.pharmacytechnician.org.