A pharmacy technician is someone who assists pharmacists in taking care of patients and customers. They are usually responsible for helping to fill prescriptions, organizing the pharmacy, taking inventory of medications, helping customers, and dealing with insurance companies.
Working a pharmacy technician job gives you a good opportunity to work in healthcare without having to spend thousands of dollars or multiple years in school or training programs. Pharmacy technicians are well respected, earn a decent living, get great benefits, and enjoy excellent job security.
Of course, as with any job, there are some drawbacks to working as a pharmacy technician as well.
This guide will help you look at the pros and cons of working as a pharmacy technician and help you decide if it's the right job for you.
Why Being a Pharmacy Technician is a Good Career Choice – Pros
If you are considering a job in healthcare, you should think about becoming a pharmacy technician. There are many reasons why becoming a pharmacy technician is worth it. Some of the benefits that make it a good job include:
1) Low Barrier to Entry
Becoming a pharmacy technician doesn't take long compared to other healthcare careers. Even in states with strict requirements, you can complete your training, earn your pharmacy technician certification, and apply for a license in just a few months. While some pharmacy technician programs can be completed in 3 months, most take around 4 months to a year to complete.
Pharmacy training is relatively inexpensive, and the certification exam is not particularly difficult. With a little bit of studying and a small amount of savings, you can learn all the necessary pharmacy technician skills and get your certification.
For example, Stepful's Online Pharmacy Technician Course only takes 4 months to complete and costs just $1,999.
2) Great Job Outlook & Job Security
Job opportunities for pharmacy technicians are expected to increase by 6% between 2022 and 2032. As the U.S. population ages and demand for healthcare providers increases, the need for pharmacy technicians is also expected to increase.
3) Can Get Certified Quickly & Online
One of the best benefits of becoming a pharmacy technician is that there are many certification courses that can be completed online on your own schedule. Choosing an online program means you can complete your coursework at a time that works for you, and you don’t have to spend time and energy on a commute.
Many online programs can be completed in just a four months, meaning you can find a job and start earning an income right away. In addition, there are many inexpensive pharmacy technician programs that you can complete online.
4) Decent Pay
The average salary for a pharmacy technician in the United States is $36,740 per year.
For the amount of education and training needed to become a pharmacy technician, the pay is reasonable.
While you likely won’t become extremely wealthy working as a pharmacy tech, you can earn enough to take care of yourself.
In addition, you can try to get a job in one of the highest-paying pharmacy technician specialties to earn more.
5) Can Work in Any Location
Another great benefit is that pharmacy technicians are needed all over the United States. Pharmacies exist everywhere from Hawaii and Alaska to New York City. You can work in a big city or a rural area, and if you prefer to move from place to place, you will always be able to find employment.
It's not only retail pharmacies that you can work in either. There are many other places pharmacy technicians work, such as hospitals, mail-order pharmacies, veterinary offices, and long-term care facilities, as well as work-from-home pharmacy technician jobs.
6) Lots of Social Interaction
If you enjoy working with people, becoming a pharmacy technician might be a good fit for you. Pharmacy technicians spend a lot of time working at the cash register or helping people fill their prescriptions. If you work at a pharmacy, you will deal with people from all kind of backgrounds and life situations.
7) Helping Others
One of the best things about working in any healthcare job is the opportunity to improve the quality of life for others. People who come in to a pharmacy are often in need of help or are not feeling their best.
As a pharmacy technician, you have an opportunity to ease their fears about starting a new medication or help them understand important side effects to watch out for.
8) Great Benefits
Pharmacy technicians who work full time often get benefits like paid time off, health and dental insurance, and sick leave. Some pharmacy technicians even get discounts on medications or other items that are sold in retail pharmacies.
Drawbacks of Working as a Pharmacy Technician – Cons
As with any job, there are a few drawbacks of working as a pharmacy technician. Things to keep in mind as you decide on your career path include:
1) Lower Pay Compared to Other Healthcare Professions
While the pay for pharmacy technicians is decent, there are many other professions that pay more. If you are the only provider for your family or have expensive taste, you may need to return to school to pursue a more advanced and higher paying healthcare career.
2) Fewer Advancement Opportunities
Working as a pharmacy technician is a good way to get clinical experience to put on a med school application, but there are not many advancement opportunities available for pharmacy technicians.
3) Occasionally Difficult Customers
Like any customer service workers, pharmacy technicians occasionally have to work with difficult customers. Customers may get upset about a medication being expensive, not being able to get a prescription refill, or having to wait in a long line.
Pharmacy technicians have to remain calm and professional, even when dealing with complaints and criticism.
4) High Stress
Pharmacies can get very busy, and customers or patients want to get their medications as quickly as possible. Some medication mistakes can be dangerous or even deadly, which can make working in a busy pharmacy stressful.
Technicians may have to stay focused on counting medications or taking inventory while other people are talking and phones are ringing. If you are easily distracted or prefer a slower-paced job, you may not want to work as a pharmacy technician.
>> Read More: Low-Stress Healthcare Jobs
5) Lots of Standing & Physical Activity
Pharmacy technicians usually spend most of their day on their feet. They may have to carry heavy boxes and should be able to bend or squat down to reach low shelves. If you work as a pharmacy technician, you should be prepared to to a lot of walking throughout your workday.
Why You Should Consider an Externship Before Jumping In
Participating in a pharmacy technician externship can help you get a feel for working as a pharmacy tech before you apply for or accept a job in a pharmacy.
Externships are often offered through training programs. An externship allows you to job shadow a working pharmacy technician as they go through their usual routine. This gives you an opportunity to see if you enjoy the work, if you can tolerate long days on your feet, and if you think working as a pharmacy technician is the right choice for you.
If you are starting a pharmacy technician training program, consider attending a program that includes an externship experience. Without a training program that has good relationships with pharmacies, it is difficult to find an opportunity to job shadow in a pharmacy.
Is It Hard to Become a Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy technician requirements vary by state. Some require you to attend a training program and obtain a certification, while others have no requirements at all. Even if you live in a state with strict pharmacy technician license requirements, it is not hard to become a pharmacy technician.
The PTCB's CPhT exam pass rate is about 70%. This tells you that while you will need to commit some time to studying if you want to pass your exam, most people pass their test on the first try.
Is Working as a Pharmacy Technician Hard?
Most pharmacy technicians work hard at their jobs. They have to stay focused while organizing medications and their workday can get busy and chaotic. Pharmacy technicians spend most of their day on their feet and sometimes deal with difficult customers.
However, most of their required responsibilities are much simpler than advanced healthcare jobs, and although they stay busy, the tasks are usually quite easy.
Responsibilities of Pharmacy Technicians
Here are some common responsibilities of pharmacy technicians:
- Stock, organize, and label medications
- Monitor medication inventory and report any discrepancies
- Sterilize equipment and medication preparation surfaces
- Fill customer orders and answer questions
- Process prescriptions for each customer
- Double-check medication names and doses
- Keep accurate electronic records of all medications dispensed
- Handle insurance claims and resolve problems as they arise
- Comply with all pharmacy laws and ethics
Pharmacy Technician Salaries & Job Outlook
Pharmacy technicians earn around $36,740 per year or $18 per hour. This varies depending on experience and job location. Their job outlook is good, with a growth rate of 5% expected over the next 10 years.
Common Benefits for Pharmacy Technicians
Most pharmacy technicians who work full time are offered good benefits through their employers. These benefits often include:
- Health insurance. Most employers offer their pharmacy technicians health insurance. This means that the employer covers part of all of the cost of premiums for health insurance coverage.
- Dental Coverage. Usually, dental coverage is included in an employee benefits package. Dental coverage usually allows for two check ups or cleanings each year.
- Paid time off. Paid time off generally accrues over time, and most employers offer more time off as you spend more time with a company. Most employers give about 10 days of PTO per year.
- Sick leave. Some companies bundle sick leave with PTO packages, while others separate the two. All companies are required to hold your job for you for at least 12 weeks in the case of serious illness or injuiry through FMLA.
- 401K matching. Many organizations will offer some kind of retirement savings plan for their employees.
Deciding if a Pharmacy Technician Career is Right for You
If you are interested in a fast-paced healthcare career, need good job security, and want to start working right away, becoming a pharmacy technician might be a good fit for you.
Pharmacy technicians have the opportunity to improve the lives of others while learning about different medications and healthcare treatments while earning a decent living.
Even if you do not plan on working as a pharmacy technician forever, working as a pharmacy technician is great experience for anyone who wants to eventually apply for medical school, PA school, nursing school, or a pharmacist program.