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Career Path of a Pharmacy Tech

by Aurelio Locsin, studioD

Those people behind the pharmacy counter at your local drugstore may not all be pharmacists. Some of those smiling faces belong to pharmacy technicians who assist pharmacists in two ways. They handle clerical tasks, such as by pointing out merchandise and operating the cash register. They also deal with medical matters by formulating and packaging prescriptions. Their careers requires a relatively short education but can eventually lead to work as a pharmacist.


Because techs spend much of their time interacting with customers as well as pharmacists, good customer service and interpersonal skills are important. Pharmacy technicians must be able to respond calmly to customers who may agitated about their conditions or confused about their prescriptions, and they must understand when it's essential to refer customers to the supervising pharamacist. Techs must be well organized to balance the required tasks as assigned by handed the pharmacist -- whether they're dealing with customers or filling prescriptions. Finally, techs need to be alert and detail-oriented to avoid mistakes in preparation that may be life threatening or fatal.


Some employers require only a high-school diploma or equivalent for aspiring pharmacy techs. They then train new workers on the job. Post-secondary programs are also available from community colleges or vocational schools. They typically last a year and provide graduates with a certificates of completion. Students in these programs study different medicines and their uses and learn how to keep records, dispense medicines and use math to complete medicinal formulas. Many programs require an internship for practical experience. Some states regulate the field by requiring one or more of the following: high-school diploma, criminal background check, formal training, passing an exam and continuing education.


For techs to have a successful career, they must be adept at performing routine clerical tasks, such as answering phones, taking prescription information from customers, and packaging purchases and accepting payment. Their primary responsibility is helping prepare medications. They mix compounds and ointments, measure and count tablets, and label and package prescriptions. Pharmacists must examine all prescriptions prepared by techs before they go to customers.

Job Outlook

Pharmacy techs can look forward to a bright future from 2010 to 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, who predicts that opportunities will surge by 32 percent. Driving the demand is an aging baby-boom population that will require more medications, and more techs to help supply them. Pharmacy techs with formal educations can use their careers as a stepping-stone to becoming a pharmacist. They must first confirm if any of their previous subjects are acceptable prerequisites for Doctor of Pharmacy programs. They can then take any additional courses needed for their pre-professional education before going through the four-year professional program. All states require prospective pharmacists to obtain a license by passing two exams.

About the Author

Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.

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