If you are looking for a career in healthcare that puts you on the front line working with consumers in a pharmacy, then you might consider becoming a pharmacy technician. It’s a job that offers variability in duties and working environments with a promising career outlook. But what does a pharmacy technician do exactly?

What Do Pharmacy Techs Do?

You probably deal with them at least once or twice a year, although you may not know it. Pharmacy technicians are crucial members of the healthcare team that ensures patients receive safe and effective pharmaceutical therapy.

A pharmacy technician collaborates with pharmacists and other healthcare providers in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and community pharmacies. Technicians perform critical activities to support the pharmacy team's patient care efforts, with roles and responsibilities increasing and evolving. You will need a variety of hard and soft skills to succeed in this role.

Hard Skills

As a pharmacy technician, you must study, comprehend, and follow federal laws. In addition, you must be familiar with legal regulations and judicial procedures.

Pharmacy technicians must also manage inventory and process insurance claims. That requires a knack for managing supplies and good follow-through.

It also means you need a practical understanding of technology. You must be adept at using computers, particularly point-of-sale and inventory tools. Printing labels, managing invoicing, entering patient and inventory data, and filing online insurance claims are all part of the job.

Soft Skills

There are also soft skills necessary to be a good pharmacy technician. It would be best if you are an adept problem-solver, for example. You’ll need the resolve to handle problems with patients, insurance companies, or co-workers. Pharmacy technicians often interact with physicians and nurses, as well. Some examples of soft skills of a pharmacy technician can include:

  • Collaboration
  • Taking initiative
  • Commitment to learning
  • Communication
  • Adaptability and flexibility
  • Accuracy and detail-orientation
  • Ability to focus and prioritize
  • Organization
  • Problem solving and critical thinking
  • Critical observation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Time management
  • Sound judgment
  • Empathy
  • Strong work ethic

Pharmacy technicians work long hours and are on their feet for much of a shift. The pharmacy can be a stressful environment, as well. You must be sensitive to the needs of patients and have the patience to work through what can be a complex healthcare system.

Some of the responsibilities in keeping the pharmacy organized include stocking shelves with supplies, maintaining pharmaceutical containers, affixing printed labels to bottles, and keeping stock data current.

The daily responsibilities will vary based on a variety of factors, including where you work. Some everyday duties of a pharmacy technician can include:

  • Preparing medication
  • Giving out medication to patients or medical staff
  • Doing calculations regarding dosages
  • Collecting patient histories and medical information
  • Processing insurance claims and billing
  • Maintaining patient records
  • Processing patient payments
  • Answering patient questions

A pharmacy technician may rotate tasks, too. For instance, they may put together medications one day and work with patients the next.

Pharmacy technicians may also do administrative work. For example, they may work in hospital pharmacies and go to emergency rooms or patient floors to obtain medication histories.

The role of pharmacies in the U.S. is evolving, too, and that can involve technicians. For example, pharmacy technicians may be responsible for scheduling vaccinations and administering medication to patients in care facilities.

Some of the more complex pharmacy tech duties include:

  • Compounding. Creating customized medications with individual ingredients combined to create one dose. Compounding can be sterile or non-sterile.

  • Pharmacy calculations. Creating the proper dosages based on several key factors such as weight, concentration, dilution, infusion rates, supply, kidney function, and displacement volume.

  • IV admixture. Combining medication and fluid, typically saline, to be delivered via intravenous infusion (IV). Bags often come from the pharmacy with the proper mixture in them.

  • Parenteral admixture. Mixing two or more sterile compounds to create one dose.

These duties include interacting with customers or patients, processing prescriptions, and managing inventory.

Advancement Opportunities for Pharmacy Technicians

Like most careers, pharmacy technicians have the opportunity for advancement beyond an entry-level job.

Lead Pharmacy Technician

The lead pharmacy technician is responsible for running a team of pharmacy technicians. Depending on the employer, that will mean different things, but it could include quality assurance, scheduling, and training program management.

Nuclear Pharmacy Technician

Nuclear medicine refers to radio-nuclear and chemotherapy drugs. A nuclear pharmacy technician will compound chemotherapy drugs and dispense them. In addition, they may help healthcare staff understand how to use the medication safely and package radiopharmaceuticals following local regulations and compliance rules.

IV Pharmacy Technician

An IV pharmacy technician mixes medication into IV bags. They also create labels for the IVs and maintain equipment used for this form of compounding.

Education Requirements to Become a Pharmacy Technician

There are several paths to becoming a pharmacy technician. At a minimum, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. Some employers may hire pharmacy technicians and train them on the job.

But, there may be more opportunities with certification. A certification demonstrates to employers that you have the training to be effective in this vital job. Proper training helps you develop skills such as:

  • Sterile compounding
  • Non-sterile compounding
  • Preparation of hazardous drugs
  • Quality assurance
  • Customer services
  • Insurance procedures
  • Billing
  • Dosage calculations
  • IV admixtures

Certification may qualify you to work in a variety of pharmacy environments, too. For example, you could get a job at a retail pharmacy like those you see at grocery stores or work in a community pharmacy.

Hospitals will usually have pharmacies that hire technicians, as do some veterinary clinics. In addition, some clinics have pharmacies, as will some specialty centers such as outpatient surgery.

Is Being a Pharmacy Tech Worth It?

A pharmacy technician career offers flexibility. There are a variety of job environments with different schedules and opportunities to work full or part time, and there is often room for advancement.

The academic path to becoming a pharmacy technician is manageable, too. The Pharmacy Technician Certificate Program at The College of Health Care Professions (CHCP), for example, is designed to help you develop the necessary hard and soft skills needed in this career.

We offer a blended program available at our Fort Worth, McAllen, and South San Antonio campuses. Blended learning refers to both in-person and online training. So, you learn pharmacology theory online while receiving hands-on medical training in-person. The program is designed to take approximately 36 weeks to complete.

CHCP is a physician-founded organization solely dedicated to healthcare education and training, and our certificate programs have been educating healthcare professionals for over 30 years. CHCP teachers have real-world, on-the-job experience and are dedicated to supporting the success of all our students. 

Find out more about the Pharmacy Technician Certificate Program at CHCP by visiting our website or your local campus for a tour today.