Pharmacy technicians are very important to the healthcare industry, not just in the U.S, but around the world. Dispensing prescription medication is an activity that requires a great deal of accuracy and detail, and pharmacy technicians are individuals who undergo years of training to carry that out with perfection. They ensure that medications are filled correctly in a specified window of time.
These skilled individuals work in department stores, grocery stores, and general merchandise stores, but the majority work at pharmacies, drug stores, and hospitals. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics had as of September 1, 2020, projected a 4 percent employment growth for pharmacy technicians between 2019 and 2029, and an estimated 15,200 jobs to be opened up in the period. That’s faster than the average for all occupations.
The reasons for that are not far-fetched. The American population is aging, and the elderly typically use more prescription medicines than younger people. And as the rates of chronic diseases increase, demand for prescription medications will also increase. Record and inventory keeping, processing of insurance policies/claims, and other technicalities in the pharmacy branch of healthcare have also gone up in demand. Pharmacy technicians will inevitably be sought after. So, the outlook is positive for those looking to get into this field.
Pharmacy technicians in the United States usually only need a high school diploma or its equivalent to get employed. The numerous duties they perform are usually and subsequently learned on the job. However, for some states in the U.S, pharmacy technicians are expected to pass an exam or complete a formal education or training program in order to get certified and employed.
Pharmacy technicians in the United States are well paid. On average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a pharmacy technician’s salary per year is pegged at $33,950 in May 2019 and the average per hour is about $16.32.
There are various career opportunities for pharmacy technicians in the United States and we will take a look at them.
A Pharmacy Technician in a chain pharmacy is responsible for processing customer prescription data, filling and labeling medications, managing inventory, dealing with insurance companies, and distributing medications to customers. They may also be required to take prescription orders over the phone and transferring prescriptions between pharmacies. This may all seem like clockwork but it is beyond that.
This area of employment is responsible for over 70% of all Pharmacy Technician employment in the U.S., a fact easily explained by the 2.5 billion prescriptions this sector doles out every year. This on its own presents a massive demand for capable hands in this field.
Private pharmacies are only second to those that are government-owned in size and distribution, constituting a sizeable 40% of the community pharmacies in the United States. This is easily interpreted as a lot of jobs for both pharmacists, the assistants, and the technicians whose roles are exceedingly enormous. Thousands of Pharmacy technicians (around 12% of the total according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics) are employed in this field every year to handle the ever-growing demands of this sector.
Technicians in this setting are generally responsible for compounding, filling specialty packaging, and delivering medications directly to patients, managing inventory, processing customer prescription information, and so on, much like their colleagues in the chain pharmacy setting. Again, this sector presents a huge chunk of the opportunities a pharmacy technician can enjoy in the U.S.
Read Also: Career Opportunities for Pharmacists
This is the mother of the entire pharmaceutical healthcare sector. The pharmaceutical industry develops, produces, and markets drugs. The U.S pharmaceutical industry is amongst the largest in the world and is by far one of the greatest employers of labor. The industry however does not employ as many technicians as the aforementioned sectors do in a year.
In this setting, duties for pharmacy technicians usually include coordination of drug information requests, writing drug information documents, and assisting with literature searches. They also assist pharmacists in drug research and pharmacogenomics. This is another fine opportunity to consider.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that about 17% of all pharmacy technicians work in hospitals (state, local and private), where they are required to package and label prescriptions, collect information needed to fill a prescription from customers and health professionals, to interpret written prescription orders, perform pharmacy calculations, compound medications, refill automated medication dispensers, and also deliver medications to patients within the hospital.
This job is more available to certified pharmacy technicians given the very delicate nature of this hospital setting. Technicians who have undergone certification training usually understand the risks of dealing directly with life and death situations which are ever so present in the hospitals. Technicians interested in joining this sector must undergo certification.
Pharmacy technicians are always needed in local, state, and federal government agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Veterans Administration, Indian Health Service, the Armed Forces, and every other parastatal that requires provision of health care without immediate involvement of the hospitals.
In the agencies mentioned, the roles of pharmacy technicians include receiving and reviewing prescriptions, inventory management of drug products and pharmaceutical supplies, medication replenishment in automated pharmacy dispensing systems, compounding, and dispensing medications to patients. They may also have to serve as a link between the patient and the pharmacist.
This setting does not offer as many opportunities as others do but job security is perhaps the most satisfying aspect of working in government agencies.
Read Also: Career Opportunities in Health Informatics
Pharmacy technicians are usually called in by health insurance and pharmacy benefits companies to use their expertise to provide high-quality services. According to PharmacyTimes, less than 10% of pharmacy technicians work in the managed care setting.
The responsibilities of pharmacy technicians in this setting include interacting with customers about offered pharmacy services, reviewing prior authorization requests, claims adjudication, and providing ongoing education and training to physician’s offices and facilities. These duties are quite specialized especially when it includes training others and so only some of the more experienced technicians are sought after.
This is a special setting and pharmacy technicians are specially trained and certified in handling and preparing radioactive medications. Here, a technician’s responsibilities include performing mathematical calculations, compounding, labeling, inventory management, and ensuring that radiopharmaceuticals are safely handled and transported.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Pharmacy Technicians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/pharmacy-technicians.htm (visited September 12, 2020).