Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists dispense prescription medication to customers or health professionals. They work in retail pharmacies and hospitals.


Pharmacy technicians typically do the following:

  • Take the information needed to fill a prescription from customers or health professionals
  • Measure amounts of medication for prescriptions
  • Package and label prescriptions
  • Organize inventory and alert pharmacists to any shortages of medications or supplies
  • Accept payment for prescriptions and process insurance claims
  • Enter customer or patient information, including any prescriptions taken, into a computer system
  • Answer phone calls from customers
  • Arrange for customers to speak with pharmacists if customers have questions about medications or health matters

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists, who must review prescriptions before they are given to patients. In most states, technicians can compound or mix some medications and call physicians for prescription refill authorizations. Technicians also may need to operate automated dispensing equipment when filling prescription orders.

Pharmacy technicians working in hospitals and other medical facilities prepare a greater variety of medications, such as intravenous medications. They may make rounds in the hospital, giving medications to patients.

Work Environment

Pharmacy technicians held about 355,300 jobs in 2012. They worked primarily in pharmacies, including those found in grocery and drug stores. Some technicians work in hospitals or clinics. Pharmacy technicians spend most of the workday on their feet.

The industries that employed the most pharmacy technicians in 2012 were as follows:

Pharmacies and drug stores 53%
Hospitals; state, local, and private 17
General merchandise stores 12
Grocery stores 7
Ambulatory health care services 3

Work Schedules

Most pharmacy technicians work full time. Pharmacies may be open at all hours. Therefore, pharmacy technicians may have to work nights or weekends.

Education and Training

Becoming a pharmacy technician usually requires earning a high school diploma or the equivalent. Pharmacy technicians typically learn through on-the-job training, or they may complete a postsecondary education program. Most states regulate pharmacy technicians, which is a process that may require passing an exam or completing a formal education or training program.

Education and Training

Many pharmacy technicians learn how to perform their duties through on-the-job training. These programs vary in length and subject matter according to the employer’s requirements.

Other pharmacy technicians enter the occupation after completing postsecondary education programs in pharmacy technology. These programs are usually offered by vocational schools or community colleges. Most programs award a certificate after 1 year or less, although some programs last longer and lead to an associate’s degree. They cover a variety of subjects, such as arithmetic used in pharmacies, recordkeeping, ways of dispensing medications, and pharmacy law and ethics. Technicians also learn the names, uses, and doses of medications. Most programs also include clinical experience opportunities, in which students gain hands-on experience in a pharmacy.

The American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP) accredits pharmacy technician programs that include at least 600 hours of instruction over a minimum of 15 weeks. In 2012, there were 213 fully accredited programs, including a few in retail drugstore chains.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Most states regulate pharmacy technicians in some way. Consult your state’s Board of Pharmacy for its particular regulations. Requirements for pharmacy technicians in the states that regulate them typically include some or all of the following:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Criminal background check
  • Formal education or training program
  • Exam
  • Fees
  • Continuing education

Some states and employers require pharmacy technicians to be certified. Even where it is not required, certification may make it easier to get a job. Many employers will pay for their pharmacy technicians to take the certification exam.

Two organizations offer certification. The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) certification requires a high school diploma and the passing of an exam. Applicants for the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, and have completed a training program or have 1 year of work experience. Technicians must recertify every 2 years by completing 20 hours of continuing education courses.

Important Qualities

Customer-service skills. Pharmacy technicians spend much of their time interacting with customers, so being helpful and polite are required of pharmacy technicians in a retail setting.

Detail oriented. Serious health problems can result from mistakes in filling prescriptions. Although the pharmacist is responsible for ensuring the safety of all medications dispensed, pharmacy technicians should be detail oriented so that complications are avoided.

Listening skills. Pharmacy technicians must communicate clearly with pharmacists and doctors when taking prescription orders. When speaking with customers, technicians must listen carefully to understand customers’ needs and determine if they need to speak with a pharmacist.

Math skills. Pharmacy technicians need to have an understanding of the math concepts used in pharmacies when counting pills and compounding medications.

Organizational skills. Working as a pharmacy technician involves balancing a variety of responsibilities. Pharmacy technicians need good organizational skills to complete the work delegated by pharmacists while at the same time providing service to customers or patients.


The median annual wage for pharmacy technicians was $29,320 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,580, and the top 10 percent earned more than $42,400.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for pharmacy technicians in the top five industries in which these technicians worked were as follows:

Ambulatory health care services $35,470
Hospitals; state, local, and private 33,550
Grocery stores 28,760
Pharmacies and drug stores 28,030
General merchandise stores 27,450

Most pharmacy technicians work full time. Pharmacies may be open at all hours. Therefore, pharmacy technicians may have to work nights or weekends.

Job Outlook

Employment of pharmacy technicians is projected to grow 20 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations. Several factors will lead to increased demand for prescription medications.

The population is aging, and older people typically use more prescription medicines than younger people. Higher rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes among all age groups also will lead to increased demand for prescription medications. Advances in pharmaceutical research will allow for more prescription medications to be used to fight diseases.

The number of individuals who have health insurance will increase due to federal health insurance reform legislation. As more people have access to insurance coverage, more pharmacy technicians will be needed to handle their prescriptions.

In addition, pharmacy technicians may be needed to take on a greater role in pharmacy operations because pharmacists are increasingly performing more patient care activities such as giving flu shots. Technicians will need to perform tasks such as collecting patient information, preparing more types of medications, and verifying the work of other technicians, tasks formerly done by pharmacists.

Job Prospects

Job prospects should be good for pharmacy technicians, particularly those with formal training, certification, and those with experience in retail settings.

For More Information

For information on becoming a pharmacy technician, visit

National Pharmacy Technician Association

For information about accredited pharmacy technician programs, visit

American Society of Health System Pharmacists

For information about state licensure laws, contact individual state Boards of Pharmacy, or visit

National Association of Boards of Pharmacy

For more information about certification, visit

Pharmacy Technician Certification Board

National Healthcareer Association

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2014–2015 Occupational Outlook Handbook,