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Pharmacy Technician

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Overall Score
(5.7 out of 10)

Number of Jobs


Median Salary


Unemployment Rate

8.4 percent

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Best Health Care Jobs #36
The 100 Best Jobs #83

Helping a pharmacist dispense prescription medication might seem like an easy task, but it requires immense precision and detail. Pharmacy technicians ensure medications are filled correctly in a specified window of time. “One of the most challenging aspects [of the job] comes down to maintaining knowledge on all the changes that occur within the field. Pharmacy practice changes on a weekly basis with new generics and new drugs,” says Mike Johnston, chairman and CEO of the National Pharmacy Technician Association. Another challenge is interacting with patients who are “not always feeling their best,” he says. “The majority of your customers that you’re going to be dealing with are sick – whether it be a cold or sinus infection or a much more serious, chronic condition. So it takes a lot of compassion and empathy.”

Pharmacy technicians work in department stores, grocery stores and general merchandise stores, but the majority work at pharmacies, drug stores and hospitals. Unlike pharmacists, pharmacy technicians are not the sole dispensers of medication. They mostly assist in measuring, mixing, counting and labeling dosages of medications. Also, pharmacy technicians don’t typically advise patients on proper medication dosages and side effects, the way a pharmacist might.

There’s ample need for pharmaceutical-support professionals capable of filling prescription medications quickly and efficiently. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth of about 20 percent between 2012 and 2022 – faster than the average growth rate for all occupations – and 70,700 new positions will need to be filled during that period. “There’s a tremendous amount of demand as the baby boomer population is aging and taking more and more medications, and with all the new prescription drugs that are being approved and consumed by Americans, there is a great amount of growth and increase in the pharmacy sector,” Johnston says.


Pharmacy technicians earned an average annual wage of $30,430 in 2012, according to the BLS. The best-paid earned $42,400, while the lowest-paid earned $20,580. Outpatient care centers pay particularly well and provide an average annual wage of $38,750. The metropolitan areas that offer the highest compensation are all located in California, including the cities of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco.

Salary Range

75th Percentile $35,810
Median $29,320
25th Percentile $24,320


Attending a postsecondary education program with an emphasis in pharmacy technology is helpful but not required. Vocational schools and community colleges offer these programs, which usually last one year or less. They might teach mathematics commonly applied in pharmacies and help familiarize students with the names, uses and doses of medications. Best practices for dispensing medications as well as pharmacy law and ethics will also be covered. Some training programs include internships that allow students to obtain hands-on experience.

Reviews & Advice

There are several avenues job-seeking pharmacy technicians can take, including advanced certification programs for technicians who want to specialize in an area, such as drug therapy, pharmacy law or medical distribution. Johnston says students contemplating pharmacy school should consider part-time careers as technicians. “Before they commit to a six-year college education program, it’s always a great opportunity to get some experience and make sure that is a career path that you are interested [in],” he says. “And it also provides a great job while you’re in school, so you’re studying and learning that material in a practical setting as well.”

Job Satisfaction

Upward Mobility good Above Average
Stress Level poor Above Average
Flexibility good Above Average
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Last updated by Stephanie Steinberg.

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