(6.3 out of 10)
|Number of Jobs:||108,300|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Healthcare Jobs||#20|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#49|
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 chief executive officer of the National Pharmacy Technician Association. Another challenge, he says, is “being able to really interact with a patient base that is not always feeling their best. 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 might work in department stores, grocery stores, or general merchandise stores, but the majority work at pharmacies, drug stores, and in hospitals. Unlike pharmacists, pharmacy technicians are not the sole dispensers of medication. They mostly assist in measuring, mixing, counting, and labeling dosages of medications, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 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 BLS predicts employment growth of about 32 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. Job prospects are plentiful, especially for those with retail work experience. More than 100,000 new positions will need to be filled decade, the BLS projects. “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,” says Johnston.
According to the BLS, the average pharmacy technician earned $28,940 in 2011. The best-paid earned about $41,880, while the lowest-paid earned less than $20,310. Outpatient care centers pay particularly well. Metropolitan areas that offer the highest compensation include San Jose, Calif., Madera, Calif., and San Francisco.
Attending a postsecondary education program with an emphasis in pharmacy technology is helpful, but not required. These programs are found in vocational schools and community colleges and usually last one year or less. They might highlight mathematics commonly applied in pharmacies and help to 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 even include internships that allow students to obtain hands-on experience.
There are several avenues job-seeking pharmacy technicians can take. “First of all there’s advanced certification programs, some of which our association offers, where a technician can get specialized in different areas and go into specialized practice areas,” 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,” 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.”
|Upward Mobility||Above Average|
|Stress Level||Above Average|