University of Wisconsin–Madison

Pharmacy Technician

Work Activities/Work Locations

  • Pharmacy technicians assist in the technical, non-judgmental functions related to pharmacy such as processing of prescription orders and performing inventory management under the direct supervision of a pharmacist.
  • Pharmacy technicians are essential to the workflow of a pharmacy, because with the increase activities of the pharmacist, pharmacy technicians are taking on more responsibility in the pharmacy.
  • Many of the technical, non-judgmental functions of a pharmacist (such as counting medicine and running a cash register) are being given to pharmacy technicians.
  • This allows pharmacists to focus on patient care and service.
  • Similar to the pharmacist, pharmacy technicians’ jobs depend on their work location.
  • In community and clinic pharmacies, technicians are often the first people the patients see or speak to on the telephone. These technicians may spend much of their time entering prescription and patient information into a computer. They also spend much of their time selecting and counting medicine, answering telephone calls and dealing with insurance companies. They may also run a cash register, order drugs and put them away, check for drug outdates, and repackage medications into unit-dose packaging for nursing homes.
  • Technicians who work in hospitals enter prescriptions orders into a computer database, fill the medication charts, deliver the carts to the floor pharmacies, and clean and sterilize pharmaceutical instruments and equipment. They also may prepare IV bags (training required) and perform drug calculations per physician’s orders.
  • Pharmacy technicians primarily work in retail pharmacies (drug stores), clinic pharmacies, and hospital pharmacies.

Advantages and Disadvantages

  • Pharmacy technicians enjoy helping people and they like the variety of their work. They need strong communication and people skills.
  • They dislike having to work nights and weekends, and for some the pay is low for the amount of responsibilities they have.

 Education: 1-2 years

 Patient Interaction: Low

 Physical Activity: Low

 Salary: $28,245

 Job Growth: Low

Getting Started

  • High School Courses
    • Students should take a general high school curriculum that meets graduation requirements, and choose electives directly related to this occupation. Technicians need strong mathematics, spelling, and reading skills.
    • Helpful high school courses would include Computer Applications, Medical Terminology, English, and math (including elementary algebra).
    • Participation in a Tech Prep program may be a valuable high school experience. In Tech Prep programs, high school students enroll in technical college courses.
    • Students participating in these programs may enroll in a technical college with advanced standing when they graduate from high school.
  • Education and Training
    • Although many pharmacy technicians receive informal on-the-job training, employers favor those who have completed formal training and certification.
    • Completion of a pharmacy technician program at a community college or technical college is recommended but not required.
    • Students can receive a certificate, a technical diploma (one-year), or an associate degree, depending on the program.
    • Certification simply requires a high school diploma or GED and passing a written exam.
    • A 1-year technical diploma program or a 2-year associate degree can be completed at a technical college.
    • Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) offers a one-year technical diploma program. The required 29 credits include courses in communication skills/English, medical terminology, computing for healthcare, pharmaceutical calculations, drug classification and interaction, pharmacy customer relations, psychology, and pharmacy clinical experience.
    • Mid-State Technical College (MSTC.edu) offers a one-year Technical Diploma with core courses offered via Instructional Television hosted by Lakeshore Technical College (LTC) and supported by select classes available at MSTC. There is an August starting date.
    • Northcentral Technical College (NTC) offers a one-year Technical Diploma partnered also with LTC. You will attend classes and work in hospitals and retail pharmacies in your local area.
    • Many training programs include internships, in which students gain hands-on experiences in actual pharmacies.
    • Certified technicians must be recertified every 2 years. Technicians must complete 20 contact hours of pharmacy-related topics within a 2-year certification period to become eligible for recertification.
    • Contact hours are awarded for on-the-job training, attending lectures, and college coursework and at least one contact hour must be in pharmacy law. Contact hours can be earned from several sources, including pharmacy association, pharmacy colleges, and pharmacy technician training programs. Up to 10 contact hours can be earned when the technician is employed under the direct supervision and instruction of a pharmacist.

    Educational Institutions

    Blackhawk Technical College
    Chippewa Valley Technical College
    Fox Valley Technical College
    Gateway Technical College
    Lakeshore Technical College
    Mid-State Technical College
    Milwaukee Area Technical College
    Moraine Park Technical College – Fond du Lac
    Nicolet Area Technical College
    Northcentral Technical College
    Northeast Wisconsin Technical College
    Rasmussen College – Appleton Campus
    Rasmussen College – Green Bay Campus
    Rasmussen College – Wausau Campus
    Southwest Wisconsin Technical College
    University of Wisconsin – Marshfield
    Waukesha County Technical College 
    Western Technical College

    Hospitals with Associated Educational Programs

    Veteran’s Administration Medical Center

  • Method of Entry
    • There are currently few state and no federal requirements for formal training or certification of pharmacy technicians. However, more States and employers are requiring certification as reliance as pharmacy technicians grow.
    • The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board administers the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination. Eligible candidates must have a high school diploma or GED and no felony convictions, and those who pass the exam earn the title of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).
    • This exam in voluntary in most states and displays the competency of the individual to act as a pharmacy technician.
    • Employers, often pharmacists, know that the individuals who pass this exam have a standardized body of knowledge and skills. So many employers will also reimburse the costs of the exam as an incentive for certification.
    • Some are hired without formal training, receive on-the-job training, but under the condition that they obtain certification within a specified period to retain employment.
    • Completion of a pharmacy technician program at a community college or technical college is recommended but not required.
    • Admission into a Technical College Program in any healthcare area requires: a high school diploma or GED; proficiency in basic skills/placement assessment; good health; proper immunizations; review Essential Job Functions; and compliance with Wisconsin Caregiver Law.
  • Professional Organizations

    American Association of Pharmacy Technicians (AAPT)
    PO Box 1447
    Greensboro, NC, 27402
    336/333-9356 or 877/368-4771
    www.pharmacytechnician.com

    National Pharmacy Technician Association
    PO Box 683148
    Houston, TX, 77268
    888/247-8700
    www.pharmacytechnician.org/

    Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin
    701 Heartland Trail
    Madison, WI, 53717
    608/827-9200
    www.pswi.org

    Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, Inc.
    2215 Constitution Avenue, NW
    Washington, DC, 20037-2985
    800/363-8012
    www.ptcb.org

Career Outlook

Number Employed in 2012 (Wisconsin): 7,810
Number Employed in 2014 (U.S.): 372,500
Expected Employment in 2024 (U.S.): 407,200
Percent Employment Growth (2014-2024): 9%
Expected Annual Openings: 7,160
Median Salary in 2014 (Wisconsin): $28,845

Salary information is located at Career One Stop

Wisconsin AHEC Health Careers Information Center provides the most current salary information available from CareerOneStop. CareerOneStop will have a lapse between when the information is gathered and when it is released.

  • Pharmacy technicians work 40 hours a week.
  • Many work evenings, weekend, and holidays.
  • Can work fulltime or part-time.
  • Often, advancement is limited to pay increases with experience or further education.
  • After successful completion of a Pharmacy Technician Technical Diploma Program one can take a Pharmacy Services Management Associate Degree Program (2-year). Marketing, management, and business operations are addressed. Graduates can find positions as Senior Pharmacy Technicians, Assistant Store Managers, Trainers, Pharmacy Technician Managers, and many other positions. NTC now offer this.