A pharmacy technician assists licensed pharmacists with tasks like formulating, labeling, and dispensing medications, along with maintaining patient profiles and performing other routine tasks. Unlike a pharmacist, a pharmacy tech does not attend medical school, and his or her job is usually restricted. The required qualifications for this job vary from country to country, and the market for trained technicians is generally very good, as are markets for other health professionals.
Some people go to school to become a pharmacy technician. Certification classes include courses in anatomy, chemistry, and other basic medical concepts. Certification can be useful for job seekers who want to impress potential employers with their level of education and skills. Other pharmacy technicians learn on the job, training in the pharmacies they work for. Some people start out as pharmacy clerks, handling registers and minor tasks before training as technicians; in other regions, technicians also act as clerks, and the two jobs are not differentiated.
The job duties of this profession vary. In many cases, pharmacy technicians handle a great deal of the routine clerking in a pharmacy; they accept and double check prescriptions, for example, or maintain patient records in computerized systems. The technician may also fill a prescription by dispensing pills or liquids, and make up a label for that prescription. A pharmacy technician may also talk with a pharmacist about potential drug interactions or other risks which the prescribing doctor may have missed. A licensed pharmacist still needs to check the work to ensure that it has been done correctly, however.
In a hospital, technicians fill prescription orders, record administered medications in patient charts, and sometimes assemble prescription packets for nurses to give to their patients. Again, this work is supervised by a licensed pharmacist who must sign off on it before medications can be given out. This double checking process ensures that the correct medications are dispensed. Double checking in general is a routine part of the medical profession, as errors with things like medication can be fatal.
A good pharmacy tech can often command a decent salary, along with benefits, especially if he or she works in a hospital environment. The work is not very physically taxing, although technicians do spend a lot of time on their feet, and they may need to lift heavy boxes. This profession is also not advised for people who may have ethical or moral issues with dispensing certain medications.