Pharmacy Technicians: What They Do and How to Become One

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Discover how to begin a career as a pharmacy technician in Canada and assist pharmacists with filling medication prescriptions for patients and other duties.

[Featured Image]: Pharmacy technician checking charts and fulfilling patient prescriptions.

Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists with their day-to-day duties and help patients get the medication they need to stay healthy. Here's all you need to know about this impactful health care career and what you need to do to become one.

Pharmacy technicians assist pharmacists, fill prescription medications, and complete other tasks in a pharmaceutical environment. As health care workers, technicians provide customer service, process insurance claims, communicate with physicians, and in some states, even perform simple medical procedures like administering vaccines.

Though the profession has relatively low barriers to entry compared to other health care jobs, pharmacy technicians play an important role in ensuring customers receive their medication safely and efficiently.

In this article, you'll learn more about what pharmacy technicians do, how to become one and explore online educational courses to help you get started.

What does a pharmacy technician do?

A pharmacy technician performs various tasks, such as helping pharmacists fill prescriptions, maintaining pharmacies, assisting with administrative work, and offering customer service. They can work in retail settings, pharmacies, doctor’s offices, or hospitals. Specific duties may include:

  • Maintaining customers' prescription records

  • Creating and applying labels for medications

  • Handling customers' questions and concerns

  • Counting and packaging medications into bottles

  • Assisting the pharmacist with other tasks as needed

  • Taking inventory of medications available in the pharmacy

  • Keeping the pharmacy clean, organized, and well-stocked

  • Contacting insurance providers to correct coverage issues

  • Running a cash register and ringing up customers' purchases

  • Seeking health care providers' authorization for prescription refills

  • Assisting with basic medical procedures like administering vaccines, depending on their state

How much do pharmacy technicians make? 

According to Job Bank Canada, the median annual salary for pharmacy technicians in Canada is $19.50 per hour as of February 2023 [1]. But, the exact pay that you can expect to earn will likely vary depending on your work experience and geographic location. Typically, you can earn more money working in a hospital pharmacy than in other locations, such as retail spaces.

How to become a pharmacy technician

Technicians assist pharmacists in their day-to-day duties and help customers receive the right medication they need to stay healthy. If joining this career sounds like the path for you, then these nine tips can help prepare you for the job.

1. Research your provincial or territorial requirements. 

Pharmacy technicians sometimes need to be certified, such as in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, for example. Each area has its regulating board that sets the requirements to become certified. Once you’ve achieved certification from one regulating body, you can request for it to be recognized by others across Canada. It’s important to research the exact requirements, depending on the province or territory where you plan to work.

Before jumping into the career, it's a good idea to understand what you’ll need to do to join the profession.

2. Complete a pharmacy technician program.

Typically, pharmacy technicians must complete a two- to three-year college program before beginning their careers. Formal training can open doors to higher salaries and make you a more competitive applicant. Becoming a pharmacy technician can also be a stepping stone to further education and, eventually, becoming a pharmacist. Many vocational schools and community colleges offer programs for aspiring pharmacy technicians.

3. Get certified.

Research the specific requirements for certification in your province, if applicable. Getting certified and then having that certification recognized across Canada opens doors for you to work and travel freely across the country, even though certification is not always required to work as a pharmacy technician.

4. Take courses in math, science, and health.

Coursework in math, science, and health can help prepare you for the responsibilities of working in a pharmacy. If you’re still in school, consider gaining a deeper understanding of human health and building basic math skills with courses such as biology, anatomy, or statistics.

If you're not currently in school, then you could consider taking classes either online or locally that will prepare you for your next career. Look for online classes or those offered by a local community college in related topics, such as medical terminology or biology. You could also consider taking the University of Pittsburgh's Clinical Terminology for International and US Students course, available on Coursera.

5. Build your workplace skills. 

In addition to understanding fundamental math and science concepts, you'll also need the right workplace skills. Here are some skills you should consider developing:

  • Attention to detail: When you fill prescription bottles or print labels, there is no room for error. A customer receiving the wrong medication could have devastating consequences.

  • Customer service: In most pharmacy settings, you'll interact with customers throughout the day. As a result, you should expect to practice active listening, provide empathetic customer service, and use clear communication to answer questions. 

  • Computer skills: Almost all modern pharmacy records are kept on computers. You'll need to be comfortable with technology to access and record information throughout the day.

  • Organization: When working around many life-saving medications, organizational skills are necessary to ensure accuracy. 

  • Collaboration: Technicians work with pharmacists, physicians, and nurses daily, so collaboration is necessary.

  • Integrity: You may have access to medical information, potentially dangerous medications, and cash every day. Make sure you’re prepared to work ethically and responsibly.

6. Gain related work experience. 

While working towards your career, you might consider seeking jobs that will help you gain related experience and transferable skills. Customer service and retail work can help prepare you to work with the public. Jobs in health care environments, like hospitals, doctor's offices, or labs, will expose you to medical terms and help you better understand why pharmacies are important.

7. Volunteer or intern.

If you can't find a job in one of those environments, consider volunteering. Any time spent in places like hospitals or nursing homes will look good on your resume, and help you understand the medical field and the importance of patient care. You may also consider seeking an internship or asking a local pharmacist if you can shadow them for a day or a week.

8. Prepare your resume.

Once you're ready to apply for jobs, prepare your resume. Relevant experience can include any related coursework, volunteer work, or customer service experience.

If you’ve completed certification or a postsecondary pharmacy tech program, highlight this in your resume. Don't forget to add other skills that may help you get the job, like speaking a foreign language or relevant computer skills.

9. Prepare your answers to interview questions.

When you interview to become a technician within a pharmacy, you’ll likely have to answer questions related to the job. Think about how you might answer questions like:

  • Why do you want to be a pharmacy technician?

  • How would you handle a customer who is upset?

  • What would you do to handle stress on the job?

  • Do you see yourself as a pharmacy technician in five or ten years?

  • What qualities should a good technician possess?

  • What is the difference between a generic and a brand-name prescription?

  • What would you do if you saw a coworker stealing medication?

  • What would you do if you ran across a prescription with a mistake on the label?

10. Keep learning.

Once you get the job, put yourself in a position to keep learning. Taking courses, either online or in-person, can help you be a better technician and prepare you for more advanced roles. You may also have to renew any certifications that you have.

With some experience and extra training, technicians can move into managerial roles, or choose to specialize in a field to become chemotherapy technicians, nuclear pharmacy technicians, or other specialized technicians. Pharmacy techs can also go on to work in pharmaceutical sales, while others may go back to school to become pharmacists themselves.

Next steps

Consider taking your knowledge to the next level with courses like The University of Copenhagen's Understanding Patient Perspectives on Medications. This course teaches the patient’s perspective on medicine use, and how to explore and apply it in both health care and health policy.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Article sources


Job Bank Canada. “Wages: Pharmacy Technicians,” Accessed February 16, 2023.

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