Pharmacy Technicians: What They Do and How to Become One

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn all you need to know about what a pharmacy technician does and the qualifications, experience, and skills you need to become one.

[Featured image] A pharmacy technician working in a hospital consults with a physician.

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 perform simple medical procedures like administering vaccines.

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

In this article, you'll learn more about what pharmacy technicians do and 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, GP surgeries, or hospitals. Specific duties may include:  

  • Counting and packaging medications into bottles 

  • Creating and applying labels for medications 

  • Seeking health care providers' authorisation for prescription refills 

  • Contacting insurance providers to correct coverage issues 

  • Taking inventory of medications available in the pharmacy

  • Running a cash register and ringing up customers' purchases 

  • Handling customers' questions and concerns 

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

  • Maintaining customers' prescription records 

  • Assisting the pharmacist with other tasks as needed 

  • Assisting with basic medical procedures like administering vaccines

How much do pharmacy technicians make? 

According to Glassdoor UK, a pharmacy technician's average annual base salary is £31,584 [1]. Your pay will likely vary depending on your work experience and geographic location. For example, typically, you can earn more money working in a hospital pharmacy than in other areas, such as retail spaces. 

How to become a pharmacy technician 

Technicians assist pharmacists in their daily duties and help customers receive the proper medication to stay healthy. If pursuing this career sounds like your path, these tips can help prepare you for the job.

1. Complete a pharmacy technician program.

To work as a pharmacy technician, you must complete a two-year accredited pharmacy technician course, a level 3 apprenticeship that combines study and practical work. To enroll, you must also have secured a position as a trainee at a pharmacy. 

2. Register to practice. 

Once you have completed your accredited course, you need to register with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) to practice as a pharmacy technician.

3. Take courses in maths, science, and health. 

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

If you're not in school, consider taking online or local classes to prepare for your next career. Look for online courses or ones a local community college offers in related topics, such as medical terminology or biology. Consider taking the University of Pittsburgh's Clinical Terminology for International and US Students course, available on Coursera.  

4. Build your workplace skills. 

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

  • Attention to detail: You have no room for error when filling prescription bottles or printing labels. A customer receiving the wrong medication could have devastating consequences. 

  • Customer service: You'll interact with customers throughout the day in most pharmacy settings. 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 pharmacies maintain records on computers. You'll need to be comfortable with technology to access and record information throughout the day. 

  • Organisation: When working around so many life-saving medications, organisational 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. 

5. Gain related work experience. 

While working towards your career, 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 pharmacies' critical role. 

6. Volunteer or intern. 

Consider volunteering if you can't find a job in one of those environments. Any time spent in places like hospitals or nursing homes will look good on your CV 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. 

7. Prepare your CV. 

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

If you’ve completed the accredited pharmacy technician training and are registered with the GPhC, highlight this in your CV. Remember to add other skills that may help you get the job, like speaking a foreign language or relevant computer skills. 

8. 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 manage 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.

With some experience and extra training, technicians can move into managerial roles or choose to specialise in a field to become chemotherapy technicians, nuclear pharmacy technicians, or other specialised 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 perspective on medicine use and how to explore and apply it in health care and health policy.  

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Article sources

  1. Glassdoor UK. "Pharmacy Technician Salary,,19.htm." Accessed May 22, 2024.

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