The medical industry has continued to grow at an alarming rate. Individuals are living longer and the fact more and more people have health insurance is making filling pharmacies hire more pharmacy technicians to keep up with demand. In California the need for trained pharmacy technicians is growing, especially in the Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange County area of the state. Retirees are also moving to the desert as well as in the Sacramento area making jobs openings in supply.
Retail – The largest chains in California including Walgreens, CSV Pharmacy, Wal-Mart and Target all have large pharmacies which employ pharmacy assistants/technicians both part-time and full-time. These retails chains have grown and now account for over half of the prescriptions filled in California. These retail companies pay a good salary and some will even help you pay to further your education.
Home Health – In home health and retirement homes they often hire full-time pharmacy technicians to make sure their patients take the correct medication and medication amounts. You’ll be responsible for entering patient medication into the computer system, maintain and restock medication inventory as well as prepare labels for patients.
Hospitals – In a hospital setting you are typically in-charge of filling prescriptions for patients, restocking machines that nurse’s use, measure drug prescriptions as well as clerical duties. Pharmacy technicians who work in hospitals in California typically make more money and have better benefits than those who work in retail.
The following interview was with Judy Hobkins who is a 10 year veteran and Pharmacy Technician in Santa Ana, California. We interviewed Judy last week to talk to us regarding her position and to offer some advice for those looking into the industry.
Can you give us a little background of your education and career?
I was raised in Riverside, CA and went to school at UCLA for several years before I enlisted in the military in which I spent 10 years serving oversees. During my time in the military I took several vocational courses online that the military paid for and starting getting interested in the medical industry shortly after I returned home to California. When I was 35 I enrolled in a Pharmacy Technician certificate program and completed in within a year. I took the program at a campus in Carson, CA. Once I graduated I started working at a local chain pharmacy where I’ve been for the last 6 years.
Will you let our readers know how hard was your training?
The training was actually pretty easy. I did spend 2 years in college so honestly taking a vocational course was fast and it gave me all the skills that I needed in order to start my career. I really would recommend a certificate program over a college degree for this industry as you don’t need a degree to become a pharmacy technician. Now if you want to continue on and get another job then sure having a degree would be needed.
What do you like the best about being a pharmacy assistant?
I really enjoy working for people. I was able to get a job here in Carson, CA which is close to where I live. The people are really nice that I work with and honestly the patients that come into our facility are all nice (for the most part). We of course like any retail place will get the occasional crazy person that comes in but overall the clients are nice.
What are your hours like?
I work a pretty normal workday. I come in at 9am and work the front lobby area until noon then the second half of my day I work the drive-up window until 5pm. Sometimes my shift several times a month will start at noon and I’ll work until 9pm when the pharmacy closes. Since I’ve been working for the same store for 6 years I’m considered a senior team leader so I don’t have to work any weekend hours or holidays but you might have to for the first 2 years.
What are your future career plans?
I’ve been contacted by several hospitals in town to come work for them. The benefits are a little better at the hospital but my pay is almost 20% higher. The hours will be longer and I know I won’t have as much freedom but in this industry you need to jump on every opportunity that comes your way.
If you reside in the sunny California and wish to pursue a post secondary degree program, you are often met with a plethora of options and heavy decisions that will define the rest of your professional life. A great place to start is to do your due diligence pertaining to the list of potential career paths and viable colleges that offer those programs. This research enables you to make informed decisions.
Remember that the more research you conduct, the less chance there is of you ending up regretting the career path you went for. Approximately 59-63 % of the available jobs in the state of California entail you to obtain a post secondary degree. If you are in the throes of that vital decision, you might consider a career in Pharmacy technician.
A successful career in the medical field enables you to garner a steady job, thanks to the booming number of medical jobs currently, and the figures are only expected to soar in the foreseeable future. This is attributed to the fact that baby boomers are aging and are in need of more medication, in addition to the prevent of chronic diseases that have increased dependence on medication. Thanks to the advances in technology, commitment to education is indispensable for advancing your career. This rising need has escalated the need for skilled pharmacy technician, making it one of the most thriving industries you can step into.
According to the bureau of Labor statistics, the job outlook is appearing very promising for pharmacy technicians, and is predicted to witness a staggering growth of 20% in the next decade, even higher than the median for most occupations. The demand for skilled and experienced pharmacy technicians is soaring in the state of California and is expected to stay strong as the average life span is augmented and consumers turn towards pharmacists for prescription medication to take care of aging-related health issues and manage chronic diseases.
In the state of California, all pharmacy technicians are required to work with licensed pharmacists to assist in dispensing prescription medications to healthcare professionals and customers. They work in retail in healthcare facilities, hospitals, grocery stores, and pharmacies. Oft times, they may even be called upon to operate automated dispensing equipment so that certain prescription orders can be meted out. To put it in a nutshell, being a pharmacy technician in California means being on your feet for most part of the day. However, regarding the rewarding nature of the job, the hectic routine is worth it.
Specific duties include:
• Label, package, and measure prescription medications
• Jot down appropriate information needed to distribute and fill prescriptions
• Process insurance claims and accept payments
• Help maintain and organize the inventory within the pharmacy
• Answer pharmacy phone calls throughout the shift
• Data entry of patient or customer information
• Skilled pharmacists supervise pharmacy technicians, and are responsible for reviewing and rechecking each prescription before it is dispensed to the patient. Pharmacy technicians are authorized in the state of California to contact physicians so as to glean refill authorization for patients.
• Arrange for customers to converse with licensed pharmacist if they have any queries pertaining to their medications or conditions.
The minimum education required to pursue this career path in the state of California is a high school diploma or an equivalent GED. Some pharmacy technicians receive specialized on-the-job training at a pharmacy, which offers them with a plethora of learning opportunities. These programs can differ in their respective curriculum and length based on the requirements of your employer. Pharmacy technicians in California can graduate from an accredited School of Pharmacy or obtain an Associate’s degree in this field. While certification is not always mandatory, plenty of credible employers do reimburse their employers for taking the certification exams.
In conjunction to a high school diploma, a criminal back ground check, and the required fee for the program, a Pharmacy Technician in the state of California must comply with at least one of the following requirements:
1) Obtain An Associate’s Degree In Pharmacy Technology From An Accredited Program
Ideally, the program must be accredited by the American Society of Health–System. The program must cover a wide array of subjects, such as pharmacy law and ethics, ways of dispensing medications, data entry and record keeping, and Arithmetic. Technicians are also expected to learn the doses, uses, and medical names of medications they’ll work with during the course of their job. Some programs even incorporate clinical experience opportunities, so that you can garner some hands-on experience and training even before entering the professional arena.
2) Complete A Course Of Training Specified By The Board
This relates to any course which offers at least 240 hours of instruction during the training period, which also includes knowledge of storage and dosage requirement, training in medical and pharmaceutical symbols, abbreviations, and terms that are used frequently in prescribing, and an ability to calculate the dosage needed using both the apothecary and the metric systems.
3) Graduate from a School of Pharmacy recognized by the board
4) Get certified by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board by Acing the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam
The latest version of the PTCE has recently been reorganized. Now, the exam consists of nine sections, in contrast to the three sections used before. Each section is further divided into subsections, and the exam focuses on including specialties like pharmacy information systems and medication safety. At the time, there are a total of 90 questions on the exam. This is what you have to do to become licensed:
• Obtain a high school diploma or an equivalent GED.
• Complete higher education coursework, for instance earn a degree from any pharmacy school accredited by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education, complete a course accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, or obtain an associate’s degree in pharmacy technology.
• You can also qualify after receiving certification by the PTCB. Be sure to attach a certified copy of your certificate along with your application form.
• To qualify, you can also submit proof (form DD214) of training while in the federal armed services.
• Pass a federal and state criminal background check.
• Attach a recent passport-type photo preferably taken less than 6 months back.
• Submit your fingerprints according to the instructions stated on the application.
• Submit a written pharmacy technician application to the California Board of Pharmacy requesting licensure as a pharmacy technician.
• Pay the registration fee of $80.
5) Continuing Education
The requirements of PTCB mandate that all certified technicians should request recertification every two years. In order to recertify themselves with the PTCB, all pharmacy technicians should complete a minimum of 20 hours of pharmacy-related continuing education. On the job training, that allows you to complete tasks that teach and challenge technicians in new ways, can earn you up to ten hours under the supervision of a pharmacist. As per the PTCB requirements in the state of California for pharmacy technicians, a minimum of one hour must be used studying pharmacy law.
Becoming a pharmacy technician can pave way for a lucrative and meaningful career as a nursing assistant, pharmacist, or other medical professions. Since the demand for pharmacy technicians is ever on the rise, this career is even more rewarding for those individuals who aspire to work in a pharmacy setting. Here are the salary ranges for Pharmacy Technicians in the select cities of California, with less than one year of experience:
• Oakland $34,409-$36,426
• Los Angeles $33,236-$35,184
• San Francisco $37,016-$39,186
• San Diego $32,251-$34,141
Pharmacy technicians should ideally be extremely attentive to detail, as most of their regular tasks revolve around dosing, measuring, and dispensing prescription medication complying with specific orders. They must also possess excellent verbal and written communication skills to effectively communicate with the medical representatives, medical professionals, or patients they come into contact with, and the pharmacists they work with.
Pharmacy technicians must stay abreast of any major changes and shifts in the industry, and regularly educate themselves on information pertaining to drugs. They may also be required to review pharmaceutical literature, produce reports about different dispensing activities and prescription medications, or read about drug studies. Since they may work in emergency rooms or emergency rooms, they should possess potent organizational skills and the ability to work calmly in such hectic environments without making mistakes and errors.
Pharmacy techs can acquire other certifications, in addition to becoming a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT), that allow them to tap into enticing job opportunities. Options include:
• Nuclear Pharmacy Technician (NPT) Training
• Certified Pharmaceutical Industry Professional
• Sterile Products (IV) Certification
• Compounding Certification
• Chemotherapy Certification
Most of the time, aspiring pharmacy technicians in California are trained in all medical software programs, which are employed by the pharmacy to coordinate patient communications in a timely manner, manage patient billing information, and fill prescription orders accurately. Most pharmacy techs develop proficiency in a number of software, including:
• Database software which helps analyze and assess the compatibility of drugs
• Accounting software for medical reimbursement and billing
• Label-making software
• Software for managing the inventory of the pharmacy
• Medical software for processing and maintaining medical records
If you are seeking comprehensive education, you can consider enrolling in an associate degree program. While a degree is not absolutely imperative for applying to entry-level positions, some students opt for pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree for advancing their careers and applying for more lucrative jobs such as a pharmacy implementation specialist, pharmacy service technician, compounding lab technician, or other relevant positions. An associate degree can definitely help you prepare for a Bachelor of Pharmacy.
This comprehensive two-year program covers topics in advanced administration, pharmacology, and pharmacy operations, and might also be able to avail an externship. You also have to appear for courses in English, humanities, psychology, science, and mathematics, and other pharmacy- and medical-specific courses to meet all the degree requirements. The successful graduates of this 2-year program demonstrate fundamental knowledge of medical terminology, in-depth knowhow of pharmacy law for filing prescriptions, and process medication orders.
Diploma and Certificate Programs
A pharmacy technician certificate or diploma program can be completed in even less than a year, and offers the rudimentary training and education needed to ace the certification exam. These programs are diligently designed teach students the basics of pharmacology, pharmacy law and ethics, record keeping, and pharmaceutical technology. They typically include a blend of lab training and classroom learning to impart the necessary knowledge and skills in students needed to manage prescription orders, prepare sterile products, and dispense medication.
Graduates of these 1-year programs can find employment at entry-level jobs at assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospitals, and drugstores, and work with mail-order pharmacy companies. The certification programs for pharmacy technicians typically require students to seek externship at a credible hospital or an approved pharmaceutical facility.