Detailed Guide forPharmacy Technicians in San Diego County
May also be called: Pharmacy Technologists; Pharmacy Laboratory Technicians; Pharmacist Technicians; Certified Pharmacy Technicians; Pharmaceutical Care Associates; and Pharmacist Assistants
What Would I Do?
Pharmacy Technicians generally greet patients and accept their written requests for prescriptions or prescription refills. They also receive prescription requests via fax or electronic mail sent from doctors offices. In California, they are not permitted to accept prescription requests over the phone. However, they can assist customers by answering simple questions, locating items, or referring them to the pharmacist for medication requests or other information. In addition to medication, they help pharmacists provide other health care products to patients.
Pharmacy Technicians work under the supervision and control of a licensed pharmacist. They perform repetitive, routine tasks related to the processing of a prescription in a pharmacy; however, they cannot do the work that is restricted to the pharmacist. Technicians must first verify that the patient and medication information on the prescription is complete and accurate before they can prepare medications to fill the prescription. In preparing medications, they count tablets and measure, mix, pour, and record amounts and dosages of medications. They also remove drugs from stock, place medications into containers, create labels for the containers, and package or repackage pharmaceuticals. Once the prescription has been prepared, it is verified and documented in writing by a licensed pharmacist before it is given to the patient. Any questions regarding prescriptions, drug information, or health matters are referred to the pharmacist.
Commonly used medications are usually pre-packaged in unit-dose form by drug manufacturers, so that Technicians need only select the right package. When pre-packaged unit-doses are not available, Technicians must measure or count the prescribed amount from bulk containers and create the package themselves. When unit doses are to be administered by injection, Technicians transfer the medication from vials, using sterile techniques, to the appropriate number of disposable syringes.
Technicians may perform inventory control, keeping track of medications, chemicals, medical equipment, and other supplies that are dispensed to patients. They prepare orders for additional quantities when stock gets low. They also receive and store incoming supplies, check invoices against quantities received, compute prices, file prescriptions, and record prescription information and other data into a computer. Additional duties performed by Pharmacy Technicians may include delivering drugs and pharmaceutical supplies, cleaning equipment, and sterilizing glassware according to prescribed methods.
In hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted-living facilities, Technicians have added responsibilities including reading patients’ charts and preparing and delivering medicine to patients. They calculate and prepare intravenous (IV) mixtures, using additional preventative measures in preparing chemotherapy treatment mixtures. They also assemble a complete 24-hour supply of medications where individual doses of each medication are separately packaged and labeled, then placed in the medicine cabinets of each patient. Supervising pharmacists check medications for accuracy before dispensing to patients. Technicians record information about the prescribed medications on the patient’s profile. The profiles are the basic source of information used by Technicians for filling medication orders and must be continually updated as new orders are received.
Pharmacy Technicians use a variety of tools and technology in their work. They may use tablet counters, filling or sealing auger dose machines, fume hoods, and laboratory balances. They also use computer software for accounting, inventory, and label making; furthermore, they may use database user interface and query software.
Important Tasks and Related Skills
Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.
|View the skill definitions|
|Task||Skill Used in this Task|
|Receive written prescription or refill requests and verify that information is complete and accurate.||Written Comprehension|
|Maintain proper storage and security conditions for drugs.||Monitoring|
|Answer telephones, responding to questions or requests.||Active Listening|
|Fill bottles with prescribed medications and type and affix labels.||Near Vision|
|Assist customers by answering simple questions, locating items or referring them to the pharmacist for medication information.||Customer and Personal Service|
|Price and file prescriptions that have been filled.||Mathematics|
|Clean, and help maintain, equipment and work areas, and sterilize glassware according to prescribed methods.||Deductive Reasoning|
|Establish and maintain patient profiles, including lists of medications taken by individual patients.||Medicine and Dentistry|
|Order, label, and count stock of medications, chemicals, and supplies, and enter inventory data into computer.||Information Ordering|
|Receive and store incoming supplies, verify quantities against invoices, and inform supervisors of stock needs and shortages.||Critical Thinking|
Below is a definition for each skill.
|View the tasks to skills list|
|Written Comprehension||The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.|
|Monitoring||Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.|
|Active Listening||Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.|
|Near Vision||The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).|
|Customer and Personal Service||Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.|
|Mathematics||Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.|
|Deductive Reasoning||The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.|
|Medicine and Dentistry||Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.|
|Information Ordering||The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).|
|Critical Thinking||Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.|
Pharmacy Technicians typically work in retail or hospital settings that are clean, organized, well-lit, and well-ventilated. They spend most of their work day on their feet. Although the work is often repetitive, it is highly precise and generally requires extreme care in the handling and storing of drugs and chemicals. Physical demands may include lifting heavy boxes up to 40 pounds, moving delivery carts, and using stepladders to retrieve supplies from high shelves.
Technicians work the same hours that pharmacists work. A full-time work week is generally 8-hour days, five days a week, including rotating weekends. Technicians may also work evenings, nights, and holidays, particularly in facilities, such as hospital pharmacies, that are open for 24 hours, 7 days a week. For some positions, 10-hour shifts are required. Many jobs are part-time or per diem/on-call. Teamwork and the ability to work under pressure and deal with people is very important because Technicians are usually required to work with pharmacists, aides, and other Technicians.
Pharmacy Technicians can join the California Pharmacists Association or Pharmacy Foundation of California. They can also join the Health Care Workers division of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Some Pharmacy Technicians belong to unions representing hospital or grocery store workers.
Will This Job Fit Me?
The job of Pharmacy Technician will appeal to those who enjoy working with people and performing duties that are organized, clearly defined, and require accuracy and attention to detail. This occupation satisfies those with conventional interests. Conventional occupations frequently involve following set procedures and routines where the lines of authority are clear.
What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?
The median wage in 2016 for Pharmacy Technicians in California was $38,997 annually, or $18.75 hourly. The median wage for Pharmacy Technicians in San Diego County was $36,309 annually, or $17.46 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.
Benefit packages vary among employers and generally include paid vacation, sick leave, medical and dental insurance, and retirement plans. Many hospitals pay vision insurance.
What Do Local Employers Say About Benefits? Of the 20 employers in San Diego County, almost all provide vacation, and most provide medical insurance benefits to Pharmacy Technicians who work full-time.
|Percent of Employers Who Provide|
Specific Benefits by Time Base
|Paid Time Off Bank||5%||5%|
Of the 15 employers surveyed who responded in San Diego County, who provides medical benefits, all reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for full-time, and most reported that they pay half or more of the cost of medical insurance for part-time Pharmacy Technicians.
|Percent of Employers Who Paid Medical |
Insurance by Portion Paid by Time Base
|Portion Paid by Employer:||Full-Time||Part-Time|
|Half or more||73%||67%|
|Less than Half||20%||33%|
What is the Job Outlook?
Good job opportunities are expected for full-time and part-time employment, especially for Technicians with formal training or previous experience. Job openings for Pharmacy Technicians will result from the expansion of retail pharmacies and other employment settings and from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or retire. Employment of Pharmacy Technicians is expected to grow and their demand is high because of the increased pharmaceutical needs of a larger, older population. Furthermore, with advances in science, the need for Pharmacy Technicians will grow as more medications become available to treat a greater number of conditions. New medical technologies and developments in administering medication also increase the demand for Technicians.
Projections of Employment
In California, the number of Pharmacy Technicians is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Pharmacy Technicians are expected to increase by 11.6 percent, or 3,800 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
In San Diego County, the number of Pharmacy Technicians is expected to grow at an average rate compared with the total for all occupations. Jobs for Pharmacy Technicians are expected to increase by 16.2 percent, or 430 jobs between 2014 and 2024.
|Estimated Employment and Projected Growth|
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Due to Net
|San Diego County|
|View Projected Growth for All Areas|
Annual Job Openings
In California, an average of 380 new job openings per year is expected for Pharmacy Technicians, plus an additional 320 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 700 job openings.
In San Diego County, an average of 42 new job openings per year is expected for Pharmacy Technicians, plus an additional 26 job openings due to net replacement needs, resulting in a total of 68 job openings.
|Estimated Average Annual Job Openings|
|Jobs From Growth||Jobs Due to|
|San Diego County|
|View Data for All Areas|
How Do I Qualify?
Education, Training, and Other Requirements
Pharmacy Technicians must have a current license to work in the State of California. To obtain a Pharmacy Technician license, applicants must submit a Pharmacy Technician application and pay the appropriate fees, pass a criminal background check, and obtain a Live Scan fingerprint clearance. They must also have a high school diploma or GED and no felony convictions. In addition, they must meet one of the following educational and training requirements:
- Obtain an associate of arts degree in pharmacy technology.
- Complete a course of training specified by the California State Board of Pharmacy. The training courses acceptable to the Board include any Pharmacy Technician training programs that are: accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists; provided by a branch of the federal armed services for which the applicant possesses a certificate of completion; or any other course that provides a training period of at least 240 hours of theoretical and practical instruction.
- Graduate from a school of pharmacy approved by the American Council on Pharmaceutical Education or recognized by the California State Board of Pharmacy.
- Obtain certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). This is accomplished by taking and passing the National Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination. Those who pass the exam earn the title of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).
Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience may be helpful in these occupations. Although most Pharmacy Technicians receive informal on-the-job training, employers favor those who have completed formal training and certification. Employers who have insufficient resources to give on-the-job training often seek formally educated Pharmacy Technicians. Formal education programs and certification emphasize the Technician’s interest in and dedication to the work. Some hospitals, proprietary schools, vocational or technical colleges, and community colleges offer formal education programs. In addition, all of the military services train selected individuals to be Pharmacy Technicians/Pharmacy Specialists. Students in Pharmacy Technician training programs are sometimes hired after graduation by one of the pharmacies in which they performed their supervised clinical work experience.
Employers often expect applicants to have some degree of familiarity with medical and pharmaceutical terminology and metric measurements. Computer knowledge and the ability to perform mathematical calculations are often preferred. Good communication skills, reading comprehension, and the capability of typing 30 to 40 words per minute are usually required.
Early Career Planning
High school students interested in becoming Pharmacy Technicians should take courses in typing, math, and the physical sciences. Chemistry laboratory classes are especially useful.
Work Study Programs
California offers Regional Occupational Programs (ROP) for Pharmacy Techncians. One such program is titled Pharmacy Technician I. To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.
Pharmacy Technician licenses must be renewed every two years. Currently, Pharmacy Technicians are not required to complete any continuing education hours to renew their licenses. However, the PTCB does require continuing education to renew the CPhT certification. If the applicant fails to renew their license within 60 days of the expiration date, it will be cancelled. Cancelled licenses cannot be renewed. Returning to work as a Technician in California will require the submission of a new application with the appropriate fees and meeting the current requirements.
Licensing and Certification
Contact the agency that issues the license for additional information. Click on the license title below for details.
Pharmacy Technicians may hold one or several certificates such as: Certified Pharmacy Technician, Medical Terminology, Certified in Healthcare Privacy and Security, and/or Pharmaceutical Industry Knowledge. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.
Where Can I Find Training?
There are two ways to search for training information:
- Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Pharmacy Technician; Pharmacy Assistant; Medical Assisting; Pharmacy Clerk; and Hospital Unit Assistant.
- Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.
Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.
Where Would I Work?
The largest industries employing Pharmacy Technicians are as follows:
|Industry Title||Percent of Total Employment for Occupation in California|
|Health and Personal Care Stores ||52.0%|
|General Medical and Surgical Hospitals ||18.9%|
|Other General Merchandise Stores ||5.3%|
|Offices of Physicians ||4.8%|
|Department Stores ||3.3%|
What Employers Say...
The Employment Development Department surveyed 20 employers in San Diego County which employ 222 Pharmacy Technicians. Here's what they had to say:
About Full-Time/Part-Time: Almost All of these firms employ full-time and most employ part-time Pharmacy Technicians.
About Work Experience: Of the 20 employers surveyed in San Diego County, all require new hires to have prior work experience as Pharmacy Technicians. In the table below, percentages may not add to 100% since employers may select more than one time period.
|How Much Work Experience|
Do Employers Require?
|More than 5 years ||5%|
|25 to 60 months ||5%|
|13 to 24 months ||26%|
|1 to 12 months ||68%|
About Recruitment: Of the 20 employers surveyed in San Diego County, most indicate it is moderately difficult to find applicants with experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements, while many indicate it is easy to find applicants without previous experience who meet their minimum hiring requirements to fill vacancies for Pharmacy Technicians.
About Hiring: Of the 20 employers surveyed in San Diego County, most expect the number of Pharmacy Technicians they employ to remain stable during the coming year.
|Expect Employment to Increase ||30%|
|Expect Employment to Remain Stable ||70%|
|Expect Employment to Decline ||0%|
About Vacancies: Of the 20 employers surveyed in San Diego County, 55 percent hired Pharmacy Technicians during the past year. Of the hiring firms, 73 percent filled existing vacancies, 55 percent filled newly created positions, and 9 percent filled temporary assignments.
Finding a Job
Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Hospitals frequently advertise openings in newspaper ads and some also recruit through private employment agencies. Job seekers should also apply directly to hospital personnel departments throughout California. Applicants that apply for Veterans Administration Hospital positions, as well as other government job openings, must first pass a Federal or State civil service examination. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.
To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).
Yellow Page Headings
You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Pharmacy Technicians.
- Drug Stores
- Grocery Stores
- Government Offices
- Pharmaceutical Products-Wholesale & Manufacturers
Find Possible Employers
To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:
- Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
- Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
- Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
- Contact the employer for possible employment.
Where Could This Job Lead?
Promotional opportunities for Pharmacy Technicians often require additional education or training and can vary among employers. Possible career paths may include: medical equipment preparers, occupational therapy assistants, dieticians and nutritionists, and dietetic technicians. In addition, some Technicians may decide to go to college to become a pharmacist.
Certified Technicians may earn higher salaries and receive promotions. Shift differentials for working evenings or weekends can also increase earnings. As Pharmacy Technicians work to advance their knowledge, skills, and abilities, they may receive increased recognition, raises in pay, or other forms of advancement. Those who work in hospitals with clinical pharmacy programs may check the work of other Technicians in connection with the filling of orders that have previously been reviewed and approved by a licensed pharmacist.
Below is a list of occupations related to Pharmacy Technicians with links to more information.
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians||Guide|
|Medical Records and Health Information Technicians||Guide|
These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.
For the Career Professional
The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.