How to become a pharmacy technician
Here's our guide on how to become a pharmacy technician, covering details of the role, the average salary, and the steps you need to take to become qualified.
Do you want to pursue a career in healthcare? If you want to work closely with patients and help make a difference, then becoming a pharmacy technician may be worth considering. A pharmacy technician’s role is incredibly varied, ranging from processing patient prescriptions to assisting with vaccinations.
In this guide, we will discuss how to become a pharmacy technician, covering everything you need to know about what a pharmacy technician is, what they do, information about pharmacy technician jobs, and so much more.
If you enjoy helping people, supporting colleagues, and having a positive impact on people’s lives, then read on to learn more about how to become a pharmacy technician.
What is a pharmacy technician?
Working under the supervision of a pharmacist, a pharmacy technician dispenses medication, provides medical information, and supports customers with any queries.
If you’ve ever been to a local pharmacy, then the chances are that you’ve been served by a pharmacy technician. Pharmacy technicians may also work in a GP practice, retail centre, hospital, prison, or care home.
Basically, a pharmacy technician supports both the pharmacist and the customer, acting as the bridge between the two. By becoming a pharmacy technician, you will be responsible for assisting with the smooth running of the pharmacy and ensuring patients get their medication.
What does a pharmacy technician do?
The role of a pharmacy technician is more varied than you think. There’s a lot more to it than just prescription requests, and you can make a genuine difference in the way a pharmacy operates. Some of the main job responsibilities include:
- Effective medication management
- Accurately counting and measuring medication
- Mixing medication compounds
- Packaging and labelling prescriptions
- Recording and updating patient medical information
- Collecting payments
- Dealing with repeat prescriptions
- Assisting with vaccinations
- Maintaining a high level of customer service and answering phone calls
- Advising patients where appropriate
- Organising inventory.
As a pharmacy technician, not only will you be passionate about helping people, but you’ll also need to be a people person who enjoys interacting with patients. While you’ll be required to learn the technical knowledge and know-how, you’ll also be fulfilling a customer service role.
What is the salary for a pharmacy technician?
In terms of pay, a recently qualified pharmacy technician falls under band four of the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale. At the time of writing, this is £23,949 for less than three years of experience and £26,282 for over three years.
As part of your pay package, you’ll be rewarded with a generous pension scheme and health service discounts, including 27 days of annual leave and bank holidays.
How long does it take to become a pharmacy technician?
In the UK, in order to become a pharmacy technician, you’ll need to complete a two-year accredited pharmacy technician course that involves both work experience and study.
More often than not you’ll be employed as a pre-registration trainee pharmacy technician by a pharmacy and study for a level three apprenticeship.
Once you have completed your course, you can then register with the General Pharmaceutical Council and practise as a qualified pharmacy technician. So, altogether, you can expect your journey to becoming a pharmacy technician to take between two to three years.
How to become a pharmacy technician: Five steps
If you want to learn how to become a pharmacy technician, then there are some steps that you will need to take. In this section, we have listed these steps as simply as possible, so you can clearly visualise what’s expected of you.
Step one: Become a trainee pharmacy technician
The first step in how to become a pharmacy technician involves professional training. To do this, you will need to find employment as a pre-registration trainee or student pharmacy technician.
As we have already mentioned, you’ll need to undertake two years of training, which will involve a blend of both work experience and study.
This entails attending courses either remotely or in class, while also completing work-based experience for more than 14 hours a week for the duration of that two-year period.
Throughout your work experience, you will either be supervised by a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician. This will give you a great insight into day-to-day operations and what will be expected of you once you’re fully qualified.
Step two: Enrol in an approved pharmaceutical technician course
You’ll need to enrol yourself on an approved course, so you can find a list of pharmacy technician courses here. The course will either be done online or in person, which will cover a whole variety of topics that will best prepare you for a career as a pharmacy technician.
To successfully enrol, you’ll typically need four GCSEs or equivalent at A*-C/9-4 including mathematics, English language, science and one other subject to undertake the level 3 Pharmacy Technician (Integrated) apprenticeship.
Valuable skills you should possess include:
- Excellent communication skills
- Respect for confidentiality and privacy
- A team player that’s able to collaborate
- Able to deal with patients and the public
- Responsibility, with good attention to detail
- A passion for helping patients and improving people’s health.
Step three: Gain experience
Experience is an essential part of becoming a pharmacy technician, and there’s no better way of doing this than getting hands-on in a pharmacy environment.
As part of your course, you will be required to fulfil a certain amount of work experience hours a week, but you may also want to consider taking on an additional role within a pharmacy to increase the amount of practical experience you have.
Step four: Register with the General Pharmaceutical Council
There will come a point in your studies when you need to start thinking about registering with the General Pharmaceutical Council in order to secure a job as a pharmacy technician.
You’ll need to meet the minimum requirements for registration, which can be found online. Once accepted, it’s worth considering the career pathways available to you so you have an idea of what direction you want to take before you start applying for jobs.
Step five: Apply to suitable positions
Once you’ve completed your course, gained the relevant experience, fully registered, and created an amazing CV, the final step of the process is to start applying for jobs.
As pharmacy technician roles are so varied, make sure you tailor your CV to the specific job, as every vacancy may be slightly different in terms of job requirements and expectations.
Pharmacy technician jobs
When learning how to become a pharmacy technician, it’s important to consider what your career prospects may be at the end of the process. Fortunately, as a pharmacy technician, your line of work is always going to be in high demand, so you’re unlikely to ever have to worry about job security.
As populations continue to grow and people generally tend to live longer, the demand for prescription medicines will keep steadily increasing, which means pharmacy technician jobs will be imperative.
If you’re good at your job as a pharmacy technician, then there is also the chance to progress. Once you’ve gained enough experience, you could become a senior pharmacy technician and lead a team, helping to develop your management and leadership skills.
There is also the opportunity to specialise in certain areas of healthcare you may be particularly passionate about, such as oncology.
- The General Pharmaceutical Council website can provide more detail about how to register
- The criteria to register as a pharmacy technician can be found at the bottom of this page
- For the latest pharmacy technician roles, check out the NHS live vacancies portal.
Pharmacy technician online courses
Now you know how to become a pharmacy technician, you may want to find out about further learning opportunities in the form of online courses. Additional course training will help your learning and ensure you progress at a quicker rate.
At FutureLearn, we offer a variety of excellent pharmacy technician courses, so you can immediately start to learn the basics before developing into an expert in the field.
Throughout this guide, we have included some of the courses available to you within the text, but you can also find them listed below.
- Become a Pharmacy Preceptor, by Taipei Medical University
- Essentials of Good Pharmacy Practice: The Basics, by Taipei Medical University
- Good Pharmacy Practice: Medication Management, by Taipei Medical University
- Good Pharmacy Practice: Introduction to Medication Delivery Systems, by Taipei Medical University
- Good Pharmacy Practice: Introduction to Clinical Pharmacy Services, by Taipei Medical University
- Discovering Science: Medicinal Chemistry, by The University of Leeds
- Pharmacotherapy: Understanding Biotechnology Products, by Taipei Medical University.