Pharmacy technician salary & career outlook

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of pharmacists to provide customer service, prepare prescription medicine and perform administrative tasks in the pharmacy. Because they are responsible for counting tablets and labeling bottles, candidates with a detail-oriented personality and strong organizational skills have good chances for success. It's a growing job with a good outlook, and it's one that doesn't require a significant investment of time or money in higher education. Many pharmacy technicians have just a high-school diploma and on the job training, though postsecondary certificates are available as well, and training can potentially improve job prospects.

In addition, it's possible to find flexible training online. Logging on to complete your coursework gives you the power to travel, keep family commitments, and even maintain a part-time or full-time job while you study to become a pharmacy technician. Training programs for pharmacy technicians can range from six months to two years. Coursework typically includes pharmaceutical calculations, terminology, techniques, pharmacy law, record keeping and ethics.

Pharmacy technician salary expectations

Pharmacy technician salaries vary from position to position. Technicians with especially comprehensive training or greater experience tend to earn higher wages overall, but other factors can also come into play when determining individual salaries.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the mean annual pharmacy technician salary in the U.S. was $30,840 in May 2013, but individuals in a few specific industries earned a significantly higher yearly average wage:

  • Federal executive branch: $40,890
  • Outpatient care centers: $39,050
  • Offices of physicians: $37,780
  • Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: $37,420
  • Specialty hospitals, except psychiatric and substance abuse: $37,250

California dominates the list of cities where pharmacy technicians earn the highest wages, particularly around the San Francisco Bay Area. The three highest-paying metropolitan job markets for pharmacy technicians in 2013 included Oakland-Fremont-Hayward ($49,950), Napa ($46,400) and San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City ($45,790).

Despite the relatively high salaries available in these metro areas, the cost of living in the region is famously high. In fact, 2014 data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC) lists California as the sixth most expensive state in the U.S., and San Francisco is among the most expensive cities in the country. Here are some 2013 BLS mean annual salary figures for pharmacy technicians in the MERIC study's five most affordable states, where every dollar can stretch farther:

  • Mississippi: $27,340; ranked 1st in affordability
  • Tennessee: $29,360; ranked 2nd in affordability
  • Kentucky: $26,950; ranked 3rd in affordability
  • Oklahoma: $27,410; ranked 4th in affordability
  • Indiana: $28,260; ranked 5th in affordability

The region around Memphis, Tenn., was the highest-paying metro area among these five states, offering pharmacy techs a mean annual salary of $32,390. The state of Wyoming also stands out, with an affordability ranking of 14 and statewide average pharmacy technician salary of $34,180 in 2013.

Pharmacy technician career outlook

An employment boom is expected for pharmacy technicians in the U.S., thanks in part to insurers shifting the role of the pharmacist to deal more with patient care and granting technicians an expanded role. The BLS reports that 70,700 new pharmacy technician jobs are expected to enter the workforce between 2012 and 2022, working out to a faster-than-average growth rate of 20 percent. The individual states with the fastest projected growth for pharmacy techs between 2010 and 2020, according to Projections Central, include:

  • Idaho: 31.5%
  • Utah: 30.2%
  • Colorado: 30.0%
  • Tennessee: 26.3%
  • Georgia: 24.9%

More than 70 percent of pharmacy technicians employed in 2013 worked in drugstores, pharmacies, grocery stores and general merchandise stores, according to the BLS, so a majority of the new jobs in the field can be expected to emerge in similar retail environments. Around 17 percent of pharmacy technicians worked in state, local and private hospitals, and a small percentage were employed in the ambulatory health care field.

Sources:

Cost of Living Data Series: First Quarter 2014, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Missouri Department of Economic Development, http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm

Long Term Occupational Projections for Pharmacy Technicians, Projections Central,
http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm

Occupational Employment and Wages: Pharmacy Technicians, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013,
http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292052.htm

Pharmacy Technicians, "Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Healthcare/Pharmacy-technicians.htm