Unlike many careers that require a four-year degree, if you want to become a pharmacy technician, there's no shortage of opportunities — and you can do it for a fraction of the cost. In fact, the BLS projects a bright outlook for pharmacy technicians, with 4% job growth between 2019-2029.

The average pharmacy technician salary in the United States is about $36,500, but your pay can vary greatly based on where you're employed. As an important part of health care support, pharmacy techs work in a variety of places, including:

Working under the supervision of a pharmacist, pharmacy technicians perform many administrative tasks and interact with customers, answering questions and filling prescriptions.

How Much Do Pharmacy Techs Make in the United States?

The pharmacy tech salary range in the United States is wide, with the lowest 10% earning about $25,000, while the highest 10% can earn $50,000 or more.

Because of the minimal education requirements, becoming a pharmacy tech is an attractive career opportunity for people who want to start in an important and fast-growing field or change careers later in life.

Many people are attracted to the profession because it doesn't require a college degree at the entry level, although candidates must complete training and become certified by a national board.

Salary Changes Throughout the Career Path

For a job that requires no special schooling at its entry-level, a pharmacy technician can quickly climb the career ladder. Of course, salaries can vary widely by state and region, but average wages are listed here:

On the first step of the pharmacy career ladder, you'll be an entry-level pharmacy tech. You can complete your internship while pursuing certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

Education requirements include a high school diploma or GED and passing an exam.

You could make about $30,000 on average, according to PayScale. Entry-level pharmacy techs:

  • Verify patients' identities
  • Fill prescriptions
  • Handle billing
  • Interact with customers

You'll also consult with patients about their medicines and answer any questions they may have.

Under a pharmacists' supervision, the certified pharmacy tech can prepare medications and manage pharmacy, clinical, and business operations. At this stage in your career, you'll have a National Healthcareer Association (NHA) certification and at least one year of work experience in the field.

You must recertify every two years by completing 20 hours of continuing education courses. According to the BLS, pharmacy technician pay was a median of $35,100 in 2020.

At the top of the ladder is the pharmacist. The pharmacist is a highly-skilled professional with extensive knowledge of drug dosages, drug interactions, allergens, and various regulations. The pharmacist can also recommend non-prescription (over-the-counter) medications and discuss healthy lifestyle habits for customers. In addition, the pharmacist can provide flu injections as well as vaccinations.

Nationally, a pharmacist can make an average of $125,460 per year, while the top 25% earned close to $147,690 annually, according to the BLS.

Pharmacists must take at least two years of related undergraduate college study followed by four years of professional pharmacy study to earn a "Pharm D." or Doctor of Pharmacy degree. Finally, they must pass a pharmacy licensure exam in their state.

Other Job Opportunities for Pharmacy Techs

Pharmacy techs do not have to work behind a pharmacy counter for their entire careers. There are many areas where they can use their special knowledge and skillsets to expand their employment options.

Career What you'll do:
Pharmacy Technician Instructor
  • Teach candidates the skills they will need to work in the field
  • Work at vocational programs, companies, or colleges
  • Help prepare candidates for certification
  • Be a good communicator with teaching abilities
  • Maintain certifications
Medical Assistant
  • Sometimes be a jack of all trades in a doctor's office.
  • Perform both administrative and clinical tasks
  • Maintain patient records, records pre-exam vital signs
  • Assists the doctor with the exam
Registered Nurse
  • Collaborate with doctors or other specialists on patient care
  • Administer medications
  • Monitor and document patient progress
  • Educate patients and families on proper care
Pharmaceutical Representative
  • Work for a pharmaceutical company
  • Know the specifics of a medication
  • Communicate that knowledge to doctors, nurses, and staff
Pharmacist
  • Work to ensure safe pharmacological practices
  • Contribute to researching and testing new drugs

Pay Difference By Location

How much can a pharmacy technician expect to make? Depending on the state and the work location (hospital, pharmacy, supermarket, etc.), pharmacy tech pay varies widely. Here's a breakdown of salary ranges by state.

State

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career Opportunities and Job Growth

The BLS projects demand for skilled pharmacy technicians will grow 4% (comparable to other occupations) through 2029. The aging baby boomer population (which typically uses more prescription medicines) means pharmacy technicians should have little trouble finding employment.

The top three states with the highest employment potential for pharmacy technicians are:

Other Benefits of Becoming a Pharmacy Tech

Benefits for pharmacy technicians vary depending on where they're employed, of course, but for the most part, you can expect a "standard" benefits package. Hospitals, drug store chains, large department stores, and supermarkets, for example, typically offer:

How Much Does it Cost to Become a Pharmacy Tech?

Other healthcare careers can require years of schooling to become certified, but becoming a pharmacy technician is something you can do in less than a year. At its base level, all it takes is a high school diploma or GED and the ability to pass an exam. The cost to apply for Certified Pharmacy Technician Certification and take the exam is $129. You must get recertified every two years.

Many large chains, such as CVS, Kroger, and Rite Aid, have their own pharmacy tech training programs you can complete as part of your job requirements. But, beyond that, advancing in the field requires more education and training, beginning with college. Many schools offer two- and four-year undergraduate programs in pharmacy studies. After that, a four-year graduate program will lead to a coveted doctor of pharmacy degree.

While costs vary greatly by region and school, there are federal aid options available to help you break into the career, which can be found here.

Salaries for Related Jobs

As noted above, there are a number of other careers that pharmacy techs may choose to transition to over time. They all require knowledge and skills similar to a certified pharmacy technician.

Pharmacy technician instructor

  • Average salary: $42,981
  • Cost to become: Most pharmacy technician certification programs cost anywhere from $500 to $5,000. Two-year recertification carries additional costs.

Medical assistant

  • Average Salary: $36,930
  • Cost to become: About one year to complete, tuition costs can be between $5,000 and $15,000, depending on the school.

Registered Nurse

  • Average Salary: $80,010
  • Cost to become: Requires a 2- to 3-year associate's degree, with costs averaging $31,000

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Timothy Goral
Contributing Writer

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