Pharmacy technician

Pharmacy technicians are senior members of the pharmacy team who manage and prepare the supply of medicines and give advice to patients and customers. 

In community pharmacy, pharmacy technicians may also be involved in delivering some public health services such as advice on stopping smoking.

Female pharmacy technician and two colleagues

Working life

You'll carry out some of the same tasks as a pharmacist, working directly with patients and other healthcare professional as well as managing the supply of medicines in a community pharmacy.

In a hospital, you could manage the pharmacy department, be involved in taking medicine histories from patients and reviewing medicines, counselling, and giving advice on different treatment options. You'll provide a link between wards, patients and the pharmacy.

In community pharmacy, you may give advice to patients on stopping smoking, and provide expertise on different treatment options for patients in a specialist area, such as mental health or general practice. 

The work of a pharmacy technician includes: 

Entry requirements

To practise as a pharmacy technician, you have to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). To register, you need to study for an accredited qualification such as:

To apply for a course, you need to be working in a pharmacy. Employers, including the NHS, offer jobs for trainee pharmacy technicians (or dispensing assistants). 

Employers usually ask for at least 4 GCSEs (9-4/A*-C), including English, maths and two science or equivalent qualifications. It will help your application if you can show that you have an understanding of pharmacy and how it benefits patients. It is a good idea to spend some time with a registered pharmacist to see what the work is like.

Skills and personal characteristics

Pharmacy technicians need to be confident to work with all sorts of people, have good communication skills (including listening and the ability to explain clearly) and be organised. You need to be:

You also need good customer relation and organisational skills, science skills and good manual (hand) skills. 

Training and development

Training to become a pharmacy technician usually takes two years. It combines practical work experience with study, either at college or by distance learning. Courses cover:

Level 3 apprenticeships for pharmacy technicians are available with some employers. Registered pharmacy technicians have to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with annual continuing professional development (CPD). 

Career development 

Once qualified, many pharmacy technicians join the Association of Pharmacy Technicians (APTUK). The APTUK runs courses, conferences and seminars where pharmacy technicians can exchange ideas and update their skills. Experienced pharmacy technicians can go on to study to become a pharmacist. 

You could also specialise in a particular area of practice such as mental health, oncology (cancer treatment) or paediatrics. Or you could specialise in areas such as medicines management, manufacturing, quality control, education and training, information technology, supplies procurement, clinical trials or medicine information services.

Many pharmacy technicians are extending their roles to work with pharmacists (and other healthcare staff) in helping patients to manage their medicines. These specialist roles involve checking and recording the medication that patients should be taking, ensuring sufficient supplies, and counselling patients to understand how to use their medicines safely on the hospital wards, and when they return home. They can also take additional training and assessment to allow them to perform the final accuracy check of prescriptions before being issued to the patient. In hospital and industry pharmacy technicians manage the technical aspects of dispensing services and manufacturing medicines.

You could become a senior pharmacy technician, responsible for the work of other technicians. A chief pharmacy technician is responsible for the day-to-day management of a pharmacy department.

Pay and benefits

In the NHS, you'll work a standard hours of around 37.5 a week which may include shifts. Newly qualified pharmacy technicians will usually start in the NHS at band 4 of the Agenda for Change (AfC) pay scale. You’ll also have access to our generous pension scheme and health service discounts, as well as at least 27 days of annual leave plus bank holidays.

Terms and conditions can vary for pharmacy technicians outside of the NHS, including those working in high street and retail pharmacies, or for other employers that provide NHS services. 

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