Pharmacy technicians manage the supply of medicines in a community pharmacy and assist pharmacists with advisory services. In hospitals, they do more specialised work such as manufacturing or preparing complex medicines.
Pharmacy technicians are part of the pharmacy team, preparing and dispensing medicines. Pharmacies are where medicines are stored, prepared and dispensed.
Medicines are the most common treatments offered to NHS patients. Pharmacy technicians work as part of a pharmacy team under the direction of a registered pharmacist. The work includes:
- taking in and handing out prescriptions
- dispensing prescriptions
- using computer systems to generate stock lists and labels
- ordering items
- receiving, loading, unloading deliveries
- delivering medicines to other parts of a hospital or health centre
- selling over-the-counter medicines
- answering customers questions face to face or by phone
- pre-packing, assembling and labelling medicines
- preparing medicines
- referring problems or queries to the pharmacist
Pharmacy technicians can also be involved in manufacturing medicines when ready-made preparations are not available. For example, certain cancer treatments and intravenous feeding solutions need to be tailor made under sterile conditions for individual patients.
Where do pharmacy technicians work?
Pharmacy technicians work as part of healthcare teams in hospitals, primary care (including GP surgeries) and community pharmacies. Some work in retail pharmacies in supermarkets or on the high street, in care homes or for other employers that provide NHS services.
They can also be found working in health and justice services, the armed forces and industry.
In community pharmacies they may be called dispensing assistants.
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:
- BTEC National Diploma in pharmaceutical science
- NVQ/SVQ level 3 in pharmacy services
- National Certificate in pharmaceutical science
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). Find courses on our course finder.
Employers usually ask for at least 4 GCSEs (9-4/A*-C), including English, maths and 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:
- accurate and methodical
- able to pay attention to detail
- ready to refer to the pharmacist when necessary
- able to understand law and guidelines on medicines
- able to read and carry out instructions
- interested in people’s health
- willing to work with all types of people
- able to explain clearly to members of the public
- communication skills including listening
- good customer skills
- science skills
- good manual (hand) skills
- IT skills
- organisation 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:
- human physiology
- disease management
- actions and uses of medicine pharmacy manufacturing
- pharmacy law
In order to practise in Great Britain, pharmacy technicians must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and have satisfied the Council that it meets its detailed requirements. Registered pharmacy technicians have to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with annual continuing professional development (CPD). Find out more about CPD
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.
- Pay and conditions Expand / Collapse
Pharmacy technicians working in the NHS will work 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.
Terms and conditions can vary for pharmacists outside of the NHS, including those working in high street and retail pharmacies, or for other employers that provide NHS services.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
With experience, you could 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 helping 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.
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
Recent figures show that pharmacy technician training places are on the increase with 363 commissioned places, an increase of 21% on the previous year.
Large retail pharmacies, including those in supermarkets, usually advertise for trainees on their own websites. From time to time, individual high street pharmacies may also advertise locally for trainees.
If you're applying for a role either directly in the NHS or in an organisation that provides NHS services, you'll be asked to show how you think the NHS values apply in your everyday work.
- Further information Expand / Collapse