Pharmacy technician

What they do

Dispensary technicians assist pharmacists to prepare and dispense medicines. They receive customers' prescriptions, and prepare and mix the medicines under the supervision of a pharmacist. Dispensary technicians may also package medicines prepared by a pharmacist and apply warning labels and instructions. Those working in retail pharmacies will operate cash registers and may also be involved in selling a range of cosmetics, over-the-counter medicines and other goods. In some cases, these workers may also offer advice to customers about possible treatments for certain health-related conditions. Dispensary technicians working in a hospital are often responsible for delivering medicines to the wards.

Working conditions

Dispensary technicians generally work in retail pharmacy stores or in hospital pharmacy departments. These environments are generally kept very clean and are well lit and ventilated. Dispensary technicians have a high-level of contact with the public and follow strict regulations when providing advice to customers and selling certain types of medicines. Hours of work can vary, depending on the specific workplace. Many dispensary technicians work regular retail hours, which can include working on weekends and some public holidays. However, some retail pharmacies and many hospital pharmacies operate 24 hours a day, requiring dispensary technicians to work in shifts, which may include working nights and on weekends.

Tools and technologies

Dispensary technicians use sensitive scales to weigh precise amounts of medicines and medical ingredients. When preparing medicines they may be required to wear protective clothing, such as gloves, masks and smocks, to avoid contaminating medicines. They will also need to be familiar with standard retail equipment, including cash registers, EFTPOS and credit card machines, barcode readers and pricing label guns.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a pharmacy technician, you usually need to gain a qualification in community pharmacy, community pharmacy dispensary or hospital/heath services pharmacy support.

The Certificate III in Community Pharmacy, the Certificate IV in Community Pharmacy and the Certificate IV in Community Pharmacy Dispensary available at registered training organisations throughout Western Australia. The Certificate IV in Hospital/Health Services Pharmacy Support is offered at TAFE colleges in Western Australia. Browse courses through Jobs and Skills WA and My Skills to find a registered provider near you.

You can undertake a traineeship. The community pharmacy (level 3) and (level 4) traineeships usually take 24 months to complete.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer, enabling you to complete training towards a nationally recognised qualification. You spend  time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider.

You can do an apprenticeship or traineeship if you are a school-leaver, re-entering the workforce or as an adult or mature-aged person wishing to change careers. You can even begin your apprenticeship or traineeship while you're still at school.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.