Pharmacy Technicians: What You Should Know About Contract Work

Pharmacy technician

Pharmacy technicians are in demand. And the need continues to grow.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 7% increase in jobs through 2028. The market is particularly strong for contract workers during open-enrollment periods.

If you’re completing your certified pharmacy technician (CPhT) certification and looking for your first job, or if you’re already established and looking for a change, now’s the time to take advantage of a hot job market.

We spoke with Aerotek Strategic Delivery Executive Maureen McPherson and Healthcare Recruiter Sarah Cortez to get the inside scoop on the types of opportunities available to pharmacy technicians right now. Here’s how to take advantage of contract work to achieve your career goals.

1. Find the work environment that’s best for you

McPherson and Cortez place pharmacy technicians with retail clients, hospitals, clinics and insurance companies. But, they point out it’s not a one-size-fits-all profession. You may have more options than you think in how and when you work.

“We see a lot of positions on the provider side within hospital and outpatient clinic pharmacies, as well as positions in a retail setting,” says McPherson. “We're also seeing a lot of call center openings, working for insurance companies or specialty companies that are filling and delivering prescriptions.”

While all pharmacy technician positions include a customer service component, retail positions involve the most direct interaction with customers. McPherson is increasingly placing workers in insurance call centers, which offer a more traditional office setting and schedule.

“The call center technicians still get that feeling of helping patients, but they're not behind the counter,” McPherson says. “They're talking to them on the phone and problem-solving. It's a different type of skill set and work environment.”

Call centers typically offer more stable schedules, while inpatient hospital jobs have the highest salaries. In all areas, there are opportunities for advancement to supervisory roles. It comes down to fit — which environment is best for you?

Contract work can help you answer that question, providing you with experience in a variety of scenarios without looking like a job-hopper, says McPherson. “A good recruiter can help you get your foot in the door when you may not be able to on your own.” 

2. Build the skills employers want

Beyond the required CPhT certification, some skills and experience help pharmacy technicians stand out. Proficiency in Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook is a plus, as is an ability to multitask and type while you’re on the phone. Experience with insurance reimbursements is also valuable for call center positions.

Given the unique tasks involved in hospital placements, especially compounding and preparing IV admixtures, technicians with that experience are in high demand.

“The biggest challenge I face with inpatient placements is finding people with compounding experience,” says Cortez. “If a technician comes from a retail background, it can be difficult to transition into an in-patient setting because the skill requirements are usually different.”

If working in a hospital is your goal, Cortez recommends taking the long view.

“A lot of technicians think, ‘Okay, I just got my certification. It's time to get in the hospital.’ But starting in retail or a call center and building your way up is a good plan because hospitals want to see tenure and growth in your career. They view position tenure as a sign you’re in it for the long haul, and sometimes they’re willing to accept the less experienced candidate who demonstrates that commitment.”

3. Work with a recruiter to develop a plan

What happens when you contact an Aerotek recruiter?

“We start the process with a phone interview,” says Cortez. “We ask candidates what their goals and interests are. We want to get the right job for them and the right person for our clients.”

If a candidate tells Cortez they want to be a pharmacy technician, she’ll ask for more specifics, like what compensation they’re looking for and how far they’re willing to travel. Then she’ll ask about their five-year plan.

“If they're not looking to stay in the pharm tech role for five years, I’ll look for a short-term contract,” Cortez says. “I’ve also had pharmacy technicians who are planning to be pharmacists, which are positions we also place.”

An in-person interview follows, where the recruiter will provide a preview of what the employer interview will be like. When you land a job interview, your recruiter provides in-depth preparation.

“We give candidates insights into the client and share what the interview process is going to be like,” says McPherson. “We’ll even guide them on what to wear and tell them what’s helped other people get the job in the past.”

When you’re placed in a position, your recruiter should help with the onboarding process. At Aerotek, recruiters check in on the first day and throughout the contract to make sure things are working for you and your employer. With the average contract lasting six months, your recruiter should reach out to you 90 days before your assignment ends to begin to find your next opportunity.

“We don’t want you to have any gap between jobs,” says McPherson. “At the same time, a lot of our placements are contract-to-hire. If someone's doing a great job, organizations will try to find permanent positions for them to fill.”

4. Be open to all job opportunities

Given their extensive experience placing pharmacy technicians at all career stages, what advice would McPherson and Cortez share?

“I would say be open to different opportunities,” says McPherson. “There are jobs available that might be a little bit different than what people went to school thinking they’d do. They may find a career that better aligns with their long-term goals and lifestyle.”

“I agree — be open to all possibilities,” Cortez says. “Take advantage of any opportunity you have to gain experience and get closer to where you want to be.”