What many pharmacy technician students do not realize is that there are other professions in this field to pursue in addition to the traditional job and employment roles. For one thing you could choose to be a military pharmacy technician, a role that comes with a great deal of responsibility, but that also has its place in the world. This is a career in the pharmacy industry that should not be overlooked.
What Is A Military Pharmacy Technician?
The two main roles of a pharmacy technician are the following:
- Prepare and dispense prescribed drugs and medicines under the supervision of pharmacists or physicians
- Maintain pharmacy supplies and records
Because military personnel need medications as often, if not, more often, than the general public, pharmacists are needed who are able to dispense these medications. In addition these pharmacists require assistants or technicians to help them in this job in order to improve efficiency. These assistants are usually called pharmacy technicians and they are employed to increase efficiency, which is needed in all pharmaceutical settings. However, in the military, speed and efficiency can be the difference between life and death.
Army Pharmacy Specialists
There are different areas of the military in which you can work as a pharmacy technician. In order to be a pharmacy technician in the army you will need to have an 86Q military occupational specialty (MOS) qualification. To become a pharmacy technician in the army you must complete:
- 9 weeks of basic combat training
- 19 weeks of advanced individual training (AIT)
The advanced individual training required to become a pharmacy technician will include the following very important topics:
- How to mix drugs
- How to dispense drugs
- Different types of drugs
- Different uses for different types of drugs
Your main function will be to keep the army pharmacy running efficiently.
Air Force Pharmacy Specialists
In order to become a pharmacy technician in the air force you must:
- Graduate from the basic course, and
- Receive the 4P031 Air Force Specialty Code (AFSC)
You can do your training occurs at the Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the only location for this qualification. It will take you in the region of 63 days of training in order to achieve this qualification.
Generally speaking the training regime will be similar to the training you must undergo to become a pharmacy technician in the army. The topics covered in training will be the same as in army pharmacy technician training. Pharmacy technicians in the air force are often referred to as pharmacy apprentices rather than as pharmacy technicians.
Navy Pharmacy Specialists
The qualification that you need to be a pharmacy technician in the navy is the 8482 Navy Enlisted Classification (NEC) code. This requires completing advanced training. If you are in the navy and are listed as being in pay grades E1 to E5 you will be eligible to complete the training required to become a Navy hospital corpsmen (medic) and then go on to receive the pharmacy technician qualification that is required. In the course you will learn:
- Drug preparation
- Drug dispensing
- Basic pharmacy administration
To become qualified as a pharmacy technician in the navy you will need to attend the Naval School of Health Sciences in Portsmouth, Virginia, for a period of about 23 weeks to complete the program.
Military pharmacy technicians are required to read physicians’ prescriptions to determine the types and amount of drugs to prepare for a particular patient as well as weighing and measuring those drugs and chemicals in order to ensure that the correct quantity is administered. Technicians are also required to produce the specified prescription by mixing the necessary ingredients and prepare labels for prescriptions that contain patient information and directions for use. Last but not least the military pharmacy technician must dispense medications to patients and store shipments of drugs and medications for use in the field. Consequently the job roles are very similar to those of a civilian pharmacy technician. The main difference is occasional increased pressure in a battle situation.
There are a number of natural personality traits and skills that you will find very useful in order to be a military pharmacy technician. Firstly you need to have a high degree of self-discipline. This is useful in:
- The military in general
- In any medical profession
As a military pharmacy technician you will need to be able to follow directions precisely and without deviating from the prescriptions. In addition you will need to be very precise in order to accurately measure and mix the ingredients required to produce a prescription. Precision is a skill that is highly value din the armed forces as well, so if you are particularly concerned about precision you will make a good military pharmacy technician on two counts.
You will need to have military training in order to be a military pharmacy technician. Basic military skills are required for anyone who works in a military situation as you can never be sure when an emergency will strike. In addition to this you will be required to undergo classroom training in order to learn the following:
- Pharmacy laws and regulations
- Drug types and uses
- Mixing and dispensing drugs
There are a number of programs offered for the various areas of the military and they are aimed at ensuring that you are able to perform these duties in the work environments that you will most likely encounter in your career as a military pharmacy technician.
In order to become a pharmacy technician in the military there are generally a number of basic requirements that all applicants have to meet:
- You must possess a high school diploma
- You must attain certain minimum aptitude scores before the training will be approved
- An aptitude in math and algebra is required in the Air Force and highly recommended in the army and navy
Because there are fairly strict rules for entering the military services you will need to be aware of all of the requirements for enlisting as a soldier. These requirements will have to be met first before you can consider becoming a military pharmacy technician in any area of the armed forces.
Once you leave the military you will have many career prospects in civilian society as a pharmacy technician. Although additional education is generally required, the military will assist you in receiving the credentialing necessary in order to have a career as a pharmacy technician once you no longer want to work for the military. In addition there are opportunities for advancement within the military for those who want to make it their life long career. You could, for example, become a fully fledged military pharmacist. This tends to come at an increase in pay of about $33,000 to $40,000 yearly.
There are a number of places in which a military pharmacy technician can be employed, including but not limited to the following:
- In hospitals on land or aboard ships
- In clinics on land or aboard ships
- In field hospitals
Generally speaking the hours and environment will be very similar to those that a civilian pharmacy technician will have to endure on a daily basis. Overall there will not be many major differences in the work environment itself other than the fact that you will most likely be employed in a situation where you will move around frequently or where you will be required to be stationed outside the country in a field hospital.
Civilian pharmacy technicians work in the following locations, generally speaking:
- Drug stores
As compared to military pharmacy technicians, civilian pharmacy technicians have less power in that the generally have to work under the direction of pharmacists (whereas military pharmacy technicians are often given free rein) and they generally do not have responsibility for the compounding and dispensing of drugs.
The main differences between civilian and military pharmacy technicians are as follows:
- Civilian pharmacy technicians perform far simpler tasks and have far fewer responsibilities.
- HOWEVER military pharmacy technicians have a lower level of education and are required to undergo additional training in order to become civilian pharmacy technicians if they leave the military.
There are many considerations to keep in mind when considering a career as a military pharmacy technician. This is certainly not a job that will suit everyone and there are some crucial differences to being a military pharmacy technician as opposed to being a pharmacy technician in other occupations. However you will have the opportunity to come home to a job if you ever choose to leave the military as this will make you eligible for employment as a civilian pharmacy technician after additional education is completed if you do decide to leave. This gives you an employment opportunity you may not otherwise have had.