A Pharmacy Technician’s Guide to the Different Types of Pharmacies

A pharmacy is one of the most vital elements in the healthcare system. Most customers may not spare a thought; however, pharmacy technicians who are looking out to build their careers should know the various types of pharmacies that they can work in. While essentially, the function of all of them is to dispense medicines, there are certain important differences that they need to be aware of:

Retail Pharmacy

The retail environment can range from a grocery store to traditional drugstores or even large departmental stores like Walmart. Pharmacy technicians desiring to work in the retail environment should be prepared to work both in the evenings till the store closes and also on public holidays. Generally, to have a successful career, you will need to enjoy dealing and interacting with customers, fulfilling their need as well as addressing their concerns. In addition to filling prescriptions, retail pharmacy technicians will also be involved in dispensing over-the-counter medications, supplements, and vitamins as well as answering customer questions.

Hospital Pharmacy

Hospital pharmacies are situated within the hospital and cater to both inpatients and outpatients. While the outpatient services are similar to retail pharmacies, inpatient services require coordination with doctors, nurses, and the hospital administrative staff. Technicians need to have excellent communication skills as they are required to explain to the patients the reason for their medications, the dosages levels, and frequency of taking the medicine clearly. Apart from preparing and dispensing medications, technicians are also involved in various administrative tasks such as keeping inventory, maintaining records of customers, and handling billing, scheduling appointments and updating patient records.

Clinic Pharmacy

A clinic pharmacy is quite similar to working in a hospital pharmacy only the scale of operations is smaller. Apart from the basic duty of filling prescriptions, technicians are expected to work very closely with doctors, medical assistant, and nurse on a variety of issues, including administration. Many technicians, who want to specialize in a specific patient type or medical environment, take up employment in a clinic pharmacy. By focusing in a specific area of health care, they become experts in that domain and can rise faster in their careers.

Mail Order / Online Pharmacy

A lot of customers who find it difficult to physically access pharmacies have taken to ordering their medicines via mail order or online. The systems are more automated in this environment and the opportunity of interacting with patients is limited to only phone-ins. These pharmacies are usually located in distant warehouses and the job profile is restricted to preparing the orders for shipment. The work shifts are regular and there are generally no surprise demands that will require staying back.


The job profile of a pharmacy technician is fairly demanding as they not only have to interact with patients but also doctors and other caregivers. The job requires a great deal of meticulousness and attention to detail because a mistake in filling a prescription can have very severe outcomes. Depending on your expectations, you can generally choose a work environment that is suited to your temperament.