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Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians often work side by side, performing similar duties such as filling prescriptions, conversing with patients, doctors, and insurance companies, and keeping pharmacies clean, safe, and up to standards.
Despite these similarities, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have different educational backgrounds, job responsibilities, and salaries.
Pharmacy technicians mainly assist with clerical work within a pharmacy or hospital. Pharmacists are chiefly responsible for ensuring that patients’ medications are filled properly and safely.
“Successful pharmacy technicians are detail-oriented team players, and they have impeccable communication skills,” says Rhea Elizabeth Angeles, PharmD, an executive fellow with the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and a former PTCB-certified pharmacy technician (CPhT). “Pharmacy technicians are the backbone of every pharmacy and play a critical role in maintaining a smooth workflow.” Pharmacists, on the other hand, “must be confident, effective leaders with strong moral character, and have the ability to interpret complex information,” Angeles says. “Pharmacists are responsible for utilizing their vast clinical knowledge to ensure the safe and effective use of medications.”
Roles and Responsibilities
Both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians speak directly with patients, doctors, and insurance companies. But a pharmacist is a supervisor and manager who oversees the work of pharmacy technicians. Here’s a closer look at the roles and responsibilities for each profession.
Pharmacy technicians work alongside pharmacists at chain and independent pharmacies, as well as in the pharmacy department at retail stores, grocery stores, and hospitals.
Pharmacists can be found most commonly in retail pharmacies and hospitals. Some pharmacists go on to work in clinical research and development settings or become pharmacy scholars or university professors.
Legally, pharmacy technicians can fill patient prescriptions, so long as they are reviewed by a pharmacist before they are given out. Pharmacy technicians are not permitted to recommend medications to patients, including over-the-counter medications and supplements.
Legally, pharmacy technicians can fill patient prescriptions, so long as they are reviewed by a pharmacist before they are given out.
While there is a slight overlap in the subjects they study, pharmacy technicians and pharmacists have different education backgrounds and requirements.
Pharmacy technician programs are typically one to two years and cover core courses in:
Pharmacists attend six to eight years of school with a foundation in chemistry, biology, and math, and advanced courses in subjects such as:
How to Get There
Licensing and Certification
Licensing and certification vary by state for pharmacy technicians, but all states require pharmacists to take a national licensing exam and an exam on state law to practice.
Becoming a pharmacy technician is a great steppingstone to becoming a pharmacist. Many pharmacy technicians make the decision to pursue a PharmD degree after their experiences working in a pharmacy. Entering pharmacy school with hands-on work experience can put you at an advantage over your classmates.
Salary and Job Outlook
Given the years of education required to be a pharmacist, plus the responsibilities of the job, it’s no surprise that pharmacists earn significantly more than pharmacy technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salaries for pharmacy tech and pharmacist jobs are:
The job outlook for these professions tells a slightly different story. While pharmacy technician jobs are expected to grow by 4% through 2030, roles for pharmacists are expected to decline by 2%.
Pharmacy jobs are on the decline, especially in drug and other retail stories, because more people are getting their prescriptions online, according to the BLS. Another factor is that technicians are doing more of the tasks previously done by pharmacists, such as preparing some types of medications.
While pharmacy technician jobs are expected to grow by 4% through 2030, roles for pharmacists are expected to decline by 2%.
One positive spot for pharmacists will be healthcare settings such as hospitals and clinics, where more pharmacists are expected to be needed to oversee medications for patients.
Pharmacy technician roles are growing in line with the average for all jobs. This is due in part to the growth of the nation’s aging population and a rising need for prescription medication. Technicians can expect to take on a greater volume of this work.
Which Career is Right for You?
Pharmacy technician roles are great for those who would like a fulfilling career in health but don’t necessarily want to pursue a four-year degree.
However, if you want a managerial role, a higher starting salary after finishing school, or to conduct clinical research, you may be more suited for a career as a pharmacist.
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