From Pharmacy Technician to Pharmacist: Take the Dream Job You’ve Always Wanted!

Pharmacy technicians and pharmacists appear to have very similar jobs at first glance. But the truth is, each role entails a unique set of requirements and responsibilities.

Many pharmacy technicians dream of progressing to a career as a pharmacist. This is an achievable goal for pharmacy techs. Especially those who are willing to go through years of studies and training.

In this article, we discuss the differences between a pharmacy technician and a pharmacist. We will also unpack the steps pharmacy technicians can take to become a pharmacist.

Difference Between Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacist

A pharmacy technician is a healthcare professional who works under the direction of a pharmacist. Their duties include dispensing medication to patients as per the pharmacist’s orders. They also package and label medication and track inventory.

A pharmacist is a healthcare professional who has a license to practice pharmacy. This includes the preparation, dispensing, and appropriate use of medication. A clinical pharmacist also provides patient care and advice.

In summary, a pharmacy technician supports the work of a pharmacist. And a pharmacist handles the operation of a pharmacy. For more information, see this post.

Pharmacy Technician vs. Pharmacist

Day-to-day roles and responsibilities differ between a pharmacy tech and a pharmacist. The journey taken to achieve either job differs too. Below, we discuss the key differences between a pharmacy tech and a pharmacist:

Level of Education Required

Pharmacy technicians need a high school diploma or any equal education. Pharmacists need a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm.D). They earn this after about five years of coursework, internship, and residency.

Higher Education Requirements

Pharmacy technicians do not need higher education for their role. They can enter a job after school and receive on-the-job training.

However, there are voluntary options available. Some people may want to attend a pharmacy technician school. This is where they can complete a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree program. These school programs equip pharmacy tech students with foundational pharmacy knowledge.

Pharmacists need to complete four years of an undergraduate degree. Thereafter, they need to attend pharmacy school for about four to five years.

Training Requirements

Some states need pharmacy technicians to have a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) Certification. This certification shows that the pharmacy tech has had virtual or hands-on training.

A CPhT certification is achieved by taking the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE). This is done through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

Pharmacists need clinical training experience. This forms part of the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) program. Training includes rotations in different settings. Rotations could be in hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities. This is an opportunity for them to apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

Some pharmacists need to continue clinical training even after they’ve received their license. The field of pharmacy is constantly evolving. This is why it’s important to keep up with changes. Pharmacists must know how to incorporate new knowledge into practice.

Additional Certifications and Fellowships

Many employers want to see additional certifications when employing a pharmacist. These certifications must relate to the specific responsibilities of a pharmacist’s role. Additional certifications include training in sterile compounding, medication therapy management, and more.

Some pharmacy school students also complete a one-to-two-year fellowship after completing their program. This fellowship is designed to further their experience in the industry. It’s also great for those who want to widen their professional network.

Work Environment

A pharmacy technician works in a variety of settings. This can include retail stores, hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

Pharmacists work in the same sort of environments as pharmacy technicians. The sort of setting they work in depends on their specific role.

Retail pharmacists work in a store or a community pharmacy setting, including in places like retail pharmacies. Hospital pharmacists work in inpatient settings., including emergency rooms, oncology centers, and intensive care units. Lastly, clinical pharmacists work in ambulatory care settings, including clinics and long-term care facilities.

Career Opportunities and Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of pharmacy technicians is expected to increase by 5% from 2021 to 2031, which is roughly on par with the average for all occupations. On average, there will be around 43,500 job openings for pharmacy technicians each year throughout the decade.

In contrast, the employment of pharmacists is expected to grow by only 2% from 2021 to 2031, slower than the average for all occupations. However, there will still be an average of 13,600 job openings for pharmacists each year throughout the decade.

How to Progress from Pharmacy Technician To Pharmacist

Many pharmacy technicians go on to become pharmacists. This journey involves years of hard work and training.

Below are practical steps to becoming a pharmacist:

1. Complete Four Years of Undergraduate Work

Aspiring pharmacists need to complete an undergraduate degree. The degree must offer the required courses to become a pharmacist. These include courses like biochemistry, chemistry, physics, molecular biology, and organic chemistry. Pre-pharmacy colleges are also something to consider. These colleges are structured to meet the requirements of pharmacy schools.

2. Gain Experience

Relevant experience in the field of pharmacy is needed. This is gained while completing an undergraduate degree. This can mean continuing to work as a pharmacy tech at a community pharmacy or elsewhere. Or, looking for work experience at pharmaceutical organizations and community events.

3. Attend Pharmacy School

Pharmacy students need to apply to a pharmacy school after they’ve completed their undergraduate degree. To apply, they must write a PCAT (Pharmacy College Admission Test). Previous experience and interview results are all considered part of the application.

Everything a pharmacy technician has learned will pay off in pharmacy school. Hands-on experience with medication and patient care will act as a great foundation.

At pharmacy school, students will take various courses. The courses include mechanisms of action, chemical processes and side effects of drugs, laws related to prescriptions and dispensing medication, and much more. What is taught in these courses is a step above what is taught in pharmacy tech school courses.

4. Complete Clinical Experience

All pharmacy students must complete clinical experience before becoming a pharmacist. Most states require 1,200 to 2,000 hours of clinical experience in the pharmaceutical industry. Unfortunately, previous pharmacy technician experience does not count towards these clinical hours.

5. Board and Law Exams

Pharmacists must pass national and state exams before receiving their license. The standard national exam is The North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX).

State exams vary according to each state’s unique laws that govern pharmacy practices. However, where a specific state exam is not needed, the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Examination, or MPJE, will be required.

6. Get Licensed

Earning the Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D) credential is the final step to becoming a pharmacist. Students get this once they pass their exams. They also need to submit proof of clinical experience and pay a fee before they acquire their license. These requirements may differ from state to state.

Over the next few years, pharmacists may need to complete additional courses and pay fees to maintain their license.

Pharmacy Technician Programs at Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences

Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences offers the Pharmacy Technician Program. The program is available in Arizona, Minnesota, Florida, and Wisconsin.

The application process involves creating an online account for submission. Applicants then need to complete each section of the application. The last step is to upload supplemental documents, including college transcripts and professional references.

Pharmacy Technician Career Advancement

Pharmacy technicians who wish to advance their careers can pursue a CPhT certification. Having this additional knowledge and training can help pharmacy techs get promoted.

Pharmacy techs with a large amount of experience are usually promoted to supervisory positions. These include being a senior or lead pharmacy technician. Specialty positions are given to those with expertise in a specific field. These include being a chemotherapy technician, nuclear pharmacy technician, and ambulatory pharmacy technician.

Others pharmacy technicians may move into the sales department. This is where they help the pharmaceutical company with selling medication.

What States Pay The Most For Pharmacy Technicians?

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top-paying states for pharmacy technicians include California, Washington, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. California is the highest-paid state for pharmacy technicians, with an annual mean wage of $ 49,990.

Certified Pharmacy Technician Salary

The median pay for certified pharmacy technicians is $36,740 per year ($17.66 per hour) as of May 2021. This is according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.


What subjects do I need to become a pharmacist?

Chemistry, human anatomy and physiology, molecular biology, microbiology, statistics, calculus, and English. These are the subjects needed to become a pharmacist.

Is pharmacy a good career path?

Pharmacy is a good career path for those who have an interest in healthcare and science. Becoming a pharmacist requires a significant amount of education and training. The job itself can be demanding, with long hours and a fast-paced environment.

Pharmacists earn an average of $36,740 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This makes pharmacy a profitable career option.

Do I need a license to become a pharmacist?

Yes, you need to have a license to practice as a pharmacist. You need to pass two exams to receive a license. The first exam to pass is The North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX). The second exam to pass is the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exam (MPJE).

Can a pharmacy technician become a pharmacist?

Yes, but you will first need to attend pharmacy school for four to five years. You will also need to complete relevant clinical experience during this time. If you pass your law and board exams, you will earn your license as a registered pharmacist.


Pharmacy technicians differ from pharmacists in a few ways, including levels of education and training, roles, and responsibilities.

There are various opportunities available for pharmacy techs to advance their careers. Pharmacy techs can go to pharmacy school to become a pharmacist. They can also advance to specialist and supervisory pharmacy tech positions.

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