Pharmacy Tech vs Pharmacy Aide: What’s the Difference?

Working as a pharmacy technician or pharmacy aide opens the door to work in the medical field without needing as much schooling as many other positions require. Before you decide to pursue a pharmacy tech or aide position as a career or a starting point, it’s important to know the difference between these positions so you can make the best choice for your future.

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The main similarity between a pharmacy tech and an aide is that they both work in a pharmacy setting. This could mean working in the pharmacy of a medical facility or in a retail pharmacy within a department store, grocery store, corporate pharmacy or other retail setting.

Because of similar working conditions, techs and aides could have similar work schedules, varying by the type of medical facility or retail store where they work. For instance, some may work during the day or evening if a store is closed at night, while others may work nights in pharmacies at 24-hour stores or medical facilities.

Also, both roles work around prescription medications and customers. Both positions are supervised by a licensed pharmacist.

Differences in Job Duties

The day-to-day duties you carry out on the job differ between a pharmacy tech and a pharmacy aide. A pharmacy tech’s duties are more involved with prescription medications, helping customers and interacting with the pharmacist, than a pharmacy aide. The tech position is a more specialized position, yet the two positions do share some similarities regarding their duties.

From day to day, pharmacy technicians can prepare medications, which varies by the state but can include counting, measuring, mixing and other preparations. In addition, the technician makes sure prescriptions are accurate, collects customer information and enters information into a computer. This person packages and labels prescription medications, answers customer phone calls and informs the pharmacist about customer questions, medication shortages and other important information.

On the other hand, a pharmacy aide’s duties are different, with more of a focus on administrative and stocking duties than working with customers or the pharmacist. Also, the aide is not able to prepare or fill medications like a tech can in many cases.

Instead, the pharmacy aide carries out duties such as storing and stocking merchandise, letting the supervisor know about inventory and recording drugs that come in pharmacy deliveries. The aide may also carry out other duties, such as accepting prescriptions from customers and ringing up the customer on a cash register. Also, the aide often works with the technician, assisting with duties such as preparing prescription labels, answering phones and helping customers.

Differences in Credentials and Pay

A high school diploma or GED is generally enough to become a pharmacy aide. In some states, you can become a pharmacy technician with just a high school diploma, while other states require certification. For both positions, getting a certificate may help you stand out from other job applicants and move up in your career.

Pharmacy technicians make slightly higher pay than pharmacy aides. In 2018, the median annual wage was $32,700 for pharmacy technicians, ranging from $22,740 to $48,010. By comparison, pharmacy aides made a median annual wage of $29,190, ranging from $19,370 to $44,450. The pay can vary by experience and the setting where the person works. For both positions, working in a hospital tends to pay more than working in a retail pharmacy for example.

Both pharmacy aide and technician positions provide a steady career in the medical field. Both involve working in a pharmacy under the direction of a pharmacist, while they differ in pay and job duties. Knowing the difference can help you figure out which position would be a better fit for your career or as a starting point.