Pharmacy Technician vs Pharmacist: What’s the Difference?

Working in a pharmacy can be a good career choice that puts you into the medical field. Yet you have different career options to choose from within a pharmacy, which means you could carry out different roles. Two pharmacy positions include working as a pharmacy technician or a pharmacist. Knowing the difference can help you understand which of these positions would be a better fit for your career or as a starting point.

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Career Level and Pay

Pharmacy techs and pharmacists are at different career levels. A pharmacist is a professional position that requires extensive training, while a pharmacy tech requires a high school diploma and certification in some states. A pharmacist supervises a pharmacy tech as well as pharmacy aides.

Because of the difference in training and level of responsibility, a pharmacist makes significantly higher income than a pharmacy tech. In 2018, the median annual pay for a pharmacist was $126,120, ranging from $87,790 to 161,250. On the other hand, a pharmacy tech’s median annual wage was $32,700, ranging from $22,740 to $48,010.

Qualifications

To become a pharmacist, you need to get a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree after going through two to four years of undergraduate study, depending on the program. A Doctor of Pharmacy degree is generally a four-year program. After completing the program, you would need to pass two exams to get licensed and then work as an intern, also known as a pharmacist in training. In certain specializations, additional qualifications are necessary.

In many cases, a pharmacy technician’s required qualifications solely include a high school diploma. Then, you receive on-the-job training. Nonetheless, some states require certification, so it’s important to look into the regulations for your state. State regulations could require the completion of a training program or passing an exam.

Medication Duties

A pharmacy tech does not have the same level of responsibility as a pharmacist. Nonetheless, both positions work with prescription medications and some duties are similar.

The pharmacist is a trained medical professional who understands the way medications work. In this role, you would check prescriptions to confirm the amount and whether the medication could interact with other medications or health conditions on the person’s record. You would then fill the prescription, which sometimes means mixing ingredients for customized medications (compounding). Further, pharmacists often administer flu shots and other types of vaccinations.

When working with medications, the technician can prepare some prescriptions, and package and label prescriptions. In this role, you could also organize medications and supplies, letting the pharmacist know about low inventory.

Administrative and Customer Service Duties

A pharmacist’s role also includes supervising pharmacy technicians and aides as well as guiding pharmacists in training. In addition, the pharmacist carries out administrative duties, such as filling out insurance forms and keeping records.

The tech also performs administrative tasks, including entering information into a computer and processing insurance claims.

Both roles provide customer service but in different ways. The tech is not able to answer customer questions about medications directly but must defer to the pharmacist. The pharmacist can answer these questions and talk to customers about medication instructions and possible side effects. The pharmacist may also give health advice on topics such as lifestyle changes and medical equipment.

The tech helps customers by collecting prescription information, accepting payments, answering phone calls and setting up discussions between customers and the pharmacist.

Both roles can also have other duties, which vary depending on the workplace.

A pharmacist and pharmacy tech both work in pharmacies, helping people get the medications they need. These positions work together as a team to carry out their duties. Nonetheless, each role has specific duties separate from the other. Think about which role would fit you better when considering day-to-day responsibilities, pay and training needed.