The world of pharmaceutical services is a vast and important one. To ensure continual efficiency, there are often numerous professionals working as a team with optimal coordination at all times.
Two of the most important of these parties are pharmacy and pharmacy technicians. Thanks to the similarity in name and a few roles and responsibilities, people tend to confuse these professions as being the same even though there are more than enough distinctions between them.
Below we provide an in-depth explanation of both fields with an emphasis on their unique job descriptions, roles and responsibilities, and clearly defined hierarchy.
Who is a Pharmacist?
A pharmacist advises patients on their pharmaceutical needs, such as appropriate medication and potential drug interactions. Additionally, a pharmacist often plays a supervisory role.
For instance, they often oversee pharmacy technicians, supervising their activities and ultimately signing off on the medications they retrieve before they are dispensed to patients.
Pharmacists can also carry out health screenings and provide immunizations.
Generally, becoming a pharmacist is harder and requires a higher level of education than becoming a pharmacy technician.
Who is a Pharmacy Technician?
A pharmacy technician ensures optimal health and safety for patients by locating and dispensing appropriate medication. It is common for a pharmacy technician to require approval from a pharmacist before they can dispense medication to a patient.
Additionally, pharmacy technicians also collect important patient information to help fill prescriptions and manage the overall pharmacy inventory.
As we’ll see below, the roles and responsibilities of a pharmacy technician go beyond the above, but it is evident from these that a pharmacy technician is below a pharmacist in the workplace hierarchy.
It is also relatively easier to become a pharmacy technician than it is to become a pharmacist.
Roles and Responsibilities of a Pharmacist
The most common roles and responsibilities of a pharmacist include the following:
- Manage and oversee orders and dispensations
- Check all prescriptions to ensure accuracy at all times
- Go through patients’ records to confirm a lack of discrepancies or conflict
- Show patients how to get the most out of their medications by highlighting proper dosage and other beneficial practices
- Work with other healthcare professionals to coordinate treatment
- Confirm that the pharmacy follows regulations at all times
Roles and Responsibilities of a Pharmacy Technician
The most common roles and responsibilities of a pharmacy technician include the following:
- Stock, locate and dispense medications when called upon
- Ensure that medicines are prepared in the safest and most hygienic fashion
- Maintain inventory
- Handle insurance claims and authorizations
- Handle payment issues
- Collect, read, and update patient record
- Ensure that they follow state and federal regulations at all times.
Other Notable Differences
As we can see, there are significant differences in the roles and responsibilities of a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician. But the distinctions between both professions don’t just end there.
Below are a few other notable differences worth having in mind:
Differences in Education
As mentioned earlier, the educational requirements for becoming a pharmacist are much more robust than pharmacy technicians. An aspiring pharmacist must earn a PharmD Degree from an accredited program. This usually takes four years.
Additionally, most states require an internship and state-specific tests.
For pharmacy technicians, on-the-job training, a certificate, or an associate program is enough to get started. At most, these take two years to complete.
Differences in Certification & Licensure
Pharm techs must enroll in a certification exam to become certified pharmacy technicians. Certification exam options include the certification examination administered by the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) and the one issued by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).
A pharmacist must take two licensing exams after completing their PharmD program. These are the North American Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) and one of the Multistate Pharmacy Jurisprudence Exams (MPJE) or a state jurisprudence exam.
Differences in Salary & Career Outlook
There is a significant difference between the salaries of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. While a pharmacy technician earns an average yearly salary of around $39,000, an average pharmacist earns as high as $116,140 every year.
Of course, factors such as location, education, and work experience can influence these numbers. At most, however, a pharmacy technician can not earn more than $49,000 without upgrading to a different profession.
In terms of career outlook, pharmacy technicians enjoy much more positive projections than pharmacists for the coming decade. While demand for pharmacists is set to decline by 2% from now to 2030, according to the BLS, demand for pharmacy technicians is set to increase by 5%.
Having noted all of the differences between both occupations, it is worth mentioning that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians do share a significant amount of similarities, which are often enough for both professions to be confused for each other in the first place.
For one, both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians work in similar environments and are well-versed in medical terminology, medication prescription, and drug interactions.
Not to mention that despite the differences in hierarchy, they both play essential roles in helping patients live long and healthy lives.
Which Career is Right for You?
Individuals often find themselves having to choose between beginning a career as a pharmacy or a pharmacy technician. Naturally, factors such as salary and ease of entry tend to play significant roles in their decision process.
Those looking for a career with a high salary potential are often attracted to a career in pharmacy, while those looking to begin a career in allied healthcare as fast and easily as possible will gravitate towards becoming pharmacy technicians.
It is worth mentioning, however, that if speed and ease are crucial factors for you at the present moment, you can simply choose to start a career as a pharmacy technician as fast as possible, with a plan to pursue a 4-year pharmacy degree in the future.
In fact, this is a highly advisable route, as it allows you to experience how it feels to have a career in pharmaceutical services before committing to pursuing a doctorate in the field. If time isn’t a factor, however, and you’re already sure about a career in the field, it is better to begin a program in pharmacy from the get-go.