What’s The Difference Between a Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacist?

September 16, 2019


If you’ve ever picked up a prescription at your neighborhood pharmacy, you’ve definitely spoken with a pharmacist, and more than likely a pharmacy technician. Both of these health professionals work together to ensure timely medication processing, customer assistance, and more. 

The biggest difference between these two professions, however, comes down to education. In this article, we unpack each sector’s educational requirements, job responsibilities, and career prospects. 

What Does a Pharmacist Do? 

As the head of the pharmacy, the pharmacist is responsible for the safe and effective delivery of drug medication. Their job may require administering vaccinations, communicating with doctors and insurance companies, and ensuring that prescriptions have zero negative interactions. 

How Do I Become a Pharmacist?

These medical professionals must attend a PhD program in pharmacology, where they intensively study chemistry, biochemistry, pharmaceuticals, and more. 

This degree requires four years of university, a minimum of two years in a pre-pharmacy program, and a year-long internship studying under the supervision of an experienced pharmacist. 

After these seven years – and when they pass their North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) – they are able to register as a licensed pharmacist. By the time they receive their licensure, they should be able to identify medications, understand drug interactions, and understand the purpose of prescribed substances. 

What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do

You’ve probably seen pharm techs working behind-the-scenes at your local drugstore. There are so many reasons to be a pharmacy tech! Whether they’re stocking life-saving drugs, providing customer service, organizing the pharmacy, or spotting a possible mistake, these allied health professionals are the right hand of any pharmacist. 

The Difference Between Pharmacists and Pharmacy Techs

The key difference between these roles is that the pharmacist is legally permitted to counsel patients regarding the use of certain medications. They may also offer advice to doctors regarding the type of medication and dosage to prescribe. 

Pharmacy technicians can only prepare and administer drugs under the supervision of a pharmacist. 

Pharmacy Technician Certification

For many future pharm techs, adequate training gives workers the basic knowledge of how to carry out tasks and provide expert patient care. 

In your pharmacy technician classes, you’ll study: 

  • Medical terminology
  • Drug classification
  • Drug administration
  • Customer service 
  • General pharmacy management
    • Handling insurance claims and records
    • Pharmacist support
    • HIPAA laws 

How Long Does Pharmacy Tech Training Take? 

With short healthcare certificate programs across the country, prospective pharmacy techs can complete their studies in less than one year.  

If you’re considering a 2-year pharm tech associate degree, you’ll receive extra training with general education courses. Some college credits may apply towards your associate degree (or bachelor’s degree in the future). 

Do I Need My Pharmacy Tech Certification

Though pharmacy techs might receive on-the-job training, having a proper certification tells employers that you’re the most qualified person for a position. Without any kind of background in pharmacology, the chances of making mistakes increases, and can result in serious consequences. 

What’s more, many states mandate pharmacy tech certification, and this requirement is only set to increase over the coming years. 

 Direct_Relief / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 

Where Do Pharm Techs Work? 

Pharmacies can be found in  a variety of healthcare settings including hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient centers, and local drugstores. 

This offers a great deal of freedom for the pharmacy technician in finding a place where they’d like to work or where they feel most comfortable.

Thanks to an aging Baby Boomer population, this allied health job sector is expected to increase by 7% over the next decade. This means that plenty of career opportunities should be available for years to come. 

Pharmacy Technician Pay

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pharmacy tech salary was $32,700 in 2018. At pharmacies, the 50th percentile of earners could command just over $30,000. 

With average incomes landing at $32,700 per year, the best jobs for pharmacy technicians occur in state and local hospitals. 

Although pharmacy technician pay may be significantly lower than that of licensed pharmacists, training is affordable and you won’t need to spend 7-8 years in school. Most importantly, with a quick certification that pays well, you’ll be able to determine whether this allied health career is a good fit for you.

It’s also not uncommon for future pharmacists to start off as pharmacy technicians – and continue working – while attending pharmacy school. 

Take the First Step – Contact an AIMS Representative Today

If you’re in the New Jersey area – and ready to take the first step –  contact one of our representatives. They’ll provide everything you need to know about our pharmacy technician training program

Pharmacy Technician Program