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Choosing Between Becoming a Pharmacy Technician VS. a Pharmacist

By: Valerie Smith, RN

Pharmacy technicians and pharmacists work directly with each other to provide patients with their correct prescription medications, but they have defined roles. If you are considering a pharmacy technician career but are curious about these two pharmacy career pathways, you have come to the right place. We will discuss pharmacy technicians' and pharmacists' roles, responsibilities, education, and licensing requirements. The significant difference between a pharmacy technician and a pharmacy is training, education, salary, and legal obligations.

The Pharmacy Technician

A pharmacy technician's primary duty is to assist the pharmacist when filling and delivering prescriptions. Although a pharmacy technician can legally fill a patient's prescription, the pharmacist must review it before handing it over to the patient. Students may complete a pharmacy technician program within one to two years as a certificate, associate degree, or on-the-job training. Each state has its own licensing requirements for pharmacy technicians and requires passing a certification exam.

Becoming a Medical Assistant

Roles and Responsibilities of a Pharmacy Technician

  • Collect and review patient information
  • Speak with pharmacy patients
  • Process payments
  • Pharmacy inventory management
  • Assist the pharmacist in preparing medications by reading orders, label preparation, and quantity calculation
  • Other administrative tasks, such as billing, record keeping, and insurance

The Pharmacist

A pharmacist has a doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree, requiring six to eight years of training and education to ensure that patients receive proper medications, verify drug polypharmacy interactions, and answer patients' questions regarding their medicine. Pharmacists must pass two licensing exams after completing their PharmD program. Only the pharmacist can make recommendations to patients for prescriptions, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, or supplements.

Roles and Responsibilities of a Pharmacist

  • Supervise pharmacy orders, dispensing, and pharmacy technicians
  • Accurate review of all prescriptions
  • Identify drug or dosage interactions within a patient's record
  • Discuss the appropriate dosage, intake method, and possible side effects of the medication and answer patient questions
  • Monitor patient treatments with the patient's interdisciplinary team
  • Enforces pharmacy local, state, and federal laws
  • Administer immunizations
  • Conduct health screenings and provide general health recommendations

Making a choice: Pharmacy Technician vs. Pharmacist

Becoming a pharmacy technician is far easier to attain for most people and can allow you to begin a career soon after high school graduation, especially with USCI's Online Pharmacy Technician Program. In addition, pharmacy technicians can expect the projected job growth to increase as more jobs become available. You may start as a pharmacy technician, and when time and finances are better suited, continue working towards your PharmD degree.

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