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Difference Between Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacist

Difference Between Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacist

Direct_Relief / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

Whether we’d like to admit it or not, many of us are guilty of taking our pharmacist for granted. A minor ailment can be quickly remedied with drugs we pick up from the pharmacy technician. But who are the people behind the scenes deciding which drugs help someone? Who prepares the medicine in a hospital? Perhaps one day it could be you!

There are many reasons why pharmacy is an exciting area to work in. Find out what each staff member does to make sure a pharmacy runs smoothly.

Pharmaceutical Grounding

The pharmacist is the head honcho if you like. Where the pharmacist is the Sheriff, the technician is the Deputy. Ultimately, the pharmacist is responsible for the safe and effective delivery of drug medication. A technician then assists the patient and prepares the medication.

For many people looking to work in a pharmacy, basic pharmacy technician schooling is a vital first step. This training is the basis for many of the tasks carried out in a pharmacy. It’s also not uncommon for future pharmacists to start off as pharmacy technicians before going to pharmacy school. After all, these professionals work side by side.

Deep Pharmaceutical Roots

Deep Pharmaceutical Roots

Direct_Relief / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

The concept of a pharmacy goes back nearly 4000 years. We’ve been developing ways to heal ourselves for as long as anyone can remember. Therefore, training to become a pharmacy tech – whether you work as a technician or eventually become a pharmacist – means you join a long line of professionals:

“[A]t the beginning of the 19th century most people working in this area would have called themselves chemists and/or druggists. The terms pharmacist and pharmaceutical chemist (now usually shortened to chemist) came later in the 1800s.” — rpharms.com

In the modern age, you must now be qualified to work in a pharmacy. Let’s find out what pharmacy technician schools teach you these days.

Pharmacy Technician Certification

As with any healthcare career, training is an important indicator to employers that you’re ready to perform some routine tasks. Even a pharmacy technician in training who learns on the job must still be able to understand basic terminology and instructions.

Without any kind of grounding in pharmacology, mistakes are much more likely. It, therefore, helps both parties if the employee is prepared to hit the ground running with a new employer.

Here are just some of the things you learn in pharmacy tech training:

  • Drug terminology
  • Drug classifications
  • How to help patients face-to-face and over the phone
  • How to prepare medications
  • Correct protocol for handing out medicines
  • General pharmacy management, including:
    • How to deal with insurance claims and records
    • Other administrative tasks and duties that support the pharmacist
    • Handling private patient information

How does this differ from pharmacist training?

How does this differ from pharmacist training?

Direct_Relief / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

You can train to be a pharmacy tech in a number of months, whereas training to be a licensed pharmacist takes seven years or more. In order to become a pharmacist, you must complete a four-year undergraduate degree, followed by 3 to 4 years of graduate school to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy.

As we already mentioned, pharmacists must learn the correct terminology and protocol – the same as a technician. After this, they go on to demonstrate a clear understanding of medication drugs and how they affect our bodies. They become a chemist, rather than a technician.

Scientific study is the basis for a Pharma.D. degree and coursework includes:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmaceutics
  • Pharmacology

Once qualified, the key difference between these roles is that the pharmacist will often counsel patients regarding the use of certain medications, and sometimes offer advice to doctors regarding the type of medication and dosage to prescribe. The pharmacy technician goes on to prepare and administer these drugs under the instruction of the pharmacist.

Day to Day Activity

Pharmacies can be found in hospitals, nursing homes, and local retail stores. 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.

Job Outlook

Prospects for those working as pharmacy technicians is better than average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth is anticipated to be 9% over the 10 year period from 2014 to 2024.


The pharmacy technician hourly wage is significantly lower than the rate of pay for a licensed pharmacist. However, the technician role is advantageous in many ways: If you’re interested in medicine but aren’t keen to study for so many years or perhaps can’t afford to, this is a great way in. Alternatively, if you do want to train to be a pharmacist, working as a technician while you study is a great way to increase your working knowledge and experience.

Go For It

Whatever you decide to do, technician training can really help you build a foundation for a career in pharmaceuticals. What you learn will never be wasted and can only be of benefit.

If you’re ready to take your first step onto the career ladder, a relatively short pharmacy technician training program can get you up to speed in just a few of months.

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