What’s the Difference Between a Pharmacy Tech and a Pharmacist?

Pharmacists and pharmacy techs play crucial roles in administering medications. Pharmacy techs have to prepare meds, check prescriptions, and verify paperwork. On the other hand, pharmacists are responsible for a whole lot more. Their primary duty is to fill prescriptions. But they may also have to offer expert medical advice, give flu shots, and counsel patients.

A career in pharmacy is ideal for anyone who enjoys chemistry or science. But there’s a big difference between a pharmacy tech and a pharmacist. Training to become a pharmacist requires a pharmacy degree and usually takes six or seven years to complete. On the other hand, a pharmacy tech usually requires a high school diploma and additional training.

What are your options to get a job in a retail or hospital pharmacy without spending time and money on a degree? Read on to find out.

Pharmacist vs. Pharmacy Tech

Pharmacy techs and pharmacists work together to deliver drugs to patients. The main differences between the two jobs are skills and responsibility. Pharmacy techs help fill and prepare prescriptions. But pharmacists have extensive knowledge of medications and oversee that patients get the right ones. Legally, pharmacists can advise on medication use, offer medical advice, and ensure patient’s safety.

In the pharmacy setting, technicians are the pharmacists’ assistants. Usually, pharmacy techs speak with patients, whereas pharmacists talk with doctors.

The fastest way to start a career in pharmacy is to become a pharmacy tech.

What a Pharmacy Tech Does

The primary duty of pharmacy techs is to manage the day-to-day running of the drugstore. And dispensing the correct medications is just one task. They interact with customers, check inventory, and can help customers understand labeling.

Here is a list of the duties pharm techs perform:

  • Collecting information from patients
  • Entering patient information into computers
  • Preparing medications
  • Packaging and labeling prescriptions
  • Filling prescriptions and ensuring that the patient gets the right drugs
  • Providing excellent customer service
  • Taking care of inventory
  • Getting final approval from the pharmacist

It’s also vital to remember what a pharmacy tech can’t do. For example, pharm techs can’t offer advice on alternative medications — including over-the-counter drugs. Also, only pharmacists can make the final check of prescriptions.

Skills a Pharmacy Tech Needs

If you’re considering a pharmacy career, there are essential skills that pharmacy techs need. Usually, you are the person patients interact with when they need medications. But you also have to measure out drugs and take payments.

Here are the five most useful skills for a successful pharmacy career:

  • Attention to detail — Accuracy is the essential skill for pharm tech. It’s a no brainer that pharmacist assistants have to dispense the right medication at the correct dosage. At the same time, you may have to fill out insurance forms, check prescriptions, and handle payments.
  • Customer service — You are the “face” of the pharmacy. So, excellent people skills are essential. Patients could be distressed, worried about their health, or unsure of the medications. You may have to reassure them about their condition.
  • Communication skills — Many times, people come to drugstores for advice before going to the doctor. You need to know how to listen to and discern a patient’s needs. Very often, you must clearly explain how to take medications.  Additionally, you need to know when to refer patients to the pharmacist for advice.
  • Organization skills — Successful pharmacy techs are highly-organized people. You must fill various prescriptions, check inventories, and keep medications in stock.
  • Technology skills — As well as excellent people skills and knowledge of medications, you need to know how to use technology. Often, pharm techs perform many medical admin tasks — tracking inventory, running the cash register, or processing insurance claims.

How to Become a Pharmacy Tech

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says that pharmacy techs need a high school diploma. Usually, you receive on-the-job training on the medical aspects of your work. But many states also require that pharmacy techs complete an accredited training program.

To improve your career prospects as a pharmacy tech, it makes sense to enroll in a healthcare certificate program. You learn more about administering medications, pharmacy management, and drug classification.

Depending on the program you choose, a pharmacy tech training program can range from eight weeks to two years. Some training programs involve two months of classroom work and six months of on-the-job training. Diploma programs can take between twelve and eighteen months.

Within a year, you could be working in a pharmacy as a technician, helping people care for their health.

To start a pharmacy tech career, the BLS says that you need to do the following:

  • Get a high school diploma
  • Complete a training program and get a certification
  • Maintain active certification every two years

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) says that the current price for CPhT (Certified Pharmacy Technician) certification is $129.

The other organization that offers CPhT certification is the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The cost of the NHA exam is $117. Plus, you can also order additional study materials through their website.

Check out a college near you that offers pharmacy tech training programs.

Future Job Prospects

Why pursue a career in pharmacy? Job prospects in the pharmacy industry are expected to grow. The BLS says that the job outlook from 2019 to 2029 is 4%. However, with more demand for pharmacy services, the job prospects look excellent for pharmacy technicians.

Interestingly, comparing the difference between pharmacy techs and pharmacists, the job outlook is better for techs.

According to BLS data, the average pay for pharmacy techs is just under $34,000 per year.

A Career as a Pharmacy Tech

A career as a pharmacy tech is a fulfilling one. You are an essential link in a patient’s health care. You work along with pharmacists to deliver medications to patients. The right medicines in the right dose can help an ill person get back on the road to recovery.

Starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry begins with finding the right program. To become a pharmacy tech requires a high school diploma and getting the proper training. But, within a year, you could be working as a qualified technician in a pharmacy.