The Difference Between a Pharmacist and a Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians work closely together to deliver medications, advice, and assistance to their patients. The pharmacist relies on the pharmacy technician for many daily tasks, and the technician looks to the pharmacist for guidance. The pharmacist and pharmacy technician are like a right and left hand; they each have their own job, but they work together to get things done.

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Pharmacy Technician Education

The biggest difference between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician is the level of education achieved by each. In many states a pharmacy technician is not required to have any formal training beyond high school. In these states a person can work as a pharmacy technician with no prior training or education.

Other states require pharmacy technicians become certified prior to working in a pharmacy. There is no standardized national education requirement. Pharmacy technicians have to pass a standardized test called the PTCE. This test is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). The PTCB is a national organization which develops pharmacy protocols, offers pharmacy education, and certifies pharmacy technicians. PTCB certification is recognized in all fifty states.

There are many pharmacy technician certification programs which can prepare a person to pass the PTCE. These programs are available through private organizations, institutes of higher education, and online schools. We also have a list of the best books to study for PTCE. Some large retail pharmacies have internal training programs to prepare their employees for certification.

Pharmacy technician training programs can range from eight weeks to two years. Training programs offered through retail pharmacies usually consists of eight weeks of classroom training with up to six months of on-the-job training. Educational institutions can offer certificate, diploma, or associate degree programs. Certificate programs generally take less than a year to complete. Diploma programs take twelve to eighteen months. An associate degree is a two year program. This gives pharmacy technicians many educational options to choose from.

Pharmacy technicians learn pharmacy law, ethics, medication dosage calculation, HIPPA regulations, pharmacy administration, and other subjects. These classes are geared to prepare the pharmacy technician to perform the day-to-day operations of a pharmacy. They must be aware of prescription requirements, proper handling of private patient information, how to fill prescriptions, how to process insurance claims, and pharmacy record keeping. This training gives them the skills needed to assist the pharmacist.

Pharmacist Education

Pharmacists, on the other hand, are required to hold a doctorate degree in pharmacology. A PharmD degree, or doctor of pharmacy, is a six-year degree. Earning a PharmDdegree consists of four years of college education followed by at least two additional years of pre-pharmacy education. They must then complete a one year internship under a licensed pharmacist.

The final step for the perspective pharmacist is becoming licensed to practice pharmacy. The pharmacist must pass the NAPLEX (North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination) test and register with the State Board of Pharmacy.

Pharmacists must learn everything that a pharmacy technician does, but their education goes far beyond that of the pharmacy technician. Their education is science based. They take courses such as chemistry, biology, microbiology, pharmacology, biochemistry, and pharmaceutics. This education gives them a firm understanding of how the body works and how drugs work on the body. They must be able to identify and differentiate between medications. They have to know what each medication is used to treat, and how drugs interact with each other. Pharmacists must also stay up-to-date on new developments in medication.

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Duties of the Pharmacist

In practice, the pharmacist is responsible for everything that happens in the pharmacy. They are required to double-check each prescription before it is sold to the patient. They must ensure that each prescription that is sold in their pharmacy is legal and valid. The pharmacist must make sure that all regulations are strictly adhered to. This mean keeping accurate records and paying close attention to detail.

In a pharmacy, mistakes can have serious consequences. Incorrect medication or incorrect dosage can lead to grave problems for the patient. The pharmacist must make sure that the prescription is filled correctly. There are many medications with similar names, so the pharmacist has be familiar with the medical problem of the patient and what drugs are used to treat that condition.

Some patients are under the care of several different doctors. One doctor may be unaware of a medication that another doctor prescribed. The pharmacist will review each patient’s records every time they begin taking a new medication. In this way, they act as a second line of defense ensuring that there will be no negative effects of drug interaction.

In every community, pharmacists are looked to as a source of medical advice. Much of their day is filled with listening to patients describe symptoms and giving advice. Sometimes they suggest over-the-counter medications. Other times, they refer the patient to a medical doctor. In some states, pharmacists are allowed to write prescriptions for commonly prescribed non-regulated medications such as antibiotics or mild pain relievers.

Duties of the Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians work closely with pharmacists. The pharmacy technician may accept a prescription from the patient. However, the pharmacists must review and approve it before it is filled. Once the pharmacist approves a prescription, the pharmacy technician will locate and dispense the prescribed drug. When the medication is packed and labeled, the pharmacist must review it for accuracy before it is sold to the patient.

Pharmacy technicians also assist the pharmacist by performing administrative tasks such as running the cash register, filing paperwork, processing insurance claims, and tracking inventory. Pharmacy technicians do not receive medical training. They are not allowed to give medical advice to patients.

The pharmacy technician and the pharmacist both play essential roles in the pharmacy. They work together to ensure the safety and health of their patients. Both enjoy rewarding careers.

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9 thoughts on “The Difference Between a Pharmacist and a Pharmacy Technician”

  1. Pharmacy technician has over the years improved now doing chemistry, biology, microbiology, pharmacology, biochemistry, and pharmaceutics. even to train as one you need formal education A level with a pass in chemistry. what is now the way forward

  2. I agree. I find it rather insulting when one cannot differentiate between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician. Clearly there is a significant difference – I for one am a Master of Pharmacy student with a Medical Science degree and to say that a pharmacy technician comes close to having the amount of knowledge a pharmacist does is appalling. This is not to say that the role of the pharmacy technician is not important – I certainly agree that they do help with the organisational work, stock, DAA packing etc. Fortunately, many patients realise the difference and this is clearly evident when they ask for a pharmacist to discuss medications as well as other serious matters.

    • In response to the “pharmacist Jane” I am a pharmacy technician III, I have been a tech for over 30 years the past 13 of them in a large hospital where I am a certified oncology technician and also have many years of experience making all types of i.v. NICU medications down to TPN’s and everything in between. Your attitude towards techs is as you put it “appalling” we would show you ZERO respect…all the pharmacist I work with show nothing but respect for us and the work we do and in return we show them the same respect. I would love to see you get in the hood and mix a NICU medication for a baby who was just born less then 1kg! Do you even know where to start or would you have to have a tech show you how to make it or better yet do it ourselves because you would take way too long to do it and in return make an extremely premature baby wait for there life saving meds? ! I could go on but I think you get my drift beings you have a doctorate in pharmacy something I clearly do not have. However try to do my job and I bet you’ll coming running to find me and help you out of the mess you will surely get yourself into.
      With NO due respect…from your friend “just” a pharmacy technician.

      • Hahahaha…. Well said Traci! You put it into words very beautifully. I know pharmacists have medical knowledge and check for accuracy but we ain’t stupid either. The kind of jobs we do, they don’t have a clue about it. Still anyways, all we have is respect for them.

    • I am a SCPHT in a reail setting. I agree with you that there is a clear difference in education and I would never, never compare mine versus a pharmist,I diffently don’t have the expertise, however I’ve worked with plenty of pharmacists that are incompetent, and make you wonder how they received a degree in the first place, and I’ve worked with a few technicians who coudnt afford or thought it too late for a higher education, who have a better understanding of the human body and how medications affect it.

  3. Right. Pharmacists have the knowledge and technicians do the manual work. They complement each other, but some pharmacists treat technicians like they are dumb and low-leveled, which is sad. I feel they can show some respect and appreciate technicians for doing the non-intellectual stuff. I am currently a pharmacist, but this was my experience as a technician.

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