Pharmacy Technician vs. Pharmacist

HealthcareNovember 02, 2023

Pharmacy Technician vs. Pharmacist

For many Americans, access to affordable prescription drugs can be the difference between living a relatively normal life and living with restrictive health complications. Pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed to treat many health issues — and skilled professionals are needed to accurately process prescriptions, select the correct dosage, and explain to patients important information such as interactions and side-effects.

Both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians help fulfill this role, but with different levels of responsibility and education. Understanding completely how pharmacy technicians and pharmacists differ in their day-to-day duties can help those interested in choosing a pharmacy career path.

What Is a Pharmacy Technician?

Pharmacy technicians work under the supervision of licensed pharmacists, assisting with various tasks that define the day-to-day operations of a pharmacy. Pharmacy technicians help pharmacists provide efficient and effective pharmacy services, making sure patients receive the medications they need while adhering to regulatory standards.

Pharmacy technicians most frequently work in pharmacies and drugstores. They can also work in other environments where medication management is necessary, such as nursing homes, hospitals, and pharmaceutical manufacturing settings where they may perform duties such as compounding medications.

Pharmacy Technician Duties and Responsibilities

The primary responsibility of a pharmacy technician is preparing prescriptions for patients. This includes selecting the right drug in the right qualities as prescribed to the patient, such as dosage strength, quality, and the form of the drug. Pharmacy techs are also responsible for confirming information regarding prescription refill requests and insurance, often working with patients to find the best discounts or price adjustments.

Pharmacy technicians regularly interact with patients as part of their job. They are responsible for answering any questions about the medication, informing patients of any interactions or side effects, and how the medication should be taken to be most effective. They may also assist with administrative aspects, such as ensuring a full inventory and restocking, answering phone calls, reaching out to patients on the status of their refills, and helping train new employees. 

Pharmacy Technician Skills

Pharmacy technicians must have a blend of pharmaceutical, administrative, and customer support experience to perform their duties. To ensure quality service, here are a few skills pharmacy techs should seek to establish.

  • Pharmaceutical knowledge. Pharmacy technicians must have a comprehensive understanding of medication properties to answer patient questions, accurately fill prescription orders, and compound or create customized medications.
  • Customer service. Many patients look to pharmacy technicians for guidance and assistance involving their medication. Understanding how to interact with patients and provide them with the best care quickly and effectively is crucial. It is a key aspect of maintaining a good workflow while getting patients the medications they need, answering simple prescription related questions, and seeking the supervising pharmacist to provide more elaborate consultation if needed.
  • Detail orientation. Pharmacy technicians deal with dozens of medications throughout the day. Ensuring the right medication ends up in the right place is vital for this career. Mistakes can have dangerous consequences for patients if an error is made in selecting and distributing their medication.
  • Organizational skills. There are several responsibilities pharmacy technicians need to manage, including following the supervising physician’s direction, assisting patients, maintaining accurate inventory, and helping fill prescriptions. By practicing sound organizational skills, pharmacy techs can better multitask while remaining efficient.

What Is a Pharmacist?

While the positions of pharmacy technician vs. pharmacist cover similar areas, pharmacists take a more lead position and are able to work independently. Pharmacists ensure a patient’s health and safety when it comes to prescriptions, making sure the workplace and all pharmacy services maintain regulatory standards. Pharmacists are required to have a doctoral degree and they must pass multiple exams before they can become licensed.

Pharmacists regularly work in hospitals and mobile healthcare services, but also in pharmacies and drugstores. Pharmacists working in a clinical or consultant capacity may be part of an interdisciplinary care team, working with physicians to advise on medication options that will best treat a patient’s condition.

Pharmacist Duties and Responsibilities

Pharmacists share many of the same responsibilities as pharmacy technicians, but pharmacists typically perform without supervision. Pharmacists are also responsible for filling prescriptions in accord with a patient’s healthcare provider and providing expert consultation about drugs. Alongside advice about medication, pharmacists are also able to offer general health consultations. Additionally, pharmacists are able to administer immunizations or other shots to patients. 

As leaders of their team, pharmacists are also responsible for overseeing and training their team of pharmacy technicians.

Pharmacist Skills

Because they are leaders in their workplace, pharmacists need a slightly different skill set to perform their job. While pharmacists should build many of the same skills as pharmacy technicians, here are a few additional skills pharmacists should establish.

  • Communication skills. Pharmacists need to accurately and efficiently relay information both to their team as well as to any physicians while working with a patient. They also need to relay important information to patients regarding any medications.
  • Leadership skills. As leaders of the pharmacy, pharmacists who have a team need to direct technicians as priorities shift during the day. It falls to the pharmacist to keep their teams motivated and on the same page.

Differences Between Pharmacy Technician and Pharmacist

One main difference between a pharmacy technician vs. pharmacist is the education required to pursue each position. Pharmacists require a Doctor of Pharmacy degree, which can take at least four years after earning the relevant prerequisite education. Pharmacy technicians, on the other hand, could complete a training program at a school such as Fortis, which can usually be completed in about a year or less.  Because they require less training, pharmacy technicians can begin their career journey at a quicker pace than pharmacists. 

Pharmacy technicians can also only provide assistance and answer simple questions regarding prescriptions. Otherwise, they need the assistance of a pharmacist. In general, pharmacists have a larger degree of autonomy and are able to work without supervision, while a pharmacy tech will always need the supervision of a licensed pharmacist.

Pharmacy Technician vs. Pharmacist: Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment openings for pharmacists are projected to grow 3% between 2022 and 2032, which is about the same as what’s projected for the U.S. job market as a whole.

The BLS expects pharmacy technicians to have a better-than-average 6%  job growth over the same time period. This robust employment growth is due to many factors, says the BLS. These include the ability of pharmacy techs to help cover aspects of the traditional pharmacist role, as many pharmacists are expected to transition from retail pharmacy positions to more expanded clinical or consulting roles.

Learn More About a Career as a Pharmacy Technician

While both careers offer an excellent means of entering the pharmaceutical field, a key question to ask is how long it may take to start a pharmacy technician vs. pharmacist career. For those who would like to earn experience on the job without spending years in education first, it’s worth considering the benefits of the Fortis Pharmacy Technician training program.

This training program offers the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of pharmacy work, including how to efficiently and effectively fill prescriptions, provide great customer service, and accurately navigate insurance for payments. With the help of dedicated instructors and a hands-on learning environment, this program can be a great way to begin your pharmaceutical career…to test the waters and see how you like this career path without years of up-front educational investment.

Learn how you can begin a new career journey with Fortis.

Recommended Readings
How Pharmacy Technicians Can Help Seniors Understand Their Medications
How Pharmacy Technicians Work with Pharmacists
What Does a Pharmacy Technician Do?

Indeed, “Job Description for a Pharmacy Technician: Primary Duties”
Indeed, “Pharmacy Technician vs. Pharmacist: 4 Key Differences”
Indeed, “What Is a Day Like in the Life of a Pharmacist?”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pharmacists
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Pharmacy Technicians