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

Posted Friday, Feb 15, 2013 by Allen B. Ury

Pharmacy TechnicianWhat’s the difference between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician? If you’re a customer, both jobs may look pretty much the same. Both people work behind the counter. Both handle and dispense prescription drugs. Both often provide instructions, answer questions and may even work the cash register.

However, if you’re thinking about a career as either a pharmacist or a pharmacy technician, you’ll quickly discover there are many differences between the two professions. Big differences. Here are some of the most important ones:

Education — Pharmacy technicians can usually complete their training in about a year. Pharmacists must usually invest at least six years in a college education.

Knowledge — Pharmacy technicians need to know the routine, day-to-day particulars of their job. This usually includes taking orders, filling prescriptions, preparing labels, etc. They also should have some knowledge of how the most popular prescription drugs work and interact. In addition to this practical knowledge, pharmacists study biology, chemistry and biochemistry, among other advanced subjects.

Duties — A pharmacy technician’s typical day can include accepting prescriptions, talking with doctors’ offices, filling orders, preparing labels, and dispensing prescription drugs. They may also stock shelves, pay bills, process payments and perform other administrative duties. Pharmacists check completed orders to make sure they are correct, prepare any customized medications, and advise patients on a drug’s proper use. They may also advise physicians on the proper medications to treat a patient’s condition and issue warnings when they foresee the danger of possible drug interactions.

Responsibilities — Pharmacy technicians are responsible for the quality of the work they perform. Pharmacists, on the other hand, are responsible for the quality of their technicians’ work as well as for the overall professionalism of their pharmacy’s operations.

Salaries — According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pharmacy technicians in the United States have a median annual income of $28,900. Entry-level pharmacy technicians make about $20,300 per year. Experienced pharmacy techs make about $41,900 per year. Salaries are significantly higher in California. There, the mean annual income for pharmacy technicians is $37,800. Entry-level pharmacy technicians earn about $27,400 while senior pharmacy techs earn about $49,000 per year.* Nationally, pharmacists have a mean annual income of $113,400. Entry-level salaries are about $84,500, while experience professionals can take home about $144,100 per year. Again, salaries are higher in California. The mean income of California-based pharmacists is $128,900. Annual salaries start at around $96,000 and can go as high as $148,400.**

Growth — Nationally, the BLS projects job prospects for pharmacy technicians to increase 32 percent between 2010 and 2020, 28 percent in California.* For pharmacists, the BLS projects growth of 25 percent nationally and 16 percent in California over the same 10-year period.**

Train to be a Pharmacy Technician at Everest College in Los Angeles

If you’d like to work in a pharmacy but don’t want to invest the time, money and energy necessary to become a full-fledged pharmacist, then a pharmacy technician career may appeal to you. If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can get the training you need to become a certified pharmacy technician at the West Los Angeles campus of Everest College.

This eight-month program provides you with the academic background and hands-on experience you need to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam and compete successfully for entry-level pharmacy technician job opportunities in the Los Angeles area.

Courses include:

  • Pharmacy of the Endocrine/Lymphatic Systems
  • Aspects of Retail Pharmacy
  • Pharmacology of the Nervous Systems
  • Infection Control, Medication Errors and Alternative Medicine
  • Pharmacology of the Urinary and Reproductive System
  • Pharmacy Operations
  • Pharmacology of the Urinary and Reproductive System
  • Circulatory and Skeletal System

Career Services

Upon graduation, you can get further support from Everest’s Career Services specialists. They can help you write a winning resume, practice effective interviewing techniques, assemble a professional wardrobe and, most import of all, identify, contact and set up interviews with potential employers.

About Everest’s West Los Angeles Campus

Everest College’s West Los Angeles campus is conveniently located at 3000 S. Robertson Blvd., just north of the Santa Monica (I-10) Freeway in Los Angeles (90034). In addition to its Pharmacy Technician program, the campus also offers diploma programs that can be completed in less than a year in Business Office Administration, Business Sales and Customer Service, Criminal Justice, Criminal Justice-Private and Homeland Security, Criminal Justice-Social and Youth Services, Dental Assistant, Massage Therapy, Medical Administrative Assistant, Medical Assistant, Medical Insurance Billing and Coding and Paralegal.

For more information on Pharmacy Technician training in West Los Angeles, contact Everest today.

Financial aid is available for those who qualify.

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