What is the Difference Between a Pharmacy Technician and a Pharmacist?
While pharmacy technicians work closely with pharmacists, there are significant differences between the two roles. To begin, the scope of practice of a pharmacist is significantly broader than the technician. This is due not only to the years of education that is required but the licensing requirements for the pharmacist, based on the state in which they practice.
In school, pharmacy technicians learn how to weigh, measure, mix and calculate doses of medications, package and label prescribed medication, sell medications and other over-the-counter items, deliver medications, and update patient medical records. These tasks and more are part of the daily job of a pharmacy technician and may vary based on the clinical setting.
The pharmacist learns and is responsible for all of the above duties and tasks of the pharmacy technician plus ensuring the medications in their purview are potent and of high quality. The pharmacist must also follow dispensing laws, ensure medications prescribed for patients are appropriate and not contraindicated to other medications the patient is taking, and advise patients about the medications they are dispensing, including how to take the medicine and any side effects to be aware of. Pharmacists provide health advice to patients such as managing high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking cessation. When necessary, a pharmacist can also administer vaccines and change prescriptions from brand-name to generic.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) from an accredited pharmacy school is required (along with passing the state pharmacy licensure exam) in order to become a pharmacist. This process can take anywhere from 6-7 years, depending on the focus of the program and when the student enters the program.
Comparatively, one can complete a pharmacy technician program in as little as 6 months, and many states allow pharmacy technicians to work without passing a state test or a certification from the National Health Career Association such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification exam. However, most employers require these certifications in order to work as a pharmacy technician. While there are many differences in the scope of practice between a pharmacist and a pharmacy technician, a solid pharmacy technician is the eyes, ears, and face of the pharmacist and the entire pharmacy.