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Pharmacist vs Pharmacy Tech: Choosing the Right Career

  • July 4, 2018
  • RPh on the Go

pharmacist careerAs in many careers, there are several paths that you can take within pharmacy. The most popular choices are as a pharmacist or as a pharmacy tech. Each of these careers has an important purpose in the medical field, allowing you to achieve the main goal of the profession – helping patients. In order to decide which pharmacy career path is the right one for you, take a look at the different job titles to compare and contrast.

Earning Potential

Though many in healthcare professions aren’t in it for money, those student loans and that mortgage won’t pay for themselves. It is important to understand the average earning potential for someone in your chosen career path before making major life decisions. Though salary numbers can vary based on location and experience, these are the median salaries for the below positions according to U.S. News and World Report.

  • Pharmacist – In 2016, the median yearly salary for a pharmacist in the United States was $122,230. As a full spectrum, pharmacist salaries spanned from just over $87,000 to more than $157,000.
  • Pharmacy Tech – The median yearly salary for a pharmacy technician was $30,920 in 2016. The lowest end of the salary range was just over $21,000, with the highest end reaching $45,000.

Duties and Responsibilities

Another important factor in choosing your career path is knowing what your duties and responsibilities might look like. Though both pharmacists and pharmacy techs are responsible for the dispensing of medications, there are some distinct differences in their job descriptions.

Pharmacists oversee all of the activities of the pharmacy. They are responsible for the safe dispensation of medication, as well as counseling patients on their prescriptions and treatment plans. Even if a prescription is packaged by an assistant or tech, the pharmacist must check it before it is given to a patient.

A pharmacy tech may assist the pharmacist in filling prescriptions, but they are not allowed to dispense medication without the review of a pharmacist. They also have other duties such as filing paperwork, cashiering, entering insurance claims, and other assorted duties that keep the pharmacy going.

Educational Requirements

The biggest difference when comparing a pharmacy tech to a pharmacist is the amount of education required to earn the title.

For those looking to take on a job as a pharmacy technician, you must complete the licensing requirements as set by the state in which you are employed. For some, a community college course for pharmacy technicians will give you all of the tools you need to do the job. In other states, you may need to complete an associates degree program and then sit for state licensing tests to work behind the counter in a pharmacy.

Those who are considering a career as a pharmacist must complete a doctorate degree in order to be licensed. For most who choose this line of work, there is a six-to-seven-year commitment to education to reach their goals. This means a few years of pre-pharmacy education, followed by graduate work and residency in the field before their degree is received.

For those trying to make decisions about what type of education to pursue, spend some time looking at available jobs for pharmacists and pharmacy techs. Depending on what responsibilities you’d like to have, salary desires, and how much time and money you want to invest in your education, the right choice for you may become clear without a lot of extensive consideration.

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