Pharmacy technician vs. pharmacist, what's the difference? | LowestMed

When approaching the pharmacy counter, you may be greeted by either a pharmacy technician or pharmacist. They can both help take your prescription and ring you up, but what are the main differences between the two and what roles do they are responsible for.

What is a pharmacist?

Pharmacists are healthcare professionals that practice pharmacy, which focuses on the safe and effective use of medications. The most common type of pharmacists that patients interact with are community pharmacists. They are medication experts that use a detailed knowledge of medicines to help patients.

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Through their knowledge of the chemical makeup of medications, pharmacists help assure the safety and appropriateness in the prescriptions therapy process. They help monitor the patient’s health and progress to achieve the best results through medication therapy.

Pharmacists play a vital role in the health care process. They collaborate with physicians, nurses and other members of the health care industry, to provide expertise on medication treatment decisions.

What do pharmacists do?

  • Distributes prescription drugs to patients
  • Advises patients, physicians, and other health practitioners on the selection, dosages, interactions, and side effects of medications
  • Monitor the health progress of patients to ensure they are using their medications safely
  • Some pharmacists are trained to administer vaccinations

Depending on the pharmacy’s size, there could be multiple pharmacists on staff. Many independent pharmacies will have only one pharmacist on staff.

Where do pharmacists get their education?

Pharmacists are trained in colleges of pharmacy at universities. Usually, the pharmacy degrees are offered by colleges that have medical schools. Since a depth of knowledge is needed, pharmacists are required to have a Doctor of Pharmacy or Master of Pharmacy degree.

Different countries require different levels of education from pharmacists. Most require a pharmacist to hold a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree, Master of Pharmacy, or a Doctor of Pharmacy.

What is a pharmacy technician?

Pharmacy technicians are health care providers that work closely with licensed pharmacists and are generally the first person you will approach at the pharmacy counter.

Pharmacy technicians usually collect the information needed to fill a prescription. They will measure the amounts of medications for prescriptions, then package and label them. One of the pharmacy technicians’ main roles is to organize the inventory and alert the pharmacist to any shortages of medications or supplies.

Pharmacy technicians generally accept the patient’s payment for the prescription, along with processing insurance claims. Depending on the size of the staff at a pharmacy, the pharmacy technician may be who the patient interacts with the most.

When calling a pharmacy, the technician is usually the person who will answer the phone.

How to become a pharmacy technician

The training to become a pharmacy technician varies by state. In most cases though, pharmacy technicians usually obtain a certificate from a career college. Pharmacy technicians have taken classes on topics like pharmacology, chemistry, pharmacy math, pharmacy computer skills, among others. Certificates and associate degrees for pharmacy technicians can take between one to two years to complete.