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What Is the Difference Between a Pharmacy Tech Clerk & a Pharmacist?

by Anthony Oster

While pharmacists and pharmacy technician clerks often work side by side, their roles in hospitals, clinics and retail pharmacies are very different from one another. They vary in their level of education and training in the field; type of degree earned; level of responsibility to patients; and pay. Despite the differences, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the job outlook for both professions is expected to grow faster than the average profession between 2010 and 2020.

Education

The education and training required are the biggest differences between the two professions. To earn a doctorate of pharmacy degree, you must complete two to three years of college-level prerequisite coursework, followed by four years of professional pharmacy school. Pharmacy technicians, on the other hand, often earn certificates to practice through on-the-job training or through one-year pharmacy technician training programs.

Job Duties

Although the layperson may categorize a pharmacist as a simple pill counter, in reality a pharmacist is responsible for much more. A pharmacist must identify possible interactions between varying that a patient is taking; instruct patients on how to take specific medications; and discuss the side effects of medications with patients. Pharmacy technicians count and sort medication, take orders from customers and perform other routine tasks around the pharmacy.

Responsibility

While pharmacy technicians may provide services such as labeling and portioning out medications, the work provided by pharmacy technicians is ultimately supervised by the pharmacist on staff. It is the pharmacist's duty to ensure that each patient receives the prescribed medication and that the patient has been educated on any possible interactions with other medications.

Pay

The difference in pay for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians is as vast as the educational requirements separating the two professions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary for pharmacists in 2010 was approximately $111,570 annually, or $53.64 per hour. In contrast, the median reported salary for pharmacy technicians in the same year was $28,400 annually, or $13.65 per hour. This dramatic difference in pay is proportionate to the differences in education and responsibility.

About the Author

Anthony Oster is a licensed professional counselor who earned his Master of Science in counseling psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He has served as a writer and lead video editor for a small, South Louisiana-based video production company since 2007. Oster is the co-owner of a professional photography business and advises the owner on hardware and software acquisitions for the company.

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