Pharmacy Technician vs. Pharmacy Assistant

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Pharmacy Technician vs. Pharmacy Assistant
portrait of Nalea J. Ko
by Nalea J. Ko
Published on September 22, 2021


It takes a team to run a pharmacy. Pharmacists rely on pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants, also called pharmacy aides, to handle operations.

Each occupation has specific responsibilities. If you want to pursue a career in pharmacy technology, it's important to understand the differences between a pharmacy technician vs. pharmacy assistant.

Pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants mostly work in hospitals and health and personal retail settings, filling prescriptions and handling administrative duties. To work in a pharmacy, you need a solid grasp of mathematics, strong communication skills, and pharmaceutical knowledge.

Both pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants work under the supervision of pharmacists, performing duties that often overlap. However, technicians typically take on more responsibilities and earn higher salaries. Read on to learn more about the differences between a pharmacy technician vs. pharmacy assistant, including licensure requirements, job roles, career outlook, and salary potential.

How Are Pharmacy Technicians vs. Pharmacy Assistants Different?

Pharmacy assistants and pharmacy technicians handle the day-to-day operations in a pharmacy so pharmacists can devote their time to patient care services and pharmaceutical questions.

Pharmacy technicians have more advanced clinical responsibilities than pharmacy assistants, who perform clerical duties like handling transactions, stocking shelves, and answering phone calls. Pharmacy technicians measure medications and process orders for patients.

Another key difference between the two professions is licensure. States often require pharmacy technicians to become licensed — a process that involves passing an exam and completing a program accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) or the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.

Each state operates a board that regulates licensure for pharmacy technicians. Pharmacy technicians often earn certification from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), even if licensure is not required by a state or pharmacy.

Most pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants only need a high school diploma or GED certificate. However, in the future, entry-level pharmacy technicians may need a two-year degree, as the profession will require advanced clinical duties, according to ASHP.

How Does Salary Differ For Pharmacy Technicians vs. Pharmacy Assistants?

According to the BLS, as of May 2020, pharmacy technicians earned a median annual salary of $35,100, while pharmacy assistants made a median annual wage of $29,280. However, keep in mind that salary potential depends on a worker's training, location, work experience, and setting.

Lucrative sectors for pharmacy technicians include colleges, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and local government agencies. Similarly, pharmacy aides who work at electronic shopping and mail-order houses, nursing care facilities, insurance carriers, and general medical and surgical hospitals tend to earn higher wages.

How Does the Career Outlook Differ For Pharmacy Technicians vs. Pharmacy Assistants?

Employers hire many pharmacy technicians nationwide, with a workforce of more than 415,000 professionals (as of May 2020), according to the BLS. The BLS projects 4% job growth for these professionals between 2019 and 2029.

The top three industries employing the most pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants include health and personal care stores, general medical and surgical hospitals, and food and beverage stores.

The states with the highest employment levels differ for pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants. The greatest number of pharmacy technicians work in Texas, California, Florida, Illinois, and New York, while California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and New York employ the most pharmacy assistants.

Employment levels also vary depending on the city. For example, Los Angeles boasts the highest level of employment for pharmacy aides, and New York City employs the highest level for pharmacy technicians.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pharmacy Technicians vs. Pharmacy Assistants

What skills should a pharmacy technician have? true

Pharmacy technicians need solid customer service skills, strong pharmaceutical knowledge, enthusiasm for working on a team, and a love for details. Communication skills are also essential, as pharmacy technicians interact with customers and physicians. They must also record information about patients and count, measure, and/or compound medications.

Is pharmacy assistant a good career? true

Becoming a pharmacy assistant suits people with good organizational and multitasking skills and a solid grasp of basic math. Pharmacy assistant careers offer opportunities for high school graduates who want to secure a steady job. In the right industry, pharmacy assistants can earn more than $50,000 per year without a college degree.

Are there online pharmacy technician programs? true

Yes. Students can complete the training needed to become pharmacy technicians completely online. However, programs often require students to complete in-person externships at pharmacies. Schools may also require students to do labs on campus.

These programs often prepare students to earn their certification through PTCB. Students learn about terminology, pharmacy operations, inventory, pharmacy calculations, and compounding.


Feature Image: Luis Alvarez / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Whether facilitating COVID-19 vaccinations and testing or providing clients with essential pandemic-era medical information, pharmacy technicians play a critical role in day-to-day healthcare services. For people interested in a field... We answer your questions about earning a pharmacy technician training degree -- career outlook, admissions, cost, and program information. Do you want to work in healthcare without the cost of a 4-year degree? Consider an online pharmacy degree or certificate. See our top-ranked programs.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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