Pharmacy aide vs pharmacy technician: Both work in pharmacies under the supervision of licensed pharmacists. Both provide support to pharmacists, but there are some key differences between the two roles. This article will compare pharmacy aides and pharmacy technicians in terms of education and training requirements, job duties, salary, and career advancement opportunities.
Want to expand your knowledge on pharmacy technician questions? Explore our in-depth article: Pharmacy Technician Questions: 9 Important Differences
Pharmacy Aide vs Pharmacy Technician
Education and Training
The education and training required for pharmacy aides and technicians differ significantly. Pharmacy aides typically have a high school diploma or equivalent. Formal education or training is not required to become a pharmacy aide, just a high school diploma or GED. On the job training is provided for the duties of a pharmacy aide.
Pharmacy technicians require more extensive education and training. An associate degree or postsecondary nondegree certificate program is required for most pharmacy technician positions. These programs teach pharmacy calculations, terminology, recordkeeping, pharmacy law and regulations, and proper pharmaceutical techniques. Technicians also complete practical training through an externship or hands-on practice in a pharmacy. Additionally, most states require national certification for pharmacy technicians, such as through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or National Healthcareer Association (NHA). Maintaining certification requires continuing education.
In summary, pharmacy aides require a high school education while pharmacy technicians need formal postsecondary education and national certification. The pharmacy technician role necessitates this more advanced training to take on greater responsibilities in the pharmacy.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of pharmacy technicians will grow 12% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.— Pharmacy Aide vs Pharmacy Technician
Job Duties and Responsibilities
The scope of practice for pharmacy aides and technicians is quite different. Pharmacy aides have limited duties such as stocking shelves, cashiering, delivering medical items, and other clerical tasks like answering phones and filing. Pharmacy aide duties focus on the front end operations of the pharmacy.
Meanwhile, pharmacy technicians take on more clinical and technical roles. Key responsibilities include preparing medications under the supervision of the pharmacist, reviewing and verifying prescriptions for accuracy, interacting with patients to obtain medication histories, maintaining patient profiles, and assisting pharmacists with compounding. Technicians take on both front end customer service and back end dispensing tasks. Their greater medical knowledge allows them to play a more clinical role alongside the pharmacist.
In short, pharmacy aides handle more administrative and logistical work while pharmacy technicians are more involved in direct patient care and the actual preparation and dispensing of medications. The technician role requires strong attention to detail and knowledge of pharmaceuticals.
In some states, pharmacy aides are not required to be licensed. In other states, pharmacy aides may need to pass a certification exam.— Pharmacy Aide vs Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy aide vs Pharmacy technician can both be found working in retail pharmacies, hospitals, long-term care facilities, mail order pharmacies, grocery store pharmacies, clinics, and other healthcare settings.
Within these practice settings, pharmacy technicians often have more direct interaction with patients and other medical staff. They work at the dispensing counter, take prescriptions over the phone, communicate with doctors’ offices, and educate patients on their medications. Pharmacy aides tend to work more behind the scenes stocking, organizing inventory, and handling non-clinical operations.
The work environment for technicians requires more multitasking and clinical knowledge while interacting with patients and physicians. Pharmacy aides focus more on inventory, stocking, and administrative work. Both provide support to licensed pharmacists but pharmacy technicians play a more active role in the medication dispensing process.
If you are interested in administrative work and customer service, then a pharmacy aide may be a good fit for you. If you are interested in clinical work and helping patients, then a pharmacy technician may be a better choice.— Pharmacy Aide vs Pharmacy Technician
Salary and Growth
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for pharmacy aides in 2020 was $33,670 while the median annual salary for pharmacy technicians was $36,450. While the median salary for technicians is higher, there is significant overlap in the salary ranges. Location, work setting, experience level, and certification status impact pay for both roles.
The BLS projects much faster than average job growth for pharmacy technicians at 12% between 2020-2030, compared to just 3% for pharmacy aides. The increased use of medications and advances in pharmaceuticals will drive demand for more pharmacy technicians. Strict educational and regulatory requirements for technicians may limit the supply. Therefore, the job outlook remains strong for certified pharmacy technicians while the aide role is growing at a more modest pace.
The key differences between pharmacy aides and pharmacy technicians are in education requirements, licensing, tasks, salaries, and career prospects.— Pharmacy Aide vs Pharmacy Technician
For pharmacy aides looking to advance their career, obtaining pharmacy technician education and certification is an excellent path forward. The role of technician allows for greater responsibility, pay, and opportunity for continued education and specialization. Experienced technicians may pursue supervisory positions, sales and marketing roles with pharmaceutical companies, sterile or compounding specialization, or pharmacy informatics.
Pharmacy technicians with significant experience can also advance their career by pursuing a PharmD program to become a pharmacist, though this requires several additional years of schooling. Technicians may also specialize in a therapeutic area or population group, like oncology, geriatrics, or pediatrics. Some technicians transition into postsecondary pharmacy technician education and teach future generations of technicians.
In comparison, pharmacy aides have limited opportunity for advancement. They may gain additional responsibilities through years of experience but are unlikely to see large pay increases or career development without transitioning into a pharmacy technician role. For pharmacy aides seeking more responsibility, pay, and advancement, completing a pharmacy technician training program and obtaining certification is the most direct path. The role of pharmacy technician offers greater long-term career prospects over pharmacy aide.
Pharmacy aides can advance to pharmacy technician positions, and pharmacy technicians can advance to supervisory or management positions. Pharmacy technicians with additional education and training may also be able to work as pharmacists.— Pharmacy Aide vs Pharmacy Technician
Pharmacy Aide vs Pharmacy Technician – Summary
|Factor||Pharmacy Aide||Pharmacy Technician|
|Education||High school diploma or equivalent||Associate’s degree or diploma|
|Licensure||Not required in all states||Required in most states|
|Salary||$15,000 – $30,000 per year||$25,000 – $45,000 per year|
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a pharmacy aide become a pharmacy technician without additional schooling?
In most states, pharmacy aides cannot transition into a pharmacy technician role without completing a formal pharmacy technician education program, training, and certification exam. Hands-on experience as an aide is beneficial, but technicians require extensive knowledge of pharmaceuticals and medical processes that goes beyond on-the-job training.
What is the main difference between pharmacy aide vs pharmacy technician?
The key difference is the scope of practice. Pharmacy aides have limited duties focused on administrative, clerical, and front end tasks like stocking shelves, delivering supplies, and running the cash register. Pharmacy technicians take on more responsibility related to preparing medications, verifying prescriptions, documenting patient profiles, and working alongside the pharmacist to dispense medications.
Do pharmacy aides need to be certified?
There is no legal certification requirement for pharmacy aides. Voluntary certification programs are available through some pharmacist associations, but national certification is not mandatory. In contrast, most states require national certification such as through the PTCB for pharmacy technicians.
What happens if a pharmacy aide makes an error?
Pharmacy aides work under the supervision of pharmacists and have limited interaction with actual pharmaceuticals. However, if an aide makes an error, like giving incorrect information to a patient or entering inaccurate data, the pharmacist is responsible for catching and correcting the mistake through appropriate quality assurance measures. Serious or repeated errors may result in retraining or termination.
Can pharmacy technicians administer immunizations?
In some states, certified pharmacy technicians can be trained to administer immunizations under pharmacist supervision after meeting legal requirements. Technician scope of practice varies by state law. Pharmacy aides cannot legally administer immunizations.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Pharmacy Technicians
- National Association of Pharmacy Technicians
- American Society of Health-System Pharmacists