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What's the Difference Between a Pharmacy Assistant and a Pharmacy Technician?

The healthcare industry as a whole is experiencing a huge growth phase1 outpacing other fields. If you are interested in riding that wave of growth and like science, but would prefer to stay away from needles and blood, you’ll be glad to know you have options within a pharmacy. Pharmacy Assistants and Pharmacy Technicians are some of the people behind the counter there. While they have similar titles, they have different roles and responsibilities and the requirements to get the job differ.

If you have a high school diploma but no additional career training, you may be able to land an entry-level job as a Pharmacy Assistant. There, you might be able to learn the job from the pharmacist or more experienced co-workers.

Your responsibilities would involve a lot of routine clerical duties. As a Pharmacist Assistant, you may:

—    Answer phones and direct calls

—    Maintain patient files

—    Place orders for supplies, pharmaceuticals and equipment

—    Monitor inventory levels

—    Package and arrange shipments to patients

—    Arrange for customers to speak with pharmacists if they have questions or concerns

Pharmacy Technician is the more advanced career of the two and requirements vary by state. To get a job as a Pharmacy Tech, you’ll typically need to complete on-the-job training, or a program like the Pharmacy Technician Program at Charter College. Most states require that you register with them and pass an exam to gain accreditation through the Pharmacy Technicians Certification Board (PTCB).

If you work in a smaller pharmacy, you’ll likely handle many or all of the clerical tasks that an assistant might do at a hospital or a larger pharmacy. But in addition to that work, you will work more directly with the pharmaceuticals, under the supervision of the pharmacist.

As a Pharmacy Technician, you may need to:

—    Fill and label prescriptions, which the pharmacist will later check for accuracy

—    Accept payment and process insurance claims

—    Answer calls from customers

—    Organize and maintain inventory of medications and supplies

—    Consult with the pharmacist about drug reactions and interactions with other medications

—    Assemble prescription packets for nurses to distribute to patients, if you work in a hospital

—    Compound or mix medications

—    Call physicians for prescription refill authorization.

—    Operate automated dispensing equipment to fill orders.


If you feel that the hands-on role of Pharmacy Technician is the right option for you, contact Charter College today to learn how our program can help you gain entry into that field.


1 https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm