Pharmacy Assistant v Pharmacy Technician: What’s The Difference?


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Planning your future career can be a lot of fun. But it can also be confusing.

There’s just so much to think about!

Do you want a job that allows you to help your community? One with great benefits? The chance to challenge your mind?

Well, luckily, the growing pharmacy industry offers a wide range of exciting opportunities for you to explore…Like being a pharmacy assistant or a pharmacy technician!

But wait, aren’t they the same job?

Let’s find out:

Is a Pharmacy Tech and Pharmacy Assistant the same thing?

While you’d be forgiven for thinking that a Pharmacy Technician and a Pharmacy Assistant are the same thing, they’re actually distinct roles with different responsibilities and requirements.

So what does a pharmacy assistant do, and how does this compare to the role of a pharmacy technician? Let’s take a look:

What is a Pharmacy Assistant? 

Also sometimes called “pharmacy aides” or “dispensing assistants”, pharmacy assistants support both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in their roles.

Although duties vary between different employers, these duties often involve stocking shelves, answering phones, and other administrative tasks.

However, unlike pharmacy techs, assistants are not usually expected to prepare drugs for prescriptions. And this is where the main difference lies.

You see, pharmacy technicians usually take an exam called the PTCB before becoming certified in their role.

And because of their education and training, pharmacy technicians are often tasked with retrieving, counting, pouring, weighing, measuring, and sometimes even mixing medications. 

Pharmacy assistants, on the other hand, are rarely expected to handle drugs in this way.

Now, speaking of education, what exactly do you need in order to get a job as a pharmacy assistant?

Do you need any qualifications or a certificate to pursue this career?

Let’s find out:

Pharmacy Assistant requirements

Pharmacy technicians are usually more highly trained than pharmacy assistants need to be.

And, because pharmacy assistants don’t work as closely with drugs as technicians, there is currently no special certification, like the PTCB,  needed to work in this type of role. 

However, most employers will require that their pharmacy assistants hold either a high school diploma or GED prior to employment.

But just because there is no certificate needed, doesn’t mean that just anyone can be a pharmacy assistant.

There are definitely some skills you’ll need to succeed.

So, apart from a high school diploma or GED, what else will you need to secure your first job as a pharmacy assistant?

Well, there are lots of skills that will help you to do well in the pharmacy assistant game, like:

  • Good communication skills: both for dealing with customers and your co-workers
  • Attention to detail: this is essential for completing administrative duties effectively
  • Great timekeeping: pharmacies can be busy and it is essential that they are adequately staffed
  • Problem-solving skills: this will help you when dealing with customers and any potential complaints you may encounter

But most importantly, you should be dedicated and willing to learn.

OK, so we’ve looked at what skills you’ll need to work as a pharmacy assistant. But how much does a career as a pharmacy assistant pay? Let’s take a look:

How much do Pharmacy Assistants get paid?

The mean salary for a Pharmacy Assistant is $26,120, compared with $31,750 for a Pharmacy Technician.

Now, you may be wondering why the discrepancy? After all, both roles involve working in a busy pharmacy. 

But don’t forget, pharmacy technicians need to know much more about drugs in order to complete their duties.

And let’s not forget that pharmacy technicians have to pass the PTCB exam in order to practice.

But what if you want to be hands-on with drugs too? Can pharmacy assistants move up to become pharmacy technicians and get that pay rise too?

Let’s take a look:

Can a Pharmacy Assistant become a Pharmacy Technician?

OK, say you’re a pharmacy assistant who’s ready to take that next career step. Is it possible to become a pharmacy technician?

Well, the simple answer is yes! It’s absolutely possible for a pharmacy assistant to become a pharmacy technician. That is, it’s absolutely possible just so long as they are willing to put in a little study time.

You see, in many states, it is a legal requirement that pharmacy technicians pass an exam and get certified. And the most popular form of certification is the PTCB.

But don’t worry if it’s been a while since you hit the books. Our PTCB hero study guide has everything you need in order to pass on your first attempt.

Want to see how ready you are to sit your PTCB exam? Why not try our free practice test?

You’ll be a fully-fledged pharmacy technician in no time!