The pharmacist is the head of any pharmacy. He or she is ultimately in charge of all the medications that come in and go out of a pharmacy. That's a lot of work to be handled by one person, so pharmacists tend to hire pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants to help them.
One of the biggest differences between these two pharmaceutical jobs is the level of education and certification required. Pharmacy technicians are required to complete between six months and two years of education, earning either a certification or Associate's degree. Pharmacy technicians are also required to be certified by either the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB), which is a national organization, or certified by their state's Board of Pharmacy. Pharmacy assistants, in contrast, require no certification or formal training. Most of this pharmaceutical job's skills are learned while working in a pharmacy.
In pharmaceutical jobs, pharmacy technicians handle fair amounts of medications, including pills and tablets, fluids, creams and sterile solutions. Because of their time spent studying, pharmacy technicians may also give out limited medical advice, usually under the supervision of the pharmacist. Pharmacy assistants may sometimes count pills or tablets for a prescription, but are generally limited to making deliveries and less technical tasks such as answering the phones or ringing up sales. And whereas a pharmacy technician is supervised by a pharmacist, a pharmacy assistant is overseen by a pharmacy technician.
While there is some room for advancement for pharmacy technicians, many pharmacy assistants opt to get the training they need to become certified pharmacy technicians to get better pharmaceutical job opportunities.
In addition to different roles and responsibilities within the pharmacy, these pharmaceutical jobs also differ in compensation. According to 2008 statistics from the Bureau of Labor, pharmacist technicians earn an average of about $13.32 per hour while pharmacy assistants earned between $8.42 and $11.62 per hour.