There are several career tracks related to pharmaceuticals. Pharmacy technicians and aides prepare prescriptions and perform other duties to ensure pharmacy customers are well-served. These workers do not have to meet the same rigorous education requirements licensed pharmacists do, although on average they also earn considerably smaller salaries.
Registered nurses administer medications and in some cases write prescriptions. On average, RNs receive significantly higher paychecks than pharmacy technicians and aides; however, most nursing positions require years of post-secondary training.
Pharmacy technicians assist licensed pharmacists by preparing medications. Typical duties include counting pills, measuring and mixing medications, labeling bottles and maintaining customer files. Some pharmacy technicians help prepare insurance claim forms as well. Pharmacy technicians do not have the training necessary to answer questions regarding prescriptions, drug information, health matters or drug interactions. These inquires must be referred to an actual pharmacist.
Most states require pharmacy technicians to register with the local board of pharmacy professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are no standard training requirements for pharmacy technicians, although some states require a high school diploma or an equivalent to register.
Most employers prefer candidates with formal training. Relevant job programs can take anywhere between six months to two years to complete. Bureau of Labor Statistics experts say the median hourly wages for pharmacy technicians was $13.32 in 2008. Half of all pharmacy techs made between $10.95 and $15.88 an hour that year.
Pharmacy aides assist pharmacists and technicians by performing routine administrative and customer service duties. Aides answer phones, replenish supplies and operate cash registers. They may also help technicians with patient paperwork; however, they are not qualified to assist with the prescription-filling process.
There are no formal job requirements for pharmacy aides; however, candidates with relevant work experience and a high school education are desirable. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median hourly wage for pharmacy aides was $9.66 in 2008. Half of all aides made between $8.47 and $11.62 an hour in 2008.
The primary function of registered nurses or RNs is to assist and treat patients. Nurses administer medications and advise patients on self-medication as part of their regular duties. Nurses may also be responsible for checking doses and preventing potentially hazardous drug interactions. Advanced practice nurses can even prescribe medications.
Most nursing positions require completion of a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree in nursing or a diploma from an approved nursing program. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for RNs was $62,450 in 2008. Half of all nursing salaries fell between $51,640 and $76,570 that year.