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When you go to the pharmacy to fill a prescription, you see different people working behind the pharmacy counter. Those people may look like they are doing the same job but, in reality, they're not. A pharmacist and a pharmacy technician have similarities in their jobs, but there are also many differences.
A pharmacist compounds ingredients to form medications, and then dispenses medications to patients. He also answers any questions a patient has about a medication, counsels patients on the use of over-the counter and prescription medications and advises patients on general health topics. Pharmacists in the U.S. must earn a Pharm.D. degree; the Pharm.D. replaced the Bachelor of Pharmacy, which is no longer awarded. The Pharm.D. degree is a four-year program and it must be completed at an accredited college or pharmacy school. Some pharmacists also complete a one- or two-year residency because a residency is required for pharmacists who wish to work in a clinical setting. As of 2008, the median salary for a pharmacist was $106,410, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Pharmacy technicians help licensed pharmacists prepare medications and serve the customers. Technicians verify that prescription information is accurate, verify insurance information, maintain patient files, receive the electronic prescription requests from doctor's offices and prepare prescription labels. Technicians also count, pour, weigh, measure and sometimes mix medications. A technician cannot dispense a medication without having the medication checked by the pharmacist. Also, the technician cannot answer patient questions about medications or health matters; those questions must be referred to the pharmacist. There are no standard education requirements for the technician, but some states require a high school diploma or equivalent. There are also pharmacy technician programs offered at vocational schools that make a candidate more favorable. As of 2008, the median annual wage for a pharmacy technician was $13.32 per hour, according to the BLS.
Both pharmacists and pharmacy technicians handle prescription medication. They both count, mix, weigh and pour the medication. They also both deal with pharmacy customers, doctor's offices and insurance companies. A pharmacist and a pharmacy technician have the same goal--the health and well being of the general public and satisfied customers.
A pharmacist has more authority than a pharmacy technician; the pharmacist has the ultimate say over whether or not the medication is suitable for public consumption. The pharmacist is also required to have more education than the technician. The technician handles the administrative side of the pharmacy; she deals with the labels and patient files. The pharmacist handles the scientific and clinical needs of the pharmacy; he answers medical questions and compounds the medications. The pharmacist, who is paid a salary, also earns significantly higher earnings than the technician, who is usually paid hourly.
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