From Pharmacy Tech to Pharmacist: Charting a Career Path in Pharmacology

Last Updated on April 12, 2023

Woman pharmacist talking on the phone with a stethoscope around her neck, writing on a clipboard and looking to a laptop, with a pharmacy as a background

Though it seems logical enough, the career path from pharmacy tech to pharmacist isn’t necessarily a traditional one. In the past, people seeking a pharmacy career have often focused on attaining the education and credentialing needed for either role, without considering the benefits of pharmacist vs. pharmacy tech careers.

Exploring a pharmacist career, or hunting for pharmacy jobs? Let’s explore and chart a career from pharmacy tech to pharmacist.

Pharmacist vs. Pharmacy Tech Demand

Yet this may be changing. Job opportunities for pharmacy technicians are steady, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projecting a 5% increase in employment from 2021 to 2031. This is right at the national employment baseline. On the other hand, the BLS projects a slower than average 2% rate of job growth for pharmacists.

That’s because the job market for pharmacists is becoming much more competitive, which the Pharmacy Times attributes to “floods of new graduates contributing to declining demand, and decreased reimbursement that makes it tough for pharmacies to pay their bills.”

At the same time, there’s little doubt that pharmacist jobs are more lucrative than pharmacy tech jobs, with an average pay rate of about $61 versus $17 an hour, respectively. Yet that difference in compensation is also reflected in the much more rigorous academic and training requirements of pharmacists versus pharm techs.

Charting a career path that moves from pharmacy tech to pharmacist can not only help alleviate those differences, but actually turn them to the advantage of job seekers. For individuals motivated to work in pharmacology, it may be the best way to not only fund the education needed to become a pharmacist, but also to gain the experience needed to be a competitive job seeker.

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The Benefits Of A Pharm Tech-To-Pharmacist Career Path

As we’ve noted, beginning a career in pharmacology as a pharm tech has not been the traditional route. But we no longer live in traditional times! Much has changed in both the academic world and the healthcare industry in recent decades. In addition, those changes may now favor individuals who begin their careers as pharmacy techs before advancing to roles as pharmacist.

Pharmacist vs. Pharmacy Tech Education

The differences in education and training are vast. Pharmacy jobs require a doctorate degree in pharmacology (Pharm D), which typically includes a six-year degree followed by a year-long internship. In addition, this degree must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE). At a basic level, pharmacy techs may be able to work with just a high school diploma and a willingness to be trained on the job. However, pharmacy techs must also have applied and obtained their necessary pharmacy technician license from their state. In some states, pharmacy technicians may also need a certification before they are able to work.

Pharmacist vs. Pharmacy Tech Opportunities

It should be noted, though, that there is substantial crossover within these different job requirements. Pharmacists must learn everything that a technician learns, and are usually required to supervise all the duties of the pharm techs on their teams. This includes taks such as signing off on medication orders. This crossover means that working in pharm tech will better inform one’s decisions and abilities as a pharmacist.

A career path that moves from pharmacy tech to pharmacist, can offer valuable opportunities to learn the nuances of the pharmacist profession. It also provides the chance to earn the kind of hands-on experience that could make a real difference at the end of that path. This is handy when you’re facing a competitive field of pharmacists all vying for a diminishing number of jobs.

Strategies For Landing The Best Pharmacist Jobs

There are other benefits to this career path, too. For those without limitless financial resources, beginning a career as a pharmacy tech — where jobs are abundant — can help fund the education needed to land a full-fledged pharmacist job.

Although the pay for pharm techs doesn’t match that of pharmacists, there are opportunities to earn more. For instance, working in a government setting or within a large hospital pharmacy. And, as with other careers, hard-working, leadership-oriented individuals have the potential to land roles as supervisors or specialists (in areas like nuclear medicine or oncology, for instance), which may offer higher salaries.

Taking a slower, more deliberate approach to becoming a pharmacist could pay off in other ways, too. An earlier Pharmacy Times article predicts that “pharmacists will play a larger role in patient care in the future, creating more jobs and a greater demand.” That means that the job situation for pharmacists will likely be better in five to ten years than it is today.

“An increase in patient care roles may help increase employment opportunities,” the article continues. The same article mentions taking ample opportunity to develop these skills, inside and outside of school. “Volunteering within the community at clinics and health fairs will help students to cultivate new skills to set them apart in a patient care–focused field.”

Among those in-demand skills could be a thorough understanding of the workings of the pharmacy workplace. Pharmacy Times concludes by quoting prominent doctor of pharmacology, Dr. Daniel L. Brown, who notes that “new graduates who are ‘fittest’ will be able to find employment.” That said, spending several years as a pharm tech could be the difference in you being more “fit” than the next candidate.

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Ready to explore pharm tech or pharmacist jobs near you? If you’re seeking pharmacy job opportunities, we’ve got amazing contract and travel assignments across the United States. We invite you to browse our pharmacy tech jobs here and view our pharmacist jobs here, or join our roster of clinical professionals!

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