Pharmacy Technician +
August 16, 2018 1:24 PM   Subscribe

I'll be starting a pharmacy tech program in the near future, with completion after the first of next year. My question is this - there are pharmacists and pharmacy technicians ... are there other pharmacy related positions within this continuum?

We have doctors, PAs, and nurses - is there a similar hierarchy within pharmacy? Or is it a matter of just adding experience in the different pharmacy areas as a tech?

Also, anyone have comments/thoughts on relevancy of data & systems knowledge with the pharm tech field? I have a background in both and have some interest in health informatics.

Appreciate the feedback in advance & will try to clarify if necessary.

posted by sandpine to Work & Money (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know that there is exactly a hierarchy within pharmacy* but there are definitely a lot of different kinds of jobs and different levels at which pharmacists practice. A lot of pharmacists, especially if they're interested in working outside of a retail pharmacy setting, do internships and residencies after completing their PharmD degrees; they may also get other kinds of degrees in fields like business, public health, law, whatever!
  • Retail pharmacy includes things like chain and independent drug store pharmacists - these are the people we mostly think of when we think of pharmacists - dispensing prescriptions and telling people about interactions, etc. In independent pharmacies they may also be owners or part-owners of the business. In some states they can also do things like give vaccinations and things that a NP or PA might do. You might end up supervising other retail pharmacists (either at one pharmacy or, like, as a district/regional manager for a chain).
  • Compounding pharmacists may be part of a retail pharmacy or a separate business - they mix up special drug combinations (like if a cancer patient can't swallow her giant chemo pills, the pharmacist can put the drug into a liquid format)
  • Hospital pharmacists do some of what retail pharmacists do, but they also get called in to consult on difficult cases, like say where a patient needs to take multiple drugs with conflicting interactions, the hospital pharmacist may be able to give recommendations to the rest of the care team
  • There are lots of other pharmacy-adjacent fields, like diabetes educator - a lot of diabetes educators are pharmacists, but you don't have to be a pharmacist to be a diabetes educator
  • Or some pharmacists specialize - you could be an HIV specialist, or immune disorders, or hepatitis or something
Actually you might just want to look at this list: Career Option Profiles from the APhA.

*and probably some doctors/PAs/nurses would not like to have their professionals characterized as being hierarchical to each other - they are different types of health professionals who work together
posted by mskyle at 2:17 PM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

No slight intended towards any of those folks; it was meant primarily as a way to differentiate the ability to provide care within the patient-contact spectrum...
posted by sandpine at 2:27 PM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm a pharmacist, and there really isn't the same range of options. It is very weird, when you think about it. The PharmD degree is 4 years of pharmacy school, and that's usually AFTER getting an undergrad degree. The absolute fastest you could do it is 2 years of undergrad and 4 years of pharmacy school.

Then there's the pharmacy tech certification which can be earned with a high school diploma and passing a certification exam.

There's not an associate's degree (2-year) credential. There used to be a bachelor's degree (RPh) to be a pharmacist, but now the entry level degree to be a pharmacist is the PharmD. I feel like the profession could really use some midrange options but they don't exist right now.

That said, the pharm tech certification is a great start in a variety of other health care careers. I know nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and doctors who all started out as a pharm tech. It's always good to be familiar with all the drugs out there. The practice of medicine involves a lot of medicine.

Also, if you want to use your IT background that would be a good way to grow in your career. I know a pharmacy tech at a hospital where I worked who first became the buyer for the pharmacy, then got a credential in supply chain management and now works at a different hospital for the same chain overseeing supply of materials. If you get into hospital pharmacy there might be corporate opportunities too in IT. Hospital is harder to get into than working at a drugstore, but it can be done, especially if you're willing to work nights.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:55 PM on August 16, 2018 [4 favorites]

selfmedicating - Thank you for your reply, that was the information I was looking for.

It is odd there isn't a midrange series of positions. I'm not interested in a PharmD, just the possiblities as a registered PT.
posted by sandpine at 6:47 AM on August 17, 2018

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