CNA vs Pharmacy Technician

Certified Nursing Assistant and Pharmacy Technician

When it comes to choosing a career in the healthcare industry, there are a multitude of options to consider. Two popular choices for individuals interested in providing direct patient care are becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) or a Pharmacy Technician. While these roles may seem similar at first glance, they actually have distinct differences in job responsibilities, education and training requirements, as well as career outlook and salary potential. In this blog post, we will explore the similarities and differences between CNAs and Pharmacy Technicians to help you determine which path is the best fit for you.

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Before diving into the specifics of each profession, it's important to understand what a CNA and Pharmacy Technician actually do. Both roles are integral to the healthcare system and require individuals who are compassionate, detail-oriented, and committed to providing quality care to patients.

What is a CNA and Pharmacy Technician?

Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA): A Certified Nursing Assistant, also known as a CNA, is responsible for providing basic care to patients in various healthcare settings, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. CNAs work under the supervision of registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) to assist with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, and transferring patients. They also measure vital signs, monitor patient conditions, and provide emotional support.

Pharmacy Technician: Pharmacy Technicians, on the other hand, work primarily in pharmacies or hospital settings. Their main role is to assist pharmacists in dispensing medications to patients. This includes tasks such as counting pills, labeling prescriptions, managing inventory, and handling customer inquiries. Pharmacy Technicians also play a crucial role in ensuring medication safety by verifying prescriptions and maintaining accurate records.

Difference between a CNA and Pharmacy Technician

While both CNAs and Pharmacy Technicians work in the healthcare industry, there are several key differences between the two professions:

Job Responsibilities:

  • CNAs primarily focus on providing direct patient care, including assistance with activities of daily living and monitoring patient conditions.
  • Pharmacy Technicians, on the other hand, are responsible for the dispensing and management of medications, as well as assisting pharmacists in various administrative tasks.

Work Settings:

  • CNAs typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or home health agencies.
  • Pharmacy Technicians can be found in pharmacies, hospitals, retail stores, mail-order facilities, or even in pharmaceutical companies.

Daily Interactions:

  • CNAs have extensive interactions with patients, their families, and other healthcare professionals, such as nurses and doctors.
  • Pharmacy Technicians primarily interact with pharmacists, other pharmacy staff, and customers.

Physical Demands:

  • CNAs may experience physically demanding tasks, such as lifting and transferring patients, as well as standing or walking for long periods of time.
  • Pharmacy Technicians may have more sedentary tasks, such as sitting at a computer or standing at a dispensing counter.

Career Advancement Opportunities:

  • CNAs can pursue further education and training to become licensed practical nurses (LPNs) or registered nurses (RNs), providing opportunities for career advancement and increased responsibilities.
  • Pharmacy Technicians can also advance their careers by obtaining additional certifications, such as becoming a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) or pursuing a degree in pharmacy.

CNA vs Pharmacy Technician: Job Description

CNA Job Description:

  • Provide basic care to patients, including assistance with bathing, dressing, feeding, and transferring.
  • Measure vital signs, such as blood pressure, temperature, and pulse.
  • Monitor patient conditions and report any changes to the nursing staff.
  • Assist with medical procedures, such as taking blood samples or inserting catheters.
  • Provide emotional support to patients and their families.

Pharmacy Technician Job Description:

  • Assist pharmacists in dispensing medications to patients.
  • Count pills, label prescriptions, and package medications.
  • Manage inventory and order supplies.
  • Answer customer inquiries and provide information about medications.
  • Maintain accurate records of prescriptions and transactions.

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CNA vs Pharmacy Technician: Education and Training

CNA Education and Training:

  • CNAs typically complete a state-approved nursing assistant program, which can be completed in as little as a few weeks.
  • These programs often include classroom instruction as well as hands-on clinical training.
  • After completing the program, CNAs must pass a state competency exam to become certified.
  • Some states also require CNAs to complete a certain number of continuing education hours each year to maintain their certification.

Pharmacy Technician Education and Training:

  • Pharmacy Technicians can enter the field through various pathways, including on-the-job training, vocational programs, or community college programs.
  • On-the-job training may be offered by employers, but most individuals choose to complete a formal education program.
  • These programs typically take around 1-2 years to complete and may result in a certificate or associate's degree.
  • Pharmacy Technicians may also choose to become certified through organizations such as the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

CNA vs Pharmacy Technician: Career Outlook and Salary

CNA Career Outlook and Salary:

  • The demand for CNAs is expected to grow by 8% from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations.
  • This growth is primarily due to an aging population and increased need for long-term care.
  • The median annual wage for CNAs was $30,830 in May 2020, with the highest 10% earning more than $42,480.

Pharmacy Technician Career Outlook and Salary:

  • The demand for Pharmacy Technicians is projected to grow by 4% from 2019 to 2029, which is about average for all occupations.
  • This growth is driven by advancements in pharmaceutical research and an increasing number of individuals requiring medication.
  • The median annual wage for Pharmacy Technicians was $34,020 in May 2020, with the highest 10% earning more than $49,130.

Final Thoughts

Choosing between a career as a CNA or a Pharmacy Technician ultimately depends on your interests, strengths, and career goals. Both professions offer rewarding opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others and contribute to the healthcare industry. Consider your preferences for direct patient care versus medication management, as well as the level of education and training you are willing to pursue. Research the job outlook and salary potential in your area to ensure you are making an informed decision. Whichever path you choose, know that you are embarking on a fulfilling career that will allow you to positively impact the lives of others.

Dreambound extends its programs to diverse locations. Delve deeper into information about these two vocations by visiting:

Jessa Guzon
Written by
Jessa Guzon

Jessa Guzon is a member of the School Growth and Customer Success Team in Dreambound. She finds joy in assisting both schools and students in reaching their goals by answering their queries and connecting them with the right people. Outside her professional role, Jessa is a happy-go-lucky person with a thirst for adventure.

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