Job at a Retail Pharmacy vs a Hospital Pharmacy – What’s the Difference?

If you are already taking pharmacy tech classes or you’re thinking about receiving training for a pharmacy technician career,  then you’re probably already considering your job opportunities in the future. You won’t be left wanting because the demand for a pharmacy technician is growing. 

In fact, according to the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for pharmacy technicians could rise by about 7% between 2018 and 2028, so there are 31,500 more jobs available nationally. 

In general, there are two options for a pharmacy technician. You can work at a retail pharmacy or at a hospital. In both settings, pharmacy technicians are responsible for preparing prescriptions. They are under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist. That said, there are still some differences between the two job settings.

What You Can Expect When You Work as a Retail Pharmacy Technician

In the retail setting, a pharmacy technician will be interacting directly with patients who will be taking the medications they prepare. They will also administer them to a person if necessary. As you can tell, working in a retail pharmacy means a technician should have both customer service skills as well as administrative skills. 

You should be able to handle these responsibilities:

  • Answer in-person, online, or phone questions from customers regarding medications and certain conditions
  • Assisting patients in filling out their forms
  • Managing and organizing customer files
  • Processing insurance claims
  • Consulting the pharmacist or the physicians’ office to get approval
  • Operating computers and using cash registers

What the Working Condition Is Like in a Retail Pharmacy

Pharmacy technicians who work in retail pharmacies usually work normal business hours. They may have to work weekends and night shifts, too. This can change depending on their location and the actual operating hours of the retail pharmacy. If you work at a drugstore, you are probably going to spend most of your day on your feet, answering queries on the phone or in person, dispensing prescriptions, and processing insurance claims. You may also have to use laboratory equipment when you’re filling prescriptions. 

What You Can Expect When You Work as a Hospital Pharmacy Technician

Pharmacy technicians working in a hospital setting do have to fill prescriptions, too, but instead of handing them directly to patients, they are given to nurses, doctors, and other practitioners, who in turn administer them to patients. Hospital pharmacy technicians’ role often focuses more on their pharmacological knowledge and understanding of medical terminology more than their customer service skills. If you choose to work in a hospital pharmacy, expect to read and interpret charts of patients more than interacting with them. You’ll work more closely with doctors and nurses, too. 

In addition to that, the type of prescription you fill will be different, too, given that hospital pharmacy technicians usually prepare intravenous medicine. You’ll also have to work in sterile conditions and use laboratory equipment. You may also have to process larger volumes or orders every single day because you’ll mostly dispense individual doses. Like retail pharmacy technicians, you’ll also have to take care of the insurance paperwork, update patient records, and manage other files.

What the Working Condition Is Like in a Hospital Pharmacy

You’re more likely to work more irregular hours in a hospital pharmacy than in a retail pharmacy. It’s because hospitals are open 24 hours a day. Expect to work weekends and nights, too. If you compound in sterile labs, you’ll have to wear protective gear and operate complex machinery, too. 


As you see, there are similarities and differences between working in a retail pharmacy and in a hospital pharmacy. Both offer excellent opportunities, too. So it’s up to your preferences and of course, the training that you get. The important thing is to get pharmacy tech certifications first.

To get the skills that you need to be a pharmacy technician, you need to enroll in the best pharmacy tech programs in Northwest Suburban College. We can prepare you for any pharmacy setting and ensure that you’re equipped to handle any responsibility! Contact us today to find out more about our programs!

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