Schools Training

A Tale of Two Healthcare Degrees – Nursing Vs. Pharmacy Technician Program

15 NOV 2012
Career Path : Nursing

You know that you want to work in healthcare. That much is clear. But whether you want to achieve this laudable goal via a pharmacy technician or nursing degree is still a little hazy, so much so that it is stressing you out. Slow down, take a deep breath, and let’s consider the pros and cons of each option.



A college graduate with a nursing degree can expect to make somewhere between $60,000 and $90,000 a year working as an RN. A graduate of a pharmacy technician program can expect to make an hourly wage ranging from $11 to $20 an hour, which translates into anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000 a year.


The difference in pay for graduates of a nursing rather than a pharmacy technician program may be attributable to the difference in:


-          years of study

-          working conditions

-          responsibilities


Years of study

It usually takes more of a time investment to complete a nursing program as opposed to a pharmacy technician degree. In most provinces of Canada, it takes four years to acquire a BScN degree. And a BScN is simply the minimum requirement to become an RN in some provinces. Students who pursue this nursing degree commit to a range of biology, chemistry, mathematics and other pre-health courses. It is academically demanding, and may require a certain minimum average grade on one’s high school transcripts.


A pharmacy technician program, however, can be much faster to complete, for instance, two years as opposed to four years. Many of the courses in this program have a practical focus, learning how to prepare medications in classroom laboratories and field placement, for example. This program may better suit candidates who are eager to launch their careers as soon as possible.


Working conditions

Graduates of a nursing program must be prepared to work long shifts and irregular hours. Some people enjoy the flexibility of shift work, but those who don’t, may prefer to pursue a pharmacy technician program, which would enable them to find work within regular retail hours, and may even offer the possibility of working during normal business hours, depending on the establishment.



Whether a student is enrolled in a nursing or a pharmacy technician program, their future role is to safeguard the well-being of patients and clients. Nurses may have a more direct, day-to-day role in patient care than a pharmacy technician, who may only see their clients once a month, or, in the case of a hospital pharmacy, where staff fill their patients’ prescriptions, not at all.


Employment opportunities

Holders of a nursing degree can look for work in a private home, a residential care facility, a doctor’s office, a hospital, a school, etc.


Graduates of a pharmacy technician program can seek work behind the pharmacy counter of a drugstore in a mall, or in a long-term care facility or hospital. They may prefer to work for a pharmaceutical manufacturer, for instance, at a pharmaceuticals distribution centre or warehouse.


Two very different jobs in the same industry. In the end, only you can say which kind of training, a nursing or a pharmacy technician program, is right for you.



Visit Mohawk College for more information on a nursing program.